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Film: The 2015 Hardrock Hundred

The 2015 Hardrock Hundred was one for the record books. Kilian Jornet returned for a repeat win and set a new counter clockwise course record while Anna Frost beat out Darcy Piceu to also set a women’s overall course record.

We recap the race in this 20 minute film:

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Run Steep Get High Team + Salomon

We are pleased to announce our 2015 Mountain Running team and a new sponsor – Salomon! Our athletes are pushing the limits in the sport of mountain ultra running and we are excited to support their strive to go steeper and higher into 2015. This incredible group of athletes will be taking on some of the toughest and most prestigious trail running races around the world. It’s going to be a great year!

First off, let’s announce the women’s team. These ladies have made a splash on the ultra scene already and have big plans for this year. Look for them at Skyrunning races both in the US and abroad as well as some of the toughest mountain 100’s in the country.

Angela Shartel – Hailing from Southern California, Angela has already set course records at some of the toughest 100 mile races in the country including Massanutten & Angeles Crest. This year she recently turned down a spot she earned in the Western States 100 at Black Canyon 100K in lieu of competing at both the Cruel Jewel 100 and Bear 100. Angela also runs for Altra & InkNBurn.

Kristina Pattison – Living in Montana and a former smokejumper, Kristina was ranked in the top 50 women in the world Ultra Skyrunner Rankings and placed 2nd at the Flagstaff Sky Race 55K. She will be racing the Georgia Death Race, Transvulcania and Audi Power of Four 50K. Kristina also runs for La Sportiva.

Hillary Allen – Coming from Colorado, Hillary loves the mountains and she had a breakthrough year in 2014 with an overall win of the inaugural US Skyrunner Series. This year she’ll be competing in the US Skyrunner Series and will head to Europe for a World Skyrunner Series race! Hillary also runs for The North Face.

Sarah Keyes – Living in Saranac Lake, NY Sarah is currently spending her winter skinning and skiing the mountains around where she is a nursing student. She won the Vermont 50 in 2014 and is looking forward to racing the Whiteface Sky Race and Rut 25K. Sarah will also be sponsored by Salomon.

Teagan Redden – At only 10 years old, this Arizona girl already has multiple ultras under her belt including two finishes at the Javelina 100K. She has recently taken more to the mountains and completed the Flagstaff Vertical K this past October. She will be running the Capitol Peak 55K in Washington.

Next up, our men’s team with some returning from 2014 and some new faces:

Catlow Shipek – After his win at the 2014 US Skyrunner Ultra Series and followed up by a sub 15 hour 100 miler at Javelina, Catlow has an ambitious year planned in 2015. He has already placed 4th at Black Canyon 100K and set a course record at Old Pueblo 50 Mile near his hometown of Tucson, AZ. Next up he will compete at Transvulcania, then Mont Blanc 80K and later in the season the Rut 50K and Flagstaff Sky Race 55K. Catlow is also sponsored by Salomon & CarboPro.

Michael Versteeg – Living in Prescott, AZ Michael has ample access to trails and mountains. He was the top American finisher at the 2014 Caballo Blanco Ultra and won the inaugural Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 100 Mile. This year Michael will be travelling to Europe for several races including Ultra Trail Ehunmilak 100 Mile, Desafio Somiedo 50 Mile, and Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc (UTMB). Michael also runs for Salomon & Darn Tough Socks.

Jamil Coury – From Phoenix, AZ Jamil will be taking on some of the tougest 100 milers in the world this year with H.U.R.T. 100, The Barkley Marathons, Hardrock & Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.

Kalib Wilkinson – Kalib runs and lives in Flagstaff, AZ where he has plenty of trails and altitude to train on. He won the 2014 Crown King Scramble 50K and is looking forward to the 2015 season. Kalib also runs for Brooks.

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Finally, we need to give a big shout out to Salomon for their support of our team this year. While some of our team members do have existing sponsors, the majority of us will be running in shoes and gear provided by Salmon. Their gear is helping to define the sport of mountain trail running and we are excited to have their support in 2015.

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Breaking Points

I thought I could do it all. I’m me, I’m invincible, I can handle it. I won’t quit, I will just stay up later, work harder, strive more, 110% until I succeed. There is a breaking point, but I’m so strong. I will just keep pushing that point further and further away. Especially because of how hard I’m training and because I want to succeed so badly.

Well sometimes we hit that breaking point.

Mine happened sometime late Saturday night over the weekend and I didn’t even see it coming.

I simply didn’t want to get out of bed. And then I didn’t want to run. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t even care. With Barkley less than 3 weeks out, my biggest most important runs are timed for this weekend. I missed my workouts, simply slept through them. Laid around instead of running. The dream slipping away ever so silently.

I wasn’t injured, but I was surely tired. I wasn’t necessarily broken in physical sense due to training, but the sheer volume and workload I’ve chosen to take on has slowly worn me down. A well timed withdrawal from caffeine accelerated the decline. I could no longer stimulate my way past the energy load that my body was attempting to sustain. I just needed to be broken. But I’m not defeated.

