Dec 30, 2009

2009 in review, part 2

Please click here for part 1 if you missed it (January - June)


Damn Wakely Dam 32.6M (Times and reports for all these races are on the right sidebar on


Self-Transcendence Marathon


Grand Teton 50-Miler


Team Slug Russell B Cheney 50K


NYC Marathon

I did nothing! (what a slacker)
Here's a random joey picture for December.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 28, 2009

2009 in review, part 1


Recover from the Holidays 50K (Times and reports for all these races are on the right sidebar on


Rocky Raccoon 100 60-miler


Caumsett State Park 50K


Big Sur International Marathon


Long Island Greenbelt 50K 25K


Booty Rumble 50K

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 25, 2009

merry christmas

in order to avoid getting coal (and i was buying futures), joey bribed santa with cookies. gigantic chocolate chip/pecan cookies.

joey got real presents, and take it from me, santa feels fatter than ever this morning..

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 23, 2009

Joey's White Belt

Joey started Taekwondo this month and, not three weeks into it, tested for and received his white belt.

Joey had to do the Koom Sai On form in front of a group of about 50 spectators (parents, mostly) as well as all the instructors, including two masters (I think.)

Here he is receiving his white belt from Master Al Quiceno.

Here he is with Master Al after the tests were over.

In order to become a black belt, Joey must run 3 miles in 40 minutes (at whatever age he is), play chess against Master Al, and jump a rope 1000 consecutive times - among other things. I'm rather proud to say that his endurance is very well developed. In September, at 5 years old, he climbed more than 1000 vertical feet halfway up Fred's Mountain - from 8000' to 9000' with only 12 hours of acclimatization at elevation. He can also run 400 meters in just over two minutes, and can easily run a half-mile at an easy pace. His test for black belt is still years away, so I think he'll be ok, at least with the endurance stuff.

Joey at 9000'

As an aside, as part of the tests, the school did some demonstrations, including board-breaking. I was taking pictures, and got this shot that I wanted to share:

That is one of the best shots I've ever taken. I took 10,000 pictures to get one like that. I'll gladly take another 10,000 to get another one. Of course, I won't have to take 10,000 to get another great one if I had this kind of equipment:

Anyone got $5000 they can lend give me?

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 21, 2009

From the mailbag - Training for your first ultra

A reader asks,
So how does one train for an ultra?
I get asked this every now and then and figured I'd make a blog post about it.

This writer goes on to say that he has run 6 marathons and is doing to goofy challenge (half marathon and marathon in two days) next month. He's thinking about running the Long Island Greenbelt 50K.

Let me start off by pointing out the fact that I'm probably not the right person to ask, "how do you train", because, frankly, I'm just not that good at it. The reason for my mediocrity (besides my weight) is the fact that my training is way too casual for most people, when I'll show up at a gym, trail, or a track and decide right then and there what I'm doing. The most planning I'll do goes something like this: "hmm, I haven't done a long run in a couple of weeks, better think about getting one tomorrow."

I like to encourage people to run ultras. "just zone out and enjoy running 50 miles through Wyoming mountains, you'll have fun I promise." For some reason, that has fallen on deaf ears.

Anyway, in this person's case, 6 marathons gives all the experience he needs to run, finish, and enjoy a 50K. Frankly, the goofy challenge is going to be more difficult than a road 50K, which is not even 5 miles longer than a marathon. The only rub in this case is that he's choosing the Long Island Greenbelt 50K, which has a few miles of hilly single-track. I would definitely work on getting some trail running in, and hit those hills hard.

Having said that, let me provide some direction for real training advice, from people who are actually smart:

Kevin Sayer's UltRunR site:
I spent many hours reading through all the links. Real gold there, let me tell ya.

Kickrunner's official 50K training program:
My friend Meredith is a lot smarter than me and she has come up with this 50K training program. You can also ask questions in the KickRunners Forums.

You should also consider subscribing to the Ultrarunning Listserv and Yahoo group. The signal-to-noise ratio in these email lists can be rather high, but the signals are very valuable when you get them.
Yahoo Group:

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 18, 2009

Listserv Gold Part III - The cost of badwater

Badwater, the 135-mile asphalt road race through Death Valley in the middle of summer (where it gets to 125°F), has a $900 entry fee, and the total cost of running it can approach $10,000. This topic came up on the ultra list, and somebody asked,
Am I the only one who finds the average cost insane?
"bbob" responds,
oh yeah... the cost of these races is just totally nuts. deranged. unhinged. demented. harebrained. crazy. etc.

everything else about them is completely rational, of course.

really, doctor, it's true.


