Back to Racing: Syracuse Half Marathon

It has been about five months since I’ve done a race. The truth is, there aren’t very many races in central New York during the winter. While it doesn’t quite feel like Spring yet, it is officially Spring! This Sunday is the Syracuse Half Marathon.

I did this race a few years ago, and it’s a great race. The weather does not always cooperate, but I think this year will be okay.

This isn’t an “A” race for me, so I haven’t really taken a break in my training – I will still be around 80-85 miles this week. With that being said, I still have goals! I would really like to finish in the 1:14:00 to 1:15:59 range. If I finish in the 1:16:00 to 1:18:00 range, I’ll be cranky and disappointed. If I’m over 1:18:00, you should probably steer clear of me for a day or two.

It’s a great course, and it’s only about ten minutes from my house. The race starts at 7:45am. This year, there will be over 6,000 runners! I have several friends in town, including a bunch of folks from my Strong Hearts Vegan Power crew. As I said above, the weather will be okay. The forecast is for rain showers and temps in the low 30s.

The course is a little different this year:

It’s not a fast course, but the worst hill is early on, so it’s not a slow course either.

Live runner tracking is available here.

Results will be posted here after the race.

Check back next week to hear about my race!

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Update: Winter, Syracuse Half Marathon, Oil Creek 100 and Western States

Winter is finally here! It has been freezing the last few days, and this week, we are expected to get at least a foot of snow. I think the seasons are definitely confused!

Training Update

My training is going very well. I just finished a pretty tough three-week stretch. I managed 75, 80 and 82 miles during those weeks, while still pushing through one or two workouts per week. In this most recent week, my workout was 4 x 8 minutes with a 4 minute recovery jog. I averaged about 5:45/mile during those repeats, which is right where I wanted to be. I also managed to squeeze in a track workout on Friday (see below).

I’ll probably be cutting back to one workout per week (or three every two weeks) as I push my mileage up to 100/week.

Racing Update

Friday’s track workout was structured, but I wouldn’t consider it a race. I ran it in trainers (while dealing with a few sniffles). I managed to go 9:48 for 3000m. It was a good time and a nice change of pace (pun intended). My first real race of the year is March 26th. My goal for the Syracuse Half Marathon is under 1:15. I think this is doable if I taper my mileage just a little bit that week and the weather cooperates.

Other News

In other news, I signed up for the Oil Creek 100 again. I got a free entry for finishing top three last year, and there’s something about free things… in related (and exciting) news, Karl Meltzer is also registered! If you’re not familiar with Karl, he’s won more 100-milers than anyone else ever. He also broke Scott Jurek’s fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail. He’s pretty much a legend, and it’ll be cool to run some miles with him.

In other other news, the bib numbers for Western States were assigned last night! I’m number 274. Western States is already the most competitive 100-miler in the world, and this year, all of the top-ten men are back and nine of the top-ten women. Add in Walmsley (probably) and Sage (possibly)… and who knows who else?!

How are things with you? Are you getting hit with this last blast of winter?

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Training Update


I know it’s been awhile, but I’d like to bring you up to speed (pun intended) on my training.

As I prepare for Western States, I’ve put together a six-month plan that is broken into three distinct two-month blocks. As I’ve mentioned on other occasions, I’m following Jason Koop’s book/strategy, which starts with the least specific training and moves to the most specific training. In plain English, that means the first two months of my training, which I just completed, were filled with short, hard intervals. I ran interval workouts once or twice a week. I ran some of them uphill, some of them downhill and some of them flat. The intervals were generally one to three minutes each, and the recovery was half the length of the interval itself.

Without going into too much detail, these workouts went extremely well. I’m faster than I’ve been in years, and I feel extremely fit, especially for early March. I will know a little more when I do my first race of the year in a few weeks.

The next phase of my training, which starts this week, focuses more on tempo runs. According to Koop, this is generally the hardest phase of training.

So far this year, I’ve averaged about 65 miles per week. However, I’ve been doing three hard weeks followed by an “easy” week, which has brought the average down. The reality is most of my weeks so far have been closer to 75 miles. Over the next few months, I will most likely go as high as 100 miles/week. This is uncharted territory for me, but I got into Western States so YOLO and all that. It’s obviously a challenge finding the time, and I often find myself running at 4:30am, 8:30pm and everything in between.

