Friday, September 11, 2009

WMRA World Championships: Campodolcino Italy + rant

The morning following the World Mountain Running Championships seemed like a good time to hone back in on my biking skills. I put some much-needed air in my tires and set off from the Chiavenna valley to Switzerland at a hung-over crack of dawn. I figured that the 160k would take me the better part of the day since I’d left my stuff in Madesimo – where I’d been staying for the previous few days and where the championship race was held. Luckily I brought what remained of my Swiss francs as well…

If nothing else… else… there is always else… a long bike ride provides for an ongoing internal narrative. It moves along just as easily as the pavement beneath the tires. On a bike, you get to thinking about everything. Following the world mountain running championships, you think only about the world mountain running championships…. Triumphantly or otherwise. Peddling over the Spluga pass, it was most certainly otherwise.

A thought returned to me from the day before. I was thinking how openly I’d have accepted a broken ankle or a hyper-extended knee in exchange for not finishing the race… or rather as a viable excuse to not finish the race, end even better yet a free ride down the mountain. 13 races in 14 weeks. That’s the number I came up with in my head between thoughts of accidental self-mutilation. What worked for me last year, I knew almost immediately, wasn’t going to work for me this year. There are people that can keep up such a schedule…. “person” I should say – and that is Jonathan Wyatt.

photo: dave dunham

I returned to the race. On the uphills, I was gaining – 30th, 25th maybe. On the downhills, I was loosing 5-10 spots each round. This is as it was at Cranmore in June and Sierre-Zinal in August. For nearly the entire race Zac Freudenburg, Matt Byrne and myself traded spots consistently. The final kilometer included Tim Parr in the mix. I crossed the finish line in 47th – 5th on the team. Knowing that the gross majority of the team finished within a few places ahead or behind me, I knew that our chance at a repeat medal was slim to none.

On the soft side of the finish line the Eritreans were gathered around, singing, dancing, jumping. It didn’t take long to figure out that they had won – dethroning Italy for a second time in 25 years. The Italians, for once, were quiet and solemn. Though I had figured that Joe Grey led the team, I learned an hour later that Andrew Bedford was, in fact, the lead American. He finished 13th place in what must be considered the strongest field this event has ever seen. Ten…. even five years ago, I’d rate his finish as top five, if not podium.

photo: dave dunham

The days of waltzing in to a top twenty finish at the Mountain Running Championships are over. The Africans have discovered the sport and more importantly, know how to train for it. As recently as last year I was hearing fellow runners, race organizers etc. say that the Africans are simply not built for mountain running. Evidence for this claim has almost always been backed up by showing off the girth of claimant’s leg: “they don’t have the strength.”

Following the race I got to talking to a old and lecherous Austrian race organizer. For thirty years he’s put on a Mountain Race in Kitzbuhel, traditionally won by a European, and if not a European at least a Kiwi. “This year,” he tells me with a look of discust, “the ‘darkies’ were first, second, third.” I suggested a better name for them such as “Ethiopian” or “Eritrean” or “Kenyan,” but there was no talking any sense into the old bigot as he busied himself by giving unsolicited massages to the women of the American team.

The Africans won’t soon be on the Fell Running scene in the UK because they don’t race for cheese or beer. They won’t be showing up at Leadville for a belt buckle or Imogene for a gift certificate. The Africans in Europe have caught on to what I learned three years ago; that there is a minor league in running and it resides in the Alps. I suspect that the egos of many race directors, fans and runners will be hit hard over the next few years as they realize that their local hero is in fact five minutes slower than Geoffrey Kusuro.

I’m ranting. Where was I. Bike ride. I made it to St. Moritz, sight of not one but two winter Olypics whence the ice skating was held on a lake and the triple-lutz was but a pipe dream. I made it 100k. Knees aching, lycra-clad and bonk-ed, I checked into the hostel for the night and left the next morning.


Dave Dunham write up on the event with results from the women's race (Third!!) and juniors.

