Look at Me! Look at Me!

I’m gonna be the old man on the porch. It needs to be said.  

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YouTube: The Mocko Show

The times they are a-changing.  And they’re changing fast.  Things that would have been viewed by most people as completely insane just a few short years ago, are now becoming ubiquitous.  I recently finished a run on a bike path where I live, and the majority of the people riding bikes (the vast, VAST majority) were either filming themselves, taking photos of themselves or facetiming somebody.  

One guy was laid across the entire southbound lane of the bike path on his stomach with a DLSR so he could take photos of a girl who was posing in a bikini.  When I ran back by 45 minutes later, he was still there, doing the exact same thing, still laid across the bike path.

I get it.  The allure of social media status has completely outweighed everything else.  The ability to exist in any situation completely depends on the amount of attention you think you could be getting.  If you think you can garner enough, you’ll do something as outrageously ridiculously as lying across an entire bike lane for almost an hour, blocking hundreds of people’s path and completely forgoing any amount of respect you may have had for your fellow citizens.  Not to mention those last shreds of personal pride.   

I honestly never expected it to bleed into the trail and ultra scene quite so hard and quite so fast.  The entire allure of trail running for me was as an escape.  To get away from all the bullshit.  To leave my phone and my inbox and the rest of the world behind, to get out on the trails away from all the commotion and be present.  It helps me balance out the rest of my life.  My screen time, my poor eating choices, too much sitting… all these things can be mitigated by a long, hard mountain run.  You come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  

It’s essentially the opposite of what Jamil Coury does.  When was the last time that guy went on a run without a camera?  Then he comes back and whines into the camera for eight and half minutes about how stressed out he his, how much editing he has to do, and how it’s so important for him to get his videos out to “to his fans”.  Like there’s some sort of hard deadline being imposed by someone.  Like all his “fans” are gonna die if they can’t watch his next video where he shows off the new car he just got

The V-log/Snapchat/Instagram Story thing is probably what has gotten to me most.  The mumbling The lack of quality is appalling.  If you’re gonna produce content, edit it.  Nobody wants to want watch you say “uhhhh”  75 times in a six-minute video.  Would it be that big of a deal to write some thoughts down on an index card?  I would expect this from someone as dull as Sage Canaday.  But we know that Jamil can put out quality content.  He does it once a week with his Mountain Outpost newscast.  When you script what you’re going to say, or maybe even just think about it a little bit, it isn’t quite as appalling.   In fact, sometimes it’s really good.

Chris Mocko, who is definitely the posterboy for “how to be an ultra douchebag”, was actually writing some decent content on his Medium-hosted website.  I mean, it was somehow all about money and and how he quit his tech job, but at least he was sitting down and formulating content.  He was creating something that he obviously gave a little bit of thought to.  

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YouTube: The Mocko Show

Then, apparently he realized how easy it was to just film himself walking through Costco rambling about nothing and throw the video up and get a couple thousand easy views.  Why bother sitting down and typing out an article?  It’s all becoming pretty unbelievable.  Here’s a guy who has one successful 100-mile finish under his belt on a course with a net elevation loss and he has the audacity to title a series of videos: “How to Train for UTMB”.  What does he know about it?  Has he run the race before? And no one calls him out on this shit?  It’s just a big circle jerk.  

Billy Yang probably spent more time editing the trailer for The Unknown than Chris Mocko has spent on his entire 50+ vlog catalog, including the conceptualization and editing (Ha! Just kidding, Mocko doesn’t edit).  It’s really sad that someone who takes the time to actually THINK about his content (and this is obviously understating it enormously) is getting the relative same amount of views as someone like Mocko or Canaday.

(Full disclosure: I have never watched a Sage Canaday v-log.  A long time ago, my Youtube autoplay cued up one of his videos and he was supposedly just finishing a 20 miler in the middle of a 100 mile week and he goes, “Just finished a 20 miler, getting the legs nice and sore going for a 100 mile week.”  Then he points at the camera and and says, at the absolute apex of douche:  “Don’t try this at home.”  I had just finished a 100 mile week, despite having a full-time job and getting no support from anybody.  So I immediately turned it off and vowed never to watch him again. He might be scripting his content, but from what I’ve heard, it’s chock full of “ummm” barrages and repetitive, tangential garbage.)

At the end of the day, however, it’s not their fault.  These guys are trying to make a living doing what they love.  Sure, they might be bastardizing the hell out of something that has given them so much, something that they purport to love, but apparently they don’t see any other way.  

The fault here lies with the community.  It lies with us.  Mocko isn’t throwing in the towel on his website and focusing solely on his stellar YouTube content because he gets less views there.  He’s doing it because he gets a lot more.  Is this what we really want?  Is this really how you want to spend our time.

The argument against this usually goes something like this: Chris Mocko is sharing with the community.  He’s putting himself out there and inspiring tons of people.  He’s a saint, paragon and a model of excellence. Anyone who says anything bad about him or what he’s doing is an asshole. Period.  

It’s funny how these arguments always sound dogmatic (and I would know, I’ve got the Reddit comments to prove it).  It’s always “if you don’t like it, don’t watch” or some other such sentiment that completely misses the point. Someone comes with a solid, logical argument about why something is inherently bad or dangerous or annoying and you never, ever get any logic back.  

You just get people who are upset for some reason simply because I said something that wasn’t positive.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  I could have said that Chris Mocko smells like shit and the reaction would be the same as if I said I hate his YouTube channel and think that it’s bad for the running community and the world.

This is why someone like Dakota Jones is forced to opine about social media use in an entirely satirical way.   And while this is funny, all he’s doing is normalizing these things.  Despite what seem to be the best intentions, he’s really only making things worse. It’s the Satire Paradox, something Malcolm Gladwell does an amazing job illustrating here.  

But when I read Dakota Jones’s piece or stumble across a funny comment in a Strava activity like this one:

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God, I love Tim Tollefson.

I can’t help but feel slightly hopeful.  Hopeful for our attention spans, hopeful for humanity, hopeful that pure vanity isn’t going to win out. There are the guys and girls out there who are doing it right.  Tim Tollefson would never pull this shit.  Mike Foote does just fine making a living from running without being a douchebag in the slightest.  You can even have a huge presence, like Emilie Forsberg, without compromising your humility.  

