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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No Sleep ‘Til Auburn

There’s a saying, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” In the case of the Western States 100, this is definitely true (unless you’re really, really good). For those who don’t know, the Western States 100 is the oldest 100-mile trail race in the world, and it runs from Squaw Valley, CA, to Auburn, CA – a total distance of 100.2 miles. The lottery for the race was held on Saturday, and although I only had a 2% chance of getting in with my single ticket, my name was the 110th one drawn. Fifty-four other single ticket holders were also picked, while a couple of thousand will have to try again next year.

I wasn’t expecting to get in, and this certainly flipped my plans for 2017 upside down (in a good way). I’m now planning to race:

– Syracuse Half Marathon
– Naked Prussian 50-Miler (April 1st)
– Rock the Ridge 50-Miler (May 6th)
– Cayuga Trails Marathon (June 3rd)
Western States 100 (June 24th)

The field will be stacked more than ever this year. Every single woman from last year’s Top Ten will be back:

Kaci Lickteig
Amy Sproston
Devon Yanko
Amanda Basham
Alissa St. Laurent
Meghan Arbogast
Bethany Patterson
Maggie Guterl
Jodee Adams-Moore
Erika Lindland

Nine out of the Top Ten men will be back:

Andrew Miller
Jeff Browning
Thomas Lorblanchet
Paul Giblin
Ian Sharman
Chris Mocko
Kyle Pietari
Christopher DeNucci
Jesse Haynes

Other notable entrants at this point include:

Zach Bitter
Jonas Buud
Ryan Sandes
Mike Wardian
Sarah Keyes

There are also a handful of Golden Ticket races that will determine additional entrants:

January 7 — Bandera 100k
February 4 — Sean O’Brien 100k
February 18 — Black Canyon 100k
March 25 — Gorge Waterfalls 100k
April 1 — Georgia Death Race
April 15 — Lake Sonoma 50 Mile

The current list of entrants is available here.

I’m just starting to sort out some logistics, but I’m super excited. I’m going to continue taking it easy for a few more weeks, as my body is still recovering from so many races in 2016. With that being said, I’m definitely looking forward to putting in some serious training leading up to Western States. No sleep ’til Auburn!

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Thinking Ahead to 2017…


I don’t have any more races planned for 2016. It was a busy year and my legs (and mind) are tired! With that being said, I’ve started thinking about 2017. I’m assuming I will not get into Western States since my lottery odds are so lousy… so here is my tentative plan:

– Lost 118 (February 11) very tentative

– Syracuse Half Marathon (March 26)

– Naked Prussion 50-Miler (April 1)

– Lake Waramaug 50k (April 24) or Mind the Ducks 12-Hour (May 13)

– Cayuga Trails 50-Miler (June 3)

– Vegan Power 50k (June 17)

– Vermont 100-Miler (July 15)

– Free to Run 50-Miler (September 16)

– Can Lake 50-Miler (October 7)

Those are the races that are on my radar right now. This is definitely subject to change! I’d also like to fit in a road marathon. So many races, so little time!

Have you picked out any races yet for 2017?

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Race Recap: Mendon 50k

The Mendon 50k was on Saturday. Even though the Oil Creek 100-Miler was only four weeks ago, I decided I would give Mendon a try if everything was in working order.

Going into Mendon, there were a few negatives:

  • cranky left knee
  • cranky left plantar fascia
  • cranky personality
  • a few extra lbs.

There were also a few positives:

  • decent motivation
  • familiar course
  • great weather

I arrived about thirty minutes before the start. There were lots of familiar faces – it’s one of the great things about the trail running scene in central New York.

I didn’t have a solid strategy going in, but I figured I could probably run around 4 hours for the 50k course. The course is challenging – it’s pretty much non-stop rolling hills. However, the entire thing is runnable.

I knocked out the first 10km loop in just over 45 minutes. My second loop was a little over 46 minutes, as was my third loop. My left knee felt fine, but my plantar fascia was cramping on and off. The cramping ranged from “meh” to “holy sh*t that hurts.” With that being said, I was fortunate that I was able to keep moving along at a steady pace. My fourth loop came in at 50 minutes, and my final loop was just over 51 minutes.

In the midst of my final loop, I realized I was going to be just over four hours. Darn it! However, when I came out of the woods with just a couple hundred meters to go, a couple of my buddies were hollering that I could still make it!

Well, it turns out I couldn’t, but not for lack of effort. I finished in 4:00:03, which was good enough for the win.

I had a great time. It’s a fantastic course and the weather was perfect. It was a very satisfying end to my racing season.