Once I took a deep breath and walked back away from the ledge of defeat, I took a proverbial “look around”. And what did I see? I saw again my dream, my goal not too far off in the distant future. The day of reckoning will come and it will pass. And I will be ok. I will give it my all and have the confidence of my training behind me and I will work damn hard to reach that goal. I’ve not been defeated, I’ve just been in need of seeing that goal again of again feeling the hunger to reach for my dream. And oh how I’m hungry.

In close I’ll share the week that brought be to my breaking point. It’s not a holistic picture of the weeks of training before this or a log of the other stressors or life activities that surely affect my entire workload, but it is visual picture of what I’ve been doing in preparation.

Flowers on North Mountain
Flowers on North Mountain
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13 Summits of North Mountain – Ouch! Quite possibly my ‘breaking point’ run.
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Three times up North Mountain – Rolled my ankle real bad on this one
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1 hour 45 minutes of suffering

 

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Redefining What Steep Is

As I write this (February 25, 2015), I am just over 4 weeks out from what will surely be a highlight of my 2015 racing season. It is 1:23 am and I’m still awake, working, thinking, dreaming. The Barkley looms large in my mind and on my legs. Just last night I happened to glance down at my calves and didn’t quite recognize them. Thick solid muscles anchored my lower legs above my hastily taped ankle, a precaution from a bad ankle roll on Squaw Peak early Monday morning. I ran (and/or hiked) over 14 miles in total yesterday with close to 7500 feet of climbing and similar amount of descent.

Double on Squaw Peak, double on Quartz Peak, the miles nor number of repeats hardly matter. Time and elevation gain are the key markers of my training these days. The monotony of repeat after repeat is grueling and bland. But surely a recipe for success just as water erodes a deep canyon or roots work their way eventually splitting solid rock. Work is done and deposits are made into the “training bank” collecting interest and saving for the big day.

A typical “run” with 3000 to 5000 feet of climb is becoming fairly routine for me but the amazement from onlookers remains the same. I remember just weeks ago when I delighted at turning back up the mountain for a “2nd” trip up to the summit. Day hikers were amazed at the feat and I smiled with grin as my confidence soared. Wow I’m something special going back up again and again.

But time and repeats harden not only the legs but the mind and dull my enthusiasm. It becomes difficult to continue and reality sets in. There is much work to be done, up and down, steep, steeper. Although the physical effort to complete one summit becomes easier, the work load increases, the total time rises, the mental ability to continue to turn back around and head back up to the top time and time again becomes more difficult to sustain. To get the same training effect one must find yet an even steeper trail than before. Just as an addict must increase the dose to achieve the same high, I must run faster and steeper to feel mine.

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Summit of Camelback Mountain overlooking Phoenix
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Flatiron in the Superstition Mountains
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Quartz Peak Trail in the Estrella Mountains

 

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The 2014 Hardrock 100 Recap Video

I had the honor of pacing Timothy Olson at the 2014 Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance run this July in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. This is hands down my favorite running race and since I did not get into the race myself this year, I decided to give a friend some help during his own Hardrock journey.

Timothy had a rough race to say the least, but he persevered with a never quit attitude and wound up with a very respectable 30 hour and some change finish. I was able to put together a recap of the race which included my 33 mile section of pacing duty. I hope you enjoy!

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Confessions of a Cross-Dressing Ultrarunner

“Are those long socks some sort of ultra running thing?”

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Duh!

 

A friend asked me this as he joined me for an hour of my recent 25 mile long run. I’m prepping for the upcoming San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run and along with my training miles, I’m testing gear and nutrition products to see what works best for me for at this upcoming race. One thing I’ve got dialed at this point in my career is what I’m going to touch on in this post – socks.

Yes, I know some ultrarunners prefer to go sock-less in an extension of the minimalist movement, others sport their favorite brand of $12-15 a pair name brand running socks that guarantee a blister free ride. Others have a combination of any number of toes or other compartments, again all claiming to reduce friction and keep our precious feet from falling apart.

I’ve tried many if not all of the above combinations, from going sockless (resulting in bloody feet from shoe rubbing) to being a religious toe sock user and finally using many of the name brand “blister” prevention socks. I’ve used cheap socks from the clearance isle of Ross and even free socks I’ve received from races. What have I settled on?

Cheap ladies socks from Target.

My latest purchase - long & short.
My latest purchase – long & short styles.

 

Yup, I’m a cross-dressing ultrarunner and I don’t care who knows. All I know is this shit works. The best part about these socks? They are thin, cheap ($1.5 to $2.5 a pair) and I don’t care if I throw them away after a 50 or 100 mile race. But often, they last many, many more miles. An added bonus? Long socks can ward off pesky sawbriars at races such as the Barkley Marathons.

