Monday, February 20, 2012

Long weekend so I lapsed in posting. Not much new to report but had a glimmer of hope today with a third opinion, yes, third opinion, which suggested popliteal tendonitis. Seems like three weeks would be a long enough layoff to see some improvement for something like that but the doc said I am getting older and that tendon is particularly tough. So, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dismal winter.

And, this week's Retropost comes from the winter of 2008, six months before Western States was officially "burned out"

Six Months to Go!

It's six months to the day before the 2008 Western States 100 Miler. That, in and of itself, gets me excited. Even though I am currently running 90 minutes a day through snow and ice in sub-freezing temperatures I know the beauty and Heat of The Canyons awaits. Going for my 5th consecutive top-10 finish gets me out the door in the morning and knowing that the competition will all be there ready to go fires me up in the midst of the brutal Idaho winter. So, bucking the traditional New Year's Resolution Thing, I resolve to do five things over the next six months:

1. Keep the Base Mileage going through February 3rd -- I know I need to do this to stay patient and focused on the ultimate goal. As much as I'd like to blow out some carbon in the next few weeks I also know that would be a bad idea. In the next six weeks it's all about the long, slow miles.

2. Let the Oregon Guys have their day at Cool -- They all beat me last year and I expect them to do the same this year. All I can say is that they better be ready for some serious competition at the Georgetown Hotel for Karaoke. And, if they want to get fiesty, watch out for Team Idaho at Cool, with AJW, Mitchell and Dart we'll be tough to beat!

3. Get the hill mileage in early (and often!) -- I need to get the climbing legs going hard in March and April. In order for me to have any improvement at WS 2008 I need to run the first 30 miles faster than ever before. The only way that can happen is for me to climb better. Take a look at the splits, aside from a few outliers, the guys who beat me climbed hard early. Not gonna happen again.

4. Focus on having a great last month -- From May 15 to June 15 I will run longer, harder and faster than at any other time in my life. I just need to be healthy enough to do that when the time comes. No races, just good, old-fashioned training and healthy, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale fueled recovery.

5. Race assertively and aggressively -- I am ready to go for it this year. Vermont and Teton in 2007 taught me what I can do. Now, it's up to me to get it done. I have no time left to leave anything in the tank.

Happy New Year everybody!


Friday, February 17, 2012

I am getting some small signs of hope out of my left knee. While the pain at full flexion is still there it seems to be responding well to physical therapy, Graston, and strengthening exercises. I must say, this reminder of my own immortality has been truly eye-opening as it is often difficult to navigate the blurry line between emotion and reason when it comes to running injuries. While I did enjoy a full two-months of injury-free running in December and January the 20 days I've been unable to run over these past three weeks seem almost endless. Please, when I get back to running, remind me to take it easy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I have been working with the folks at the WS100 in pulling together a couple of great events during the lead-up to this year's race. I am particularly excited about the "Veteran's Panel" which will take place on Thursday, June 21st at 5pm in the Squaw Valley Lodge. Like last year, this event will provide people with an opportunity to hear from a panel of experienced Western States runners of varying abilities. Topics such as nutrition, race strategy and course knowledge will be covered and ample time will be allowed for Questions and Answers. Stay tuned over the next few months for the announcement of the panelists.

Additionally, I am thrilled to have been invited to speak at a pre-Western States reception for the Squaw Valley Institute at the Plumpjack on Thursday, June 21st following the Veteran's Panel. The Squaw Valley Institute is one of the premier non-profit organizations providing support and education to the Greater Lake Tahoe Basin and this reception will highlight the strong bond between the Institute and the Western States Endurance Run. While the event is still more than four months away it is exciting to see such great things beginning to take shape as the race continues to evolve in this new era.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thank you all for the advice about my meniscus tear. For now I've decided to forego surgery in an attempt to heal the problem conservatively over the next few weeks. I am rehabbing pretty aggressively and have a great team of supporters so I am hopeful. In the meantime, I am attempting to get over my allergy to chlorine and confronting the brutal fact that I am, indeed, getting older.

Retropost of the Week
Another post from October, 2007

I admit to being a proponent of Tim Noakes’ Central Governor model and this fall I am putting the theory to the test. As most of you know, Noakes’ theory suggests that a significant factor in running success is training the mind. Indeed, training the body is essential and good genes are helpful but Noakes notes that a well-trained mind can lead to performances that exceed expectations more often than training or genes can. And after all, exceeding expectations is something we all hope to do once in a while.

So, for me, this fall is a good time to test the theory. Clearly, I am experiencing the accumulated fatigue brought on by having run three 100-mile races since late June and as such every day is a new adventure for me as I continue to travel down uncharted territory. Furthermore, the shorter days of fall, the more intense work schedule I have at school, and the chilly temperatures are all sapping my motivation. And that is where the mind-training part comes into play. In May, I must admit, I have absolutely no problem getting out the door to run. Motivated by the eternal hope of spring and the burning desire to be adequately prepared for Western States makes my mind hum and I am ready and eager to run every day. Now, several months and many miles later, it’s a bit tougher to keep that edge.

For me, the training of the mind at this point in the year is training for the long haul. Every run is characterized by some mental challenge. Most of the time I present myself with a hypothetical mental challenge like coming up from No Hands Bridge on the edge of breaking 17 hours or looking up to Sam Merrill and seeing Tommy Nielsen’s flashlight beam and some of the time I set up a barrier that I should beat even though I am tired (get to the fire hydrant in 6 minutes, run this entire hill, hammer this downhill to get a little extra quad pounding). While these are little, seemingly meaningless goals in the grand scheme of my physical training, they are essential for my mental preparation.