For those who are interested in these things, I was powered by Tailwind and a few Hüma gels. Vegan power!

Speaking of vegan power, Strong Hearts Vegan Power teammate Ellie won the women’s race and set a course record. Check out her race report here.

Full results of the race can be found here.

Have a great week!

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10 Things I Learned From My First 100-Miler

1. Keep Moving – when things started going downhill around mile 80, I realized I was not going to be able to do that much more running. With that in mind, I moved quickly through aid stations and resisted the urge to sit down. A 15-minute mile is still much more productive than a 15-minute break.

2. Keep Eating – you can skimp on calories in a 50k and even to some extent a 50-miler. However, there is no skimping in a 100-miler. I’m lucky in the sense that my stomach is solid 99% of the time. I had no trouble taking Huma gels, Clif Shot Bloks, grapes and ProBars all day and into the night.

3. Train for the Course – almost any coach will tell you that you need to train for the course you will be racing on. Unfortunately, we all have other responsibilities in life besides ultra training. A lot of my training is done on the treadmill, and I paid for it late in the race. My legs felt strong and I was able to run the smooth trail/paved parts extremely well; however, my stabilizers were completely shot and anything technical reduced me to a walk (and a sad walk at that!).

4. Pick a Race You Care About – Jason Koop is adamant about this in his book and I completely agree. You can have little desire to run a marathon or 50k and you will still finish it. You can probably even fake it for a 50-miler or 100k. However, you can’t fake it for 100 miles, there are simply too many opportunities to drop out. Pick a race that you want to do. If you have to talk yourself into it, there is a good chance it will end poorly.

5. Be Nice to Volunteers – obviously, you should always do this regardless. People took time out of their lives to watch a bunch of idiots run around in the woods. However, there is a second reason – race volunteers (and friends and family too) will give you back what you give them. If you come into an aid station with a positive attitude and a smile on your face, they will get you right back on that course quickly and with what you need.

6. Visualize – visualize before the race. Visualize during the race. Stay focused. Think about your finish. 30 or 40 miles may seem far during the race, but think about the finish. It’s just one day in your life. You can get there. Keep moving (see number one).

7. It Doesn’t Hurt Much More Than a 50-Miler – did I do it wrong? I’m not sure. Right after I finished, it was bad. I sat down and I literally could not get back up. I could barely get back up with help from other people. However, the next day, I was alive again. I could hobble around, and it resembled the day after a 50-miler or 100k. Also, from what I hear, it gets “easier” each time.

8. Think About What You Want in a Race – there are some things that worry me going into races. I worry about getting lost. I worry about being on terrain I’m not comfortable with. One of the reasons I picked Oil Creek was because the course markings were allegedly remarkable (and they were!!) and the terrain was what I enjoy running on (and it was!!). Running a race like the HURT 100 in Hawaii may seem like a cool idea – because Hawaii – but it might actually be a terrible idea. Doing Run Rabbit Run might seem like a cool idea – because mountains – but again, it might be a terrible idea.

9. Have Fun – if you aren’t having fun, what’s the point?

10. Live in the Moment – this is true in many areas of life, especially nowadays. Put away the phone. Put away the camera. Forget about the Facebook posts and Instagram pics for a day – it will all still be there when you get back. Run the race. Meet people. Push yourself. Finish strong. Drink a beer or coffee with friends. It’s not every day you run 100 miles…

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Race Report: Oil Creek 100

On Saturday at 5:00am, I left Titusville Middle School in western Pennsylvania on a 100-mile adventure. Titusville is an interesting place. In the 1800s, it was home to the first oil exchange in the United States. At one time, due to the discovery and extraction of oil, it was home to more millionaires per population than anywhere else in the world. However, times have changed, and Titusville now has the feel of a gritty, industrial town that has seen better days. With that being said, the town was very welcoming, and the race had some amazing volunteers!

The race draws a lot of people from Pennsylvania; however, a few of my friends from New York were also in attendance. There was a light mist falling at the start, and it would continue on throughout the morning. I started running with Daven Oskvig. Daven and I seem to cross paths regularly – this was actually our third race together just this year – but I figured he was out of my league at the one-hundred-mile distance. We ran the bike path section together and chatted a little bit, but once we entered the woods, I let him go ahead.


This race was just what I wanted. Hills. Rocks. Roots. Mud. And they were all in perfect proportions. I had never been on the course before, but I could tell we would get along just fine. The aid stations were about seven to 9 miles apart on the course; however, there were also water jugs every three miles or so. The organization of the race was definitely solid. Speaking of organization, the course was marked perfectly. It would be impossible to go off course. I know this is something people worry about during trail runs. I can tell you that it would take a tremendous effort to go off-course in this race.

