Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc and The Week in Review

What a treat tonight, to be able to run in 30 degrees above zero and without wind. I even thought about wearing shorts earlier when the sun was out but by the time I got out the door, the clouds had rolled in and it was getting close to sunset. Still, light layers and a thin pair of mitts made for a very enjoyable run tonight compared to many runs in sub zero temperatures lately.
Mont Blanc
My plans for 2011 are finally falling into place. After not making the lottery into Western States and a chance for the Grand Slam, I was pleasantly informed last week of my acceptance into the Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc, one of my dream races. This is 100 miles around Mont Blanc which includes running through the countries of Switzerland, France and Italy. Having never been to Europe before, this is certainly a dream race come true. The race includes 2300 entrants from all around the world which were drawn from a lottery from well over 3000 entries. I know very little about the race but do know I need a doctor’s certificate to complete the application. When I went in to get my doctor to sign off on my good health, the woman at the front desk returned from chatting with my doctor and stated “no way is he signing off on you, you haven’t seen him for 2 ½ year”. The “but I’ve been healthy and haven’t needed to see him”, didn’t work or my colonoscopy 1 ½ years ago. So I guess I have to go in next month for a full physical. It will be worth it. I’m really psyched to be running with or at least starting with some of the best runners in the US such as for the men; Geoff Roes, Karl Meltzer, Anton Krupicka, Hal Koerner, Dakota Jones, Scott Jurek to name few and for the women, Kristin Moehl, Darcy Africa and my local training acquaintance, Aliza Lapierre. So no matter how it goes, it will be an unbelievable experience. My hope is also to stay after the race to visit some of my old family paisano heritage in parts of Italy. Who knows, maybe I’ll like it so much that I’ll stay there :)
Other plans for the year should fall into place in the next week or so as more lottery results will be posted. Then I can finally come up with a training schedule for myself. In the meantime, I’ve been on a “maintenance program” which includes about 80 miles a week, core workouts daily Monday through Friday at my pre-dawn job of loading trucks for 4+ hours and alpine skiing and skinning at least 2 times each week. Last week I met up with a good friend from Southern VT, John Talkington and skinned up the backside of Killington to an area where you frequently hear about tourists getting lost off the mountain.

John skiing through the woods.

From a very remote area, it was about a 2 hour skin up a moderate grade and then skiing down through fairly open trees. When I drove down to meet John, all I could see was ice stuck to my windshield and side view mirrors and was wondering why I was making to trip but once we started to rise in elevation, the ice layer disappeared. No it wasn’t Champaign powder but still was a lot of fun.

From the Chin on Mt. Mansfield

And the week before, I skinned up along the exposed ridgeline of Mount Mansfield in zero temps with winds blowing 30 or so. Not the most pleasant experience but as usual I kept going. I visited the Chin which is the highest point in the State of VT and has a lot of sentimental value to me. I couldn’t see much as my eyelashes were almost frozen shut but felt the good vibes off the Chin as usual. Then I was pleasantly surprised by some of the good untracked woods skiing coming off the face of the mountain. Always an adventure!

And another activity this winter, high speed sledding.  Living with Mt. Philo in my backyard, a sledding mecca, I've had a chance to frequent the hill for some great sledding on my Hammerhead Sled!  I've never been on such on nice rig.  And until you experience this finely tuned machine, you just can't imagine how nice it can be.  Thanks Steve :)

Jack with his Hammerhead Sled after night sledding.

And when you are at mile 90 of a 100 mile race remember; “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011



This is not the usual race report so beware.

A Blustery and Snowy Day in VT

As I sit here looking out the window all I can see are the snowflakes being carried sideways by the howling winds and snowdrifts getting bigger as each minute passes. The temperature is 15 degrees but with the wind chill it’s more like 0. It makes it hard to get motivated to go out and run but it has to be done. I know that once I’m out the door it will be another epic adventure. But In trying to find the motivation to get out the door, I look ahead to some of this year’s races that I’m trying to get into figuring that would make my training run today have a purpose. A purpose, yes I heard that word just recently and it had to do with karma, or so I was told.

I was with an acquaintance over the weekend having a fabulous time in Stowe skiing in the morning and running all afternoon in the fresh snow on the back roads, seeing wild turkeys in the fields and a coyote running through the deep snow.  While finishing the day with dinner at Gracies I noticed she had on a shirt from a local health spa that said What goes around comes around.  I asked what that meant and she replied it was about karma and that to her it meant something had served a purpose and it was time to move on. I didn’t question it but somehow that didn’t seem right, especially coming from a health spa. That sounded more like quitting and failure.  Failure is another thing I have a hard time with which is probably why I can keep going in many of these endurance races.  But as long as you try, it is not failure. The only real failure in life is the failure to try. Even dropping in a race is acceptable and noble as long as you gave it your best effort. So how could all this be good karma?