Just over two weeks remain until my run at Javelina. It will be the culmination of the “Andy Slam” for 2007. Certainly, it’s nothing like the Grand Slam but it’s a first for me. And, I must admit, I want to win. I am not sure if I can but I’ll give it a try and hope for the best. My body may be beaten and worn down but my mind will be focused. With the right training it seems to me that the mind is much more resilient than the body and if I can take that knowledge into my race I may just get my third win of the year and gain some mental fitness in the process.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I haven't written for a few days largely because I've been letting some bad news sink in. On Thursday I was diagnosed with torn meniscus in my left knee. I had initially been told it was not torn but after seeking a second opinion and a closer look it is, in fact, torn.

It is a mild tear on the outside, medial edge of the meniscus so it could potentially heal without surgery. That said, I am, at this point, still contemplating what to do and may not be able to wait this one out without surgery.

For me, I must say, these last eight months have been really eye-opening. First, a severe case of plantar fasciitis and then, just when that was clearing up, my first real knee issue. Of course, I am taking my own advice and maintaining a positive attitude and practicing patience which will hopefully bear fruit in the end. And, I am currently on a ski vacation with my family and it's dumping snow so, how bad could it be? I still have my health, a good job, and a great life. Perspective....

Any advice on dealing with a mildly torn medial meniscus would be much appreciated!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It occurred to me that some of you would prefer not to leave your mailing address in a public space on a blog. So, if you want a Taproom sticker just email me at and I'll send you one.

Hit the bike and the weight room this morning. Felt surprisingly good.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

AJW's Taproom stickers! Comment here with your snail mail address and I'll send you one!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Really excited about this Nice to get some good press in the local paper for a great new program.

Retrospost of the Week
Race Report from the Javelina Jundred in October 2007. My 4th 100-miler that year.

It is, at times, difficult for me to believe this but for those of you keeping track Jorge Pacheco and I have history. I mean, real history. Of course, most of that history is in his favor. With the exception of races in which Jorge has dropped (or taken a long nap!) I have never finished ahead of him in a 100 Miler. And, most painfully of all, I now have three Bridesmaid’s Finishes to accompany his three victories. A quick scan of the archives tells a painful story.

2004 Angles Crest, Jorge first, AJW second.

2006 Rocky Raccoon, Jorge First, AJW second.

2007 Javelina Jundred, Jorge first, AJW second.

You get the picture.

Nonetheless, the 2007 Javelina Jundred was a great race. Sure it was hot, painfully hot for a Rocky Mountain transplant like myself but who cares? It was a great way to spend a long day in the desert and what could be better than heat in the desert? It’s just the way it is. I wouldn’t want it to be any different.

Jorge started out hard along with Eric Clifton who always starts out hard. I was content to hang with friends Craig Thornley, Rob Evans, and Wendell Doman and see how things started to shake out. Jorge and Eric finished the first lap in record time and I was thinking this could work out OK. The second lap went by fast as well but as Eric started to fade and Jorge kept pushing. By the time we crossed paths at the third lap turnaround he had 28 minutes on me.

Yikes, this was going to be a race!

Shelly, my wife and crew, told me at that point that if I wanted to win I quite simply couldn’t give up any more time. I was feeling pretty good but with the heat coming on I didn’t feel like I had much more to give. I pushed up the long grinding ascent over the first five miles of the fourth lap and then began to push harder on the rollers between Miles 50 and 55. Here, I began to have hope. All the people coming the other way had beta for me and it all suggested that the gap was closing. I pushed harder. As I got to the wash at the bottom of the biggest hill of the race I saw Jorge in the distance. I think the gap was 5 minutes there. Maybe I could get him? But should I try to cover the gap now? Oh, these were haunting questions indeed. Questions that my aching legs didn’t want to answer.

I got to the turnaround and was met by my son Logan in a Grim Reaper costume. I don’t know if he understood the significance of the occasion but I did. His outfit symbolically represented just what I needed to know -- "Damnit, I should quite this sport." But, I couldn’t. Jorge had only five minutes on me. Crap, if this was going to be a race now was the time to make a move (like I even know what that means!).

Of course, this is ultrarunning so if I was going to make a move first I had to puke. The combination of 95 degree temperatures, lukewarm chicken broth, and Coke brought it all home (so to speak!) Fortunately, my friend and comrade in arms Chris Thornley was there to tell me it would pass. And, my kids, well they basically said, “Everybody pukes, what are you waiting for?” So, I set out in pursuit of Jorge.

I saw him on the horizon about an hour later. He was moving along well but not too fast. We were about a mile from the 65-mile aid station. I said to myself (sort of), I guess this is it? We’ll see what happens. It was, indeed, a collision course. I got to the aid station and he was still there drinking water and filling his bandana with ice. I tried to stay cool by filling my bottles and getting out of there. Man, I was hurting! And yes, he was right there behind me. I knew the drill. It was time for a marking exercise. If there were fire hydrants around we would both be peeing.

We ran the next 10 miles stride for stride. That, in and of itself, is amazing! For those of you who know the nature of 100-mile races that does not happen very often. But, here we were at mile 65 of a late season 100 – friends, rivals, competitors – what else could we do but run? I can’t remember which parts I led and which parts he led but I knew I was on the rivet and I could tell he was not. I didn’t want to admit it but I could just tell. Plus, I knew Jorge. Yes, the guy has crashed and burned in these things before but not often after night falls. I knew this would be tough, if not impossible, to beat. So, I switched into learning mode.

