On a crisp early fall day Stephanie said, “Let’s go someplace warm this winter and do a long hike.” This seemed like a good idea, but didn’t take root until a while later when I got the flu for 2 weeks, giving me nothing to do but dig into the details of a trip plan. I could think of only one thing that interested me: traversing New Zealand’s South Island via the Te Araroa (Maori for “The Long Pathway”). This route, which was finally linked only in 2011, runs the length of both islands, but we didn’t have time for the full 3000 km. The 1300 km (800 miles) of the TA on the SI would be most suited to our tastes: rugged, remote, and wild.
“TA SI SOBO” was born: “Te Araroa, South Island, SouthBound” (Thru-hikers are as efficient with their jargon as they are with their hiking!)
2015 marks our 30th year of making hydration products for the self propelled athlete, hence the UDXXX theme! We are really excited about this year and have a lot of new and innovative ideas percolating. Stay tuned for a year full of celebrating where we’ve been and also where we are headed.
If you have memories of using UD products or photos from “back in the day” we’d love you to share them. We’ll be using the hashtag #UDXXX via Instagram and Twitter over the next year to call out fun retro photos, memories and historical UD facts.
There’s a limit on how fast you can drive a car—even when there’s no police in sight, as Dimity recently relearned. (Dang those hidden cameras!)
There’s a limit—thankfully—on how many Hershey’s Kisses you can eat before feeling slightly ill.
And while you might feel like your running has a limit—I’ll never get faster than a 10:00 mile; I’ll never break 2:30 in a half-marathon; I’ll never truly be able to call myself a runner—the truth is, your potential has no limits.*
*Provided, of course, you stay accountable and motivated; train smart; refuel with nutritious foods; don’t skimp on sleep; keep injuries at bay; and otherwise remain on track.
That little * actually has huge significance. Because what often limits you isn’t the goal —your best 10K or half-marathon, in this case—but all the factors that subtly undermine your focus. Arctic blasts that send you deeper under, not out from under, the covers on a dark Wednesday morning. Fifth-grade math that suddenly becomes your homework and gobbles up your allotted treadmill time. A kiddo with the flu, who generously shares it with you, totally derailing your training. A nagging knee that gets angrier with each mile.
The AMR Nuun Year: No Limits Challenge is here not only to mitigate all those pesky factors, but to also push your limits in a gentle, firm way—and no, that’s not an oxymoron.
We often hear how “the sport is changing”. Some people devote inordinate amounts of time lamenting these changes and wondering about the future.
I strongly believe in values – our values and vision drive our personal lives, our businesses, and then ultimately our individual lives translate into the state of our sport – these few and fundamental values do not change.
However, everything else does change. Constantly; like, all the time.
So we might as well get used to it – or better yet, embrace change, because the universe really doesn’t give a darn about what we like or don’t like.
So what does all that mean for the sport of running?
I ran my first X-C race in 1967. There were maybe 20,000 non-scholastic runners in the US back then. Fast forward to last year, when have 42 million runners just in the US, 516,000 of whom raced a Marathon.
This is massive growth in our sport, and I do not know what that means to you – you are the only person to decide that – but here’s how it effects me – – –
Since many more people are doing what I’m doing, I can now run with my friends instead of alone. What I love to do is understood in the workplace as well as at home, and I fit into society without a sideways glance (except maybe when I show up dirty and sweaty wearing skimpy shorts at the supermarket). And very unlike 48 years ago, I now see dozens of runners out there every day, no matter the weather, time of day or year. And every one I see makes me happy. Seeing people running is like seeing birds flying – something in my heart is lifted when I see a person breathing air, moving their body, exercising their beliefs, all from their own self-will.
42 million runners also means the big races charge big fees. One race has 50,000 participants (!), sometimes to gain entry you have to enter a lottery (!!), the winners of the World Marathon Majors win a $500,000 paycheck (!!!), and naturally with so much on the line, some people will extend their desire to excel by ingesting illegal substances, which will require an even larger expenditure of money to figure it all out.
That second part is unfortunate, I’d prefer it didn’t happen, but what does it mean to me? If I was trying to win 500,000 dollars it would mean a lot, but myself, along with the other 41,999,990 of you, do not have to be part of all that. We are having own experience, which we control ourselves.
The summer after that first race in 1967 I ran 10–20 miles every day. Wearing a cotton t-shirt, cotton gym shorts, cotton socks, and split leather shoes that weighed almost a pound. Each. My entire workout plan was to run down a road from my house until I got tired, then turn around and run back. I could not believe how much fun that was. I had no clue what the world was about, I had no bloody idea what I was going to do with my life, but somehow this had meaning, and I could hardly believe how happy I was.
So while the sport supposedly has changed, for me, not much else has! (Except for my knees and my mileage).
