Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Moving on from Western States

I feel compelled to write one more post before I let it go. I am approaching two weeks since the race and my moment in the sun has come and gone. People and life move on to the next story (and are probably sick of me on Facebook by now!). Yet, I feel a sense of accomplishment for what I've done and am not eager to prove anything. That is definitely a different feeling from many races in the past. I just finished 78th in the most prestigious ultra marathon in the world. Seventy-eighth may not sound like such a big deal, but is huge for a 190 lb "Clydesdale" athlete running in heat. Make no mistake, the stats prove this was a hot year -- tons of drops and, other than Superman Rob Krar, relatively slow times. Some years 78th place is a 22:30 finishing time.

Anyway, I am content because I feel like all my hard work is starting to payoff. I've learned how to train. I understand nutrition, like I really get it (though don't confuse that with me saying I am perfect at it!). I am not afraid to dig deep and suffer. And, I am gaining a sense of how to pace these races, when to go easy, when to make a move, what's sustainable and for how long. My recovery time -- at least in physical pain -- is diminishing with each race thanks to smart nutrition and proper specific training. There are plenty of things I need to work on, like my feet. I still get this awful blister on my left foot that I must figure out. Is it my gait? Is it hydration related? Is it my downhill running form? Is it poor shoe (or size) selection?

The leads to another thing I am working on, shoes. I don't have any many love shoes right now. I default to Altra primarily because they have wide toeboxes. It helps that they reinvent their line up every few months and you can always find great deals on old models too! Frankly, Altra has several warts in my opinion: inconsistent sizing from shoe-to-shoe and year-to-year, something close to 50% of their shoes have major defects, and they seem more insistent on growth than refining the things they do well. But, the zero drop platform and the wide toebox keep me coming back. What I wouldn't give for a wide model of the Instinct and the Lone Peak. Oh well, I'll keep searching for something better. And, while I'm searching, I think I will once again make an attempt to go back to shoes that are more in the "minimal" category. That may seem strange for a larger athlete, but I prefer it. My feet feel more nimble, my cadence is higher, and I just feel more natural. Going to big cushion (Altra Olympus) certainly hasn't diminished my foot or knee issues in 100s. But big cushion shoes have definitely added weight and lengthened dry time for wet shoes.

As for future races, I still haven't made any official decisions. I do know that I enjoy mountains and trail running. I enjoy slow running, hence my preference for MAF based training. But, I also recognize that the best way to grow as a runner is to do different things. Take time off. Strength train. Road run. We grove certain patterns in ultra running and put a ton of stress on our bodies, in particular the exoskeleton. Sometimes the best thing is to pullback and figure out how to get better and evolve. Plus, it would be a mistake to think that many -- if any -- races will ever go as well for me as Western States. I put all my eggs in that basket and that just won't be easy to do a second time. It put a huge stress on my body, my family time, and my mental focus. Running is part of my identity now and, if I want to continue running for a lot of years, I have to find a peace in my previous accomplishments instead of always chasing the glory of what's next. Given the way the system is structured, I'll likely get into the lotteries again next year only because I don't want to eliminate future opportunity. I'd be just fine if my name didn't get drawn next year. To be totally honest (and selfish), I would absolutely love to comeback to WS100 as a crew member and pacer in 2016!


  1. Have you ever looked into Skora running shoes? They've got a new model out now called the Tempo that I'm really interested in. All of their shoes are also zero drop and feature a wider toebox than most shoes, although not as wide as Altra's. As a quick disclaimer I used to be an ambassador for them, but withdrew a year or so ago for various reasons. Saying that, the people at Skora are great and I do really like their shoes. The build quality is also top notch. Just a thought, but might be worth a look.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I will have to check them out. I am tired of being held hostage by Altra.