We arrived at Mile 75 together and someone took a picture (whoever took it, I want it!) I knew Jorge had the upper hand with rested legs and greater footspeed but I still had hope. For those of you who don’t think these races have drama you should have been there then. You could feel it, taste it, even.

After that, Jorge took off. He opened a lead on me I could not combat. Sure, I still had a glint of hope but I could tell this was his day and he deserved to win. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was simply happy to share the trail with this humble, smart, and compassionate champion on this day. In many ways, Jorge’s character is summed up in his post-race greeting to me, “I’m sorry.” Man, what a man!

To Rodger, Jimmy, Dave and the rest of the Javelina Crew thank you for an amazing day.

Now, I am off to rest. See you in Squaw!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super impressive runs by Hal and Karl at RR100 and it looks like Ian went for the record and had an injury derail him. All in all, it was cool to see experience play out at Rocky.

And how about Meghan Arbogast and Mark Richtman at Jed Smith! Smoking fast times for folks in their 50's. Inspiring, for sure!

I am enjoying a really nice weekend in West Virginia with my son Carson. He had a good race (skiing) yesterday and is lining up for a Giant Slalom today. I am still working through my knee issue but slowly gaining confidence. Went for a "hike" yesterday and am planning the same for today.

Go Giants!

Friday, February 3, 2012

My knee feels a bit better today so things are definitely trending in the right direction. I may give it a couple more days before giving it a test but that's OK since I am headed to West Virginia for Carson's ski race. Probably good for the long haul.

Judging by the polling data it looks to be a two-man race between Ian and Hal. Can't wait to follow along tomorrow!

And, I am really psyched to note that I have signed on as a Hoka One One ambassador joining Karl Meltzer, Dave Mackey, and a few others. As most of you know, these shoes have been extraordinarily helpful in my recovery from PF so I should have no trouble promoting the brand. I will, of course, continue with Patagonia and Drymax, as well. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Got to the doc today and he ruled out MCL and meniscus damage so that's good. Turns out it's a pretty bad case of tendonitis and it means a bit of a break but not a total meltdown. Good, not great.

New Taproom post goes up tomorrow that should be good.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Anybody tried this? Evidently it's the best beer in America and it goes on tap this Friday! For two weeks only! If you have extra miles send me a ticket and I'm there:)
Resting my knee for another day before seeing Dr. Wilder tomorrow morning. Trying to take the long view which is easier some days that others. Did get into the February 18th VHTRC 50K and also got the reg forms for Bull Run Run and Promise Land so I guess, one way or another, this season will happen:) Trending toward tendonitis but we'll see.

Interesting results for the poll with Salomon and Montrail neck and neck and Patagonia an TNF lagging behind. New poll up now!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My knee felt a bit better this morning but to keep things on the safe side I made an appointment with Dr. Wilder for him to check it out. Honestly, it's this kind of thing that really reminds me that aging does have an impact on the body and it needs to be taken seriously. Sometimes, I must admit, the exuberance of running gets the best of me and it can kick me in the butt.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Knee felt a bit better this morning so I think I may have dodged a bullet. That said, being prudent is the best course right now so I'll take a few days off and get on the bike or into the pool. Probably what I have in store for my future anyway.

Retropost of the Week
I wrote this in September, 2007 as reflection on some of the great friends I have made through running. It was called "Friendships Forged on the Trail"

I have often wondered what it is about our sport that nurtures such incredible friendships. I can honestly say that some of my best friends in the world are ultrarunners. In fact, they are actually some of my only friends. As much as it’s hard for me admit, even though I spend my days among literally hundreds of people, I would not consider many of them friends. It’s odd, really, but true nonetheless.

The extraordinary thing is that the friends I’ve made through this sport are not people I spend a whole lot of time with. Some of them I see once or twice a year and yet, when we are together, it is like we see each other all the time. Perhaps it is because we are united in this unusual endeavor or that we seek the same answers to life’s perplexing questions. However, whatever it is, I know that my best friends run, they run long, and they love to share the joy of running long with me. In most cases, that’s all I need in a friend. Strange, I know, but true.

First, there’s Tom. He basically taught me how to run. Spending countless hours together on the Angeles Crest course in the late ‘90’s cemented our friendship and taught me most of what I know about running ultras. Tom taught me how to eat, pace, talk, act, and, most of all, run downhill. Tom shared with me secrets of strategy in the late stages of a 100 miler as well as how not to get too caught up in the moment. In the 2006 Western States Tom and I shared the trail through the canyons and survived the heat together. It was a moment of solidarity that I do not think I could replicate in any other part of my life. Tom, my friend, here’s to you; mentor, friend, role model. In an age when we have fewer and fewer people to truly look up to I hope you know that you will always be the Gold Standard for me.

Second, there’s Craig. This guy is a true Pied Piper and a pure connector. As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his bestselling book, “The Tipping Point”, the success or failure of most of life’s ventures rest in the hands of the “connectors.” These are the people who bring people together and keep them together. They unite people around a common cause and celebrate others’ accomplishments more than their own. My friend Craig does this in spades! Seeing him cheer his good friend Ed on to a 24-hour finish at Western States or watching in awe as he supported and cajoled countless runners to the finish line at Western States over the years assured his status to me as the consummate connector. Add to that the annual post-Way Too Cool Karaoke party at the Georgetown Hotel and the “Blichigan Muff” training camp every spring and you have a guy who knows how to bring people together in meaningful ways. Just being around Craig makes me feel better and I will never forget his comment upon finishing Western States this year, “I kept waiting for the carnage until I realized the carnage was me.” Craig, here’s to you, our connections, and the brotherhood of the trail.