That’s about it! The weather has been quite kind and I’m ready to start racing after a four-month hiatus. Next up is the Syracuse Half Marathon on March 26th followed by Traprock 50k on April 15th.

How is your training going? When is your next race?


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Training Update

To get ready for Western States, I am basically following a six-month training plan. The nuts and bolts of the plan are from Jason Koop’s book. Basically, it involves two months of lower volume/higher intensity; two months of tempo-type work; and two months of longer distances/back-to-back long runs (there’s more to it, but that roughly sums it up). I’ve mentioned Koop’s book elsewhere so I won’t go into it in detail here, but basically, you start with the least race-specific training (in this case, high intensity/low volume) and move to the most race-specific training (in this case, long runs and back-to-back long runs).

For the last several weeks, I’ve been doing two high-intensity workouts per week. This week, for example, I did 12 x 1:00 hard with a 30-second recovery. The workouts have been going really well. My speed is decent, and I’m in pretty good shape for this time of year. I’ve been managing 60-65 miles per week, and I think that is a really good place for me at this time of year. Later this week, I’m planning to do 6 x 2:00 hard with 1:00 recovery. The “hard” parts are generally about 5:20/mile pace, although it’s a little tricky this time of year with road conditions, etc.

My racing plans have changed slightly due to a conflict. As of right now, these are my races for the first half of the year:

Syracuse Half Marathon (3/26/17)

Traprock 50k (4/15/17)

Rock the Ridge (5/6/17)

Cayuga Trails Marathon (6/3/17)

Western States 100 (6/24/17)

I’ve been working on my nutrition as well. I’ve been vegan for more than two years now (yay!). Unfortunately, being vegan doesn’t automatically equal being healthy (although it’s a really good start). With that being said, I’ve been cutting back on bread, nuts (you cannot imagine how many I was eating in some way, shape or form), chips, processed food and a few other guilty pleasures. I’ve added in lots of fruits and vegetables.

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How has your training been going? When is your first race of the year?

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2016 Year in Review

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I had a decent year of running in 2016. I had the opportunity to run some new races and revisit some of my favorites. I met some new folks over the course of the year, and I think I am positioned to have an amazing 2017. Here is a quick recap of my races from 2016.

Badgerow Last Man Standing

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It can be tough to find decent trail races in the winter in central New York. There’s just too much damn snow! Badgerow was perfect – it was a fun race, there was a good group there for it and it was an excellent opportunity to run hard early in the year. I managed to place first overall!

Zion 100

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Zion was supposed to be my first 100. However, it was pretty much a disaster. I was sick, the weather sucked and my training was just not adequate for that type of course. I learned a few things (don’t get sick), and I moved on to the rest of my year!

Cayuga Trails 50

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I was really on the fence about Cayuga this year. I was frustrated after Zion and I let my training go a little bit. I hardly had any long runs in me, and I wasn’t in the greatest shape. With that being said, the course is beautiful, and it’s really close to where I live. It’s also a reunion of sorts – and if you’ve ever done the race, you know what I mean. Anyhow, it went okay. It wasn’t my best Cayuga, and I definitely ran out of steam around 40 miles, but I didn’t have any regrets. I also got to finish with my super speedy friend Laura Kline!

Vegan Power 50k

photo credit: Ben Kimball

photo credit: Ben Kimball

This was probably my best race of the year. I know that seems silly because a 4:08 50k isn’t exactly mind blowing. In fact, it was only my third fastest 50k of the year! However, on that course, I think it’s pretty quick, and I was able to take a win over some solid competition. Is it possible to run under four hours on that course? Only time will tell.

The Jug

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The Jug was a lot of fun! It was a six-hour timed race – my first timed race! It was a challenging course on a hot day. There was a great group of people, and it was a fantastic course in western Massachusetts. I covered nearly 42 miles, and it was one of my better runs of the year. I think it set me up really well for the second half of the year.

Green Lakes 50k

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This race is like Cayuga Trails – no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get away from the damn thing! I really wasn’t going to run Green Lakes this year. I wasn’t going to do it! And then, of course, I did. Tim Hardy is an awesome race director and the race is only 15 minutes from my house. It was a sauna that day. Warm (not hot) with humidity that was off the charts. I ran 3:55, making it my fastest 50k of the year, but it was still 18 minutes slower than my PR on that course. I’m confident it was the most humid race of my life!

