Footfeathers Show with Rob Krar In 3…2…1…

Post FKT run at the Grand Canyon. Photo Christina Bauer


Don’t miss tomorrow morning’s Footfeathers Show here on Elevation Trail.  Rob Krar joins me to talk about growing up in Canada, moving to one of the hottest places in the US, his relationship with the Grand Canyon, and his plans for Western States.  Quiet guy off in the corner?  No longer.

FM Show: Organization of Trail and Ultra Running

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Gary David sporting ET at American Zofingen race

Welcome to Elevation Trail and the FM Show with Footfeathers and Matt.  Today we chat about the impact of organization and money in the sport of ultra and trail running.  We discuss the excitement of Skyrunning, the development of the ISF, and, of course, other mundane things like the weather.

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Karen Peterson in the ET hat after a sharp run at Silver State 50k

FM Show: Race Recaps, FKTs, Course Records

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Welcome back to the FM Show with Footfeathers and Matt.  Jam packed show covering some stunning performances over the weekend, including Transvulcania, Ice Age 50, Quad Rock 50, FKTs being broken, course records going down, and Matt even talks about The Hobbit a little…
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Footfeathers

Weekend Wrap at Inside Trail: A Party of Course Records

Liza Howard‘s rabbit costume was, uh, fitting this weekend at Javelina Jundred.  After months of injury (broken foot), recovery, and rebuilding, the excitement to race again was uncorked to the dismay of her female competition and all but three of the men in the large starting field of 100 milers in Fountain Hills, Arizona.  Howard scampered into the lead from the start and held the torrid pace throughout, crossing the line in 15:47 and eclipsing the course record by 1hr 24mins.  Brenda Corona ran a great race but was still over four hours back in 2nd (19:57).

Hal Koerner ripped through the seven loops of desert trails, holding off a pesky Evan Honeyfield all day for a course record effort of 13:47.  Congratulations to everyone at JJ100.

Around the world in New South Wales Australia records were being buried as well at the Great North Walk 100mi/100k.  Four men crossed the finish under the former course record time with Andrew Vize winning in 22:02.  For the women’s win (and 7th overall), Meredith Quinlan showed everyone how it’s done in 25:03.

Jean Pommier Photo: his blog

Of course, Western States 100 opened up entry into its lottery on Saturday.  One must at least finish a 50 mile race in under 11 hours in order to qualify for the lottery.  The aptly named Last Chance 50 took place Saturday in Granite Bay, CA.  Jean Pommier continued his fast wins, crossing the line in 5:43 (CR and PR for him).  For the ladies, Beverly Anderson-Abbs returned to racing with a bang, finishing first in 7:00 (CR).  Oh, and 89 people finished in under 11 hours, so they qualify to enter Western States.  They would likely have a better chance at beating Mr. Pommier in a 50k than getting selected to run WS.

Lost In Alaska With Geoff Roes

“The idea for the camps was definitely something that came about gradually over a couple years. The incredible running terrain around Juneau was the first thing that got me thinking about the idea. I’ve run in a lot of places but after a couple years in Juneau I realized that Juneau was the most incredible place I’ve ever run. I began thinking of ways to show this amazing running to other people. My first idea was to guide day runs for visitors that come to town everyday in the summer on the cruise ships. Gradually as I thought about this more and more I came to the idea of doing it as a week long camp instead of a single day thing. And then about a year ago the idea had percolated long enough and I decided to go for it and make the whole thing a reality.”  

This is Geoff Roes’ answer to me when I asked how he came to the idea of his Alaska Running Camps.  I’ve always been intrigued by how great ideas are formed.  There are sparks of ideas that hit you out of the blue and then there are the ones that form over time.  Living in a place as big and awe-inspiring as Alaska, it takes a while and a lot of exploring for the expansive beauty to sink in and be fully appreciated.  It got to a point for Roes where he needed to share a small part of this paradise with people and what better way to do it than through running.  

Geoff has been running trail ultra races since 2006 and, in my opinion, came into the sport’s spotlight in 2008 at the North Face 50 mile championship in San Francisco where he placed 5th racing names like Matt Carpenter, Uli Steidl, and Kyle Skaggs.  He oozed potential and fire at that race and it seemed to catapult him into 2009 that began an incredible string of performances earning him UltraRunning Magazine‘s Ultra Runner of the Year award in 2009 and 2010.