Third, there’s Graham; family man, professional guy, nutcase! Honestly, I thought he was toast at Western States this year after he told me he had traveled to nine countries in seven days to take his company public in mid-April. I should have known better. After a burst of training and his usual preparation which includes running long distances in intense heat wearing his “bank robber costume” and spending way too much time in ice baths he pulled off a third place finish and sent me away with my tail between my legs. Of course, after pulling my tail out we spent a wonderful day on the track in Auburn, cheering in the runners and reveling in our families. Not only do Graham and I understand each other, but even worse, our wives accept and even embrace the insanity of this sport. It’s certainly a bit odd but we are actually united in the silliness of it all. At the end of the day, that brings us closer together in ways that I can’t quite explain but can’t ignore either. Graham, here’s to you, your family, and the battle that awaits next year!

Finally, there’s Joe. I first met Joe at the Vermont 100 in 2002 and couldn’t believe he was passing me at Mile 32. Of course, a year later this same guy was breaking the Grand Slam record and doing so in style. What the heck? Here was this Philly boy, moved to Colorado, taking the sport by storm. What could be better? Damn! Then, of course, he starts talking smack about 30 mile weeks, long junkets on the tab of the insurance industry, and the inevitable decline of Western Civilization. Of course, in the midst of all this, I realized I was making a friend, a good one. This was confirmed at Western States 2005 when I managed to finish 8 minutes and 59 seconds ahead of Joe (but who’s counting?). It was the pinnacle of my athletic career and when Joe finished he ran to me with congratulations. Joe, here’s to you, our smack talk, your sandbagging, and the glory of what once was and what will always be.

I, of course, could go on for days with this list but I hope my theme is clear. This sport has given me friendships to last a lifetime. Friendships forged through hard work, competition, and shared pain. I hope that you can all feel the same thing. We runners are a strange lot and sometimes we find comfort in strange places. For me, the four friends above and countless others have shown me the power of friendship. It is a power I would not know were it not for our sport. For that, I am truly thankful.

(Writer’s Note: The last names of the four men described above have been intentionally omitted to protect the innocent)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I had an all-around screwy day yesterday! After staying up too late on Friday night I had to drag myself out of bed early to take Carson to ski practice. I basically lounged around for 4 hours at the ski place and then we came home. After a two-hour nap I finally got out the door and limped through an 8 miler. Turns out I jacked up my left knee somehow. It's the opposite leg from my pf so it could be some sort of compensation thing but it's weird. Especially since the pain is on the inside/back of my knee. I am thinking it's some kind of tendonitis that is the result of ramping things up to fast. Obviously, I am not getting any younger! I think I'll give it a couple days and then go to the doc if it's still around. Knowing me, it's probably because of my super-tight hips, hamstings, and glutes. Maybe this is another wake-up call to stretch and crosstrain.

On a much more positive note I must say I am just thrilled about Craig Thornley's appointment as the next Western States RD. He has a love and a passion for running in general and Western States in particular that is truly infectious. Furthermore, his contagious enthusiasm will almost certainly rub off on everybody involved with the event which I know, in the end, will make it even better. I am excited about the future of the Big Dance!

I was quite impressed with the way the WS Board of Trustees handled the entire thing. From launching a public search process to checking references to having the candidates undergo a thorough interview process they truly established a precedent of transparent professionalism which the race truly deserves. Over the next 20 or so months it will be great to see how the transition unfolds. Knowing Greg and Craig as I do I am sure it will be seamless.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Happy Hour 12 miler on a ridiculously beautiful day. 60 degrees and sunny on January 27th. I love this place! Ran steadily from the start and felt good. A bit tired after a long two weeks of work but, all in all, a great run. I think I am going to get out for some long slow miles in the mountains this weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Woke up with an annoying hack in my chest so I ran a bit later on Carter's Mountain after Graston treatment. Felt OK but it's not always the best idea to run after Graston.

Ran without a watch in honor of Thornley. That marathon match-up in December is gonna be tough. And, a little smack-talking going on with Leadville. Turns out most of the second-5 from 2009 is going to be there and they're pressuring me to show up. Not sure if I'll have any gas in the tank after WS and HRH.

Be sure to visit the Taproom tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What a great run this morning! I was waffling a little when the alarm clock went off but I dragged myself up and am really glad I did. Ran the standard 8 miler and nothing hurt. I mean nothing! The pace was nothing to write home about and in the grand scheme of things it was just another workaday run. But, still, when these happen it feels very, very good.

On another note, I think it may be time to lace up a fresh pair of Moon Boots. The bottoms are pretty much worn off the Bondi B's I started running in in late October.

And, I learned today that Craig Thornley will be the next Race Director of the Western States 100. This is great news! And, it means next year I'll beat him here for sure:)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The first poll in this new blog is complete and it was quite fun. I particularly enjoyed seeing how it played out over social media with Sophie, Craig, MonkeyBoy and Hal all getting into the game. In the end, Oregon emerged the winner. Of course, it is completely unscientific and probably doesn't matter to all that many people. But, it was fun, nonetheless, to see how State loyalty played out.

I got out on a beautiful, sunny 60 degree afternoon onto the Rivanna Trail between meetings and the run was sweet. & miles of singletrack with a fair amount of mud. I think I've officially run the bottoms off my Hokas as they didn't grip anything. But, fun day all around!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Had an outstanding night of sleep after an excellent day yesterday. Looking forward to the morning sessions here at the conference and then a rare afternoon run.

