Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Most Beautiful Trail In The World

So I've been traveling this month, I'm sure you've seen.  Apologies for the overload.

One think I really like to do when I am in a new place is run.  I just look on Strava to see if there are any local routes and kinda half ass it to them.

Now.  I realize it isn't practical for everyone all the time.  Example: I'm in Africa.  No cell phone.  No wifi.  High crime rate.  No idea what I am in for running in a certain direction.

Strangely, I've never run into a problem. 

My wife thinks I'm crazy.  Like, no way is it worth it.

Well, it is.

As a recovering addict and a person that feels like he's lived quite a bit, I refuse to avoid experiences based on, even well-founded fear.  I take a healthy dose of alertness and take the chance.  Why?  Because 'he who is not busy living is busy dying.'

So today I woke up in Mossel Bay, S.A. and had no idea where to run.  I saw a couple of Strava segments.  One on a road and one on a waterfront. So what the fuck, why not try.

I started jogging easy down this road and was thrilled to come upon a Led Zeppelin-themed joint...which I took a picture of and assumed it would be the highlight of the run.

Then I got the waterfront, which was spectacular.  This place really was cool.  

But where was this 8 mile "trail" segment.  Well, first I climbed stairs forever.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  This trail was single track on the edge of the earth.  It's about 500 feet down a rocky coast to the Indian Ocean. All I can hear is waves.  And behold, the most beautiful trail in the world. (and I have seen some trails).  I just couldn't believe my eyes.  At every turn it got better.  

Until I had to turn back because my wife would for sure fear I died.  No worries though, I bought her back to it before we hit the road again.

Yea, I could have gotten attacked by wildlife Wednesday.  I might have been kidnapped today. But you know what, you only live once.  So I think I'll get up and do this again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Elitist Lottery Races Can Eat A Dick

I started this blog in 2013.  At the time I was new to the sport of MUT running and I was full of excitement and optimism.  What was great about this scene (to me at that time) was the laid back and egalitarian nature of the sport.  When I finished my first 50 mile race in 2012 I was blown away that no one in my running circle seemed very concerned about how fast I ran.  They didn’t ask how tough it was.  They really just wanted to know if I had a good time and if I want to do more.  I did.
I dove quickly into all of the races in the trail running world and quickly determined that my #1 goal in life was to run the Hardrock 100.  And my number 2 goal was to run Western States.  And I set out to do this ASAP.  I even added the following to my blog title: “This is a blog about an ultra runner trapped in the city of Chicago training towards the ultimate goal of participating in the Hardrock 100.

Here I was, running and training on the mean streets of the south side of Chicago.  Running on sidewalks with broken glass and chicken bones.  No vert to speak of.  Nothing resembling a mountain.  But in my heart, I knew I wouldn’t be complete until I ran Hardrock 100.

Then, reality set in.  

Although I did enter the lottery a couple of times (Western States too) I quickly learned that running a States and Hardrock Qualifier regularly might not result in the kind of running year I really want to have.  Add to that, the fact that more and more people are applying every year.  At 45 years old it really didn’t seem like a likely goal. 

But still, I tried.  Year after year joining that group of people that will have to “wait and see about the lotteries.”  And now I’m talking about even more lotteries, AC, Leadville, etc. etc.  I wondered how it might feel to just look at the list of races and do the ones I feel like doing or that look interesting and ignoring the “qualifier/lottery shuffle.”

You know the races I’m talking about.  The ones that don’t qualify you for anything and when you bring them up to your friends, they all say “well, I’ll have to see what happens with the lotteries” or “I need a ______ qualifier.”  The ones that are the “have nots” of the scene.  Because, as you may suspect, there are people who cannot afford on a time or training basis to do several 100 mile races in a year.  There are people with jobs and families and physical or financial limitations.  So, sorry Ozark 100, I need to try to go do Javalina or Kettle.  Because I need my qualifier. That goes for you Stagecoach and Salt Flats.  And I’m sorry Pony Express.  Back to Rocky or Burning River I go.  You know what I’m talking about.

