Another Mother Runner Invites You to the Nuun No Limits Challenge

Another Mother Runner - No Limits ChallengeThere’s a limit on how many grocery bags you can carry from your car to the house. (Though my pinky is stronger than I thought!)

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.

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Running is Changing!

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?

UTMB-2014

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 – – –

StephSince 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.

IMGP0251The 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).

GRANARY CANYON Saturday

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” PeanutsSnoopyheight 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.

AidStationWhat 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.

Chris-LauraOther 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.

Yeah, right.

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!

ClaireRun

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?

 

 

Zola the Gypsy’s Gift Guide

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?

UD ZOLA SPEAKS - Holiday Gift GuideYou 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:

Gerber

Is that special someone of the female persuasion?

VestaThe 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)

AKThe 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?

Vests

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.

Fastdraw

For that someone you wish was special, but so far isn’t, despite your best efforts

FP30The 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.

Hat

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!

Pregnancy Expedition – Ultra Runner Soon To Be Mom Michele Yates Reflects

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.

Michele Yates hiking Taylor Park - 6 Months Pregnant

Taylor Park – 6 Months Pregnant

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.

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UTMB 2014

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I didn’t commit to running UTMB this year until two weeks before race day. During the second week of July my historically-troublesome right shin became a worry once again, and I was able to do very little true running for all of July and August. In early August, in hopes of keeping my Hardrock Qualifier chances alive, but wanting to buy myself a little more time, I had even signed up for the Bear 100 and given up on racing UTMB altogether. However, my shin unexpectedly experienced a turnaround a couple weeks before the race, which made the opportunity to head back to Chamonix too appealing to pass up.  Continue reading

Who Are You???

We were wondering, so we asked:  two weeks ago we sent a survey to everyone on our email list – the results are really helpful – thank you to the 1,798 people who responded! The answers you gave will help us design and build the gear you want.

To be included in our next survey, definitely get on our email list – there is zero spam, we only send twice a month, you can opt out anytime, and we announce special deals: http://ultimatedirection.com – at the bottom right – “Sign up for our newsletter …”

HR

OK, let’s cut to the chase – who are you?  Here are some Results from the survey ….

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100 Miles is a Long Way to Run…and Even Longer to Race

Ambassador Post Written By: Ethan Veneklasen

 I have run 100 mile races, but I have never truly “raced” one. I thought I had, but no. What I did was something entirely different.

This past weekend, I had the distinct honor and privilege of pacing fellow Ultimate Direction athlete Vajin Armstrong of New Zealand at the Western States 100 Endurance Run. His time of 17:50 was good enough for 17th place in the deepest field ever to toe the line at this most iconic of ultramarathons.

Completing a 100 mile race is truly a grand accomplishment at any pace. Most will never race a 100 to win (far fewer still at this granddaddy of them all). We run simply to finish or satisfy time goals. I feel tremendously fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness first-hand what it means to run with the big guns and really race a 100 miler.

100 Mile Ultra Racers at Western States

Western States 100 Mile Ultra Race

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Lavaredo Ultra Trail 119K

lava_rocks2After taking six of the previous eight months off, I finally started daily running again on April 23rd, the day I got back from a trip to Japan. The first week I began with 35-60min flat jogs, but only a month on I did my first race of the year—the Jemez 50mi—and after that knew that I wanted to find some kind of focus event for the first half of the summer. Ever since I DNFed in Trient, Switzerland (140km) last year, UTMB was always going to be the goal race for the second half of the 2014 summer.

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Amanda Skurka Reviews the Jenny Ultra Vesta

(Note: Amanda is a member of the Women’s Collective, a group that helped Jenny Jurek design the first women’s-specific Collection of hydration gear)

I’m not your typical runner here in Boulder. I don’t call myself an ultrarunner, I rarely race, and running in groups gives me hives. I am a happy introvert by nature, and most days, running is my bestie. (Don’t worry, I have plenty of actual human friends, too).

Amanda Skurka

My preference is for longer runs, on trail, with ample vertical where I can drop it into low gear, with fun technical descents which more often than not result in a collision between me and a rather insignificant in size, albeit dangerous rock. Or maybe it’s a lazy day running flats. I let my running happen without dictation; I don’t need races, PR’s, or cheering to get me running.

Regardless of what sort of day I plan to have on the trails, I buckle in to my UD Jenny Collection Ultra Vesta – it is much more than just a hydration pack only worthy of  Hardrock.

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Jemez 50: Pickin’ Cherries

A couple weeks ago I did a bit of a tester long run on my home trails in Boulder—31mi, 4h26min, 7k’ vert—to see how/if my hip would hold up on a longer effort. It did, and afterwards I started thinking about what I could race on the upcoming calendar, despite the fact that I’d only been running pain-free for all of 16 days. Originally, I’d planned on racing the Zegama Skymarathon in the Basque country in late May, but despite that being an incredible event, there was no way that I could be fit enough in time to justify the international travel.

The Jemez 50 miler in northern New Mexico, however, was the same weekend, and it is an event that I’ve had in the back of my mind for years, mostly because of Kyle Skaggs’ recommendation. Unfortunately, the original course—which reportedly featured a tasty mandatory hike up a boulder field on one of the route’s three 10k’+ summits—burned down in 2011, so the current course has seen a couple of different renditions. This year’s route would retain many of the original’s defining features: an ascent of 10,400′ Pajarito Mountain (which we would actually do twice), a loop through the Valles Caldera National Preserve, a rugged cross-country ascent to access Pajarito Canyon, and the classic 3000′ finishing descent of Guaje Ridge.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 12.58.24 PMMy main objectives going into the race were: 1) to not lose any training before or after the race—I basically wanted to put out a solid training effort, 2) not re-injure myself. As such, I didn’t rest at all leading up to the weekend. My sister was moving into her new house in Colorado Springs, so I headed down to help her with that and took the opportunity to run up and down Pikes Peak on Wednesday, an almost 4hr effort with 8000′ of pounding on the pins. Friday morning I felt terrible on my nearly 2hr run, and I calculated that in the seven days leading up to the race I’d run 40k’ vert and 125mi. Ok, so, not rested. Let’s see if I can achieve my other goal.