Can you imagine Jeff Browning filming himself saying “Any runner can get a free pair of socks or a few gels… but how about a full shoe sponsorship?!?” and then proceeding to dance around in praise of himself for the next three minutes?  Why is this acceptable?

Time is a valuable commodity and whenever I watch one of these videos, I feel like I’ve wasted time I can’t get back.  I feel like I’m losing touch with the world.  I feel like everyone has lost their mind.  I feel like an old man on the porch trapped in a 30-year-old body.  I’ve vowed to stop.  I can’t do it anymore.  My only hope is that you will stop too.  Stop consuming this garbage.  Take a stand.  Vote with your time.  I’ll tell you right now, your time is much more valuable than this:  

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YouTube: Vo2 Max Productions

 

Recently, Kendrick probably said it the best:  Be Humble. Sit Down.

 

An Ode to Climbing

Leo Tolstoy famously said, “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves.”

I say, “Fuck the world.  Climb a mountain, change yourself.”

An ode to climbing.

Huffing
Puffing
Spitting
Grunting
Wheezing
Hacking
Learning
Fighting…
Climbing.

climbing4
Dripping
Stopping
Leaning
Starting
Slipping
Pursuing
Persisting
Grinding…
Climbing.

Climbing1

Sighing
Lying
Spitting
Sliding
Slipping
Doubting
Dying
Trying…
Climbing.

climbing3

Searching
Finding
Leaving
Arriving
Attacking
Maintaining
Peaking
Surviving…
Climbing.

The 7 New Rules of Trail Etiquette

 

I was bombing down a trail, descending the last couple miles into Will Rogers State Park in Southern California last week when I rounded a bend and was (somewhat) surprised to see a full on film crew conducting an interview on the side of the trail.  I was running fast, around 6 minute pace and noticed that a couple of the people were standing right in the middle of the singletrack, including the guy holding a 15-foot boom mic.  Annoyed, I kept my pace up and intended on flying right by.  

Then, some guy who was looked like he was in charge, started frantically waving at me to get by them.  He had both arms extended and was in a half crouch, silently (but madly) flailing his arms in the direction I was already running, and running pretty fast.  

Since I was already doing what he seemed to be signaling me to do, I could only assume that I had misinterpreted his signals.  So naturally, I slammed on the brakes, stopped right in front of the guy (and this huge production) and started asking him– very loudly– what his arm motions meant.  

“Just keep running!” He said in a hushed shout, eyes wide with bewilderment.

“But, I was already running fast, so your signal had to have meant something else, right?” I screamed at the top of my lungs.  “You wouldn’t have been so adamantly suggesting that I simply continue what I’m doing, right?  I would have done that on my own.”

One of the three guys behind the massive camera setup said “Cut!”.  

“Can’t you see we’re shooting here?!” The guy asked.  

I looked around a bit and said, “Oh no. I didn’t notice the multiple handcarts full of boxes, the complete lighting studio and the 20 people standing around on the side of the trail.”  

These guys were incredibly upset I had ruined their shot.   It was pretty hilarious.

“Maybe next time you see someone running down the trail, simply trying to enjoy themselves, don’t start telling them what to do– especially if they are already doing what you want– it’s confusing.  Maybe just realize where you are and let me do my thing.”  I added before starting to jog back down the trail.  

You may assume that things like this only happen on trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, but as has been pointed out ad nauseam since the deluge of gopro/drone/iphone/gimble/boom hordes descended on Squaw Valley a couple weekends ago, this shit has gotten out of hand.  

At this point, the old rules for trail etiquette are obsolete.  They leave out scenarios that are becoming all too common in the trail and mountain running world and they need to be updated.   

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Kilian finishing the 2017 Mont-Blanc Marathon
  1. The person operating the least amount of electronic devices has the right-of-way

Forget the uphill/downhill argument.  If you’re taking selfies with your gopro on the big climb, the guy running downhill with free hands has the right of way.  If you’re holding a gopro on the end of a selfie stick and you’re approaching a guy simply holding his phone in his hand, you relinquish your right of way.  If you’re holding a DLSR attached to a gimble with a microphone, you gotta move to the side for the guy with selfie stick.  It only makes sense.  

  • Pro Tip:  Be ready at any moment to drop into a squat in order duck a selfie stick.  You never know when the operator might like to change angles or get a panoramic shot.  

 

  1.  Do NOT, under any circumstances, talk to someone on the trail.  

How many times have you been out for a trail run and thought that the person you were passing was saying hello, so you said hello as well.  Then you find out that they were just talking into their phone and they are fucking furious with you for ruining their live facebook feed or snapchat.  I know, it happens to me almost everyday.  

If you hear someone talking on the trail, it is safe to assume they are only speaking to their device, not you.  Keep your head down and keep moving.  

 

  1. Drone operators must be at least three feet off the side of the trail.

There’s nothing worse than coming around a corner and seeing someone standing directly in the middle of the trail, staring up in the air with a controller in their hands.  They never see you coming.  They are too concerned about crashing their plastic quadcopter with their $500 camera on it.  

Eric Schranz recently advocated for shooting them out of the sky.  I love this line of thinking, but I don’t have a gun.  In the particularly egregious offenses, I like to take control of the drone– either forcibly or by telling them that I am an experienced drone operator and can show them some awesome “tricks” and then turn the drone in a kamikaze missile headed straight for them.  This way, not only do you destroy the drone, you get the opportunity to inflict some bodily harm.

  • Pro Tip: If you can get the drone to chase them up the trail away from the trailhead for a mile or two before crashing it into their head, it makes them even angrier.  These people never want to go far.

 

  1. During a trail race, any registered runner may lower their shoulder and “truck” a non-registered person on the trail holding a gimble setup.  

This doesn’t really require further explanation.   

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  1.  The volume in your headphones or bluetooth speaker must be kept low enough to hear someone behind you on the trail, even if you’re not listening to music, just the new Tim Ferriss podcast, or you may be tripped.