And then, one day I thought about it. There’s really two kinds of people.  People that easily and consistently get into and/or qualify for the races, and those that do not.  Well, that’s not really true.  There’s a third group: the ones that have privilege and get in because they are fast or famous or in the veteran lottery.  They’re the friends of the RD that get automatically picked and the sponsored runners.  They’re the special picks, the media favorites and the winners from last year.

And then there’s the rest of us.

It’s awesome that the top ten people get to go back to Western States every year.  I’m touched that Hardrock maintains a good vibe with a mix of veterans and first timers (which is greatly appreciated and defended by only those people privileged enough to be in that group).  It’s a cool perk that some of the “in” runners are automatically slotted into races like AC or Leadville while the rest of the applicants pray they get picked. Plus, sponsored runners, ____ ticket runners, RD special picks etc. etc.  The list of the lucky ones goes on and on.

But don’t for one second try to tell me that it’s fair or egalitarian.  I have watched the races that aren’t qualifiers struggle to get by while others which are full every year with hopefuls.  I watch my friends plan their race schedule specifically to qualify and be one of those people that get a chance to be one of the lucky ones to get a spot after the haves get done taking care of each other.

And when it is all said and done I see people posting about their 15th Western States finish or their 20th Hardrock finish and I puke a little in my mouth.

Until they are fair and just, these lottery races can eat a dick.  I’m going to run the races that interest me and if I qualify, I’ll put my name in and if I don’t, so be it.  So hello Ozark 100 and hello Salt Flats!  It will be nice to see you and I promise not to have any regret!

One other thing.  I’ll promise you one thing right here and now, if I ever do get in to these races, with their high demand and limited slots.  It’s one and done.  Because everyone should get a chance.
Oh, and I’m changing my blog title.  Because I no longer dream about competing in Hardrock.  I dream about handing you your first 100-mile buckle.  The times have changed.

Note: Some people will argue this is jealousy or sour grapes.  Or just me whining because my running sucks lately.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What brought this post on was the juxtaposition of hundreds of my running friends planning their whole lives around races that really prioritize taking care of the elites, the famous and their friends over giving you a chance to experience their race and be the miracle that I know you are.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

St. Croix 40 Winter Ultra

This weekend I participated in the St. Croix 40 Winter Ultra  in Hinkley MN.  This is a new winter ultra race put on by Jamison and Lisa Swift, really nice folks who have been involved in the winter scene for some time.

Winter ultras are a completely different beast with unique challenges.  They tend to involve extensive required gear like a specific caliber of sleeping bag, bivy (shelter), fuel, emergency food and other things to survive the winter.  Most people place this gear in a pulk and run with it.  Generaqlly you can ski, run or bike the distance.

Loading my pulk

 Years back the Tuscobia Winter Ultras had a 35/40 mile option but discontinued it.  So in terms of actual winter endurance events, rookies had to do something like the Frozen Otter (64 miles) or the Tuscobia 80 miles.  Both of these are in cold to extreme cold temps with very little outside support.  As times you can go tens of miles alone with no place to seek shelter should things go wrong.  While it is true that if you have the required gear and some knowledge of using it, these are both quite big events for a rookie.

In short, there was a need for a good introductory winter ultra.  So this was a great idea.

To add fuel to the fire, St. Croix included a couple of skills tests that needed to be performed as part of the race.  First, we all started in our sleeping bags and bivy.  Tucked in.  (Sidenote, I've participated in 9 winter ultras and I have never used my sleeping bag and bivy).

My first bivy
Also, we were required to get out our stove and boil water in the middle of the 40 mile race. (Sidenote, I've participated in 9 winter ultras and I have never used stove).

As you may be guessing.  This is a perfect event for someone new to or interested in winter ultras.  The 40 mile distance is challenging while not overwhelming.  The skills tests are cool confidence builders.  Also, ts a water only checkpoint at 20 miles so you aren't doing a 30-40 mile section without aid.  