Laced 'em up for a tempo run on the Colonial Parkway. Pretty cool place to run and it has the unique feature of marked kilometers rather than miles. It's also got virtually no traffic and some really nice scenery. Average about 4:20 per K. Back to C'Ville!

Retropost from September, 2007
Back in the early days of AJW's Blog it was almost all race reports. Here is my report from the 2007 Grand Teton 100 Miler

“Are you OK?” a voice behind me asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I mumbled as I bent over and puked again.

It was 57 miles into the Grand Teton 100 and my stomach was acting up. I had just come down off of Fred’s Mountain and was pushing ahead for my third loop out of four. The combination of Nuun, Gu, warm water, and chicken soup was being soundly rejected by my system. It was time to regroup, or else.

The Grand Teton 100 miler was my third 100 miler in 10 weeks. It had started out quite well. In the cool of the Rocky Mountain morning I made my way around the first 25 mile loop in 4:08. I had built up a small lead and was feeling smooth. The second loop was a bit tougher but I was holding my own and the miles kept clipping by. On this third loop things were beginning to unravel.

Ahead of me was a 1600 foot descent down to Mill Creek. I had been able to make great time on it over the first half of the race but now I was a bit worried. I figured I might as well just hammer down to the aid station at the bottom and then try to get caught up with calories after that. Hopefully, fast-charging Matt Hart would cruise this section and not close on me too quickly. I knew he had incredible foot speed and that he was prepared to battle hard all day. His races earlier in the year suggested to me that he would be tough to hold back.

The stomach was OK by the time I hit the 61.3 mile aid station at the bottom of Ski Hill Road. I treated myself to a five minute “chair break,” an ice-cold ginger ale, and a handful of Pringles. Honest to God, they were the best Pringles ever! I got out of the chair and began a brisk walk up the road. I was feeling better and began to sip off an energy gel. Things were slowly coming together. Halfway up the climb I began to run. By the time I got back to my crew at Mile 70 I was ready to resume my attempt at breaking 20 hours.

The Course Record was just over 24 hours and it was held by Bozeman’s Mike Wolfe. Having been smoked by him at the White River 50 in 2006 I knew the record would be tough. However, after covering 50 miles in 8:45 I adjusted my goals. A course record could happen. If the long-term fatigue was not too extreme I had a shot at sub-20.

I picked up my pacer (Bryon Powell) at Mile 70 and we smoked the “Rick’s Basin” section of the course in just over an hour. Then, after a quick pause at the base we climbed and descended Fred’s Mountain in 1:11. It was only 11 minutes slower than I had run on the first loop and a full 10 minutes faster than my third loop. I was back! Now, all I needed to do to prevent my stomach from going south again was to not stop running. I told Bryon I would not be stopping at any aid stations and that ice water and CLIF blocks would get us through. We hammered the Mill Creek loop in three hours and by the time we returned to Mile 95 my lead was 1:30.

Sweet! However, not sweet enough for Bryon. As we left for the final 5 mile stretch he said simply, “We can break 19:30.” Damn, the dude is tough.

We were close but a massive dry heave session about two miles from the finish cost me five minutes and I came in at 19:35. Good enough for the win and the course record. My wife Shelly and my three boys were all there as well as the entire crew of incredible people who had staffed the aid station all day and night.

Lisa Smith-Batchen, Jay Batchen and Zach Barnett are absolutely first-class race directors. The course was marked impeccably and the attention to detail for the entire event was superb. Shelly and the boys were able to swim in the pool, play on the zip line, and frolic in the grass while I worked my way through a beautiful 100 mile course.

With 20,000 feet of climb I thought the course was a bit tougher than Western States. However, without as much heat and a bit more mellow scene it is different. Wasatch is tougher as it has more steep technical stuff late. Of the 100’s I’ve done I’d say Teton is comparable to AC although it has no net elevation loss which means it’s not quite as favorable for downhillers like me. In short, get this event on your calendar. At least for now there is no lottery, it’s tough, and it’s fun. Furthermore, Labor Day weekend in the Tetons is about as good as it gets!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Needed to blow out some carbon this morning and seeing how I am down here in the flatlands of the Tidewater it made sense. I did my first tempo-ish run in a long time and logged 15 miles on the Colonial Parkway between Williamsburg and Jamestown. It's a really sweet road and I was able to open things up just a little bit. Furthermore, even though I now have, like, 600 miles on the Hokas it still feels like they run themselves. Amazing!

This week turned out to be a bit lighter than expected but given how busy it was I feel lucky just to have gotten in 60. And, I suppose if you told me four months ago that a "light" week in January would be 60 miles I'd have taken it in a heartbeat.

Now, off for a full day of meetings!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ran up at Wintergreen today. Honestly, wanted to just hang out by the fire but thoughts of the San Juans got me out the door. Did a 10 miler on roads. Packed a bunch of climbing into the run and ended up with 2200 total feet. Getting climbing legs back is certainly a big project. Heading out to the Tidewater this afternoon so the next two days will be flattish.

Had to post this tonight!

And, Mike Morton is at it again, 100 miles in 13:18 at the Long Haul 100 miler in Florida. I love the way he does things his way!

Friday, January 20, 2012

After a very long but ultimately successful day yesterday I really needed a good run this morning and I got it. Calm and cold the 10 miler on rolling dirt roads was just what I needed to unwind and recharge. End of the busiest week of the year, by far, so nice to get a solid run in.

I am feeling a bit of accumulated fatigue building up which I take a good sign. Haven't felt that way in seven months so it makes me happy. It also reminds me that I need to use caution and care with this build up.