It seems that every race has some stipulation of this rule and yet, every time I race I end up behind someone who can’t hear me yelling at them.  It’s way worse when it isn’t a race situation and people have to use common sense to determine what and what not to do.  

If you yell “excuse me” as loud as you can three times and get no response, you are allowed (obligated?) to trip the person in order to get around them.  

  • Pro Tip: Just as they are picking their foot up off the ground, kick the outside of their foot toward their other leg.  

 

  1.  If you are part of a group of three or more people operating a camera in any way whatsoever, you relinquish all rights that you have on this trail and as a citizen of the United States.  

Basically, you become fair game.  It’s like those Purge movies except limited to this very specific scenario instead of one night a year.  

  • Pro Tip: Always stuff some empty water balloons into the gel pocket of your shorts when you go running.  You won’t even notice they are there, and you can have an awesome time on the serendipitous chance that you run into a film crew and have to pee.

 

 

  1.  During a trail race, when there are already a large number of cameras on a runner, a situation like with Walmsey at Foresthill or Kilian finishing the Mont-Blanc Marathon, and you wish to shoot some amatuer video yourself, you first must count the number of people already filming.  Then– and most importantly– shove your iPhone up your ass.

 

 

An Ultrarunning Thought Experiment

id4-spaceship

Bobby Geronimo: Here’s the situation:  Aliens land on earth.  A vastly more technologically advanced species, they intend to wipe out humankind before mining the earth for it’s resources.  Luckily for us, these aliens (who are also bipedal and avid runners) hold some ancient karmic belief that gives us a sporting shot: they want to race 100 miles for the fate of the planet.

Wasatch Willy: So, essentially it’s Space Jam except the aliens are ultrarunners instead of basketball players.

Bobby Geronimo: Exactly. I should have just said that… So, after a brief consultation with the aliens (which I imagine will begin something like that scene with Will Smith in Independence Day) we iron out all the details and decided the race will be a five-leg relay run on the toughest, most versatile courses we have to offer on Earth.  Each species lines up their five best runners to tackle each course for the fate of the Earth and, in our case, the species as a whole.  After running all five courses, the team with the lowest combined time wins.

welcome-to-earth
Welcome to Earth.

Wasatch Willy:  And the five courses need to be difficult, different and showcase a bit of all the different types of terrain Earth has to offer.  Let’s go with: Western States, UTMB, Hardrock, Badwater and Barkley.

BG: Perfect! That gives us a little bit of everything.  And for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s both a draft our team (alternating picks) so we don’t end up with any duplicates and it makes it a bit more interesting.

So, you have to draft five runners in any order you choose and assign each of them to a race: Western States, UTMB, Hardrock, Badwater and Barkley.  The alternate needs to be able to fill in wherever needed.

Your five runners run the five courses and the combined time needs to be below the combined time of the alien runners or we all die horrible, painful deaths.

WW: Sounds good, I’m going first.

“With the 1st overall pick in the 2017 hypothetical ultrarunning draft, Wasatch Willy selects”: 

Wasatch Willy: #1: Kilian Jornet, Spain, Hardrock 100

Kilian

This actually might be cheating… Are we sure Kilian isn’t some sort of alien? Assuming he is human, this seems like the safest pick. He has the CR in both directions and it didn’t even seem like he was trying that hard. He also is the nicest guy on the planet, the aliens may change their minds about global domination after meeting him.

Bobby Geronimo:  #1: Jim Walmsley, USA, Western States 100

Another big surprise here. Nobody is beating Jim Walmsley on the Western States 100 course this year.  Not Kilian, not a deer, not some alien.  Not after what happened last year.  With the fate of the planet on the line, he definitely goes sub-14.  Plus, I want someone with the competitive fire of Jim Walmsley lining up for the species.  He’s gonna bring a swagger and confidence that, coupled with his suicide pace, will hopefully leave the aliens searching for a planet of less-athletic runners.

WW: #2: Kaci Lickteig, USA, Western States 100

Give us your biggest, baddest lady alien, and we’ll give you Kaci. She is a friendly, smiling assassin and is KILLING it right now. She knows the course and is in great shape. Obviously these aliens haven’t been following her on Strava.

BG: #2: Francois D’Haene, France, UTMB 

francois-dhaene

Experience. Experience. Experience.  UTMB course record holder and two-time winner.  Adds some perfect balance to the team with someone like Walmsley up front.  You just know this guy is gonna get it done, especially on this course.  With the exception of Kilian, there’s no one else I’d be more confident in going sub-20 hours on a circumnavigation of Mount Blanc.

WW: #3: Zach Bitter, USA, Badwater 135

zachbittersolstice2015.jpg

Zach is flat out fast. He is possibly the most fat-adapted athlete on the planet, I bet these idiot aliens haven’t even figured that stuff out yet… Anyways, Zach owns the American 100-mile record in 11:40:55(I am aware that some Russian dude has the WR but I’ve seen the movies, Americans always save the world.). He did that on a track, which takes an incredible amount of willpower that will serve him well on the melting asphalt roads at Badwater.

BG: #3: Anton Krupicka, USA, Hardrock 100

This is my darkhorse.  It’s a bit risky, obviously, but I’m assuming that with the Earth on the line, Krupicka is gonna push through any latent ITB issues and get the job done. At the end of the day, his skill set fits this course and I think he has the tools to put together a course record performance on a good day.  And he wants this race.

Plus, worst case-scenario, we get to watch Krupicka race Hardrock before the world ends.

WW: #4: Rory Bosio, USA, UTMB

Rory

These chick aliens aren’t going to know what hit them when they meet the women of Planet Earth. Rory has the UTMB course record in 22:37 and has won TWICE. She also has one of the smoothest gaits around and seems like a total badass. She hasn’t been racing a ton, so she will be well rested and ready to kick some alien butt.

I’m all about gender equality when it comes to saving Earth.

BG: #4: Mike Foote, USA, Barkley Marathons

I was really tempted to go with Gary Robbins here, but I think that Mike Foote is gonna be the guy to get this one done.  Gary has the experience on the course, but at the end of the day, Mike Foote has the ability to excel on this course and a bit of a higher ceiling than most previous Barkley finishers.