We started at 6 p.m. and the event has a 16 hour cutoff.  I started with Adam, but he took off about 5-10 miles in and I spent the rest of the event alone.  I found my all day hiking pace and cranked out a book (Artemis by Andy Weir) and a bunch of podcasts.  I settled into some classic rock in the end and finished comfortably around 12 hours.  Other than a few blood blisters from a problem I am developing on the side of my foot in these Hoka Bondi's (yes, I for some reason ran in road shoes) I didn't have any issues.

For nutrition I ate 2 RX Bars, 2 Nutty Buddy's and a bag of cheese munchies.  I drank 80 ounces of water.  Memory, I cried a little during Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven.  

So 14 hours of driving, no hotel.  And a nice stop at Culver's later.  team ASS (Adam, Siva Scott) came home victorious.

If you are considering winter ultras or curious about them, this is your obvious first step.  A great taste of what the sport has to offer in a safe environment which requires you to perform a few of the skills essential to it.  I highly recommend it!

Thanks for the support, and thanks for listening to Ten Junk Miles!!!

Sidenote: the first price increase for the Badger Trail Races is coming soon.  So get signed up so I can see you in the tunnel!!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Put a fork in 2018

2018 is done, put a fork in me

Some years I’m the dog and some years I’m the tree.  This year I was the tree. 

I was looking forward to ending 2018 with a couple of strong performances at the Yeti 100 and the Backyard Ultra. Instead, we’ll, I didn’t do much.  

Yeti 100 is put on by one of my favorite people in the ultra world, Jason Green. Jason is ultra running.  He’s community. His spirit and attitude is 100% what I love about this sport and I was looking forward to a huge hug from him at the finish line after a strong 100 mile performance.  Don’t ask me why. I wasn’t well trained.  I wasn’t in good shape. I wasn’t even running well. I guess I just thought based on my experience and the fact that the course was flatish and smoothish I should be able to finish. 

The course is, staggeringly beautiful. 33 miles gently down a 3,000 ft. mountain, then back up it about down again.  46 trestle bridges for each out, back and out again. Amazing aid stations. A really cool vibe. A skateboard deck, shirt and hat for all participants...and the feeling that you are part of a community that is really in this together.  Yeti knocked me out. 

So what the fuck happened?  Well, at mile 33 I noticed a hole the size of a fingertip in the center of my foot pad. Which caused some blistering and a little rot foot.  So I stopped (Thanks Ami!!!) and changed socks, freshly applied Trail Toes and headed back out with the Grant Maughan mentality of “blisters ain’t shit.” In retrospect the foot pad blister changed my hair which caused more blisters and blood blisters and all kinds of, well, fucked up shit that dropped me to my knees around mile 80.  And my day was over.  

And I again thought...why am I doing this? How can I make this sport a part of my life when I have a year like this?  Who would want to listen to me talk on a podcast after this terrible year of DNF’s and failures? What the fuck is wrong with me?

I remembered back to a time when I felt like I could finish everything and everything.  When I attacked each race and trained my ass off.  When I felt like the kind of person people admired as a runner. And I was a little sad. 

I decided to just pull the plug on 2018 and look ahead. To take some time to train and work on diet and nutrition. To get in good running shape and unfuck myself. To make 2019 a better year and stop trying to force things.  

And to go back next year to see Jason Green in Damascus and get that fucking hug.  

I’ll be back.  I have some training to do.  