Monday, August 24, 2009



It's so easy to ignore the fact that dynamite can also come in petite packages/cases,but such was the case of ",le petite equipe americain" in Switzerland this past summer,consisting of Rickey Gates and Brandy Erholtz. Both Rickey and Brandy pulled off an impressive 4th and 5th place finish, respectively. This year's 36 edition of Sierre-Zinal once again proved to be a very competitive,international field,yet both USA runners staggered in with prior,successful summer races leading up to the prestigious Sierre-Zinal 31k mountain race in Val d'Anniviers in the canton of Valais. So,they didn't exactly come in as fresh and focused as they could have, yet they managed to do some SERIOUS INTERNATIONAL ASS KICKING.....Furthermore,take into account all the stress of travel, time zones,language barriers,etc...Bravo le petite equipe americain!!!!!

ALSO,and in all fairness,a special BRAVO and RECOGNITION goes to non other than to the original pioneer/vagabond/legend of european mountain running/racing:Chuck Smead. Thanks to his '70s racing endeavors/success in europe that other future USA mountain runners would later follow. To name a few:Rick Trujillo,John Esquibel,Jay Johnson,Matt Carpenter,Simon Gutierrez,Paul and Kelley Lowe,Jeremy Wright,Pablo Vigil,etc....
Chuck Smead's '70s seed planting in european mountain racing certainly paid off for generations to come. They certainly paid off for me. Chuck literally dragged me along into the european mountain racing scene in 1979,and I can never thank him enough. His inspiration and ripple effect continues to pay off years later...and will continue as long as mountains are around. The USA certainly has an abundance of great mountains,altitude,and talented men/women mountain runners that are very capable of competing with the best in the world on any given day... As they say in French,"On verras!!"..."We shall see!!".......Personally,I don't see why not!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

wednesday, august 12th:
after sprinting on my bike to the airport at five in the morning, i find out that my flight is actually on thursday.

thursday, august 13th:
sprint to the airport on my bike. head to norway.

mid august and summer would appear to be over here in norway. i check with a norweigen on the bus from bergen to stryn and he acknowledges as much. he tells me that it usually lasts two months but this year it only lasted five weeks.

after a full day of travel, i arrive at the Hotel Alexandra at the base of Skaala in the small town of loen (pop. 300... 150 of which work for hotel alexandra). still light out at 10pm so i go for an easy jog up the valley from the fjord.

friday, august 14th:
the day is spent trying to rid my legs of the sierre-zinal. massage, stretching, warm bath, sweet talking, idle threats, etc.. Jonothan Wyatt and I go for a run up the valley from the fjord. talk of competition (ie kenyans), the new track for the course and plans for the remainder of the summer.

exquisite buffet at the hotel... honestly the best i've ever had and early to bed with a face mask to keep the late night light out of my eyes (welcome to 55degrees n.).

saturday, august 15th:
i weigh my backpack to make sure that it reaches the 2.5kilo requirement. coming up short, i supplement the weight with chocolate rather than rocks and sand as i did last year. the requirement is meant to encourage safety which, on a day like today, is well heeded. from the start line (elevation 38m/110ft) you can almost see the finish line covered in snow (1848m/6063ft).

of course the race started out fast. i've only raced kenyans in european mountain races (31:30 10k doesn't quite put me up there with them on the roads in the states;) and i've found that they always start fast... i would say relatively faster than they would in a road race. being somewhat new to the sport of mtn. running, maybe they don't know what is in store for them which would seem to be the case as many of them so often come flying back just as quick.

there is little to report of the race. not from my perspective anyway. sierre zinal was still fully present in my legs. there was nothing i could do about that. i knew there was a good chance that six days would be less than adequate time for recovery for such a brutal race but i took pride in what was quite clearly a gamble... and a loss. i finished 10th overall. earning 40 points towards my grand prix standing... which didn't change anything... i was in third place and remain in third place.

there was fresh snow covering the final two k of the course. that's something to report, i suppose. the calculated grade of the ascent is 22% average. there's something else. compression socks make for great arm warmers. norweigens are a strange brew. it seems to me that they have taken 1986 apart, studied it intensely and perfected it. i'm not kidding - think mike + the mechanics, heart, nu schooz... and they can dance to it!! alright, so i was only five then... but so were they! so i digress.