If Mike puts together the type of race he’s capable of on this terrain, I think he goes under Brent Maune’s CR and gives us a solid cushion on the aliens.  Mike is also just a super awesome dude, and if someone is gonna represent our species, I don’t know who would do a better job.

WW: #5: Cameron Hanes, USA, Barkley Marathons

Chanes

Admittedly, this pick is a little bit out of left field. Cam is a strong runner, a professional bow hunter and very competent in the outdoors. He is PERFECT for Barkely. It is a footrace- but an unorthodox one and Cam is used to being off trail and the challenges that come with those situations. I think his skill set works well for Barkley… Ok, I’ll come clean about this pick. I hoping Cam kills one of these alien bastards with his bow.

BG: #5: Rob Krar, USA, Badwater 135

Krar-Western-States

I think Krar would be capable of doing something really special on this course. Rob knows a thing or two about battling demons.  With Earth on the line, He might be able to run 135 sub-five minute miles.  Who knows?  I just know I want him lining up for that race on my team.

WW: You get to pick your alternate first because I had first overall pick. Just to be clear, the alternate needs to be a versatile runner capable of filling in for ANY injured runner on ANY of the courses.  This can’t be a one-trick pony.

BG: Sounds fair.   Alternate: Magda Boulet, USA 

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Photo: Matt Trappe

This is a no brainer for me. I already have too much testosterone on the team (because you stole my two picks!) but I really feel like Magda could line up at any of these races and crush it.  She’s done it before on the UTMB and Western States courses and I think she has the foot speed and ability to withstand the heat enough to be very successful at a race like Badwater.  She just edges out David Laney for this spot for me, as a 2:17 marathoner with a true mountain running pedigree, he’d be a nice reliever to have on the bench as well.

I like my team! I think we win the planet.  Who you got on your bench?

WW: Alternate: Gary Robbins, Canada

He is versatile as can be, runs super-fast on all sorts of terrain and is a Barkley finisher guy who almost finished Barkley. I’m really concerned Cam will be DQ’d for killing the aliens and Gary can fill in if needed.

BG: Good picks bro! That was fun.  Our lists might be a bit-American centric (as we are from the US).  We would love to hear from readers what their mountain running teams look like.

The Final Teams: 

Bobby’s Team: Jim Walmsley, Francois D’Haene, Anton Krupicka, Mike Foote, Rob Krar, Magda Boulet

Wasatch’s Team: Kilian Jornet, Kaci Lickteig, Zach Bitter, Rory Bosio, Cameron Hanes, Gary Robbins

Leave your selections in the comments below.  Did we get it wrong?  Who did we leave out?  Let us know what you think!

 

Jim, Kaci, Gary, Tim and the Art of the 100-mile Taper

Tim-finish Maggie Zhang
Tim Tollefson putting the finishing touches on his 2016 UTMB. Photo: Maggie Zhang

Long story short, I have no idea how to taper.  When I didn’t think about any of this stuff and I just went running, I had no taper issues. I was running around 35-40 miles a week and then I would just take Monday, Wednesday and Thursday off, run like 5k on Tuesday and Friday and show up for my 50 mile race and feel great. 

Now, I’m running a lot more (at least 75 miles a week) with much bigger weeks peppered in during a big training block.  I’m also running a lot faster.  Things have fundamentally changed.  But I’m still trying to hydrate, eat and taper like everything is status quo.  I need to figure my shit out.  I’m on a mission to master my nutrition.  Determined.  That’s a whole different post.   For now, let’s talk taper.

When I’m running 90-100 miles a week, I feel incredibly strong. Tired, but strong.  It takes me a bit to get going (or even out the door a lot of the time) but when I get warmed up, some of my strongest training runs have come as I’m closing down back to back 100 mile weeks with tons of volume on my legs.  Things I didn’t even think were possible.  I perform better deeper into runs.  At mile 25 or 30 of my training runs, I feel strong.  I need to capture this during race day.

For my recent Backbone Ultra (110k), I ran three consecutive 100 mile weeks followed by a 93 mile week heading into my taper.  I ran just over 15 miles leading up to the Saturday race and while I initially felt fresh and rested, it seemed to turn bad on me very quickly (after only about two hours, which seems insane considering the training I put in).  If I had just kept running that week like my training, how would the result have been different? My previous Saturday run on tired legs was great. 

In an attempt to figure it all out, I took a look at what some elite trail runners, those who actually have consistent success at distances beyond 50 miles, do in their taper.  I’m not talking about the guy on social media you follow who puts up photos of himself eating donuts under the hashtag #tapertantrum.  I’m talking about the big boys.  Let’s see if Jim, Kaci, Gary and Tim can help us amateurs figure it all out.

Jim Walmsley, Western States 2016:

We all know how this went down.  Despite his wrong turn, he obviously had his fitness dialed in.  Jim runs a ton, so this should be a good indication of how to taper down from high volume successfully:

Weeks out:

Six: 140.7mi  17h 29m  22,530ft

Five: 141.1mi  17h 3m  14,285ft

Four: 120.0mi  14h 19m  10,268ft

Three: 100.3mi  12h 34m   15,349ft

Two: 65.2mi  8h 37m  11,993ft

Race Week Prior to Western States: 27.2mi 3h 5m 1,689ft;  Days run race week: Tuesday (8.2) Wednesday (8.1) Thursday (6.2) Friday (4.4)

Jim (somewhat surprisingly) does dip down in volume the last two weeks.  Two weeks out from race day, his volume is approximately 46% of his six week mark.  He only took a single day off the week of the race (Monday) which, from what I can tell, seems to be the way to handle the final leg of the taper:  increasingly shorter runs leading into the weekend, keeping the effort easy but not necessarily jogging slowly.  Like David Roche has pointed out, you need to keep your muscle tension high in order to maintain your speed. Jogging slowly in your runs before a race doesn’t do that for you. Short and fast. This certainly worked for Jim.  