New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 16, 2009

knee update: i ran on it for the first time

So, for the first time since I "tweaked" my knee, I went to the treadmill and ran on it on Tuesday night. There was a ten-day interval without me running a step.

It felt ok, for the most part. A little shaky at the very beginning, and I could tell something was funny in that knee, but it didn't seem to affect my running. It didn't get worse if I ran hard or slow, so I ran hard.

I intended to go out at 12 minutes per mile and take it super-easy for two miles. But when I got to the gym, the prospect of chugging along so slowly on a treadmill by myself did not seem appealing, so I figured I'd go for 10 MPM. I am glad I did, because everything went fine. In fact, I decided to push the pace aggressively in the last five minutes, chugging out that 19th minute at about 7 minutes per mile. The fact that normal people run entire marathons at that pace amazes me.

Anyway, I ran 20 minutes and started stretching that left leg. Stretching is not part of my normal routine, and i think that might be a mistake. A lot of runners don't stretch at all and do fine with it, and I was one of them. However, even if stretching makes no difference in regards of injury prevention, I like the idea of flexibility - so I'll do it. when i have time..

I was considering not starting the team slug fattest butt 50K in janaury because of this. Because of today's run, I'm not considering that anymore. I'll probably go and at least start it. I may not run ten laps, but I will show up and start and run at least few laps and see how it goes. It'll be a good time.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 14, 2009

Chimera 100M

This past weekend was the first annual Chimera 100-mile endurance run. With 48000' of elevation change (24K up and down), this race has an impressive elevation profile, and if there's a second (and third, etc.) annual event, this race will almost certainly build a reputation as being one of the more difficult 100-milers in the country. And, it doesn't hurt when it attracts a mega name, in ultrarunning circles, Karl Meltzer.

This course is near and dear to my heart because it is located only a 20-minute drive from where I grew up in San Juan Capistrano, CA. We lived in the shadow of Santiago Peak, locally known as Saddleback Mountain. This race climbs over the Santiago Peak.

Check out this thing I dug up from over ten years ago (!!). Santiago was the first non-trivial mountain I ever climbed.

Anyway, I was talking to my parents on the phone on Friday, and I brought up this race because it's still close to where they live. They suggested that it might be canceled due to weather. Yes, rain is unusual in Southern California, but come on - it takes more than a little (or even a lot) of rain to cancel a 100-mile ultra. There are only a few days per year when this peak gets snow (there are only a few peaks in Southern California high enough to get snow, and this is probably the lowest of them), and when I found out that there was snow up there this weekend, I got really excited.. and told my parents about how that wouldn't cancel it either. After all, I've seen (and been) races with truly nasty conditions that weren't canceled. And check out the weather/snow in some of the scenes from my favorite ultrarunning video:

(if you can't see the video above this line, please click here to view it.)

However, in an incredible event of bad luck, Chimera was indeed canceled but not due to rain or mud. Apparently, two aid stations set up along the ridge were torn apart by 50-mph wind. Given the climate of the area, it can't be more than a one or two-day per year event that would give sufficient reason to cancel this race. However, when Meltzer (who is in the above video in some of the nastier conditions) agrees with the decision to cancel, you know it must have been nasty as hell up there.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 11, 2009

The Dean K 50K!

So, check this action out:

* There's a rock and roll marathon in arizona. The r&r marathons are pretty famous, they usually have people at marathon expos around the country, registering people into the various r&r races they run (there's over a dozen of 'em.) I personally have never run one, but all accounts indicate that they're a lot of fun.

* The arizona marathon, which is sponsored by PF Changs, last year had Josh Cox, a top US marathon runner, attempt (and succeed) in breaking the 50K USA record by running the marathon and tagging 5 miles on the end of it.

* This year, the arizona marathon is making the 50K an official race (calling it "The Ultimate Endurance Challenge"), putting Dean Karnazes' name on it, and opening the registration to all (who qualify, see below.)