The Happy Budha
(If you rub his belly it's supposed to bring you good luck, good karma.  Yes I have one of these and rub his belly every day)

So I did a little research and found a much different answer. The word karma literally means deed, but implies the entire cycle of cause and its effects. The decisions you make and the way you treat people will someday come back to stare you in the face. If you are good and kind to people they will treat you kind. If you are cruel to people and make bad decisions then life will not be so kind to you. Now that makes sense. Now how does that relate to running? In running the longer distances, it becomes more and more of a mental challenge the farther and longer we go. So having good karma can helps you get through the low points of the race. Think of how we rely on a lot of different folks during our races throughout the season, many of them volunteers being there out of the goodness of their hearts only to hear us complain at times. How many times have you come into an aid station and they just didn’t have the snack you were looking for or not the right drink? Or you were dehydrated and a bit cranky and may not have been the nicest person on the planet. Did you still thank the volunteers for their help and for standing out there for hours and hours? Well if you didn’t, you should have. For now on make an extra effort to say “Thank You”. Some day you may really need one of those volunteers in a life threatening situation and having good karma will only help in the end as the total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person's existence, may determining the person's destiny.

So as you prepare for your races this year and are asking people to crew and pace for you in your quest to succeed, make sure you treat them kindly not only at the race but all the time. Better yet, always show your appreciation to those folks who care most about you and who will be there for you. And be good and kind to all the volunteers and make sure you let them know and thank them often. Another thing you might consider is to give back to the racing community. Talk to the race directors and find out how you can volunteer at a race to see how it is on the other end. Crew and pace for someone, it’s a great experience and a lot of fun. In many cases it’s harder than running the race itself.  Do some trail work. It’s a requirement for many of the 100 mile races but do it anyway, even when it’s not required. And remember, every human action--in thought, word, or deed-- inevitably leads to results or consequences, positive or negative, depending upon the quality of the action. Scary thought!

And what is success: To fail is a natural consequence of trying. To succeed takes time and prolonged effort in the face of unfriendly odds. To think it will be any other way, no matter what you do, is to invite yourself to be hurt and to limit your enthusiasm for trying.

Enough karma for the day, time to go run!


Wearing xc ski gaiters in deep snow helps keep your feet warmer and drier. Many of today’s trail running shoes are made of mesh which doesn’t help. Or wear a Gore-Tex running shoe.

Using studded sneakers can help on hard pack surfaces but you might try something like the Kahtoola Micro Spikes for better traction in deeper snow or even running snow shoes.

Technical clothing is essential in wicking away moisture and keeping you as dry as possible. Wear layers in case you need to regulate the core temperature.

A balaclava under your hat that you can pull up helps protect the face from frostbite and yes of course, wear a winter hat.

Wind proof outer layers are a necessity (and wind briefs for the guys to keep the family jewels from freezing).

I prefer winter mitts on the really cold days but this in an individual thing.  My hands tend to freeze easily.

On longer runs, you may consider having some clothing to change into along the way. Have your car or home be a stop in the middle of the run where you can do a quick change and keep going. Being warm and dry is critical beyond a couple of hours or the sweat may turn to ice. Having something for hydration at that time would be good too as often it will freeze if you are carrying it while you are running.

If running at night wear a reflective clothing/vest, a headlamp and a rear blinker. It’s real hard to see a runner in a snowstorm. The snow plow trucks will appreciate it and so will you when they don’t run you over with the wing plow.

Goggles or sunglasses with light colored lenses, not a bad idea if you want to see where you are going.

Try to plan your route around the wind or down low when going into the wind. Running cross wind is certainly better than having the snow blast you head on.

And remember:

"If you are good and kind to people they will treat you kind"

The only real failure in life is the failure to try"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


2010 RECAP

Jack with Corky at Leadville

Last year was up and down for me both in races and personally.   I had a lot of personal changes and challenges along with job demands that made it a very difficult year.  It definitely made a difference on race day as I can't really remember a race that I felt fully rested and 100%.  Still, I persevered and pulled off some good race results throughout the year.  The Burning River 100 was my fastest 100 miler yet even though I was not feeling great.  I still had fun visiting a whole new area and visiting Niagara Falls on the way out.  Leadville was a disappointment in my performance but in the overall perspective, it was an awesome experience just being out there and it brought to light some other aspects of my life.  And being my first time in Colorado, it opened my eyes to a whole new country, a place that I could call home some day?  Who knows??  I did not return to defend my title at the VT 100 but chose to crew and pace for another runner which I completely enjoyed, helping her to finish in her fastest time yet for a 100 miler and beyond her own expectations.   The JFK 50 miler was a surprise to me in that I had some time to check out the area and really appreciated the whole history of the race and the area.  It made the race more than just a race, but rather a historic trip that I will remember for some time.  It was also my fastest time for a 50 miler.  I had my first DNF ever at the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon in May.  I was so distraught that immediately afterwards I went for a 2 hour mountain bike ride followed up with a run to get in 20 miles for the day but had to run backwards for the few miles as I was in too much pain to run like most normal runners.  I won the Rollin Irish Half Marathon in April which was fun.  I ran in three or four 50 milers, did three 100 milers which included one of my own creations, ran many other trail races and logged more miles than ever before, just over 4500 miles of the year.  I had a uneventful Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains of NH.  Just cold and damp but no hypothermia or major bonking this year, so that was good.