Gary Robbins, Barkley 2017:

robbins-finish michael doyle, canadian running magazine
Gary at the finish.  Photo by Michael Doyle, Canadian Running Magazine

Obviously, Barkley is incredibly unique.  There are not a lot of other courses out there that pose the challenges a race like Barkley does.  The training is specific.  It might be a waste of time to look at this data, but Gary Robbins is a smart, calculating dude and this was Gary’s second time running Barkley so he knew exactly what to expect and how to train specifically for the task.  Let’s see what we can glean:

Weeks out:

Six: 47.2mi  14h 35m  30,446ft

Five: 43.5mi  13h 22m  30,453ft

Four: 56.9mi  18h 14m  40,322ft

Three: 43.9mi  14h 42m   27,828ft

Two: 33.7mi  8h 9m  11,040ft

Race Week Prior to Barkley: 9.9mi 2h 50m 4,134ft;  Days run race week: Tuesday (5.0) Thursday (4.9)

The crazy part about comparing Gary’s Barkley taper with Jim’s WS100 taper is how similar they actually are.  You would think those two races and their different demands would render wholly different training cycles, and yet, in terms of time spent running these two tapered very similarly.  Following them both on Strava, it definitely seemed like Jim was running a lot more, but he was hanging significantly more mileage, not necessarily spending a lot more time on his feet.  Gary was tackling Barkley-esque terrain on the BCMC everyday in Vancouver, eating up massive chunks of vert each and every time he stepped outside.

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BCMC repeats all night long. 

If you start three weeks out, Gary actually tapered a lot less than Jim in terms of time and vertical gain.  He only ran ~10 miles race week prior, but the three hours he spent was the same as Jim (who almost ran 30 miles).  Both athletes were very specific to the demands of their individual race but tapered in a shockingly similar way when you compare the numbers side-by-side.  We might be getting somewhere here…

Kaci Lickteig: WS 2016:

Kaci-Lickteig-Wins-Western-States photo by iRunFar
Photo: iRunfar.com

Kaci is a beast.  She runs a TON.  And fast.  She’s similar to Walmsley in that regard (although she probably trains on flatter terrain than him day in and day out, living in the Mid West). She looked so, so smooth at last year’s WS100 and according to her Strava data, she spent less than twenty combined minutes stopped at aid stations during her 100 mile win.  She just kept rolling and never even looked tired.  I want to taper like her.  Let’s take a look:

Weeks out:

Six: 102.1mi  14h 18m  10,410ft

Five: 111.7mi  15h 48m  9,429ft

Four: 129.8mi  17h 56m  10,282ft

Three: 100.4mi  13h 34m  5,902ft

Two:  86.6mi  11h 7m  2,365ft

Race Week Prior to WS100: 27.9  3h 5m 787ft;  Days run race week: Monday(10.2) Tuesday(10.4) Wednesday (7.1)

She tapered down her volume less than Jim, but her peak wasn’t as high.  She’s running at 85% of her six week total two weeks out from race day.  She peaked in volume four weeks out (just like Gary did for Barkley) which is in contrast with Jim’s peak six weeks out.  Kaci and Jim’s race weeks were eerily similar in terms of distance/time:

Kaci: 27.9mi and 3h 5m

Jim:  27.7mi and 3h 5m

Jim grabbed about twice the amount of vert but the big difference here is that Kaci took Thursday and Friday off, while Jim did not.  Unless she’s not putting a run on Strava (and she seems to log just about everything) Kaci took two full days off before Western States after averaging over 106 miles per week the five weeks leading into the race. Something David Roche suggested not doing (which made a ton of sense to me when I read it).  But it definitely worked for her.  Interesting…

Tim Tollefson UTMB 2016:

GrabbedShot 2017-05-09 at 11.54.10 AM
Consistency. 

Tim is an impressive dude.  He almost never takes a day off.  Sure, he took a couple after UTMB and single day after this year’s Hong Kong 100k, but in his training cycle, never. He comes from a background of consistency in his running and he sticks to it.  Even if there’s 10ft snow of the ground in town in Mammoth Lakes, Tim is out there getting it in.  And, as far as I can tell, he runs everyday leading up to his races (Side note: Tim’s Strava really makes me want to live in Mammoth Lakes.  Like really bad.)

The 2016 UTMB was Tim’s first 100 mile race (easy first, haha) and he threw down one of the best performances ever by an American athlete.  He ventured into unknown territory and did it flawlessly.  As someone who hopes to race 100 miles for the first time in the future, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at his training and preparation for this race. (Fun Fact: Tim stood on the UTMB podium without running longer than 55k in training.)

Weeks out:

Six: 101.2mi   15h 4m  15,942ft

Five: 86.9mi  11h 36m  7,251ft

Four:  107.1mi  15h 32m  17,074ft

Three:  92.9mi  12h 30m  9,195ft

Two:  75.3mi  11h 25m  9,889ft

Race week Prior to UTMB: 36mi 3h 19m 2,503ft;  Days run race week: Monday (10.0)Tuesday (8.0) Wednesday (8.0) Thursday (6.0) Friday (4.0)

Thirty-six miles seems like a lot leading into a race like UTMB, but when you look at his overall time, he only ran 14 minutes longer than Walmsley and Lickteig leading into Western States.  He did hang a lot more vert than Kaci and Jim that week (which means he was running FAST; muscle tension!) but that’s specific to the demands of a course like UTMB which has much more vertical gain/loss and poses a more technical challenge.  Not the vert or technicality of Barkley, but somewhere in between the two, where it seems like Tim found that sweet spot in his training.

Looking at his last six weeks, Tim peaked four weeks out (the same as Gary and Kaci) and had a small dip in volume during week five (the same as Gary and Kaci).  Something about that small stagger in their training weeks is interesting to me.  Sure, Walmsley’s nice straight lines that are always building toward or descending away from his peak are strangely satisfying to look at, but there seems to be something to the five-week-dip into a four-week-peak.  Take a look at Dominic Grossman’s training for the AC100:

Dominic Grossman AC100 2016:

DomGrossman
Dom in his happy place.  Photo: Dominic Grossman

Weeks out:

Six: 72.2mi  11h 30m  13,480ft

Five: 45.6mi   6h 33m  7,424ft

Four:  54.1mi  13h 34m  19,114ft

Three: 66.3mi  11h 30m  13,555ft

Two: 36.3mi  6h 2m  7,520ft

Race Week Prior to AC: 18.4mi  2h 49m  3,109ft

While Dominic may not be running as much as the rest of them (he has a full-time job to balance with his pro running career) he is super consistent and he has a ton of experience, especially when it comes to running the Angeles Crest 100.  That’s his race.  So, despite slightly lower volume overall, you would expect him to have his training and taper dialed in.