Scrambling through briars in Target's finest.
Scrambling through briars in Target’s finest. (Photo Karen Jackson)

After almost 9 years of running ultras and 1000s of miles my feet are pretty damn tough. I don’t need extra cushion or the latest cooling super fabric to keep blisters at bay. I just need a thin layer of fabric to keep the seams and imperfections of my shoes from rubbing my feet raw. It’s also a hell of a lot easier to clean a pair of socks than a pair of shoes. I’ve run countless ulras now in these cheap Target socks and my feet have come across the finish line in pretty good shape. I can’t remember the last blister I’ve gotten from running. Well there you go Target, your ladies socks have now been endorsed for running ultra marathons.

The only way to slam an energy drink in the middle of a night ultra race - wearing plenty of argyle.
The only way to slam an energy drink in the middle of a night ultra race – wearing plenty of argyle. (Photo Catlow Shipek)

 

Well now that I’ve in all likelihood eliminated any chances of a sock sponsorship in my future, I hope you have enjoyed my confession. Have fun, run steep, get high!

Just please buy the right size….

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Cutting off my too small ladies socks after winning the 2012 Mogollon Monster 100. (Photo Andrew Pielage)

 

 

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Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 2.0 Review

I finally decided my participation in the 2014 Barkley Marathons was a go just 2 short weeks before race day. Having never attempted anything quite like the Barkley, I was now in a full fledged gear panic. I’m somewhat of a gear junkie and I have a solid collection of hydration packs and race vests from various companies including Ultimate Direction, Salomon, Nathan and Inov8. I’m not a fan of hydration bladders and prefer a couple of bottles which can easily be refilled on the go to a cumbersome bag of water on my back. Looking for clues as to what works best “out there” in the hills of Tennessee I’d been keen on seeking out what worked for past Barkers. There were a lot of Inov8 packs used in the past as well as various assortments of other backpacks and waist packs.

I’d become a believer in the new Ultimate Direction signature series packs this past season after using the AK Race Vest 1.0 on many training runs and ultimately all of the Hardrock 100 and Angeles Crest 100. The pack fit well, held 2 bottles up front and had enough capacity for a 100 mile race. I knew I would need more capacity (a lot more) for Barkely since I would be heading out on 25+ mile unsupported loops where I would need to carry water, all my nutrition, maps, rain gear, layers and lighting. With each loop lasting anywhere from 9 to 16 hours, having a comfortable way to carry everything would be critical.

Ultimate Direction recently came out with version 2.0 of it’s popular packs and I settled on the PB Adventure Vest 2.0 as my pack of choice (it is the largest capacity race vest they currently make). I was drawn to the large number of pockets hidden all over the pack. I like to have a spot for each thing I am carrying (it helps to keep food, maps, page bag, lighting and rain gear all separate) for ease of use while speeding around the course on race day. I wanted to be able to focus on route finding and navigation without having to worry about where I put some piece of gear.

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Loaded up the night before the 2014 Barkley Marathons

Purchase
My local running store iRun only carried the version 1.0 vest and I was already sold on the improvements of the 2.0 pack. Mainly, they replaced the cubin fiber fabric with Silnylon for better seam strength, added a third zipper to the back compartment for easy access to the hydration bladder pocket, side adjustment straps for a better custom fit and an upgraded Power Mesh for durability. I ordered the vest from my buddy Sean Meissner at iRunFar.com last minute and he hand delivered it to my brother in Phoenix at a race so I would get it in time. Great service. Price = $160.00

First Impression
I was immediately stoked when I received the pack and quickly checked out all of the different compartments. I was already thinking about how I would utilize each pocket, nook and cranny to store each type of gear I would need for the race. The pack was well built, looked sharp and the fit was perfect. I could reach back an access the side zipper compartments on the pack without taking it off (something that frustrates me about the AK Race Vest 1.0). My favorite new features of this pack (compared to the AK Race Vest) were the two zippered GPS/phone pockets on the shoulder straps and the gel/bar pouches on the sides of the bottle holders. I was able to secure my map in one shoulder pocket and my pages bag (critical in Barkley) in the other for easy and secure access.

Just prior to the 2014 start of the Barkley Marathons
Just prior to the 2014 start of the Barkley Marathons

Load
I packed all my gear into the vest the night before the race and I loved all of the pockets and compartments I had to work with. Lifting the vest up, it felt quite heavy, but once on my body it sat well and distributed the weight evenly. I’ve tried on other vests that become unbalanced, but this one just worked.

Finishing the Barkley Fun Run
Finishing the Barkley Fun Run

Durability
I wore this pack for my entire fun run finish of the Barkley Marathons, almost 40 hours of straight running through some of the nastiest terrain in ulra running and it held up flawlessly. There is barely a scratch on the pack and everything held up great. The Power Mesh held up to me scramble and crawling through brush and briars, rain, sleet and even snow.

Preferred Use
Although this likely isn’t the pack for your local 50K trail race, I’d highly recommend this pack for self supported long runs, fast packs and other endurance adventures.  I likely won’t use this for my 100 mile races this year that feature full aid stations, but plan on using it for longer training runs in the mountains, for long heat runs training in Arizona and for my Nolan’s 14 attempt in August.

Ultimate Direction has really nailed it with this pack in my opinion. For an event like Barkley it really had everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t.

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Post Race Condition
Post Race Condition
Post Race Condition