Blog Subtitle

Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dear Runnerfolk: Ultrarunning Myths

Ultrarunning was once a little sport engaged in by only a few nut jobs with serious problems. Now it seems everyone is doing them, and that's a wonderful thing - except that there weren't enough nut jobs to mentor all these freshly-minted ultrarunners and pass on the lore and history of the sport and the hard-earned collective wisdom about how to do it well.

Myths and misinformation abound and I'm going to point out a few here that bug me. This will surely raise some hackles and cause considerable offense among those who dearly hold as sacrosanct rules of ultrarunning some of these things I'll call 'myths'. Hey, at least I just put them in a rant here where generally no one reads anyway!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to Train for Vol State

Archival image of a Vol State training session from the early days.
(Real runners wear the fez)
This is it – the post you’ve been looking for!

One of the questions I have occasionally gotten, and that I have also seen from time to time in comments on Vol State discussions is, “How would you train for a race like that?” Many ultrarunners, who either seriously think they might want to do it or who may just have a passing curiosity about it, seem to wonder about this, and I have finally been moved to reach out with such wisdom as I have on the topic.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Me and Loops

"What is it with your husband and loops??"

My wife was asked the question by a coworker right before I ran the Mt. Tammany 10 - ten circuits of a four-mile loop course up and down Mt. Tammany in western New Jersey (I only made nine). Of course the reason for the question involved more than that. It was not the first time Karen had informed coworkers that she would be taking time off to watch and assist while I ran around in circles. Four miles was actually a bigger circle than usual.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


After the long uphill drive from the Jamesville Reservoir I pass through the little cluster of buildings known as Pompey (if you live in the area, by the way, you know that's pronounced "POMP-ee"). I cross Route 20 and start down the other side of Pompey Hill, toward Fabius. The land sweeps down and away ahead of me and I can see for perhaps five or six miles across farm fields and woodlots, and into the first of the big wooded hills, and I am reminded again just how little is out here. "Not what most people outside of New York picture when you mention New York," I thought (not for the first time - and as a non-native New Yorker, I know this is true).

Today though, underneath my usual inner dialog, there is something else lurking in my mind - something deeper, wordless and primitive... fear. I feel it strongly as I drive down the hill from Pompey.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ARFTA - A Race for the Ages 2

"Mama says, 'Stupid is as stupid does.'" - Forrest Gump

Grinding it out again under the Tennessee sun.
(Photo credit - John Price)
I was pleased when Laz chose to sit down with me as I was finishing up my breakfast coffee on Sunday morning at ARFTA. He's a popular guy and everyone wants to be able to spend some personal time with him. We chatted a little about this and that. It doesn't matter how much more tired he may be than you are, he's always got a gleam in his eye and something witty and interesting to say.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

2016 CandleLight12 at EquiCenter

A brand new race in Honeoye Falls, NY (near Rochester), CandleLight12 at EquiCenter (CL12) was a 12-hour night race benefiting (and taking place on the grounds of) a horse farm operated by a non-profit organization providing therapeutic equestrian programs to people with disabilities, at-risk youth, veterans, and their families.

When Egils "Gil" Robs, RD of both Mind the Ducks 12-hour and the CanLake 50s, announced this new race he was putting on I thought it fit perfectly into my plan for this year. Totally focused on trails and mountains through first half of the year for my 'A-race' at Laurel Highlands in June, it would then immediately be time to switch focus onto 'A-race' number two: A Race for the Ages (ARFTA) - a fixed-time, short-loop ultra on Labor Day weekend in which I will have 55 hours to complete as many laps of a one-mile (paved) course as I can.

When Gil announced CL12 - boom! - I had a set-piece long training run for ARFTA! I believe I was the fifth runner to sign up on the day registration opened.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Laurel Highlands Ultra

Journey's End

The northern end of Laurel Ridge, as seen from Scalp Ave. in Johnstown, PA.
The Conemaugh Gap is visible on the right.
The Conemaugh Gap.
(Photo credit - Google Maps)
It was just as I'd always pictured it. I mean exactly as I'd always pictured it. So rarely do you spend years imagining a thing, visualizing it, daydreaming it, and then have the reality turn out so much like what the mind's eye had been able to conjure.

I had known it was coming for at least two miles. The sound of a long train slowly wending its way through the deep, narrow chasm known as the Conemaugh Gap carries far at night through still, humid, early-summer air - and there are two rail lines through there, one on each side of the river, terraced into the steep flanks of the gorge, along with (on the north side) Cramer Pike and (on the south side) Haws Pike, carrying car traffic.

For at least two miles I had heard the low rumble off and on and had told myself excitedly, "That must be train traffic going through the Gap!" Soon I would be there. Soon I would see.