Friday, January 17, 2020


After a long discussion developed on my Facebook page I was challenged to come top with my top ten for Utrarunner of the year.  I think it's fair to say "if you're going to criticize why don't you tell us what you would do."

Sidenote, no one cares about my picks and I don't get to vote.  I also don't know as much as the panelists and I can't imagine most people caring.

But here goes.


1. Jim Walmsley
2. Zach Bitter
3. Jeff Browning
4.Jason Schlarb
5. Oliver Leblond
6. Jared Hazen
7.Patrick Reagan
8.Mark Hammond
9.Matt Daniels
10.Tim Tollefson

Nothing really new here from the list I just ordered them slightly differently.  My guess is that I have a bias of longer distances over shorter.  Disclosure: I don't know any of the men, I've had Jared Hazen on Ten Junk Miles briefly about selling his buckle on eBay.


1.Camille Herron
2. Maggie Guterl
3.Courtney Dauwalter
4.Sabrina Stanley
5.Kaci Lickteig
6.Clare Gallagher
7.Faye Norby
8.Amanda Basham
9.Yiou Wang
10.Alyson Kirk

This warrants some explanation I'm sure. But first, disclosures: I know and consider Camille Herron and Alyson Kirk friends.  I've interacted with Faye Norby and Maggie Guterl but I wouldn't consider any of these communications "meaningful."

First: Alyson Kirk wasn't on the sheet but I'm adding her anyway.  She raced 5 100's and won them all (while climbing every fucking mountain in her off days).  Keep overlooking her.  She'll win Hardrock.

Second: with respect to Fay Norby, she WON the Tuscobia 160 mile winter ultra, the Arrowhead 135 winter ultra (during the -40 winter vortex) and the Actif Epica winter ultra.  Sidenote: only 11 people have completed these three races on foot in a calendar year.  More people have walked on the moon.  She won them all.  She also placed top ten at Black Hills and Wild Duluth, so she's not simply a winter athlete.

Third: I ranked Sabrina higher because she did REALLY HARD races.  HURT, Crewel Jewel, Neversummer and Reunion Island.  Are you kidding me?

Fourth: I ranked Maggie.  Biggs is a last man standing" race which you have to get invited to.  You can say what you want about the field, but if I was in a last MAN standing event I wouldn't want to see Dave Proctor, that handsome frenchman, Joe Fejes, not to mention many of the others.  But it isn't just that she won and the number of miles, it's what it symbolized.  I struggled with making this number 1.  I was really really close.  She showed up at a competitive race and beat all the men too.  I'm sure there are other examples of this (please add them to the comments) but I can't think of a better one.  It's a gender bending moment.  And because this story was so huge, for the little girls that read it.  For the men that were driven crazy about it.  I could argue that it was the single most impactful thing that may have happened in the sport.  In doing so, Maggie transcended the event itself .  She knocked us all out.  she beat all the men and all the women in a high profile event.  Who else can you say that about last year?

Sidenote: In discussing this I have had no difficulty convincing any women of my point of view.  Men, that's another story.  That's interesting.

Finally, Camille.  Sorry.  In addition to her other wins, she beat all of the women that have ever tried to run as many miles as possible in 24 hours.  Ever.  In the history of thew world.  And she didn't just beat them, she destroyed them by more than 5 miles.  That's just insane.  I know people will say that I picked her because she's my friend and that's fair.  But that's the breaks in having a friend that breaks a world fucking record.  It was a world best on a stage of people who were the best in the world.

Performance of the Year:

1.Bitter - Dome
2. Walmsley - States
3.LeBlond - World's

1. Camille - WR
2.Maggie - Biggs
3.Pam Smith - World's

Oh, and I know in advance that no one cares. But thank you Speedgoat for making me do this because I now have a new respect for how hard it is.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Race Directing - In Just About To My Head

This weekend I directed my first race with my partner Adam Benkers.  I've put on a few fatass events and led some large group runs, but I've never done anything comparable to putting on a race.  But I guess I should first back up and give you the why.

About two years ago I discovered this 130 year old railroad tunnel in southwest Wisconsin.  It was really cool and on a nice rail trail.  Now this trail isn't gnar, or hardcore.  There weren't rocks or roots or mountain views.  It was, to say it simply, nice.  Overwhelmingly, incredibly, and unapologetically nice. I became overwhelmed with the need to put on a race on this trail so people would go through this tunnel.  That's really the first straw.

I knew the New Glarus Brewery was in the area so I wrote them asking if they would be interested in getting involved.  They flat out refused.  I explored the area and was lead ultimately to the Minhas Brewery.  This is the second oldest brewery in the country and it was super cool and close to the trail.  I emailed and called them, hoping for them to be a host to the race, and they didn't follow up.  For a while I thought about how cool it would be to have an ultra go between these breweries.  But my dreams were shattered and it was back to the drawing board.

Somewhere around this time I started considering doing this with Adam.  We had talked about shorter races and a Ten Junk Miles race series, but this race was still really in my head.  I just couldn't figure it out.  We knew we were going to put a race on this trail, we just didn't know how.

