Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Gear - Almost Showtime!

Well, I'm getting all my stuff packed to head to San Antonio today. I have laid out all the gear that I am taking to the race (this is just some of the gear that I have. I have more things that I will be taking with me to the race, but that stuff is in San Antonio). In the picture you will notice my Moeben arm sleeves, outdoor stove, medical kit, Garmin watch, trail running shoes, gaiters, etc. All indispensable!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Documentary serves up a great deal of inspiration

"Pressure Cooker" is a wonderful and charming documentary about about a high school culinary arts class in working-class Northeast Philadelphia. The movie has absolutely nothing to do with running, but its themes of discipline, hard-work, and perseverance are universal to all pursuits of life - running included. This is an inspiring piece of work.

It is difficult to describe how affecting this movie is. You come to care for each of the characters; you become totally involved in the suspense of what will happen to them after graduation, and you understand how their determination is key to their success. Consider Fatoumata, a young girl recently immigrated from Africa, who is so intent on achieving academic success that while all the other students are busy seeking out dates for the prom, she is busy getting together her recommendations for her college applications.

At the center of the documentary is Ms. Stephenson, an outspoken and tough-as-nails teacher who wants nothing more than to see all of her students succeed in making something of their lives. In their impoverished surroundings, few people have the opportunity to go to college. "I just want to get away," says one student. Ms. Stephenson wants to make that happen. Cooking is the vehicle she uses to create opportunities for these kids. If she can get them to the state culinary arts competition, her students will have a chance to compete for scholarships of up to $80,000 to attend the Culinary Institute of America.

Please seek this movie out. It is worth watching and is great entertainment for the whole family.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amy Palmiero-Winters

This woman is amazing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yet Another Crazy Running Story

I got spanked by someone on the track. Not figuratively; literally spanked! So, there I am, running, listening to my iPod, moseying along, when all of a sudden, I feel someone approaching fast behind me. I see their shadow on the pavement to the side of me, and they are really close to me. They are running after me! My first thought is, I am about to get mugged. Gerry, you're going to be killed! And you didn't even get to eat that delicious leftover spaghetti that is now sitting in your refrigerator. My fear of death was well-founded given the circumstances. Bear in mind, this all happened at night. And, although the area I was running in was well-lit and there were plenty of people around, you can never be sure when disaster will strike. Naturally, I panicked and without so much as a glance behind me to see my attacker, I started sprinting to leave the person behind. When I felt safe and out of reach, a thought occurred to me. Wait! This is a public track. There are other runners here. This person is probably just running and trying to pass me up. So, I slowed down. Just then, I heard the person sprint up behind me, and before I could even process the thought of my imminent, all-too-certain death, before I could even let out a scream of terror, I felt the person tap my ass. I whipped around to see a skinny blond girl giggling as she ran back to a car that was parked on the side of the road with it's passenger-side door already open for her to hop in. As the car took off, I could still hear the girl giggling furiously into the night. It took me a moment to realize what happened. I was spanked by a total stranger while running. A first for me. I wasn't sure how to feel about it all. All I could think to do was shrug it off and keep on going. Que sera, sera, no?

An Unorthodox Training Technique

The following postcard was featured on the PostSecret blog. If you don't know what PostSecret is, it is a blog that features anonymous secrets that people from all over have mailed in. Some secrets are quite scandalous. The woman - I'm assuming it was a woman - who mailed in the following secret has a somewhat unorthodox approach to getting better workout results. Any thoughts?

"To An Athlete Dying Young" by A. E. Housman

This is a great poem. It's about a runner. It's message is quite cynical though. Read it and share your thoughts. There are a lot of interesting themes going on in the poem about mortality and glory.

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

Well, there you have it. What is Housman saying about the nature of glory? Is it permanent or fleeting? Is it better to die young or old? Why?

Here is a very nice recitation of the poem.

If you remember, Meryl Streep's character, Karen, recited the poem in "Out of Africa" (1985). She says the poem at Denys' funeral near the end of the movie. Her recitation is quite moving. Here it is:

Hugh Kingsmill criticized Housman for the cynical nature of the poem. Kingsmill wrote a parody:

What, still alive at twenty-two,
A clean upstanding chap like you?
Why, if your throat is hard to slit,
Slit your girl's and swing for it!

Like enough you won't be glad
When they come to hang you, lad.
But bacon's not the only thing
Cured by hanging from a string.

When the blotting pad of night
Sucks the latest drops of light
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives and think of you.