sunday, august 16th:
i take full advantage of the two extra nights the hotel alexandra has given me and go for a run... yes up the valley from the fjord. it was a run that i did with jon tvedt last year at this time who has been on my mind ever since i landed in bergen. he was an incredible athlete who was never lacking in something interesting to say whether it was about which race of people he thought to be the most attractive (kenyan) and unattractive (never mind) or the running style of usain bolt (9.58!?). the news of his death in january went well beyond his norweigen borders.

tvedt's record up skaala still stands thanks, in large part, to the snow covering the final 2k of the course. though i have no doubt that it will be broken within the next couple of years what with a new and improved track leading to the summit and the large purse up for grabs (25,000kn to win and 45,000kn for the record... that's over $11,000 - making it one of the highest paying mountain races in the world).

1. Antonella Confortola Italian National Team 1.26,35
2. Iva Milesova Psk Olymp Praha 1.27,00
3. Guro Flatekval Oppsal 1.27,05
4. May Britt Buer Harding IL 1.27,50
5. Tuva Staver Toftdal Heming IL 1.31,42
6. Merete Helgheim Gloppen Friidrettslag 1.33,49
7. Therese Sjursen Bfg Fana 1.34,52
8. Norunn Stavø Florø TIF 1.38,39
9. Helene Pemmer Il Fri 1.39,00
10.Elisabeth Hildenes Eid IL 1.39,43

1. John Sombol Barakarunner 1.09,55
2. Jonathan Wyatt Salomon Austrian 1.10,00
3. David Schneider Inov-8 Switzerland 1.10,50
4. Jon Duncan Sandnes IL 1.11,07
5. Sammy Kirui Barakarunner 1.12,31
6. Joseph Gray Team USA 1.12,48
7. Øystein Sylta SK Vidar 1.13,31
8. Kristen Skjeldal Bulken IL 1.14,10
9. Sindre Buraas SK Vidar 1.14,41
10. Rickey Gates USA Team 1.14,57

wednesday, august 19th
back in geneva for one more night. tomorrow i head to chamonix for some last minute training before the world mountain running championships in campodolcino - 2.5hrs north of milan. the race is up and down this year and the american team is looking very promising. a preview of the team can be found on the us mountain running team website:


Monday, August 10, 2009


To say that Sierre-Zinal is one of the greatest mountain races in the world would be an understatement - that would allow for the possibility of another race squeezing in there to bask in the light. It is the greatest. "It is to mountain running what the New York Marathon is to Marathons". Just as it has elevated some of the best mountain runners in the world an almost untouchable realm, it has humbled many others to the point of tears.

The course description is simple: 31 km, 2200m ascent and 800m descent (19miles, 7200ft ascent and 2200ft descent). it looks something like this:

If ever there was a middle ground in mountain running, this is it. it isn't short and it isn't long. there are sections where 10-minute-miles would be record breaking and other sections where 5-minute pace would be pedestrian, at best. ups, down, rock, pavement, scree. as british mountain running legend, Billy Burns, put it: "there is no faking it at Sierre-Zinal"

there is no doubt that mountain running is segregated. between long distance, short distance, ultra, marathon, mountain, trail, europe, america, carpenter, krupicka, wyatt, skaggs', killian, sky races, grand prix, mountain cup, mountain championships, wmra, atra, usmrt, nacac. i could go on but i won't. when one becomes unemployed and finds himself talking entirely too much about mountain running (your humble narrator) the subject always arrises - who's the best? who's the fastest? who's the strongest? Before this year I'd have said that the course was too short to hold any sort of advantage to the "ultra" folk. This year, my opinion of that has changed. Sierre-Zinal is truly the Mountain Running Medium.

In an effort to document the "scene" here in the Alps, I have been interviewing various runners this summer. I had the opportunity to talk to Killian Jornet Burgada, of Catalonia, before the race. Though he is most known for his 2008 record setting win of the Mont Blanc Ultra (186k/115m) his accomplishments go far beyond. He recently ran the GR20 (corsica coast to coast - 180k) in 33hrs (fast hikers tend to take 15 days). He has several Sky Marathon wins to his name and he is only 21-years-old. When I asked him what he though of the course the day before the race, he said he liked it even though it was "so short". Though nobody discounted him, I think few put money on him for the win.