Free to Run Marathon

photo credit: Ben Kimball

photo credit: Ben Kimball

This was less than a week before Ragnar, but I just couldn’t miss it! This is probably my favorite BURCS race. It is a very challenging course with great people. The marathon covers 6,000+ feet of climbing, but I thought it might be possible to run under four hours. Once again, I ended up at 4:10. With that being said, it was a really great effort and just what I needed. I will definitely be back to Free to Run in the future, and I highly recommend this race!

Ragnar ADK

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Early in the year, I decided on running Ragnar with the Strong Hearts Vegan Power team – it was awesome! I definitely don’t make a habit of staying up for 48 hours straight, but it’s possible as long as you mix in some hard 10k efforts 🙂 Not only was this fun, it turned into a quality training run for the rest of my year. I managed 18+ miles at sub-six pace, and it gave me confidence about my fitness for Oil Creek.

Oil Creek 100

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After Zion was a total bust, I decided on Oil Creek. I really wanted a qualifier for the Western States lottery, and there aren’t a ton of choices on the east coast. I had some friends going to Oil Creek, and it seemed like the obvious choice. My preparation was better, I was healthy and the weather was cooperative. My race wasn’t ideal – I ran out of steam around mile 78 – but I managed third place and my first 100-mile finish. It also turned out to be a lucky finish, because my single ticket from Oil Creek got drawn in the Western States lottery 🙂

Mendon 50k

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My legs were pretty shot after Oil Creek. I had some weird aches and pains for at least a few weeks. With that being said, it was basically the end of the season, and I decided to roll the dice and take a shot at one more race. I’d been to Mendon one other time and it was a big fail. With that being said, the trails are beautiful, and I think it is a really good course for me. I managed to get my revenge on Mendon taking first overall in just over four hours (officially, it was 4:00:03 – maybe I didn’t get my revenge after all). This was the perfect way to end my year!

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Total Miles: 2,712
Total Racing Miles: 437
Total Injuries: 0
Total DNFs: 1

Getting Drawn in the Western States lottery: priceless
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What was the highlight of your running year?

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The Different Types of Ultrarunners

photo credit: Luis Escobar

photo credit: Luis Escobar

Over the last few weeks, it has become more apparent to me than ever that there are many different type of ultrarunners.

Let me break down a few of the most common types for you:

The Newbies: These are the folks who didn’t run in high school or college. They picked it up later, but they became freakishly good in a short time. They have a little bit of a happy-go-lucky approach, and we have no idea how good they really are because they don’t have a road-running resume. Example: Caroline Boller

The Car Dwellers: These folks are surprisingly common in the sport. I’m not sure if it started with Anton or if it had been around longer. However, the fact that they sleep in cars clearly has no bearing on their performance. Examples: David Laney and Sarah Keyes

Road Converts: This group was fast on the roads – really fast. On paper, they should be hard to beat on the trails. Examples: Tim Tollefson, Camille Herron and Magda

The “Yes” Crowd: This name is due to the fact that this group cannot say no to a terrain, distance, etc. 5k? 50k? 100k? Yes, yes and yes! Obstacles? Yes, please! Example: Max King

The Technicians: This group isn’t necessarily the fastest, but they know exactly what they are doing. Their training specificity is unmatched, and their race-day strategies are very methodical. This group won’t win the big races, but they are always around the podium, and their consistency is jaw-dropping. Examples: Ian Sharman and Jeff Browning

The Hoppers: This group is most likely to drink an IPA after a run. They are often found with trucker hats, vintage t-shirts and guitars. Examples: Matt Flaherty and Amanda Basham

The Recovery Crew: These folks may have had issues with alcohol, drugs or both. They found a new, healthier addiction, and their positivity is always welcome on the trails. Examples: Tim Olson, Chris Vargo and Maggie

The Home Run Hitters: In baseball, there are players that hit 50 home runs per year, but they also strike out two hundred times per year. In ultrarunning, these are the folks who run out-of-this-world times or DNF. Don’t get me wrong, no judgment here. You’ll just find that these folks often take an all or nothing approach. Example: Tyler Sigl