Housman's response is not without humor:

They say my verse is sad: no wonder;
Its narrow measure spans
Tears of eternity, and sorrow,
Not mine, but man's.

This is for all ill-treated fellows
Unborn and unbegot,
For them to read when they're in trouble
And I am not.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Falling down

Falling down is an important part of ultra training. Enough said.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Trails of Bandera, TX - Nasty and Rugged

Can you imagine going up and own this thing (called Ice Cream Hill) after having just run 75 miles? This is going to be painful! I am so looking forward to it. I really am!

A look at the rugged terrain.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Badwater Rules

Badwater has updated it's rules. Now you need at least three 100 milers under your belt to apply and the cutoff time has been decreased from 60 to 48 hours. The reasons for the decreased cutoff time are listed on the website and are excerpted below:

Given the historical trend of the whole Badwater race field getting faster, it was inevitable that the overall cut-off for the race would drop from 60 hours to 48 hours at some point. This will take place in 2011. The primary compelling reasons for this change are outlined here:

• First, this decision was made in consultation with a broad swath of Badater race veterans and staff. All agreed unanimously that it was time to make this change.

• In the past three years, an average of just six racers "needed" more than 48 hours, but less than 60 hours, to complete the race. In other words, in 2008-2010, 92.75% of race finishers did so under 48 hours.

• With racers geting faster and faster, the expense and time requirement of staying in Lone Pine an additional night has led to many of the racers and crews, including the 2010 men's and women's champions, not staying for the pizza party. The pizza party is a fun experience and the capstone of the event, and even more so with a large turnout.

• As alluded to in the previous point, those racers and crews who need or choose to leave on Wednesday will be able to save money, and those racers and crews will also use up one less vacation day.

• Closing the race course 12 hours sooner means 12 less hours during which something can "go wrong." Remember, in the eyes of all the government authorities which allow this race to continue, we are only as good as our last race.

• Tightening up the race field will allow the Medical Team, as well as the race officials and the webcast team, to do their jobs more effectively.

• Badwater is "the world's toughest foot race." Having a cut-off which reflects that truth underlines that reality. With most 100-mile races having a 30-hour cut-off, a 48-hour cut-off, rather than 60-hours, makes more sense for our 135-mile race.

Any thoughts? I'm still organizing mine because I am fascinated by this new development. I definitely have opinions on the new rules. Happy running, all!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Running for a Cause: Lisa Smith-Batchen's Journey Across America (Part 2)

"Say something." The cameraman did one last sound check before he started recording. Lisa had never had so much media attention in her life. It seemed as if nowadays someone was always sticking a camera in her face. First, there was the Good Morning America show, and she was still scheduled to appear on CNN and plenty other news programs throughout the country, not to mention all the people who came out with their own camera equipment, wanting to get a picture with the woman running through America. Lisa looked around her. The cool light of the early morning augmented the feeling of unreality. The world seemed calm and tranquil, but her soul burned with such passion and excitement. She stood at the precipice, the beginning of something big.

Was she really standing here in Morristown, New Jersey, talking to the camera? Were all these people here to see her? Home was over 2,500 miles away now. The thought made her shiver slightly. She stuck her gloved hands in her jacket pockets.

"Why are you doing this," the interviewer asked her.

For a second, she was at a loss for words. Lisa couldn't process fast enough all the things she was feeling. She glanced over at Sister Mary Beth, dressed in her full black habit. She was busy talking with a group of people who had shown up to run. Part of the order of the Religious Teachers Filipini, Sister Mary Beth had to wear her black wool tunic and headpiece at all times, even while running. Lisa noted her friend's blue Pearl Izumi running shoes. The Running Nun. Lisa smiled to herself: it felt so good to know that Sister Mary Beth was with her, supporting her wholeheartedly. It filled her with resolve.

"I'm running for orphans all over the world," she told the interviewer.

Sister Mary Beth taught Lisa the incomparable joy of running for a purpose, running for a something besides personal gratification. Helping others became the motivating force behind her athletic endeavors; indeed, it was the driving philosophy of her daily life. People run for many different reasons. Some people run to lose weight. Others run for peace of mind. Lisa ran to help the less fortunate. All the money raised during this project would go to two charities: AIDS Orphans Rising and the Caring House Project. Her focus was on helping children.

Lisa thought of her own two daughters. Little Annabella and Gabriella. She imagined them asleep in bed right now. Soon they would be waking up to go to school. She wanted more than anything to be there to kiss them when they woke. It had crossed her mind to bring them along, but she felt it was important to maintain a stable atmosphere for them; her and her husband, Jay, had talked about it. They decided it was best not to disrupt their daughters' lives during this project any more than what was absolutely necessary.