The race started off just as it did a few years ago - sub 2:10 ethiopian marathoner in the lead... that is to say way in the lead. i learned my lesson two years ago and did not chase him. time-wise the sierre-zinal is longer than a marathon. When they say in a marathon that the real race begins at mile 20, at Sierre-Zinal the race begins at Weisshorn. For the first quarter of the race i remained outside of the top five. To my surprise, Killian took the lead for the chase pack, sometimes running, sometimes walking (you've never seen anybody walk uphill like he does. it's like paul bunyan or something... a lumbering giant, then shrinks down to a normal, guant runner again). I lost two places on the first little downhill running into the small village of Chandolin (9th place). Two years ago, I chased after them. This year I knew that the race wouldn't begin for another 45 minutes. They came back to me in time - a Colombian and a Catalonian. Having never run the race before, the Colombian asked if we were at Weisshorn, which was as much a sign of defete as limping. I reeled the leaders in slowely but surely. 20k into the race I passed the Ethiopian that had been so far ahead and by Hotel Weisshorn first place was essentially shared between Killian, Tarcis Ancay (SZ), Florent Troillet (SZ), myself and Robert Krupicka (CZ), whom I've battled so many times over the past few years. (Robert, in fact, was widely regarded as the favorite for the race.)

I'm all for believing in yourself and whatever else they teach you in positive affirmation seminars but I knew that once the downhill began I would not be able to keep with Killian. I've seen him run downhill before. He disconnects himself from his body. At the moment, all I could think of was "I am in the lead group of the Sierre-Zinal". The moment the downhill began, Killian and Tarcis took off. I tripped and fell. Then I lost my shoe to a mud bog (retrieved, but not without a muddy sock). Then I tripped again. After that I slammed into a hiker, with the full force of my body. I'd have made Dick Butkus proud. With 4k to go I found myself in 4th place with Robert Krupicka not far behind. I started making faces. It seemed to help. Faces that people make when they're in either in a lot of pain or discust or somewhere in between.

I held Robert off until the finish. He came across the finish line 15 seconds behind me. There was a large red cloud at the toes of his left shoe. He had kicked a rock about an hour earlier during the race.

Top twenty:

Killian - victory lap.

Post race festivities included an awards ceremony attended by no less than 3000 people. I sat with American Running legend and four time winner of the Sierre Zinal, Pablo Vigil. They called him up on stage for reasons that I didn't understand. I asked somebody nearby and they said quite simply "he's a celebrity here".

One of Pablo's fourn consecutive wins.

Being slightly technophobic, Pablo does not have a blog of his own (though he should) he has agreed to a guest posting with lots of character.

On the women's side, Anna Pichrtova won her fourth consecutive title. Brandy Erholtz posted the top American time ever with a 5th place finish.

Prerace video from two years ago can be found here. You get to hear what I sound like dubbed over into French.;vid=8099458;tab=loadprogram

And a race video here:;vid=8099450;tab=loadprogram

I've made my way back to Geneva where wonderful mail and other comforts were waiting for me. Wednesday, off to Norway for Skaala (