The course is broken into three 50km loops, and there is also a 7ish mile loop at the end to get you over 100 miles. I wanted to hit the first 50km loop in around five hours and I did. Officially, I came in at 5:05. I switched out my bottles, ditched my headlamp, grabbed some snacks and headed back out. I was running well at that point and I wanted to keep moving. I was in second place overall at that point – Daven was 15 minutes ahead of me and third place was 20 minutes behind me.

My second loop went pretty well. It was nice to be running while it was light out even though the course was getting a little sloppy from the rain. My second loop was a little slower – 5:41 officially – but I still felt really good about where I was at. Daven was 28 minutes in front of me, and I was 37 minutes in front of third place.

Until Saturday, I had never run more that 62 miles at one time. At this point in the race, I was at 62 miles. Every step from that point on would be uncharted territory. Just like that, I headed out for my third big loop. I think I did pretty well over the next 14 miles. Daven’s lead got a little bigger and my lead over third place shrunk, but I still felt that I was moving well. I was at 76 miles and daylight was fading fast. The rest of the race would be in the dark.


Here is where things get tough. I was at about 76 miles in 13 hours and 57 minutes. I still felt okay, but when I completed the large climb out of the aid station, my legs were rubber. I kept trying to run, but I was getting little or no cooperation. I ended up staggering all over the trail, and it was actually quite counterproductive. I decided I would run the sections that were less rocky and rooty (of which there were few), and I would hike the others as quickly as possible. I really just wanted to keep moving.

At approximately 89 miles, Mark Frey, the runner who had been in third place, caught me. He offered some words of encouragement as he cruised by looking really strong. I finally made it to the end of that trail section, and I was able to run again, as the course had a few miles of grass and pavement. I hit the final aid station (about 93 miles) in 18:53. I was hoping to be done by now, but instead, I had 7.7 miles to go! I put on some dry, warm clothes, and I headed back into the chilly night. The temperature was dipping into the low 40s and it was definitely brisk. I still had a 31-minute lead over fourth place, and I felt pretty comfortable with that position.


The “going home” loop takes you over a pretty cool suspension bridge (pictured above). The sky was clear and the stars were stunning. It was a bit of a surreal moment – it was the middle of the night, pitch black, silent, stars above… and 95+ miles into a race.

A bit after crossing the suspension bridge, we hit the hill of truth. This is the last major climb on the course – it goes up about 500 feet in one mile. I made it to the top where it rejoined the rest of the course, and I started the final descent. My legs were still jelly, but I was determined to run a little, because I was certain that fourth place was closing in on me. I made it to the bottom in one piece, and I ran the final pavement section to the finish. I snuck in just under 21 hours and took third place overall.

Full results of the Oil Creek 100 are available here.

As I said above, this was my first 100-mile finish, and I’m definitely happy about that! I wish I could have run a little quicker, but I’m definitely not complaining. As I reflect over the next few days, I’m sure I’ll come up with things that I could have done a little differently.

Big thanks to Mike, Ron, Chris and Jamie for the support on the course and to Daven and that Australian dude for the support at the finish. I’m pretty sure I’d be wandering around Titusville with hypothermia right now if not for you guys.

Also, I saw a porcupine during the race, which was pretty cool. And I definitely heard many others! If you’ve never heard them before, this is what they sound like.

I’m going to take a week or so off and see where things are at. Overall, this was a great experience, and I think there may be more 100s in my future!

How was your weekend? Have you ever seen a porcupine?

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Next Up: Oil Creek 100


This Saturday is the Oil Creek 100. This will be my second attempt at 100 miles. The race is in Oil Creek State Park in western Pennsylvania. The 100-miler has 172 runners in it. The list of registered runners is available here. In the past, this race has drawn some pretty impressive folks – Nick Kopp, Daven Oskvig (who is running this year), Jared Hazen, Ashley Moyer, Maggie Guterl and Rachel Nypaver to name a few.

The course is a 50km loop that is completed three times, followed by a 7.7-mile “going home” loop. The course has nearly 18,000 feet of elevation gain/loss.


The forecast for Saturday is okay at this point. It will be about 55 degrees at the start and the temperature will climb into the 60s during the day with rain showers on and off. Saturday night, it will dip into the mid-40s as the showers taper off.

I have yet to run the course; however, it appears to be your typical northeast race – rocks, roots, leaves, hills, etc.


There will be some tracking available, so if you are interested in following my progress on Saturday, or the progress of other runners – click here (on Saturday).

Have a great week (and weekend). Hopefully, I’ll be back next week with some decent results!

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