* Here's where it goes from weird to downright bizarre. Unlike last year, they're adding the extra 5 miles to the beginning of the race, not the end. I'll just quote folks from the ultra list (you just know there's a conversation about this on the ultra list):

Tara Tulley points out the requirements
  • You must be in good health and physically prepared to take on the challenge of the 50k distance.
  • You must be able to complete the first 4.8 miles of the 50k in 48 minutes or less (10-minute per mile pace).
  • You must be able to complete the Marathon portion of the 50k within 7 hours and 15 minutes of the Official Marathon Start.
Huh? That's strange.. but wait, there's more!

Rick comes in and figures out that

- Ultra/50k participants will run the first 4.8 miles on an out-and-back
course along Washington Street prior to the official marathon start, and
then complete the remaining 26.2 miles along the marathon course.
- After the first 4.8 miles of the Ultra/50k are completed, ultra
participants will join marathon participants in the start line corrals,
specifically in corral #1 (behind the elite field and the preferred corral

Which also means that you are going to go for a 4.8 mile run then you go
stand in a corral and wait for the elites to go off and the other hoopla
before the regular marathon start, THEN you get to keep running and finish
your 50K.
Like I said, bizarre. Really bizarre.

Common sense, by Ray K
Now if we could just get DK to come to the National Championship 50K in March, and bring his press machine the sport and its accomplishments can be recognized by mainstream media.
That's right. The Caumsett 50K, held on Long Island every March, is the recognized by USA Track and Field as the 50K National Championship. I was there running it last year. Great race. Michael Wardian came and impressed all of us as he pwn3d the field, to the delight of zero spectators. Literally, zero. Just volunteers and friends/family of competitors.

The North Face gets its share of criticism for the way it runs its endurance challenges, trying to monetize the popularity boom of ultrarunning. But at least TNF tries to do it right. This PF Changs Dean Karnazes thing R&R thing is just embarrassing.

PS - The site is helpfully defines "ultra" for us. "“ULTRA” means “beyond” in Latin. The 50k distance is 4.8 miles beyond the 26.2 mile marathon."

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 9, 2009

MMT 100 and Day at the Fair

I had some downtime at work on Monday afternoon, and, on an impulse, I decided to enter the lottery for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 mile endurance run. This technical Virginia race is considered one of the most difficult 100-mile runs in the Eastern United States, and in fact is the only eastern race recognized as a qualifier for Hardrock.

The lottery process is unique, and as someone who normally isn't a fan of lotteries, I've gotta say I like this one. When you register, you are randomly assigned a number between 0 and 999. They publish everyone's name and number on their web site. Then you wait until 4PM EST the day after registration closes - they take a look at the closing price of the DOW Jones Industrial Average and line everyone up behind whatever that number is.

This year, I was assigned the number 039, and the DOW closed at 10285.97. It was a down day, so the first 180 entrants BELOW 597 got in. I was number 244 in this lineup, missing it by 64 spots. I would be likely to get in anyway, via the waiting list.

However, since the lottery gods decided to not rule in my favor (they never do), I might decide to go back to my original plan and run a much more local timed event in North Jersey that weekend. Rick over at the New Jersey Trail Series is hosting 6,12,24, and 48-hour runs in Sussex county. This event, called 3 Days at the Fair, is really intriguing to me as it's close to home and has that 48-hour option. A 48-hour race two months after Umstead definitely would be interesting - but I'm not 100% that it's a good idea.. However, I am definitely doing at least the 24-hour race that weekend, and perhaps the 48. Or maybe Massanutten.. I have time before I decide.

Knee update: (See original post) Better. Still tight. Not running yet. Stretching it a lot. Hopefully will do some short runs later this week to assess its condition.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 7, 2009


Friday evening, I was laying on the couch watching TV. Two hours earlier, I completed an 80-minute hard treadmill run. I was laying on my side such that in order to get up, my knees would come off the couch and rotate down to the floor. As I did so, my knee cracked. It was exactly the same kind of crack that you get when you crack your knuckles - and I a lot of my joints, including my knees, a lot. However, this crack was unusually dramatic. My wife, sitting next to me, heard it loud and clear, and there was about 10 seconds of intense pain.