Thursday, August 6, 2009

same cast, different stage

Same cast, different stage
Where was I last… somewhere in Austria if I’m not mistaken. Running up a mountain? Drinking wine? Or was it hefewiesen?
Anyway. My path took carried me to Slovenia as it did last year. Grintovec. 6000ft of climbing in less than six miles. The little gremlin (more like golum than a gremlin now that I think about it) was still behind the bar at the mountain hut/starting line and offered me a beer before I even took my helmet off. What sort of impression did I leave on these people last year?
This was to be my first Grand Prix race of the year (second of the series) and I expected nothing less that some of the best to be here. Jonathon Wyatt, Robert Krupicka, Marcus Kroll, a hand full of fast Slovenians…. The race went out somewhat pedestrian-like and for the first time in my mountain running “career” I had a lead on Wyatt… that is if you can call one meter a “lead”. I enjoyed all three minutes of it before I resumed looking at his backside from an ever growing distance. The Czeck – Krupicka followed close behind me for a quarter of the race before making his move. By halfway I could see up ahead that he had overtaken Wyatt (which he had also done the week before at Grossglockner in Austria before Wyatt regained his position). For the remainder of the race I ran, wondering who would take the win meanwhile looking back frequently thinking that a Slovenian was closing in on me. He probably was, but when the grade is nearing a constant 30+% a 200m gap is nearly infinite. I arrived at the finish line three minutes slower than what I had run the last year to win the race. Krupick took the win – two minutes ahead of Wyatt. There was a tuba and an accordion playing at the finish. There is only one way to get a tuba and an accordion to the finish of this race and that is to hike it up. If that isn’t amazing enough, the race director, Dusan, was also up there. He walks with arm-brace canes as his knee has been quite bad for nearly five years. He watches the top males and females finish then begins the 6000ft descent.
The Slovenians again drank me under the table well into the evening and I left late the next morning for a visit to a friend in Italy. The Slovenians, it should be noted, have taken the death of Michael Jackson very seriously. In 24 hours I heard billie jean x 7, thriller x 5, beat it x 5 and some other stuff that I haven’t heard for quite some time.
A three day visit to a friend in Treviso, Italy which was a breath of fresh air as I had been surrounded by runners for nearly three weeks. The heat sent me on my way just as fast and I soon found myself camping in the rain on the Austrian side of Brenner pass several hours later. Note: it is quite impossible to feel bad about one’s camping situation whilst reading “the worst journey in the world” by Ashley cherry-girard – an account of scott’s 1912,13 south pole expedition. A night outside in mid-summer Austrian rain just doesn’t seem to compare to -70f with nothing to protect you but canvas tents and reindeer fur for warmth.
Anyway. Next stage. Same actors. Much the same scene. Mayerhofen, Austria for my second Grand Prix race appropriately called Harakiri… the ritualistic Japanese suicide. Though the only thing Japanese about the race was the 13th place finisher. The race went out fast and by the 3rd (of 9) kilometer I found myself in a nervous 11th place. By the next kilometer I was in 5th and by half way I began a long fought battle with an Austrian runner whom I’ve never raced for 3rd. There must have been 25 switchbacks from halfway on. I’d put 5 meters on the Austrian and he’d gain them back. This went on for quite some time until finally on the last climb a blood curdling yell came from behind me. I looked back to see if maybe the Austrian had taken the name of the race a bit too seriously, but here was still there, belly in tact, grinding away but no longer in contention. Wyatt took the win. Krupicka 2nd.
Some trains and some riding later has brought me to the small town of Zinal where finishes the legendary Sierre-Zinal. In the European mountain running community, this race needs no introduction. It is the best race out here and has been for over 30 years. 32kilometers. Starting at an elevation of 585meters, climbing to 2425meters over 24k before descending to Zinal at 1680meters (1500feet to 7500feet over 14miles then descending 2500feet over the next four miles my American friends). There are so many reasons to love this race. 1. Beautiful course. 2. Wonderful hospitality. 3. Great cultural experience. 4. Historical. And 5. Competition. The competition deserves some explanation. The world mountain running championships does not get all of the best mountain runners, nor does the Grand Prix. Politics, money (lack there-of to be specific), timing and other things keep some of the best runners from running in those races. For all the reasons that I mentioned, Sierre-Zinal fills in the gaps. If the names Killian, Mejia, Krupicka, Du Pont, Vigil, Burns or Sneider don’t mean anything to you, look them up. They are, hands down, the best in the sport. A top five finish will give me the greatest amount of joy. Sunday.
Lastly, I have been informed that the kind folks of the American Mountain Running Team have selected me for the at-large (6th and final) spot on the 2009 team. I will be competing in Italy with a most respectable team on September 9th at the World Mountain Running Championships (this is the first year that the race is being recognized as a “championship” race rather than a “trophy” meaning that it is IAAF sanctioned and how shall we say… legit). Thank you.