Wow, lots of traffic on the blog all of a sudden. Must be the poll about the ultrarunning capital. I am committed to the more simple, personal content of this reinvented blog and will continue with a retropost every Monday. Other than that, it's nice to be back in this new mode.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Took a nice spin on a very cold morning out to Decca. Was groggy for the first 15 minutes but slowly rolled into a decent pace. Headlamp beam is on the blink so I was risking my life a bit on Owensville Road. I think the charger doesn't really work or my kids have been "borrowing" it for reading Playboys at night. Anyway, all in all, a good run. Not sure what the weekend's gonna look like as I am traveling to Williamsburg for the VAIS Heads Meeting. At least there won't be four feet of snow!

These ads came out when I was a beginning runner and I remember loving them. Fun stuff!

Was excited to see today that the two other 8-time WSER finishers who are on track for #10 in 2013 are Dan Brendan and Simon Mtuy. What a great pair of guys to share the experience of finishing #10 with!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Had to get up and out really early today as the Finance Committee had to put the finishing touches on the Budget in advance of tomorrow's Board Meeting so needless to say I had a lot to think about on this run. Ran a good steady nine on the Monticello Trail and felt good. Not quite the post-rest day bounce I had last week but still solid. Windy and cold!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A few years ago at the end of an Ice Cream Sandwich run on the Western States course a group of us were hanging out talking. As is inevitable in these circumstances, the conversation drifted toward "what's next". Several people commented on some final tuneup races and a few others were thinking of their next training venture when wizened veteran Tim Fitzpatrick spoke up, "I am just going to let this run sink in for awhile." I remember thinking, at the time, how does a run "sink in." Now, I think I know, as it clearly takes time for the effects of a training run to take hold. So, as I roll into this year's build up I need to remember the importance of letting things sink in. In fact, I am doing that today with a day off from running after a 50 mile weekend.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I wasn't sure what to expect today after yesterday's 5+ hour effort. But, knowing that I have a big week of work ahead with a couple of early morning commitments I thought I would take advantage of the MLK Jr. Holiday and get out for a few miles. I laced them up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and just cruised along at a steady pace for 8 miles or so. It wasn't fast, by any means, but it wasn't a total slog, either. So, I got that going for me, which is nice.

Also, on my run today, I reflected back on the last month of running and realized that I've been at it, now, pretty consistently, since the start of December. And, even better than that, I've averaged a shade over 67 miles and 10,000 feet of vertical per week for the past four weeks. I wouldn't say I'm "in shape" yet but it does feel like I am getting there. And that feels pretty good.

RetroPost from July, 2007.
This was my first post on AJW's Blog. A Race Report from the 2007 Vermont 100

“OK Andy, you have five miles left, be sure to savor it!”

These were my wife Shelly’s last words of encouragement as I left Polly’s, the final aid station at this year’s Vermont 100. I had been leading the race for nearly 80 miles. I was tired, aching, and absolutely full of a feeling I had never had before. I was going to cross the line first in a 100-mile trail race!

As has been described in these and other pages previously, I have a bit of a track record finishing just short of first place in 100 milers. In fact, my good friend and fellow runner Garett Graubins wrote a piece in the November, 2005 Trail Runner on exactly that theme. He ruthlessly titled the piece, “The Bridesmaid.” In the article Garett provided painful detail on the string of 2nd place finishes I had during 2004 and 2005. Needless to say, I had to admit the article and the subsequent attention gave me a bit of a complex. I was left contemplating the inevitable question:

Could I actually win one of these things?

I had run the Vermont 100 back in 2002 and 2003 and I knew it was a “runner’s course.” Even with the course changes this year I knew it would be fast. I also knew that there were some hungry guys in the field and I didn’t know for sure what I had in my legs.

I started out as I often do running gently and getting a sense of the day. An hour into the run a small group of runners had split ahead of the pack and we enjoyed the sunrise and the camaraderie. In that leading group were some talented and experienced 100-mile runners. Among them were Todd Walker, Jack Pilla, Glen Redpath and Jim Kerby. All these guys were capable of fast times and they all seemed a bit frisky. I tried to stick to my pre-race plan and just worked to run my race. As Shelly had nudged me to do the night before, “Run assertively, not aggressively.” It was a subtle distinction but an important one.

Having run Western States the month before I was truly inspired by Hal Koerner’s run and was thinking about that in the early miles of Vermont. Largely overlooked in the pre-race hype always surrounding Western States, Hal simply went out and ran off the front right from the start. It was one of the most impressive runs I have seen at Western States and given the course adjustments over the past two years, is worthy of consideration among the best. By the time I got to Michigan Bluff and learned that Hal had come through on record pace I knew the race was, at that point, for second place.

On the downhill heading toward the Taftsville Bridge at Mile 15 I thought about Hal’s run from the front and wondered:

Could I go off the front? Could I do that today?

Turning down to Taftsville on a short paved section I chatted briefly with my good friend Jim Kerby and could tell he was focused. I also could feel some spring in my legs and decided to stretch things out a bit on the one-mile downhill to the covered bridge.

With the exception of the few yards that Shelly walked with me over the next 13 hours, I ran the remaining 85 miles alone.

I was now in completely new territory. My head swirled in the ether of the unknown. After making a career out of hunting people down I was now the hunted.

“Run your race.” “Think of Hal.” “Be smart.” The self-talk was deafening. For the first time ever in a 100 miler I actually felt lonely.

By the 21 mile Aid Station I had a five minute lead, by mile 30 it was ten minutes and by 47 it was seventeen. I made a deal with myself to not look back.