For the next 24 hours, particularly when I was doing any sort of rotation motion, my knee always felt like it was going to pop again. To guard against this, my brain automatically tried to prevent it from happening. Also, there was a constant dull pain that would intensify whenever I got up from a seated position. I figured it best not to try to run on Saturday, and the situation didn't really improve on Sunday.

By Sunday night, I started noticing a distinct tightness in the back of this leg, particularly in the upper part of my calf, but also in my hamstring. Not sure if it's caused by the pop or by the compensation I've been doing. Either way, I like tightness because I always feel like I can stretch my way back to health - which is exactly what I did this morning for about ten minutes, and things did indeed feel better. Also on Sunday, I had to push a 4500-lb minivan about the distance of a football field (I don't want to talk about why.) Even though I slipped on the ice of few times, my knee didn't complain at all. I take that as good news.

Still, it seems prudent to take a few days or perhaps a week off from running. This bugs me because I've been doing so well. I have been doing lots of training runs in the 4-6 mile range at around 9-10 minutes per mile (which is fast for me.) My improvement in terms of speed has been dramatic and I was eager to spend a winter really hammering this kind of training and hopefully take an hour or two off my marathon time. If this turns out to be something that sidelines me for more than a couple of weeks, I'll have to start from scratch and that will sap my motivation.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 4, 2009

PSA - Quick internet security tip

Hi everyone!

There's a guy. His name is mike and he lives in ohio. Mike knows a woman named Brittany. Brittany lives in Atlanta, and Mike wants to book one-way travel to Ohio for her. Priceline is as good a site as any to do this, so he logs on, and sets her up. Everything is hunky-dory, until Mike decides to do something rather stupid - presumably because he wants to avoid SPAM, he makes up an email address when creating his account. MY email address.

I immediately responded to the confirmation email when I got it, notifying priceline of the problem. They sent an automated message back saying that mailbox is not monitored. Fine. I took a few minutes, went to their online form and notified them again - and... I was ignored. After a few days, I figured priceline was going to continue to ignore me, so I decided to see what exactly the risk to them was, not to mention Mike from Ohio, and possibly even Brittany from Atlanta.

I found it very easy to reset Mike's password and log into his account. All I needed was his name and access to his email account, which was actually my email account, and his name was included in the trip confirmation.

Here's his account!!

Here's Brittany's flight information!!

Best of all, here's his saved credit card!!

There was nothing (credit card spending limits?) preventing me from booking him and Brittany a $10,000 flight to Siberia on his own credit card. Luckily for Mike, I'm no criminal so I won't do that, but especially since priceline ignored my message to them, I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to publish this example as a common-sense lesson to all - If you consider a company worthy of using your credit card information, they're probably also worthy of being trusted with your email address too.

.. Yes, I know people are concerned about SPAM and keeping their email addresses to themselves, but .. trust me, Priceline isn't the cause of email spam. You'll be ok.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at

Dec 2, 2009

A computer in the kitchen?

Sorry about missing monday's post.

My friend Courtney has a "million dollar idea."

Basically, I think it would be a great idea for someone to make a LARGE LCD screen which could mount on the wall in your kitchen, connect to the internet and display recipes which you can follow along while you cook. That way, you could pull up any recipe online (where there are zillions) and never have to deal with printing it out or the printed recipe getting covered in water, flour, oil, what have you as you toggle back between checking it and your cooking.
I had already done something like this a couple of years ago, and told her that I'd post pictures of it here. Hi Ceej!

Two years ago, I had an extra 17" LCD monitor, long-since replaced by 22" monitors. It was collecting dust under my desk. I didn't want to throw it away, so I picked up a $30 mounting bracket at MicroCenter and implemented the idea courtney would have two years later.

The bracket bends horizontally in three places so I had plenty of freedom to position it however I needed it, and it folded away neatly when not in use.

I had an extra laptop connected to it, and, as courtney suggested, typically used it to display recipes while cooking something. It worked ok. I also used it to play music in the kitchen using itunes or pandora.

The biggest problem with this setup was - where do I put the keyboard? It had been sitting on the counter most of the time, but I never liked it there. I sometimes thought about getting a mounting bracket and keyboard tray to put underneath the monitor, but never did it. After about a year, the novelty wore off and I "repurposed" that old computer - but the monitor stays where it is, usually folded back behind that wall, out of sight, disconnected.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at