The following summer, on one of my scientifically crafted, “run in one direction until you get tired then turn around” workouts, I must have been fairly fit because I went 16 miles out before turning around. On the way back, about 1 1/2 miles from home, I suddenly found myself lying on the ground. I looked up confused and bewildered, and realized the 5” height of the curb while crossing a side street was too much and I had collapsed. Since this was July in Michigan, and I never carried any food or water, in retrospect the outcome was to be expected.
At that time, there were maybe 2-3 Ultra-Marathons in the US; today there are 136 hundred mile races alone, along with 6.8 millions trail runners, and the 200 mile race is becoming the new high bar.
That is enormous growth just in ultra running. I’m not sure what this means either.
To me, running is running. Road, trail, ultra – I personally find kinship in all – and I have never thought going longer, like 100 miles, was at all better. I’ve been an active “ultra runner” for decades, mostly because I like going places I’ve never been before, and it simply takes time to get wherever that is.
If I could have dunked a basketball back then I’d probably never have taken up running. Or if any girls liked me. If I could surf the winter swell at Bonzai Pipeline I’d probably quit running right now. But this is my sport, and it’s as good now as it ever was, even if my knees aren’t.
The most impressive running I’ve ever seen was my 4 year old granddaughter, chasing after seagulls, barefoot in the sand and water on the beach at Lake Michigan. Totally fruitless endeavor, except for the joy. Running away from Sabertooth tigers was probably even more impressive, but we don’t see much of that anymore.
What we do see is ultra runners getting paid actual money. And all the big races require a hefty fee to enter a lottery, which at the original 100 miles race you have a 4.6% chance of being allowed to show up at the starting line. The “aid stations” are unbelievable – there’s more food at those tables than I eat at a regular meal – if the nation’s homeless people found out about this bonanza, ultra races would become even more crowded.
Interestingly, though I’m one of the people paying ultra runners to run, even I am not sure why I’m doing it. Maybe it has something to do with my long run back in 1968 – 32 miles with no water left an indelible impression so I want to promote everyone to carry water when running.
Other than that, the whole “sponsorship” thing seems sort of pointless really – all runners are going to run whether they get paid or not, so why bother with “sponsorship”? So while some people decry these “changes to our sport”, I’m not seeing how it actually changes anything.
It’s like after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Some brilliant TV commentators were saying this would be the end of “Boston”, as runners would be to afraid to come back the next year.
Terrorists are stupid enough already, but if any of them thought they could destroy the human spirit with a little bomb, runners were the wrong group of people to target.
Sorry; after all this musing I’ve come up with no answers. I still have no clue what running means. This essay is stupid, totally pointless, and a failure.
But it just seems that if you do what you love, with respect, integrity, and joy, and myself and everyone else does the same thing … well, that IS our sport. We are our sport. We create it every time we go for a run.
I hope it’s a good one, and I hope to see you out there!
What do YOU think? Is the sport changing for better, or for worse, or is it time to not worry about it and just go?
Buying a holiday present is a total pain in the derriere, right? It’s probably why the suicide rate goes up during the holidays. So what to do?
You could buy that special him, her, or yourself (let’s not kid ourselves about who’s really special) a bottle of wine, but since you understand wine about as well as you understand the Higgs boson particle, that won’t work. Fortunately, you are a runner; this makes it easy. Zola has you covered; here’s what you do:
Is that special someone of the female persuasion?
The Ultra Vesta is the ticket. Can’t go wrong – it’s indigo (make sure you don’t say it’s “purple” – very déclassé), which is a very cool color, and ensures you won’t borrow it from her and get it all dirty. Plus it won’t fit you, because it was carefully designed specifically to fit ladies. There are pockets everywhere for all those things women like to carry and guys can’t fathom, and it’s really comfortable. The Ultra Vesta was designed by Jenny Jurek, Scott’s wife, so it really is that combination of technical and stylistic perfection, and it gets rave reviews (“Gear of the Year”), so with the Vesta you can relax, knowing you aren’t totally screwing up the present – like you did last year (the Skil Saw was a bad idea).
For that special guy (like for example, YOU)
The SJ Ultra Vest can’t be beat. It’s the best-selling hydration pack in the US, and possibly the known universe. It’s really light, has features and hidden features that will keep you occupied discovering them for hours, and oh, it works really well. Scott Jurek designed it, and you know the 7-time winner of the Western States 100 doesn’t mess around. It’s companion piece is the AK Race Vest, which the hunky Jesus himself designed, and this Vest is so easy and comfortable people are wearing it mountain biking, skiing, and running, starting at anything over 2 hours. Then there’s the PB Adventure Vest for when you want to get gone, like, “Forget this; I’m outta here.” You know what I mean.