“If you run your race there’s no reason to look back.” Again, haunted, or perhaps, inspired, by Hal, I changed the refrain, “You know Hal didn’t look back!” I put my head down and ran.

Shelly, meanwhile, was also in uncharted territory having to deal with, for the first time, a new animal, the “front runner.” Having become accustomed to my come-from-behind-strategy she never really had to think about the runners behind me only those ahead.

What was she to do?

Well, as we all attempt to do when we are thrust into the unknown, she improvised, basically waiting as long as she could at the aid stations after I'd gone through and then estimating how long it would take her to race to the next check point to meet me. It was fun but a totally new and somewhat disconcerting experience for both of us.

I did have the requisite “bad patch” around Mile 75 and coming into the Westwinds Aid Station at Mile 77 I was beginning to doubt the front-running strategy and lose a bit of faith in my legs. Was I succumbing to the “Bridesmaid Syndrome” once again? I thought perhaps I was but Shelly clearly had a different idea. Seemingly paying no attention to my mental state as I stumbled into the aid station muttering, “I’m tired.”
Shelly said simply, “That’s OK, drink this.” It was a painfully salty concoction of cold chicken broth with which I was all too familiar at this stage in a race. I knew better than to reject it. As I swallowed hard, I asked,

“What’s the gap.” There was a pause, a little longer than usual.

“20 minutes. Everybody looks strong, especially Jim.” I knew what that meant. It was basically code for “get out of here now!”

I took off. About 20 minutes later the salt kicked in, I downed two gels and I felt like myself again. I don’t think much time was gained after that.

Looking back now, the race itself didn't feel that different than others except that I had no one in front of me to pass. So, after about 85 miles, I decided to race the clock, and the demons of the bridesmaid. With a sub-16 hour goal I thought I'd be motivated and knowing the guys behind were chasing hard kept me focused.

In the end I did savor those last five miles and felt exhilarated and complete as I emerged from the woods a winner. The truth is, I don't know if I can ever go "off the front" again but I now know what it feels like. I also know that I can finally put the bridesmaid to bed.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Today was a great day! I joined the VHTRC Crew for a Massanutten Training Run. No, I am not running MMT but having the chance to get out fpr 27 miles on the Course was too good to turn down. For sure, that last hour hurt and the fact that I missed a couple turns and extended the day a bit didn't help. But hey, 27 miles and 5600 feet of climbing in the books. Sore and tired tonight. In a good way...

It's good to be tired and good to feel like there's work to be done. To be honest, at this point in my build-up I have no idea what to expect come June. Maybe that's what happens when you get old, injured, or both but, whatever it is, it does bring focus into play which, I must admit, had been lacking before I got this wake-up call.

This never gets old!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Battling a cold but got out for a nice 14 from Wintergreen. Ran roads to get in a little tempo. Climbed 2500 feet. Going to try to lay low and get rid of this cold before it gets worse. Climbing legs are slowly coming back.

I am really enjoying training again. Certainly, I pay constant attention to my foot and I have quite a bit of fitness still to get back, but nonetheless, there is something refreshing about the daily grind. Getting up, lacing them up, getting out, repeat. I know I've said it before but it's worth saying again. I am thankful for the ability to run. So, I think I'll do it again tomorrow:)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blustery cold and windy this morning but once I got rolling I didn't really notice it. Got out to the end of Decca in 29 and negative split the return trip. It feels like the climbing legs are slowly coming back. It will likely take a few more weeks to feel totally normal (I am also still carrying about five extra pounds from the holidays, etc...) but it seems as though each week brings me a step closer to fitness. Also, I am kind of psyched that my spring schedule is taking shape and I'll get in to two of the classics, Cool and Bull Run. While I certainly won't race them it will be nice to pin a number on a couple times before the summer.

Not sure what I'll do tomorrow after I drop off Carson at ski team but likely something hilly. Then Sunday I'll get my introduction to the Masanutten Rocks as the VHTRC is putting on a 26 mile training run on the course.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Clear proof that rest and sleep really do make a difference. After a frustrating day yesterday which resulted in an unplanned zero I got out this morning after nine hours of sleep and had the best run I've had in a month. Off the doorstep things flowed smoothly and effortlessly. Obviously, as I move into bigger volume through the spring I need to remember this. The good times make the bad times not so bad.

And, I must say, yet again, the Hoka Bondi B's have changed my life! The support they provide is truly amazing and the ride, if you will, seems so natural and smooth that I sometimes forget I have them on. We'll see over the next few months how they perform on more technical terrain (as I have yet to really take them on Class 5 stuff) but for now they are absolute money!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Today was one of those days when the run just didn't happen. Slept in because of staying up too late working, had about four mini-crises at work, got stuck running an errand for an hour and then, when a small window for a run opened up, my phone rang and I got further delayed. Oh well, in the end, it's probably for the best.

And, I'm all set for Way Too Cool. Flying out Thursday night, giving a talk at Head-Royce School on Friday, running the race on Saturday and taking the redeye back home that night. Patagonia gang will be there, as well. So, I guess this means I'm getting back on the horse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It took me a bit longer than normal to get out the door this morning. No excuse, really, other than the frozen fog, icy roads and darkness. Once I got out there and fell into a rhythm all was well. Went down to the Mechums River Bridge and back. Looked for the guys from Deliverance down there but couldn't find them. Knew that spring was on the way when our conversation on the way to school gravitated toward cycling and the Tour de France.

