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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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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 โ€” Bandera 100k
February 4 โ€” Sean Oโ€™Brien 100k
February 18 โ€” Black Canyon 100k
March 25 โ€” Gorge Waterfalls 100k
April 1 โ€” Georgia Death Race
April 15 โ€” 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…

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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 Hรผma 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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