In truth, she was also running with them in mind. When she envisioned their beautiful faces, she couldn't help but think of the thousands of children out there with no home and no one to look after them, no one to hold them when they got scared, no one to tell them how wonderful they are and how much they are loved. No one who cared. But, Lisa did care. She aimed to provide these children with food, clothing, shelter and educational opportunities. To give hope. This was her mission, pure and simple, deep and true.

It wouldn't be easy; she knew that much. It would be painful as hell.

One million dollars. That's how much money she wanted to raise. It was an ambitious goal, to be sure. Several people told her it couldn't be done. But, she had faith. She had thought about it long and hard. Some nights, months earlier, while her husband and kids slept soundly, Lisa tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. She kept turning the number over and over in her mind, feeling its contours like a stone in hand. Heavy. Solid. Smooth. One million dollars. It seemed so possible. Her logic was this: if she got the word out about her project to a million people, and each of those people gave just one dollar, she would reach her goal. Pretty simple. One dollar didn't seem like such an impossible thing to expect of people.

Lisa finished the interview and went to join her crew. Mike, Mary Ann, and Ashley were setting up supplies by the camper. It was time to start running. Everyone huddled around for a group prayer. Sister Mary Beth took her place next to Lisa. Everyone who showed up to run came together and stood silent. Gathered in a circle, they all bowed their heads and offered up their petitions. Family, friends, and even complete strangers united, hand-in-hand, on that chilly morning in Morristown. It was April 19, 2010. The sun was peaking over the horizon. It promised to be a beautiful day. With one last look around at all the new and familiar faces of the people who were making her dream come true, Lisa took the first step of her journey...

This article is part of a series that will be published on a monthly basis. Stay tuned for more of Lisa's incredible story! Click here if you missed Part 1 of Lisa's story and here for Part 3.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fueling Up: A New Energy Bar Made for Endurance Athletes

When I crewed at Badwater this summer, I remarked on how quickly our Clif Bars melted. After just a few short hours on the course, they were reduced to a gooey mess. Of course, just about anything that can melt will melt in Death Valley's summer heat. But, here's an energy bar that won't melt!

Seriously, it won't (attention all Badwater runners). It's called 3BAR.

It was invented by Erin DeMarines, a triathlete and certified sports nutritional consultant. Erin developed these bars from her grandmother's cookie recipe. As an athlete, you know how important fueling is. These bars can help you meet your fueling needs! The bars are diabetic-friendly and safe for hypoglycemics, vegans, and vegetarians.

A big concern for me as an ultrarunner is finding food that won't upset my stomach during a run. Fortunately, these bars were specifically designed for athletes who need to digest energy fast without upsetting the stomach.

They come in three different flavors: Blueberry Blast, Tropical Tri, and Cocoa Crunch. Each bar boasts that it is vegan, kosher, wheat free, dairy free, gluten free, trans-fat free, cholesterol-free, GMO free , all natural. While these words may send up red flags for the taste-conscious consumer (healthy = bland and tasteless), the bars also promise an incredibly good taste. These are grandma's concoctions after all, and grandma only makes the very best tasting treats!

If you are interested in 3BAR, visit the website at: A single bar costs $1.99 on the website; a box of 15 bars costs $29.99.

Also, I've attached a video below of an interview with creator DeMarines. Enjoy, and happy running!

*Note: I was not compensated for writing this article, nor was I encouraged to write it. I am always interested in better and smarter ways to fuel up for a run. When I ran across 3BAR, it seemed like something worth sharing!

Friday, October 1, 2010

My New Shoes - Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra Trail Running Shoes

I just bought my shoes for Cactus Rose 100. They are Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra Trail Running Shoes. The first thing that attracted me to this model is that it is a remarkably lightweight shoe. Trail running shoes, in my experience, have a tendency to be a bit bulky, but these are not. They are comfortable. My feet feel good in them. They feel sturdy and stable, with a triple density EVA midsole. They feature more shock absorption than other XA models. Also, they come with pronation control in the midsole, so that is good for me. The outsole is Running Contragrip, and it provides plenty of traction. I like the toecap; it's really sturdy. I will need it for the rocky terrain of Bandera. The goal is and always will be to avoid broken toes! Not too crazy about the weird, fancy lacing system. I like to tie my shoe, but that's just me. One more thing: I didn't get the Goretex feature. I think Goretex is useless in wet trail environments anyway. These shoes will hold up well on the trails of Bandera. I hope. Now off to break them in...