there is a great blog role right now at

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trail Runner

Please, please, please. Go up a copy of the Trail Runner that is on the shelves right now. You'll find it in between Time and Newsweek.... or at your outdoor retail store.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chris and I continued our bike trip from telfes, austria onto bolzano, italz where we drank some fine wine late into the evening with, none other than, the greatest stair racer of all time – paul crake of australia. The companz was also graced with the presence of world mountain running champion, marco de gasperi and the illustrius martin cox. martin cooked. The pasta was not al dente.we peddled away late in the morning, straight into the italian dolomites. Two more days and several passes later we arrived at the sight of my first european mountain race from two years ago – heiligenblut, austria. We welcomed the chance to watch euro sport, catch up with the tour and take full advantage of the glocknerhof´s generous buffet.

The start list included world mountain running champion and two time olympian, jonothan wyatt of new zealand, three very fast kenyans and several top-ten world mountain runners – marco gaiardo (italy), robert krupicka (czeck republic), martin cox (great britan), marcos kroll (austria), david sneider (switzerland) and several others.

As three feet of snow fell on the course the two days before the race, there was a big possibility that the event would be altered (not cancelled) severely. But the sun came through the day before the race and melted most of it. The course would be very muddy, but not impossible.

The kenyans took the race out very fast and nobody bothered to go with the fastest of them. By kilometer two of thirteen I found myself in 11th and by kilometer four I had moved up to 6th. I spent the next couple k chasing down one of the kenyans while the swiss and the czeck pulled steadily away from me. At the front of the race, jonothan wyatt was busy trying to pull in the lead kenyan. All positions stayed the same though and the kenyan won in a record time with wyatt two minutes behind. I secured my fifth place position (my worst place and fastest time on this course) ahead of gaiardo and the other two kenyans.

The legs still feel a bit tired from so much racing in june and the readjustment to the bike touring. Ailments are migrating around my body sonambulistically. this will go away soon. I hope.

Tomorrow I´m off to slovenia to run a race up grintovec. 9.6k with an 1800m vertical climb if I remember correctly. It will be the first grand prix race for me for the season. The competition will be no less than from this past weekend.

Chris is off to watch the Wednesday stage of the tour and return to the states on Thursday. Map is falling apart rapidly. Finishing even cow girls get the blues. Getting ready to start the worst journey in the world. Mustache is holding strong. Down a pair of socks. Up a pair of socks. Etc. etc.

Friday, July 17, 2009

europe: round three

i arrived in europe following a rather brutal selection race in new hampshire and spent the first few days relaxing in geneva... not running. i put my bike together with ease on the balcony of my friend´s house rather than in the busy terminal as i had last year. everything came together perfectly, nothing missing, not even the st. so-and-so that my sister glued to the cap of my bike tube for added safety and protection.

on the fourth of july, friend and former assistant cross country coach from high school, arrived in geneva at 8am. we covered nearly 110k by dusk to arrive at chamonix and the clouds parted just long enough for us to get a view of the mont blanc summit from town. we rode through switzerland for the next week, up and over many of the highest paved passes in europe - grimsel pass, furka pass, oberalp pass, and several others. chris quickly learned that yogurt and granola consist of at least half of my meals. also, he got to experience first hand cave dwelling, rickey-style.

we arrived in telfes, austria a couple days before the european mtn running championships. not being european, myself, i was not able to compete in the big race but did manage a come-from-behind win in the open race the day before. i was about a minute slower than my time from last year which i was more than pleased with as i was amidst what felt like the flu. i shivered my way down to the bottom of the mountain and got a good night sleep rather than heading to the gymnasium where the party usually goes late into the night with czeck beer, food and song.

we rode from there to the top of brenner pass and trained down into italy for a night of food and wine with some of the mtn running greats: martin cox, marco di gasperi and paul crake. chris and i left the next morning at the crack of noon for some more passes and a stunning display of the italian dolomites.