So, you have the best ultrarunner in the country combined with one of the most beautiful natural environments in the world.  What else is there to do than start the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp.

First things first, and getting sponsors on board help not only with up front costs but also add an air of solidity and clout to something new like a running camp that, in order just to travel to, creates pause for many would-be participants.  I asked him about how sponsors reacted when he presented the idea to them.  “I think everyone I approached about sponsorship was into the idea of being a part of this. I can’t remember anyone who didn’t find it appealing. The sponsors were providing various products so the campers all go home with a whole bunch of great running gear/supplies.”

Speaking of sponsors and money, the pricing of the camp is very reasonable with nearly every detail included from ground transportation to a massage for each participant.  I asked Geoff whether he’s making decent money from them.  There’s nothing wrong with earning money and these camps are unique and a great benefit to the sport.  He responded, “I definitely made a bit of money from the camps, but not as much as you might think. In the end I decided that I needed to raise the price a little bit for 2012 because I probably didn’t end up earning much more than minimum wage for the amount of time I put into the camps in the first year. I’m certainly not going to get rich from these camps, but going forward I think I can do things much more efficiently now that I know what I’m doing.”

Of course, there are intrinsic values to the camps aside from earning money, which Geoff explains when I ask him what he learned from the first year of hosting them.  “I learned that showing something to people that is so important and satisfying to me (running. and specifically running in Alaska) ends up benefiting me as much as it does the campers that i was showing it to. I felt like everyone took a lot of positive things away from these camps, but I also feel like I may have benefited as much from the camps as anyone. There’s just something really satisfying about showing people something that means so much to you and have them respond in such a positive way.”

Geoff’s girlfriend, Corle (Core-Lay) is a big part of the camps too.  The work involved with the AMURC is daunting.  You have do all the pre-work to make sure things are ordered, reservations booked, schedules, routes, and then the cleaning, cooking, run leading, teaching, all while playing the happy host bombarded with questions about everything from black toenails to electrolytes.  Geoff couldn’t do it alone.  When I ask him who, if anyone, helps him, he replies, “Corle and I pretty much do it all. She does the majority of the food and cleanup. She also provides massage for the campers in whatever free time she can come up with. I also have a lot of training partners in Juneau who come out to the runs to help out with shuttling, route finding, and entertaining the campers with their local knowledge and stories.”

With the tremendous amount of  work involved with the camps, I ask Geoff how it affects his training and how he decided on the dates for the camps.  He responds, “I don’t think the camps affect my training much. During the camps we pretty much do a lot of the same runs that I do all the time in training. The dates of the various sessions were determined by taking into account my racing schedule, the weather, and the availability of the cabin we use for lodging.”

Speaking of the training, we then talk about specific races and how he’s feeling physically and mentally for near-future races like the North Face 50 mile championship on December 3rd in San Francisco as well as plans for next year.  He just got in a long run with Dave Mackey last weekend in Marin (same trails the NF50 is held). Let’s just say he’s ready.  As for next year, the most interesting piece of information Geoff provided me is that he is not running Western States in 2012 and says, “I’m not certain whether I’ll ever run it again.”

Geoff is in Nederland Colorado (just west of Boulder) for the school year while Corle attends Naropa University.  He says he’s acclimated much faster this year (altitude on his runs there are 9,000-12,000 ft – Juneau is at 56 ft) and is getting in substantial training.  Regarding his first winter in Colorado last year, he says, “I’m not sure if that was a mental thing or a physical thing but I’ve felt great up to very high altitude this fall. I still really feel it when I get about 12,000, but don’t feel it much at all up to there.

Corle and Geoff

Geoff returns to Alaska in the spring when Corle finish up her classes.  First order of business upon his return will surely be the preparation for the first running camp session to be held the week of May 28 – June 2.  I personally can’t think of many better ways in which to spend a week.

All the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp information is on the website. Registration is open and spots are filling, so check into it and sign up soon if you’re interested in learning from a very gifted runner in a very gifted place.

UROY: How Big Is Your Running Award?

Tim:  What a year of racing so far. American ultrarunning has experienced globalization in its biggest events and narrow perceptions have been peeled wide open. It all seemingly began with Salomon surging to a convincing men’s and women’s sweep at last year’s North Face Endurance Challenge Championship in San Francisco, thus earning the $20,000 prize and introducing a significant change in the landscape of US ultras. That spark set off the firestorm of not only “foreigners” winning the big American events, but one team dominating the big races. Salomon seems to have single-handedly retooled American ultrarunning to the international colors and to the meaning of the word “team”.