I ran the first 10mi at a relaxed pace with birthday boy Joe Grant. Neither of us were feeling much pep in our legs on the uphills (and it would stay that way, at least for me), and we soon realized that this was very much a running course—there wouldn’t be many steep, hiking grades to vary the leg muscle recruitment. While I prefer the steep and techy stuff as much as Joe, I’m able to hold my own on the smoother, flatter stuff, too, so began to push out a bit of a gap as we made our way up Pajarito Mt for the first time. This climb was on a moderately-graded, but freshly cut trail before traversing over the top of the mountain past ski lifts and descending in a circuitous fashion down to the Pajarito Lodge at mile 18.6. I enjoyed this flowy singletrack downhill and felt firmly ensconced in training run effort.

Joe’s wife, Deanne, was gracious enough to hand us gels at the Lodge all day (we would pass through this aid twice), so after picking up an extra water bottle and some sugar there, it was off to the Valle Grande. I skipped the Pipeline Aid as I had more than enough water, but I doubt it was a full 4mi from there to the aid station in the Caldera (mile 25.4) as I covered this smooth double-track in only 24min (3:27 at Pipeline, 3:51 in the Caldera).

A short while later, the route left the double-track and headed across the grass and up the hill to a low pass between Cerro Grande and Pajarito Mountain. After 4hr of basically continuous, up-tempo running, I was ready for this short hike uphill. The grade wasn’t particularly steep, but the route was flagged off of any discernible trail, directly up the fall-line, over rubbly footing and many burned, downed trees. If there had been a trail (solid footing), it would’ve definitely been runnable. I’m glad there wasn’t; I was tired of running. I hit the pass at 4:18 (it was only a 1000′ climb) and immediately enjoyed a rollicking descent down Pajarito Canyon. It began as more cross-country fare over grass, but eventually we picked up a trail that only got smoother and smoother and was at the absolute perfect grade for fast, unbridled descending. This was one of my favorite sections of the course.

I reached the Pajarito Canyon aid (31.4mi) in 4:51. I was having a blast, but after a solid 50K, running starts to feel a bit redundant no matter what. Nevertheless, with a pair of full bottles and another summit of Pajarito between me and the next aid I took off with continued enthusiasm and energy. The climb back up the mountain went better than expected—I did it only 1min slower than earlier in the morning—and now there were 50K runners to exchange encouragement with along the way. When I saw Deanne back at the Lodge again (38.6mi, 6:11), I knew there was frequent aid the rest of the way, so picked up a couple extra gels and left my extra bottle. When she asked how I was feeling, though, I think I mostly responded with a desultory grunt about how it was going to be work from here on out.

It definitely felt that way on the jog back over to the Pipeline aid—I was thoroughly uninspired and just ready to be done—but if I’d known just how sweet the upcoming Guaje Ridge singletrack was going to be, I would’ve been operating with a whole lot more enthusiasm. This descent was spectacular. A carpety trail traversed along the gently descending ridge for miles and miles at a grade perfectly suited for running downhill fast. Seriously, it is one of the more quality descents I’ve experienced in the sport.

About a mile to go. Be nice, I'm still 5+ lbs over race weight :-) Photo: Jim Stein.

About a mile to go. Be nice, I’m still 5+ lbs over race weight… Photo: Jim Stein.

Eventually, the terrain flattened out for a couple of frustrating, wandering miles through an extensive burn zone, but by now I could smell the barn and soon enough I was back on singletrack dropping into Rendija Canyon (mile 50.6 in 7:48) before the interminable final two miles leading to my 8:07:07 finish in the now full-on rain. Unfortunately, it was snowing up high and they ended up having to pull runners from the course early. Considering it had been exactly only a month since my first run back from my hip injury (a flat 33min outing on the creek path the day after I got back from Japan), I was satisfied with the effort.

Pulling the number at the finish line.

Pulling the number in the finish chute. Photo: Deanne Grant.

Even with the rain, the finish was a perfect example of the intimate, community feel to this event, which was a big reason I wanted to run it. Selfless volunteers, tables and tables of very good Southwestern food, and general mirth defined the atmosphere. I’ve always respected my friends who will run all kinds of races—big and small, local and international—while it seems I’ve mostly gravitated towards the competitive and high-profile.

Running hard and fast against the best competition will always be my number one priority in the competitive realm, but I hope to do more low-key, less intense events, too, where there is as much emphasis on the camaraderie and fellowship and community as there is on the top runners at the higher-profile races. Obviously, our sport is large enough to accommodate both types, and I hope I can begin to fit more of each into my schedule.

You could say that going to a local event like this for an easy win is cherry pickin’, but I would argue that that term works in more ways than one. Cherry pickin’ is often used to refer to scouting for weak fields where one can snag an easy victory, pad the ol’ win-loss column. A slightly different use of the phrase, however, refers to selecting the best out of a bunch, and in than sense, the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs certainly qualify. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a fun, flawlessly-organized, friendly race with an above-average course.

Finally, a huge thanks to all the volunteers—I mean, really, who wants to stand out in the woods all day waiting for runners to come through?!—to Deanne for putting up with Joe and I all day, and to Blake for so kindly opening his home. That shower felt incredible.