With him, you see the same four-week-peak (the most time by over two hours and 5k more vert than the other weeks) after a similar dip during week five.  Dom’s training is very specific to the course demands (almost all of his training was done on the course) and he clocked the appropriate amount of vertical gain and wound up with a third place finish.  On a rugged, high-elevation, point-to-point mountain course that eclipses Western States in difficulty in all categories.

Tapering is a specific thing.  Each race offers a different list of challenges and demands.  Everyone has different goals.  That being said, it’s very interesting to me how similarly the elites taper.  Even for races as different as Western States and Barkley.  They’re doing it right based on experience and wisdom.  And, surprisingly, essentially in the same way. If I want to run 100 mile weeks and train at a volume similar to elite ultrarunners, I need to start tapering like one.

_______________________

During last year’s pre-race briefing for The Rut 50k, Mike Foote, standing behind a podium at the Bozeman Running Company store, was asked how much we should be tapering the final two weeks before the race.  

Mike smiled and said, “Well, at this point the hay should already be in the barn… but you don’t want to turn the faucet off completely, you want to keep it running.”

Well said Mike. Well said.

 

Trail and Ultra Running in the Post-Krupicka Climate

Jim Walmsley Paul Nelson
Photo: Paul Nelson

 

There seems to be somewhat of a distinction forming— a line being etched across the dirt.  The community as whole seems unusually divided.  The comment sections of seemingly every article slowly gestating toward the inevitable.  Even places normally reserved for congratulations and respect, like Strava runs, are seen exploding into 40 comment arguments.  I haven’t been running for very long so I’m not exactly a historian when it comes to the cultural swings and relative zeitgeist of the mountain ultra community, but I’m starting to feel like we’re at a crossroads.  

I’m a bit ashamed to admit, when I first got into running it was really because of Born to Run.  I was in a post-college basketball funk where I hadn’t figured out what I was going to do athletically and was getting incredibly sedentary, bored and fat.  I was primed and ready for somebody like Chris McDougall to tell me that I was designed by evolution to run, so I should probably be running.  It made sense to me.  I don’t have any problem doing things that make sense. Plus, it felt really good and it got me outside in the mountains— at first I didn’t even think about running on the road, it wasn’t even an option, I wanted the romanticized spiritual experience that McDougall was selling along with a pair of minimalist shoes.  

Pretending I was a tarahumara certainly kept me running everyday and was getting me into great shape and calming me down and having tons of other positive side-effects, but I seriously doubt I would have tried to push my running as far as I have without Tony Krupicka. The runners that I knew about at the time were people from Born to Run, like Scott Jurek, but I had yet to even pick up a running magazine or look at an ultra running website.  I really didn’t know much about the culture of the sport at all.  

Then I ran my first ultra and the race director put a three-month-old issue of TrailRunner Magazine in the swag bag.  The big story inside was the 2013 Speedgoat 50k matchup between Anton Krupicka and Sage Canaday (where Anton gets beat by 90 seconds and they run the fastest two times ever on the course).

So then I get introduced to these guys and it’s already very apparent how different they are: Sage is wearing maximal shoes, a fanny pack, long(ish) and a sleeveless tech shirt.  Anton is wearing some New Balance Mt100s that he probably whittled the heel down on and the smallest pair of shorts he can find.  He’s got long hair and beard.  Sage is clean shaven with a stupid hair cut.

Speedgoat podium 2013
2013 Speedgoat 50k podium (From left: Krupicka, Canaday and Jason Schlarb) Photo: Billy Yang

A little more research produced more of the same: Sage talked about running on the track while  Tony talked about a spiritual connection with the mountains.  Sage was doing hill repeats on graded fire roads and Tony was tagging every 14er in sight.  Tony has other aspirations in the mountains: climbing, skiing— hiking when he was injured.  Sage Canaday seems like the type of dude to pick running on an Alter-g treadmill in physical therapist’s office over going on a hike and has no other aspirations in the mountains from what I can tell. (Side note: I’m not trying to single out Sage Canaday for some reason, this was just how my experience happened. I think Sage is an amazing runner, obviously.)

At this point, I pretty much wanted to be Tony Krupicka.  He’s the basically the coolest dude in the world.  He was out there talking about running like a buddhist philosopher and then toeing the line on race day and crushing everybody’s souls.  He was some mythical legend, sleeping in his car at trailheads all summer and running every big peak in short shorts and no water bottle,  taking routes that most people would be roped-up on.  He slept on the floor of a buddy’s hotel room then won the Miwok 100 the next day to punch a WS100 ticket.

He was the definition of minimalism. He needed less than everybody else and he was still going to perform the best.  Kilian was and never will be what Tony Krupicka was for a few years there: a true mountain runner.  Tony was running in the winter still, he wasn’t skiing yet.  He was literally running in the mountains everyday and, in the summer at least, showering in the river.  He just embodied this certain ideal.  He lived and breathed the mountains.  Like he would rather not run than step on a treadmill or a track and he would most certainly choose to forgo shoes altogether before lacing up a pair of Hokas.  

TK Scramble Rob Timko
Photo: Rob Timko

Then we lost Tony. I realize this is an entirely selfish point of view.  I don’t care.   We need him now more than ever and I want him to come back.  As his old self.   At the very least, I’d love to see him running again, with his newly-honed climbing and biking proficiency, he’d undoubtedly be doing some insane running/biking/climbing projects that nobody else would have the skill set for.   But as of right now, there’s nobody to fill his shoes.

I hesitate to even mention it so early on but he has, ever since his recent trip to Chamonix, been logging some solid runs in the mountains.  He has put multiple runs over three-plus hours on Strava in the past couple weeks and he seems to be holding up.  So there’s that.  Could be something. Fingers crossed.