I should probably work on writing a bit during this period too!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Why you should just shut up and leash your fucking dog

Why you should just shut up and leash your fucking dog



            I pulled this quote out of Edward Sandor’s blog post because I have come across this scenario far too many times:

"Leash your dog!"
Why? Aside his base existence off-leash, he isn't doing anything wrong. He isn't hurting anyone. He just wants to laugh and frolic in the woods, just like you.
"You're breaking the law."
Though truth be told, upon confrontation, I just smile and say, "Have a nice day!" and we keep on as we were, minding nobody any business at all--and in a way, that's asserting dominance, taking powers”

            This encounter always leaves me flabbergasted (old timey word).  I kinda feel like a person would feel if every time they approached a green light they had to worry that someone might be disregarding the light going the other direction.  I long for a “leashed” dog park or area where I can spend time with my leashed dog with confidence that everyone is following the rules.  But this post isn’t about me and my unique circumstances.  Nonetheless, in the interest of full disclosure I have a large Doberman that doesn’t really like other dogs.  He loves all people.  He’s not viscous or a danger.  He just had an unfortunate early life and we rescued him. (who rescued whom?).  He’s my best friend and main running partner.  (two ultra finishes – a 30 and 50).  Ask anyone who knows him and they will tell you, he’s a good dog.

            I should also disclose that I have a keen interest in animal rescues, having given some time and money to the Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus, and I am a member (and Secretary Nominee) of the Illinois State Bar Association Animal Law Section.   Yes.  I know a little about animal law and I give my spare time to it and its causes.

            But this isn’t about me, my dog and my credentials.  It’s not about you either.  You see, in answering this question it’s a mistake to reflect on that time you got bit.  That time a friend of yours was attacked.  Or the time an off leash dog bit your dog.  Nor is it about your subjective fears and allergies or your love of cats and hatred of dogs.  None of these are relevant to the discussion.  Nor is the fact that you have the greatest, kindness, god-like dog that wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Nor is the fact that your dog is under your complete and utter control.

            It really comes down to two concepts.  1) common sense (we could also say “logic”); and 2) courtesy.

            Let me say first – if you live in a place where dogs are allowed to be off leash, or if you are in an off-leash dog park, this isn’t directed at you.  ENJOY!  If off-leash is legally permitted none of this applies. 

            Let me say second – I wish we lived in a world where every dog was good, every person was good, no people were scared or allergic, and no dangers existed to off leash dogs and they could all frolic in lawless harmony to their hearts desire.  But Elvis isn’t cutting records anymore and I stopped believing in Santa, so that isn’t possible.  In point of fact, Mr. Sandor (who’s blog post this is a rebuttal to at the following link:

himself realizes these limitations.  I know this because 1) I’ve never actually seen him with his dogs off leash; and 2) he has a door to his house, and he doesn’t allow his dogs to do whatever they want….if he did, they would likely do what any free dog would do… to the nearest Burger King and wait out back for scraps. 

            So the reality is, we live in a world with:

1.     Problem dogs.  (Mine technically being one of them); and
2.     Problem people which fall into the category of bad dog owners, people that can’t be around dogs and people that just don’t like dogs.

If anyone has a practical solution to eliminating these two things, problem solved.  But again, I stopped believing in leprechauns long ago.  So, as a consequence, some jurisdictions have imposed laws that require dogs to be leashed when in the public sphere.  These laws exist to protect good people and good dogs from problem people and problem dogs. 

If you don’t like leash laws move to a place without them or fight to change the law.  But if you live in a jurisdiction with a leash law or are in an area which requires a leash and you don’t use it, you’re either selfish or rude.  There’s no way around it. When you ignore the law and just do whatever you like you are like a person that says “stop signs are for other people” or “someone else will pick this garbage up” or “I’ll choose whether or not to vaccinate my kid.”  Sure, you’ll get away with it for a while but everyone you effect just thinks you’re an asshole. 

            There’s a million ethical, social and metaphyisical arguments around the fringe of the issue.  (“My dog is different” and “This is my way of contentious objection” and “Dogs want and need to be free” etc. etc.).  I get it.  There’s also plenty of places for you to lawfully have your dog off leash and plenty of places where leash laws don’t exist.  You can also fight to change your local law. 

            But seriously.  If it’s the law where you are, just shut up and leash your fucking dog.