The Trail Therapy Crew: It’s no secret that people of all stripes suffer from depression. Some of the most formidable trail runners have been very open about it. Sometimes the best place to ditch those demons is a singletrack to nowhere in particular. Exampes: Rob Krar and Nikki Kimball

The Cool Cats: These are the runners who just look so good all the time – it doesn’t matter the race, distance, weather… whatever. They always look like they came from a photo shoot. Example: Jorge Maravilla

The Untouchables: These folks have come and gone in the sport. When they are on top of their game, they literally cannot be beat. Any distance. Any terrain. Untouchable. Examples: Ann Trason and Jim Walmsley

The Mid-Packers: These folks probably ran a decent road marathon at some point and then got bored. They figured, what the hell, it’s only 31 miles. Then, what the hell, it’s only 50 miles… and on and on.

The Back-of-the-Packers: These folks are tough as nails. They go into every race knowing they will probably be racing cutoffs. And yet, they keep showing up. They work hard on the trails and often have full coolers in their cars for the post-race festivities.

What groups did I miss?

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My Wishlist for Western States

Western States is still six months away. However, I took some time to put together a holiday wishlist for it. Here are the top ten things I hope for in relation to Western States:

(1) A great training lead-up to the race. I briefly toyed with getting a coach. I think this is a bit of a once in a lifetime opportunity so I figured it was now or never. I decided on never. I think there are some great positives to having a coach, I’m just not sure it works with my training and schedule. With that being said, I will primarily be utilizing the wisdom of Jason Koop. His book is brilliant. However, stick an asterisk next to it, because I will also be utilizing downhill training, which Koop frowns upon.

(2) A healthy diet. This one is definitely in my control. I have a bit of a penchant for comfort food. Sandwiches, chips, burritos… you name it. While I won’t be going cold tofurkey on the comfort food, I will definitely be nixing some of it and replacing it with fresh fruit and veggies.

(3) A healthy body. I’ve generally been injury-free for several years in a row (knock on wood). I haven’t missed more than two or three days in a row due to any physical issue. I’ve found a sweet spot in my training where I can produce quality races without overloading during training. With that being said, I am going to push the envelope a bit here. I usually max out around 70 to 80 miles per week. For Western States, I’m going to produce at least a few 90 mile weeks. I think my body can handle it now even while I still emphasize quality over quantity.

(4) A low-key trip to Squaw Valley. Believe it or not, traveling from Syracuse, NY to Squaw Valley, CA is not the easiest thing in the world. I did it about six months ago, and it may be as exhausting as running 100 miles! Well… almost.

(5) A solid stomach. I really want a solid stomach on race day. If the stomach goes, everything else goes. I rarely have issues (knock on wood). I’ve found a formula that works well for me. Huma Gels, Tailwind and the occasional ProBar or Picky Bar. Vegan power all the way! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

(6) Ryan Sandes and Stephanie Case. Of all the elites, I’m definitely looking forward to stalking, I mean meeting Ryan Sandes. I think he’s super inspirational and he seems like a really nice guy. I also hope to meet Stephanie Case. Stephanie is the founder and president of Free to Run, an organization that is near and dear to my heart. Stephanie is a good runner and an even better person – hopefully we cross paths!

(7) No Hands Bridge. By the time you get to No Hands, it’s basically a done deal. I’ve only experienced it once, but I can tell you that it’s an amazing feeling when you can finally smell the barn in a hundred miler.

(8) A silver buckle. Break 24 hours, get a silver buckle. It’s as simple as that.

(9) A positive experience. Big races are challenging. So much goes into them – time, emotional energy, money. I’ve run the Boston Marathon – disaster! and the New York Marathon – brilliant! I tried the Zion 100 – disaster! I think that means I am due for a good one!

(10) A strong message to spread. Last weekend, my friend Laura Kline ran the North Face 50 (and was awesome!). Before the race, I texted her, “The entire east coast and vegans everywhere are counting on you. No pressure.” Yes, I’m a smartass. But in a way, it’s also true. East Coasters never get any love in West Coast races (despite the fact that the East has brought you Zach Miller, Rob Krar, Geoff Roes and others). In addition, there are still so many skeptics of a vegan diet. While I am not the athlete that Laura is, I still hope to represent as best as I can!

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