currently we are in heiligenblut, austria for the 10th annual grossglockner mountain race. this will be the third time that i have raced here... twice i´ve finished fourth. next week, onto slovenia and then.... don´t know where.

the body is holding up to the pressure, but just barely. enjoying round three immensly.

please go buy a copy of Trail Runner magazine. it has a story in there that i wrote last season about racing, training, biking and traveling in europe. also megan lund is on the cover who´s a lot cuter than me on the cover.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

cranmore, us mtn. running championships, nacac

rickey here. just finished throwing back five pounds of pasta and double that in magic hat #9. matt erholtz has put back only half that for the record.

i raced both carpenter and joseph gray two weeks ago and was able to see a similar drive. they both have a fire that isn't so much fuled by a desire to win but rather on the hatred of losing (and by losing i mean second or beyond). joe came in third at mt. washington. from the finish of that race to the finish of today's race at mt. cranmore in new hampshire (serving as the national mtn. running championships, world championship selection race and north american, central american championships) i knew that he was going to be the man to beat. when he told me that he ran a speed workout on tuesday, while the rest of us were tapering, i knew it for sure.

the two lap course was an improvement from the one that paul kirsch put together a couple years ago... which is to say less masochistic and more competitive.

the field started off at a decent pace, many of the leaders dropping off after a couple kilometers. by the top of the first of two laps all the usual suspects were present. simon g., eric blake, joe gray, shiloh mielke, myself, zac freudenburg and matt byrne. joe led the downhill followed by zac, simon and myself. shiloh displayed the downhill running skills that earned him a top 30 spot at the world trophy two years ago in switzerland by passing me and several others. i can say, without hesitation, that he is the fastest runner on any tretcherous downhill that i have ever seen.

going into the second lap i was able to reel in shiloh, simon and matt but not zack or joe. joe had the race won by this point and i was concentrating on a top-three spot that would secure a spot on the u.s. mtn. running team for the world championships in italy on september 6th. i wanted to put as much distance on shiloh as possible as i knew that the gap between us would only shrink from the top to the finish - it was only a matter of turning it into gap large enough that he wouldn't be able to close it in time. matt and i ran the descent together for sometime before he pulled away.

i was able to maintain my fourth place position through the finish (winning a watch for finishing closest to my bib number - 5), missing a secure spot on the team to matt byrne by 4 seconds. overall, i was pleased with how the race played out. i felt a little flat going in to the race, i think as a result of the amount of racing i've been doing in the past month and the heavy training i was doing before that. i was especially surprised and pleased with the results of both zac f. and matt b. as they were the fifth and sixth men on the team last year in switzerland. closet trainers.

the fourth and fifth members will be selected at the Cheyenne Canon Mountain Race in Colorado Springs on july 26th. the sixth spot will be selected by team managers with input from the team itself. whether i get selected for that spot or not i will either be in italy to cheer the team on or to race. either way it's gonna be a good time.

great event!! i hope to put up some photos of the event in the next week.

we need more race reports from the women!

for more reports check out:

and... and... props to the western states organizers for up-to-the-minute updates. congrats to anita ortiz!

Monday, June 22, 2009

"there is only one hill"

There is no race that I've run that can compare to Mount Washington. 7.6 miles with nearly 5000 vertical feet of elevation gain. The brutality of it lies entirely in consistency since the race director, Bob Teschek, is entirely right: "there is only one hill". Colorado offers roads with steeper climbs and more net gain but nothing that compares to a steady %11.5 grade for nearly 8 miles.

That's only the mountain. The competition has traditionally drawn one of the most elite crowds in American Mountain Running. Top finishers over the years have included world champions Jonathan Wyatt, Jay Johnson, Anna Pichrtova and other notables: Dave Dunham, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Kihara, Derek Froude... the list goes on. This year the list was no less notable: 2 time winner - Eric Blake, 3 time winner - Simon Gutierrez, Joe Gray (who beat me two weeks ago in the Teva Mtn. Games 10k), all-American and fellow Aspen native - Jon Severy, US Mtn. Running Team member - Matt Byrne... the list goes on.