I read an interesting article by Chase Parnell where he talks about the dichotomy in ultra running and just reading it, I get the sense that if Tony were still his former self, this debate would be a lot less heated.  The purist-mountain runner side has no one to carry our flag. Walmsley and Co. seem to be growing by the day (thanks to Rob Krar, according to Tony Krupicka].  We should make hats like surfers did when Laird Hamilton re-popularized paddle boarding, ours will say “Blame Rob”).  And all us mountain purist people have to either site Krupicka circa-2010 or hope that Killian beats Walmsley at UTMB.  

TK Speedgoat Matt Trappe
Photo: Matt Trappe

Chase spends a lot of time talking about the difference in technicality of the races and making predictions about certain match-ups in the mountains and I certainly agree with what he’s saying.  There’s no way Kilian gets beats by Walmsely because Kilian won’t line up for a race that Walmsely is going to win.  Kilian likes steep, super technical stuff.  I ran The Rut, that shit is not flat.  There’s a better chance we see Kim Kardashian line up for Western States than Kilian again.

But I think he’s missing the point about this whole debate.  Tony Krupicka was so special because he transcended running.  Tony was so much more.  Tony Krupicka was like a religion, a lifestyle.  Listen to any podcast that he’s on and the hosts alway ask the same questions: trying to decipher his lifestyle and unlock the code to his success.  He lived the dream and he did it for the right reasons.  He respected, humbled himself to, drew motivation from and exclusively ran in the mountains.  It was pure and it was beautiful.

At first, I was mad about the whole Tony Krupicka thing.  Then, I realized that I was being ridiculous and selfish. Sure, he had completely abandoned most things that seemed to give him so much success early on in his career and made ridiculous statements about how old he is and how his “body can’t take the pounding it used to” when there are numerous examples of people much older than him running much more, some exclusively in the mountains and some at a much faster pace (like Mike Wardian).  But at the end of the day, none of that shit is my business.

Thinking about this (and spending entirely too much time in comments sections reading about this) recently has highlighted the fact that even a small community like ultrarunning—where most of the famous runners are essentially no-names to the general population— is still an incredibly celebrity driven culture.  We’re obsessed.  It’s a problem.  Why does everyone care so much?

jim-walmsley
The man of the moment, Photo: Clif Bar

I loved being inspired by Tony Krupicka.  I still go back and read his old Runner’s World blog posts when I’m feeling especially unmotivated.  But if I don’t have my own very real reasons for wanting to go running everyday, for wanting to spend time in the mountains, nobody else is going to be able to get me there.  Everyone gets to pick which races they run (for the most part, lotteries can be a bitch) and everyone gets to pick where they devote their own time, effort and money.

Regardless of where the community as a whole swings, or regardless of who graces the magazine covers, there will always be people on the fringe, people who spurn the establishment for a more pure, simplistic style.  People who draw their motivation from a different well.  Breathe the air a little more deeply.  And they probably belonged out on the fringe all along, where they prefer to be.

 

Afternoon Delight

santamonicabp1

“Wait.  You want me to put cheese slices in your milkshake?” The confused looking teenager asked, glancing sideways at me across the white counter, shocks of his disheveled hair sticking in every direction from underneath his paper In-N-Out hat.

“Yeah.” I replied, “But you have to melt the cheese first.  If you just put the cheese slice in the milkshake, I won’t be able to drink it.”

He stared at me for a couple of seconds before turning his back and walking toward the closest grill, throwing two thick slices of american cheese on to it, and then pacing back toward the milkshake machine.  A couple minutes later, I was on my bike, cruising down Washington Blvd toward the beach, slowly sucking strawberry milkshake through a straw.

I was about to go on a run.  Normally, I prefer to eat nothing or maybe a banana before running, but today was a special occasion.  It was the first day of spring break.  The area where I was set to go running would be a complete shit-show: tourists everywhere along the bike path and boardwalk, lost Uber drivers weaving unpredictably in and out of traffic trying to find their fares, huge groups of people dumping off of tour busses and just your average can’t-be-bothered-to-look-up-from-my-cell-phone unaware idiots.

Normally on days like this, I make it a point to get my run in before 8am.  If that doesn’t happen, I end up experiencing some sort of run-rage:  kicking cars, yelling at bikers, snorting disapprovingly at selfie-takers and generally announcing things to people that I feel they should be more aware of.

It isn’t good for my mental health.  Running is an escape for me, I usually do it in the mountains.  I have learned over the years that if I need to go on a run in a situation like this, I need a recourse.  I can’t be yelling at people.  Even when people are blatantly ignoring simple rules of etiquette and common decency, I don’t like to tell people what to do.

And I shouldn’t have to.  But they still need to be taught a lesson.  They need some sort of accountability.  And I need something to ensure the worst offenders are dealt with.  For mental health’s sake.  Enter american cheese/strawberry milkshake.

My bike locked up, I sucked the last of the pinkish goop through the straw, tossed the cup in a trash can, pulled my shirt over my head and took off on my jog.  It was a gorgeous day, 72 degrees and with a slight onshore breeze and just a nip of humidity in the air making it feel closer to 68.

I headed down the palm tree-lined street, straight for the beach and as I approached the intersection in front me, I was fortunate enough to have the light change and was greeted with a big, bright walking man in the crosswalk sign.  The car sitting at the light started to pull forward with their left blinker on, looking to turn left.  I had noticed the large Uber symbol in the back window and so I immediately knew this person had no idea where they were and was totally reliant on gps to get anywhere (meaning they would be looking at their phone, not where they were going) and remained vigilant.

Sure enough, just as my first foot landed on the striped asphalt of the crosswalk, the driver apparently got new information and decided he wanted to turn right.  He didn’t signal or look, he just went (having to perform a u-turn at the next light would be devastating) cutting back across the crosswalk, barely making it into his own lane, only missing me because I came to a complete stop.  He still had no idea I was even there.  There was a large cat sitting in his lap and two huge phones sticking out of the dashboard on holders.