Great memory here:

Monday, January 9, 2012

On our run yesterday we were chatting about days off and how great they are. Considering how most runners have, at one time or another, considered "streaking" it seems to me that some of us can become obsessed to a fault, I know I have from time to time. These days, taking a day off now and then seems a sensible thing to do. Certainly for me, in my "age and stage" of life, these days provide a wonderful opportunity to rest and recover as well as to prepare for the next phase in training. It also helps me psychologically and emotionally to declare them days off as early as possible.

Today is one of those days!

Here's a good article on the topic.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It could just be me but I have always thought that for a run to qualify as a "long run" it should be 20 miles. I know that's just an arbitrary number that doesn't take into account elevation, weather, trail conditions, etc...but it's always been a benchmark for me. And today, for the first time since Western States in June, I ran over 20 miles. 20.7 miles, to be exact, on the Appalachian Trail in Central Virginia. It was glorious.

Sure, I got dropped on all the climbs by the fit fast guys and I was crying for my mommy when the run mercifully came to an end 3:41 after it started but it was, nonetheless, a real long run and a true sign that I am coming back. For most others it would have been a walk in the park but for me it made me really happy to be alive. Which is, by the way, what running does for me most of the time.

I am in a pretty interesting place right now. On the one hand, I am certainly coming to grips with aging and realizing, at 44, that there is only so much I can do. On the other hand, I also know how important the mind is in all of this and as I slowly grind myself back in to shape it makes me feel good to know that my mind is not aging as quickly as my body. I guess that's the way it's meant to be.

Fun memory for a Sunday evening...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I never thought I'd be caked in salt and craving an S! Cap during a January run but, sure enough, this morning I was. Met up with Neal and Drew for an out and back on the Appalachian Trail on the Three Ridges section. This six mile, 3400 foot climb is legendary around these parts and the run is beautiful.

My partners were nice enough to stay with me in the early part of the climb but began to pull away after about 45 minutes. I wasn't totally popped off the back but pretty close. Obviously, more time is needed to get back into shape. The really good news about this run was the descent. I felt like my old self again on the descending switchbacks and was able to open it up a bit during the last 1000 feet or so. Given that, a couple months ago, I wondered if I would ever be able to run downhill again, this is a positive sign indeed!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Had an early morning finance committee meeting and I wasn't able to get out before school. So, I squeezed in a quick, easy 7 at lunch on Carter's Mountain. Probably fine since I have a pretty big weekend looming running with some of the VA fast guys and I am, after all, still trying to get back into racing shape.

Weather is weird warm. It almost feels like spring. Ran in shorts and t-shirt at 11am and almost needed to take the shirt off. While it's nice and all it does make me wonder about global warming, etc...And, knowing it is warm and dry in the West as well I am beginning to worry a bit about the summer fire season. Strange stuff!

A little Friday fun!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Interesting. Sluggish off the doorstep but flowed into a nice pace within 10 minutes. Not as cold as yesterday. Nice to do a Thursday 10 miler. Made it to the 1 Mile tree in 39 flat and then back under that. Unusual to negative split this. Contemplative run; 9th grade trip, Board Agenda, class visits, running schedule. Good. Foot felt solid. It always amazes me how running shines a light on things that nothing else really does.

Lining up a couple good long runs in the mountains this weekend with a few other guys including the Grand Slam Record Holder. It's kind of nice to be prepping for runs when I actually need to bring water and gels.

Monkeyboy shared this with me....

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Glorious run this morning. Quite cold so hands were numb for the first 20 minutes. Skies were crystal clear and nobody was around. The silence and stillness were perfect. Legs felt well-rested after day off and the miles just clicked by. Foot a bit achy but nothing to worry about. I've been trying to focus on form a bit and channeling my inner Uhan/Ryndman. Some days are better than others. Regardless, the mind keeps wandering to the Western States Trail and the fourth Saturday in June.

Wednesday's always a great day at school with Meeting for Worship, Speaker Series and general calm. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Woke up to the coldest morning of the year. Felt pretty good, actually. Really not missing Idaho (with the exception of the altitude) all that much! Good to be back in school, in the rhythm, seeing the kids, mixing it up.

Crazy busy day at school but all good. Think today will be an off day from running with all the moving parts clanging around this place. Back at it in the morning.

Enjoyed the peaceful interactions of the day combined with the newness of the spring semester beginning. Something about the promise of the new year seems to spill over into everything. Running is the best tonic...

and this...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Got out for a great mid-morning 10-miler on the last day of vacation. 82 miles in 7 days. Feel like I've turned a corner. Hokas are money.

Really enjoying the process of slowly rolling back into shape. It is both humbling and inspiring. Nice to have sore quads like I was a newbie.

Something so simple and yet so poignant as running cannot be easily understood. Yes, there are those out there who call us crazy and there are those who admire us. But, at the end of the day, who do we really run for? I guess that's why I'll lace 'em up again tomorrow and see what happens.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Got out with the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners (CATs) today. Ran from Sugar Hollow up to Blackrock and back. Felt good to be out there. 14 miles and about 3000 feet of climbing. Off to a good start.

It was quite fun to get out there with a group, on a trail I barely knew, and just run. We met up with a group of like-minded folks at the top of a trail on a big pile of rocks and all felt good with the world. I love it when that happens.

Maybe next weekend we'll do it again...

New Year's Day inspiration.
After four and a half years I decided to suspend my blog, AJW's Blog, last night. Today, I am starting a new one, Keep it Simple. On this blog I will reflect about life, living, running, and my newfound desire to simplify my life. Last year I lived through an extremely complex series of events and while I do believe I am the better for it I also feel it has intensified my desire for a more simple existence. Hence, this blog is born.

Now, I am off to run in the Blue Ridge Mountains!