What does this storm of white and red compression clothing do to the sport here in the US? It reestablishes the concept of “elite” and “best”. The coveted annual award of Ultra Runner Of the Year (UROY), presented by UltraRunning Magazine has been awarded to North Americans (Canadians and Americans, mostly) who’ve won the big US events, with acute focus on the big 100 milers, specifically Western States. The organizers of this award will have to either clarify, which they don’t do currently, whom is eligible for this award or specifically rename it the “UROY award for North American residing runners placing highest in primarily western US trail 100 mile races with arbitrarily weighted importance to which only the selection board is privy.” Personally, I say open it up to the world. What do you think, Matt?

Matt:  I think this is a problem: I could say that the UROY award goes to that year’s “world’s best ultrarunner,” and up through 2010 there might not be much opposition to that. My audience would half-nod in agreement, not really knowing what they’re agreeing to. But really the award is for the best American runner (which echoes your earlier reference to “narrow perceptions.”). From the UR website, the announcement of the award reads like this: “2010 UltraRunning Magazine North American ultramarathoners of the year.” That is fairly clear as to whom the award goes; it’s reserved for an American (and rare Canadian). The point is this: clarify the intent of the award, which is to recognize ultra runners from North America only. I bet a lot of people think it carries more weight than that.

Another problem comes from just a fleeting glance at the past winners. The UROY prize has pretty much gone to trail runners who have excelled at the 100 mile distance (a specific kind of ultramarathon). More specifically, as you have already pointed-out, the winners have excelled at 100 milers in the western half of the U.S., and even more specifically at one particular race. So, just call it the Western States 100 Mile Champ award or the Champion of the 100 Milers in the Western Half of the States award. All kidding aside, many interested people have shared these complaints.

Tim:  As you point out, there are a lot of tangential conversations that emerge from this topic. Back to my original point, the merging of nationalities is common at races like UTMB, but we’ve never really seen it here in the US (especially in the bigger 100 milers). I think the organizers of UROY have to face the task of either revamping the award and the process in which runners are chosen or the committee must face the diluted value of the award. In many people’s minds, including mine, Kilian Jornet is the UROY, worldwide. The UROY voters in the US have had a somewhat easy task when voting in the past; “Who won Western States? Okay, that’s our UROY winner.” What do they do now that a Spaniard, a Frenchman, and a South African have won the big 100s in the American Wild West? The “old boys” network has its work cut out. Regardless, Salomon has smashed the rosy, narrow-view lens through which we’ve enjoyed looking, believing that America had the best ultra runners in the world. This exciting year will come full circle in December and The North Face Championship in San Francisco will be the climax event of 2011. I’m excited that we at Inside Trail will be there.

Matt:  Yes, the process has only been complicated by the non-American wins at big American 100s (and yes the TNF50 in December will be epic!). The award’s value will certainly be diluted if the much larger (internationally enhanced) audience doesn’t concur with the judge’s decision, especially in the men’s “race” to UROY. By reading what others have already said about the UROY and USA Track and Field’s awards, one has to wonder why there hasn’t been more effort to find a true governing body to oversee these important recognitions. Is that what the International Association of Ultrarunners is all about? Why does the UROY have more credibility than the winner of the IAU 100k World Championship? Because UROY is about trail/mountain 100 milers, not some subordinate road ultra? Essentially, what happens in mountain 100 milers in the western portion of the U.S. says a lot more about who is “the best” ultrarunner (or it used to say that). According to the UROY web page, regarding the 2010 voting, “A panel of 18 race organizers from all regions of North America submitted ballots this year. An ultramarathon is generally defined as any race longer than a 26.2-mile marathon. There were 554 ultramarathon races held in North America in 2010.” I would guess that the 554 races probably include road ultras. And based on the voting, the races that really count are, in fact, 100 milers run on trails.

In the end, clarify what the UROY award means (as it apparently means a lot – at least in the U.S.). Because of the confusion about the true criteria of the award, and because of the huge displacement of American runners in these “big” races this year, the award committee probably ought to reassess (quickly) what it’s looking for. After all, what exactly is an Ultra Runner of the Year?

This is the article we wrote for Go Trail Magazine this month.  Check out the mag.  It’s truly levels above its contemporaries.