I started running soon enough to pull parallel to the rear of the car, I had just enough time.  I cocked my head back to the left, covered my left nostril with two fingers and let the first one go.   A huge projectile ball of thick pink snot went fluttering across the open space between my face and the rear window of the black Prius.  It splattered upon impact, the main glob sticking to the center of the window while edges started dripping down in a mess of pinkish goo. Bingo. It didn’t look bloody yet, but I knew the strawberry milkshake just needed a little more time to work.   I was shooting 100% early in this run.  Feeling good, salty breeze in the air, I headed down toward the boardwalk.

I hit the bike path and hung a hard right, headed northbound, the outline of the Santa Monica Mountains silhouetted across the hazy horizon line.  Directly ahead of me on the path, I could see what seemed to be a traffic jam.  There was a large congestion of bikes stopped in the middle of the path, halting all traffic coming from both directions.  I weaved in and out of a few bikes until I could see what was causing the jam:  a group of five or six twentysomethings were crowded around a single cell phone that was extended in an arm from the center of the group.

They had stopped in the middle of the bike path to get a selfie, something that required blocking both lanes, mere feet away from a safe boardwalk with plenty of room and no flow of traffic.  I gathered my ammunition steadily with a few well-timed nostril inhalations.  I approached the rear of the group and veered to their right, covered my right nostril and let a rocket go from my left nostril.  It hung heavy in the air before splattering on the back of the last guy in the group.

A bit of commotion ensued, signaling that he might have realized what just happened.  I was busy weaving through the middle of the group and out the left side, placing two fingers on my left nostril and with a slightly-cocked head, sent a huge glob of snot directly onto cell phone of the selfie taker.  It exploded across the back of the phone and sent a stream of red-yellow mucus streaming down her arm.  She looked dazed… then angry.  I sprinted away to the sounds of screaming and commotion.  Luckily for me, their selfie stop had caused such a traffic jam on the bike path, they had no chance of catching up to me any time soon.

Three for three. I was feeling hot.  Sure, the targets were easy (I was effectively shooting layups at this point) but it still felt good to dish out a little old-fashioned snot rocket justice on inconsiderate and unaware idiots.   Just as the phlegm began to reconvene in my sinuses, I spotted an interesting situation unfolding in the bike path ahead.

In one of the pedestrian crosswalks that bisects the path, there was a fat woman wearing a yellow bikini crossing with her two sons.  One of the children was halfway across when he decided to sit down.  Bikes and runners traveling southbound started slowing to a stop, waiting for the child to move.

The mother, who was behind her son, stopped in the crosswalk as well, blocking northbound traffic and started screaming at her son: “You’re in the way!” and “Move!”.  She had her arm outstretched and was pointing at the jam of bikes he had just caused, completely oblivious to the pile-up she was causing behind her.

As I approached, weaving through the traffic they were causing, the mother was no closer to her son and had still made no effort to pick up her confused toddler and move him from harm’s way. He was crying very loudly.  Screaming, really.

I covered my left nostril firmly just as she shouted, “Get out of the way!” at the top of her lungs and sent a tight ball of firm pink snot shooting towards her.  It hit her exposed shoulder and exploded like a water balloon, sending mucus globbing down her arm and back.  I could have sworn I heard some cheering from the congestion as I darted out of sight down the path.  Keepin’ it 100.  Unprecedented accuracy.  I was in the zone.

I jogged a couple uneventful miles, enjoying the ocean breeze and the mild temps.  Despite his early reticence, the In-N-Out employee ended up putting together a perfect concoction of thick-sliced American cheese and creamy, real ice cream milkshake.  The balls of snot conglomerated to a seemingly impossible size and held together perfectly as the flew through the air, only releasing on impact.  I tipped my Patagonia duckbill cap to him as I looked for a final target.

I had one solid piece of ammunition left; one that had been coalescing for the past couple miles and had finally gathered toward the end of my nostril, sitting prime to be ejected.  I turned my back toward the beach and headed inland, toward the traffic.  I approached the first intersection to find approximately 40 people waiting to cross the street.  I was still about 100 yards back when the light changed and they were given their little white man symbol to start walking.

Waiting at the light to turn right was a red convertible Maserati. The driver was incredibly irked that he had to wait for these people to cross.  He tried to jump out in front of everyone, and as that failed, I saw him throw his arms up in disgust.  He had to wait. System check: I slowly inhaled through my nose.  All systems were go.

The driver of the red convertible Maserati wanted to make sure that everyone knew how inconvenient this was for him, so he refused to sit and wait, he slowly kept inching forward into the crosswalk as the people walked past him.  By the time I approached, at the tail end of the the crossing pack, he was halfway into the crosswalk, still slowly inching forward, refusing to stop and wait for the pedestrians with the right of way to cross.

I only need three steps in the crosswalk to eclipse the front of his car, I was banking on the fact that as soon as I passed, he would slam the gas pedal to the floor and continue to his back-waxing appointment or wherever a dude that drives a Maserati goes.  To buy designer sunglasses?…

He did.  As soon as I was a fraction of an inch clear, he gunned it, cranking it hard right to get back into the first lane.  I stopped immediately in the middle of the intersection, pivoted on a dime and, my right hand already covering my nostril, unleashed the granddaddy of all the snot rockets that day, right toward the open cab of the car.

Time seemed to slow down.  The pinkish glob hung in the air for a moment, the sun reflecting off of it, turning it red.  For a split-second, I thought it might disintegrate in the air before reaching its target.  It was a huge, bulbous blob, way too big to be obeying the laws of physics, and it was somehow, someway holding together and floating toward the driver.

It almost hit him.  Instead, it hit the back of the headrest on the passenger side.  When it exploded I thought I could see and entire slice of American cheese being stretched inside it.  His white leather interior was suddenly stained pink.  His face, shoulders and chest were covered with snot, as well as the entire backseat.

He slammed on his brakes and stopped in the middle of the street, looking stunned.  He examined the damage like he had just been shot.  He didn’t know what to do.  The driver behind him honked.

I, on the other hand, felt like Michael Jordan in game six of the 1998 NBA finals.  I was floating.  I arrived back at home feeling refreshed, phlegm-free and utterly satisfied with my running experience.  Perfect way to kick off spring break.  Snot rockets in flight, it truly was an afternoon delight.

innnout
The perfect ammunition.