Last September I did the Yeti 100 and saw that a out, back and out again format was possible.  Then, after exploring up and down the trail, a plan emerged.  Now, I realize I was a rookie.  So I wanted to start out simply.  With a 100 Mile, 100k, 50 mile, 50K, marathon and half marathon all rolled into one.  Simple right?

We applied for a permit and insurance.  Formed a company (Ten Junk Miles Racing, LLC) and off we went to try to figure out race directing.

For the most part we created this event from scratch, from the ground up.  We didn't use anyone's template.  There were some things that were important to each of us and for the most part those visions materialized.  First: amazing buckle

TJM branded feminine hygiene products at all aid stations

the use of the Stewart Tunnel by all runners

cool swag and last but not least, making a 70 year old tavern on the course (Dot's) a required stop.

(Yes, you have to go downstairs, get a coaster and bring it to the next aid station).  We wanted this race to reflect our vision and version of trail running.  Music at the aid stations, beer, fireball, great swag (100 milers got a shirt, belt, socks and buff) and a family atmosphere. We bought three kegs of New Glarus Spotted Cow (exclusively sold in Wisconsin) for the finish line. We wanted people to stay and talk and for it to feel like a family reunion.

We wanted a long cutoff for people who struggled at breaking 30 hours.  So 36 hours it was.  Why not?  Why does it have to be so hard?  Why not just remove the problem of worrying about cutoffs so people can just enjoy themselves.  And they did.

We also really wanted to incorporate the towns along the way.  Belleville, Orangeville, Monticello, Monroe, New Glarus and Basco stole our hearts.  These pretty cities have a lot to offer and we wanted people to know them, to spend time in them and to spend their money in them.  It means so much more to these towns than the big city.  The towns showed their gratitude by helping the race in every conceivable way.  All of the first responders had our backs.  The city broke with tradition and allowed camping in the park. They helped us make this event easier at every opportunity.

Packet pickup overwhelmed me.  Seeing those hundred of people made it real.  Sure, I had spent some sleepless nights trying to figure out a lot of different aspect of the race.  We would suddenly think "what about drop bags?" or "what's our policy on X?" We made it up as we went.  When in doubt we asked, "What would a trail runner want" and we tried our best to comply in every way.  We worked through the night delivering supplies to aid stations.  Friends and family came and helped.  Tents popped up out of no where.  Dusty Olson came from CO.  Dan Slater from Michigan.  Friends and family and  fans of the show just materialized everywhere and jumped in and helped where it was needed and it all just came together.

What happened on race day is hard to describe.  It felt like a wedding.  From the time we said go adrenaline was rushing through me.  Most of day 1 was spent replenishing supplies. Frantically.  Adam and I basically stopped communicating altogether, though our cars did pass flying down those country roads.  More water, more ice, more Tailwind, more fruit.  It was non-stop madness and driving and delivering and, somehow, it all just worked out fine.

I planned to get some sleep Fri night, but before I knew it Vikash Malik was finishing the 100K, then Jeff Miller, and then before you knoew it Nicholas Budzyn was there and I handed out my first buckle.  I couldn't sleep.  Hoa Schober was coming.  And Jamison. And all my other friends and trail family.  I had to be there when they finished.  I had to give them their buckle.

Behind the scenes tens of friends of mine were working way to hard to make this happen.  Mine and Adam's families, my wife, my sister Lynn, Dustball, and the aid station captains Michelle Hartwig, (Monroe) Nora Bird (Tunnel) Mike Kelsey (Gutzmer) Holly Lindroth (Monticello) Sam Turco and Rachel Ingle (County Road) and Josie Benkers (Orangeville).  It was just totally fucking amazing.  It all just came together and happened.  And then the finishers came, over and over.  The tears, the hugs, the smiles.  I forgot so many people I know were out there and as they finished my heart grew so large I thought it would explode.

I can say this.  Giving out a 100 mile buckle felt so much better than getting one.

So much went wrong that no one will ever know.  But what matters most is those smiles.  All of my favorite people on my favorite trail seeing trail running the way me and Adam envisioned it.

Special notes: this was the largest collection of participants from the MURCA group (Marine Ultra Runners Club of America).  Also, Ultra legend Tom Green finished the 100, which was particularly moving.

Honestly, it is impossible to sum up in word what this race and event meant to me.  What it meant to hug all those people and give them awards, so many of them their first, and just an impossible number of them telling us that the Ten Junk Miles podcast was to blame for their finish.

It goes without saying that I was terrified from start to finish.  I didn't sleep at all.  I was terrified that people would get to the finish line and tell me that they had no idea what we were thinking and that it was boring or not pretty or that they otherwise hated it.  My vision and version of trail and ultra running might not be for everyone.  Perhaps I was delusional.  :).

Nope.  That didn't happen at all.  It went better than I ever could have expected.  We had 88 100 mile finishers, and over 400 total.  I cried about 100 times.  I can't wait to do it again.

You meet a lot of cool people on the trail.  One of them is you.  


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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