Every hydration company in the world is now copying the Signature Series, but Zola did them first, so don’t you go foolin’ ’round with anything else now, ya hear me?
For that someone who likes to have a really good time
Ultimate Direction has their 20 oz Kicker Cap Water Bottles. You can buy a few dozen, fill them with beer, and have an amazing Christmas party. The Kicker Valve is very cool, and nobody can spill their drink – think of it as an adult sippy cup.
For the non-runner
Your best option here is to convert them to running. Get them going with the Fastdraw handhelds, which come in the best colors. Everyone can use these – There’s a Fastdraw with the 20 oz bottle, one with the 10 oz bottle, and especially good for this time of year, especially if you’re unlucky enough to live in some freezing-cold, Godforsaken place like Buffalo, the Fastdraw Extreme, which has a comfy and insulative covering. Since the Extreme is also good for keeping your water cool in the heat of the summer, this is actually a very nifty item that too few runners have figured out, so you should figure it out for them.
For that someone you wish was special, but so far isn’t, despite your best efforts
The Fastpack 20. Yeah! You say you don’t go fast-packing? Exactly; that’s the point. Get them this, and take him or her to Cozumel instead, using the FP20 as the most stylish and effective carry-on bag ever. This is a way better plan than sleeping on the cold hard ground and eating freeze-dried whatever that tastes like packing styrofoam; if that’s what you’ve been trying, no wonder you’re still lonely and single. Get with it dude or dudette; the FP20 is perfect for a quick weekend in the Sierras or a
quickie quick weekend in Sayulita.
Still have no friggin’ idea what to do?
You’re sort of hopeless; is that it? So get a hat. Hats are super simple, super cheap, and you can’t go wrong. A Visor, which comes in
purple indigo or blue cyan, or the Ultralight Hat which is made of white wicking mesh with a really long bill for shading, or the Midcap beanie to keep the chill off on those pre-dawn starts, or to wear 24/7 if you live in Minnesota.
Don’t be shy. You can do this; an easy decision is just a few clicks away on the BLUE highlights above, and you got ‘er done. And if you already have this gear and can Comment on it, or just want to tell Zola to piss off, please Post your Comment below!
R2R2R is a world-class route, staring on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, running 5,000′ down to the Colorado River, across a bridge, then 6,000” up to the North Rim. Then back again – “Rim to Rim to Rim”. I first ran it sometime in the 80’s, and it was quite the thing back then, but in the last few years this route has become extremely popular, particularly the R2R version, which has created conflict, controversy, and even caused the Park Service to institute Day-Use Permits for Groups of over 7 people.
We wanted nothing of that churn-fest, but did want to explore the millions of great things to do in the 1,900 square miles of the Grand Canyon besides getting in line, so we decided to run Rim to Rim to Rim – by a different route. It was a great plan. Super fun. No one had ever done it. That’s because there is no bridge – you have to swim across the River.
It’s not called the “PB Adventure Vest” for nothing!
UD Ambassador Ethan Veneklasen Shares:
Ummm, duh! Everybody knows that. It’s one of the most oft-repeated maxims in running.
As athletes, we like to think that our experience will protect us, that we won’t continue to make the same mistakes time and time again. I, for example, have an ongoing discussion with myself about starting races too fast. Yet I continue to do so…and I continue pay the price.This year at the Cascade Crest 100, my “new thing” was giant stuffed green olives.
The JMT, PCT, TRT, and lastly the AT … what happened on the big trails in 2014?
JOHN MUIR TRAIL (JMT)
The JMT is one of the premier backpacking trails in the world, running 223 miles through California’s Sierra Nevada from Mt Whitney to Yosemite Valley. It is a fabulous route: remote, rugged, committing, but yet with generally good weather, excellent (though rocky) trails and easy navigation. The JMT has become one of the key targets for FKT activity in the western US, and 2014 was definitely a banner year, with several new FKTs being set, both supported and unsupported, along with some spectacular “failures”. Here’s the full recap, in chronological order – – –
Pregnancy is no joke! I don’t care how many Ultra Marathons you have run, or how close together they were… pregnancy will suck the life and energy out of you like nothing ever before. Regardless of how tough I try to be, it still slaps me upside the head and knocks me right out (in bed for days at times!). Your energy level is limited, but the catch is…you don’t ever know what that day will bring. You may be able to have a full day of energy, a few hours of productivity, or none at all as you lay in bed all day! As challenging as it has been, it also has been going by incredibly fast. Partly, because I planned on keeping myself busy with still continuing to train, “run” races, and attain some family time.
I think one could comfortably compare pregnancy with running an Ultra Marathon Stage race. Despite how fast you want to go and get it over with, you still must endure the daily pain of it all, to attain the prize.