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Events run (and personal bests)
Mountain Races Ultramarathons 100 mile PR -- 13:18:52 (Rocky Raccoon 100)
50 mile PR -- 5:42:37 (American River 50)
But, PRs are kind of meaningless in this sport since each course is so different and usually features very rough trail and tens of thousands of vertical feet climbed. Or, at least the courses I like to run.
Major Accomplishments / Honors
2-time Leadville 100 Champion (2006, 2007)
2nd Place, Western States 100 in the second-fastest time in history (15:13:52--2010)
White River 50 USATF Trail National Champion and Course Record Holder (2009, 2010)
Miwok 100K Champion (2010)
American River 50 Champion (2008)
Rocky Raccoon 100 Champion (2007)
Why do you run?
Sometimes those days occur where life is sort of muted--both audibly and visually, and maybe even sensually--and the sun is stuck behind a bank of clouds, and if you can even motivate to get off the floor you struggle outside to walk to the store and a car drives by and you have to inhale its acrid fumes and it splashes freezing slush onto your shoes and jeans and now you’re just stumping along with soggy socks and contaminated lungs and before you even get where you’re going it starts raining/sleeting and, of course, you didn’t bring a rain jacket or an umbrella (who carries an umbrella, anyway?) and generally the whole situation just sucks and you mostly feel like either A) punching someone/something in the face, or B) retreating back to your little cave of an apartment/room for some more self-indulgent moping. Well, if I have gone for a run first thing that morning--even if it was through puddles of freezing slush with a hurricane wind blowing snow in my face the whole way--then that type of day simply doesn’t happen, almost no matter what. The morning’s run has an effect such that it seemingly rewires the circuitry in my motherboard in a way that virtually disallows the formation of those stupid, pointless, defeating emotions and thoughts. And that’s a powerful thing--being able to control the negativity and self-pity in one’s internal brain-voice--and one that if I didn’t have I’d probably be a whole lot less positive in my perception of my general well-being. So, getting out to run is a definite priority.
How did you get started running?
In the 5th grade I wanted to do well in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test 1-mile run, so I trained for it by running one mile a day, and just never stopped.
What made you gravitate towards trails?
When I started running growing up in Nebraska trails were pretty much all I had to train on. The nearest paved road was almost five miles away, so natural surfaces were the default. I did a lot of running on all the dirt roads around our farm but I just always enjoyed the variety and challenge of running the cow paths and cross-country in the pastures on our farm. I spent a lot of time growing up cutting my own trails through the wooded drainages and over the hills on our farm. Plus, I was/am slow, and if the footing is poor or the trail is steep or the air is thin it serves as an equalizing factor that allows me to keep up with or even beat runners who are otherwise a lot faster than me.
Favorite place to train
The alpine, above tree line, whether there’s a trail or not. I like really gnarly, steep terrain, too. It’s rewarding to gain proficiency on this type of terrain because it gives me efficient access to summits and views I would otherwise not attain.
What is your favorite workout (and why)?
Running to the top of a 14,000’+ peak and back down, because of the combination of steep mountain trail, altitude, scenic views and the defined goal of a secluded summit.
What is your least-favorite workout (and why)?
Taper-week, 1hr jogs. I hate tapering and running on flat terrain. My body feels out of sorts and the mind begins to unnecessarily examine and question everything.
What’s the most awesome thing you’ve encountered in nature during a run?
There are so many. A double-rainbow immediately following a hailstorm on the saddle between Mt. Oxford and Belford (14,000’ peaks in Colorado’s Sawatch Range) was pretty great. Many an inspiring sunrise or sunset. The Grand Canyon in general, etc., etc.
This one’s tough, because there are so many I want to do that I suspect will become my favorite. I really enjoy the trails of the White River 50 near Mt. Rainer, though.
Favorite type of race
Lots of vertical climb and descent. Steep, rocky terrain. Deep, top-level competition. A long, storied history. Alpine terrain is a plus.
What’s the most grueling event you’ve experienced, and why?
I haven’t done many 100 milers (only three different courses), but 100 mile mountain races are just on a completely different level of difficulty form anything else I’ve ever done in my life. Getting to the 70 or 80 mile mark already in comical amounts of discomfort and with another 20-30mi to go is pretty absurd. The Leadville 100--while not a very tough course by most standards--has certainly dealt me the toughest blows, probably because I’ve been the most arrogant on that course of any race I’ve done. The Powerlines climb at mile 80 there is just brutal for some reason. It’s not that steep or that long (1700’ in ~3mi) but it always hurts.
What is your pre-race / warm-up routine?
It depends on the race. For a 50K or 50 miler I’ll jog a couple miles to get the heart-rate up and ready for the fast pace. For a 100 miler I generally try to stay off my feet as much as possible and mostly keep warm (these races usually start really really early in the morning and high in the mountains, so it’s almost always a bit chilly).
What gets you most excited to compete?
Everything that I mentioned in my "favorite type of race".
What are your favorite pre-race and post-race meals?
Prerace, so long as it’s simple and easy to digest, it doesn’t really matter. I don’t like to become too regimented in my requirements. During the race, I’ve never raced for more than 17hr straight, so I don’t have any experience in the "extremely long" realm, but I keep things very simple: water, GUs (sugar), S! Caps (salt). In longer races I imagine I’ll need to maybe mix in some solid food. After the race is simple: water. Something not sweet (I’ve just been eating nothing but sugar all day long.) It usually takes 12-24hr to regain the appetite after a long, hard race.
What food / snack is your guiltiest pleasure?
Egg Nog by the quart. Nutella by the jar.
What gives you an advantage over your competition?
In and of itself, I love the pure motion of running over natural terrain. I think this passion carries over into my preparation and competing.
What is something most people don’t know, or would be surprised to learn, about you?
I have undergraduate degrees in Physics, Philosophy and Geology.
What was your darkest moment out on the trail?
Probably on top of 11,200’ Sugarloaf Pass at ~82mi in the 2010 Leadville 100. I was in and out of consciousness with hypoglycemia and hypothermia and luckily a good friend was there to cart me off the mountain for an IV and some blankets.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Dropping out of the Leadville 100 in 2009 at mile 78. It’s embarrassing to have such a lapse in mental preparation exposed so vividly. Also, the above "darkest moment". I’ve had a rough couple of years at the Leadville 100.
What is your proudest?
Probably the 2010 Western States 100, despite finishing 2nd. I really went for it, pushing the pace hard all day with Kilian Jornet, but in the end Geoff Roes had a fantastic surge over the last 20mi that I couldn’t quite match. We still ran quite fast.
What is the oddest trophy or prize you have won?
When I won the Rocky Raccoon 100 I was awarded a giant cross-section of a tree trunk. That was fairly odd.
Person you would most like to run with
David Foster Wallace; but after a few hundred yards he’d probably want to stop, which would be fine because then we could just go get a cup of coffee somewhere and sit outside at a table and chat about whatever comes to mind.
What tips do you have for new runners?
Don’t get discouraged at how difficult it is to begin. Running is all about remaining in the current moment and doing what you can with that. It may seem like you have an awful long ways to go to get to your desired fitness level or to accomplish whatever goal you’ve set for yourself, but if you make your goals to be consistent and to truly enjoy some of every run you’ll eventually make tangible progress towards where you want to be. Focusing on the end-goal might be motivating in an abstract sense but it can also be overwhelming and discouraging in concrete reality. Focus on the process, not the end result.