The race started off per usual - with Simon well off in front. Severy tried to psyche out the field by cracking jokes and foaming at the pits. I took the lead from Gutierrez after the first mile and one mile past that, only Eric Blake and myself remained at the front. The two times that I've run this race before, I've watched Eric pull away from myself and the rest of the field around mile five. Listening to his breath, I knew that I would have to pull away from him early on. By the third mile I put a lead on Blake. The clouds provided an interesting element that I've not dealt with before in this race. You could not see much further than 100 feet ahead or behind, turning the race into more of mind game than I've ever had to deal with. I could never really be sure how far ahead of Blake I remained. The plus side of this coin was, of course, that Blake never really knew how far ahead I was.

I ran through the half way mark in 28:55 which put me on track for a sub-hour finish... just barely. My left Achilles started to flare up slightly which, though it never slowed me down, added immensely to the mental aspect of the race. I was constantly thinking that it might seize up completely and I'd have to deal with a poor finish, or worse - DNF. The problem remained at bay as I focused completely on holding my form.

By mile six the course finally made it's way above the blanket of clouds and I doubt there was anybody in the race in so much pain that they couldn't appreciate the view. You really did feel like you were in an airplane. With only a 1/2 mile to go, I knew that I had the race won. I eased up on my pace slightly, not thinking about the time. With 150 meters to go a friend from the side line yelled "20 seconds!!". I had forgotten about the 60 minute time bonus. Sprinting up the 22% final grade, I watched as the clock ticked 59:53 54 55 56. I crossed the finish line with two seconds to spare, to become the fifth man, second American to ever break the 60 minute barrier.

    1   1/129  Rickey Gates              28 M Boulder         CO              2   59:58  7:54
2 2/129 Eric Blake 30 M New Britain CT BAA 1 1:01:19 8:04
3 3/129 Joseph Gray 25 M Lakewood WA TEAM INO 3 1:02:35 8:15
4 4/129 Matthew Byrne 34 M Scranton PA 5 1:02:45 8:16
5 1/93 Simon Gutierrez 43 M Alamosa CO TEVA / S 4 1:04:16 8:28
6 5/129 Jonathan Severy 27 M Winooski VT NYAC 15 1:05:09 8:35
7 6/129 Tommy Manning 33 M Colorado Spring CO NMC 38 1:05:47 8:40
8 1/81 Jason Bryant 36 M Elkin NC LA SPORT 16 1:06:13 8:43
9 7/129 Matthew Russell 26 M Boulder CO CMS 25 1:06:19 8:44
10 2/93 Francis Burdett 44 M Worcester MA CMS 142 1:06:39 8:47

                               *******  TOP 10 WOMEN OVERALL  *******
Place Div Name Ag S City St Team Race# Time Pace
===== === ========================= == = =============== == ======== ===== ======= =====
1 1 Brandy Erholtz 31 F Bailey CO W1 1:10:53 9:20
2 1 Tara Cardi 40 F East Greenwich RI NARRA W8 1:19:52 10:31
3 2 Jennifer Campbell 26 F Newmarket NH CRC W72 1:20:58 10:40
4 3 Alison Bryant 30 F Elkin NC W2 1:22:08 10:49
5 2 Lisa Goldsmith 44 F Nederland CO LA SPORT W133 1:24:58 11:11
6 4 Abby Mahoney 31 F Holyoke MA CMS W29 1:25:05 11:12
7 1 Cathy Pearce 46 F Chelmsford MA WHIRL W5 1:26:29 11:23
8 1 Tara Breed 38 F Englewood CO W17 1:27:33 11:32
9 1 Donna Smyers 51 F Adamant VT CVR W27 1:28:01 11:35
10 2 Suzy West 46 F Putney VT CSU W14 1:28:34 11:40

video finish:

photos: (AP Photo/Gil Talbot), Dave Dunham

Coming up on Sunday I will be competing against much of the same field (and then some) at the Cranmore Hill Climb/USA & NACAC Mountain Running Championships in North Conway, NH. After that... EUROPE!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Here is a video that I made about my summer in Europe. You can find a higher quality version of this on youtube.

Music by Broken Social Scene.