I am very grateful to the wonderful network of friends I have and to the running community here in Vermont and all over the country.  I always say, it's not about the race but more about the journey and that surely was the case in 2010.

December 11, 2010.

With the holidays and a crazy work schedule I almost forgot about this but Tony has been bugging me so here goes.

Our 50's team with the Green Mountain Athletic Association is the defending champs for this event so we had to travel down to Charlotte, NC.  After coming from nowhere last year in Kentucky and winning this event, we had some teams really after us this year.  We have a great crew of runners who have no egos but are truly great runners.  So we came to Charlotte with a great attitude and would see how we could do.  For the team we had Norm Larson, Tommy Ryan, Tony Bates, Kevin McMahon, Jim Miller and myself.  Jim Miller was still working on an injury so we weren't quite sure how that would pan out but at least we had 6 team members, with only 5 needed for scoring.  Immediately after work Friday morning, I boarded a plane at 11:00 am from Burlington to Charlotte.   It was great to board on the plane, knowing that I had a weekend to not have to work.  I look at these races as a time to rest.  The race was only a 10k so it would be over soon and I would have time to relax and enjoy life a bit.  Coming from a hectic week of working mornings and night for the busy Christmas season I was only able to sleep at a two hour clip but twice a day, still four hours a day doesn't quite cut it.  Anyway, I would have a good night sleep in Charlotte to try to catch up.  When I arrived in Charlotte, it was a warm welcoming, that being the temps.  As soon as I got settled in my room with Tony and Jim, I got on my running gear, headlamp on and out to view the city of Charlotte for a night run.  The great thing about traveling and running, you can see so much just by running about in the cities.  I ran by the famous Nascar Museum and then toured around.  Charlotte was incredibly clean and friendly.  The Christmas decorations were up so running at night was special to see it all lit up.  Finally back to the room, dinner and to bed.  The race the next morning wasn't until 11:00 am so a good nights sleep was in order.  At the crack of dawn or by 7:45 or so we could hear a lot of noise below.  It was the Nascar Marathon with thousands of runners just below our window running along.  It was fun to see.  Afterwards, we went out for the usual shake out run to loosen up the body and to get ready for breakfast.  Breakfast, this was a challenge as most of the city was closed up on the weekend.  The one bagel shop had a huge line so we ended up back at the hotel.  A quick lesson was learned, don't order hotel food.  Cup of tea, $5., A lousy bagel, $5.  So be it.  Then on to the race.  The race course was a 10k loopy thing which ran along kind of a tow path with one hill but you ran that hill 3 times on various loops.  This race was for all the masters runners so the adrenaline was running high and off we went in a mass start of 400 or so racers.  From a wide start to a narrow trail, it was tight.  Even after the first mile and a half, I can remember bumping with other runners.  And the start was fast, even in a crowd but manageable, or so I thought.  After the first mile at 5:40 or so, I was quickly losing steam.  The lack of sleep was catching up.  The legs felt fine but the energy level went from 10 to about 2. I could see the other 50's runners passing by one by one.  And that's how it went for me, basically a survival run.  Luckily I have awesome teammates who ran strong.  Norm lead the way for us with an incredible time as usual  followed by Tony Bates and Tommy Ryan.  Just behind was Kevin McMahon, a 56 year old who trains while running with the baby jogger for his new born child.  Way to go Kevin!  Jim Miller ended up pulling out so I was the 5th scoring member of our team.  One of the worst 10Ks that I've run, I felt like I let the team down but I just had no energy.  Still, when the day was done, we made the podium coming in 3rd overall.  Not bad for a bunch of old guys from Vermont!

After the race, I ran back to the hotel to get in my miles for the day.  It was about 9 miles back to the hotel.  I hadn't felt good all morning but after a mile or so of running back to the hotel I stopped at a convenience store to get a quick snack and drink.  Snickers and a Coke, the snack of champions.  Well, before I left the store, things erupted internally and that set the tone for the rest of the day and night.  I quickly learned that the Marathon gas stations are frequent and have excellent bathroom facilities.  It was a long run back but I was in no hurry so I tried to enjoy the journey.  As I got closer to the city, I noticed the sidewalk system that I was following was coming to an end.  What to do?  I hesitated for a second but knew I had to make a decision.  To go forward or head off in another direction to who knows where.  So I kept going but no more sidewalk.  So for the next few miles, I was running on the Freeway towards Charlotte.  Traffic was buzzing by but I kept going on the shoulder hoping that eventually I would find another roadway to follow.  I was just waiting for the police to pull me over but no, I finally made it to some exit ramp that I sort of recognized.  By then the stomach was erupting again and by the power of God or who knows what, there was a port-o-let just ahead.  Left over from the Nascar Marathon and no line so I quickly took advantage of the marathon perks.  As I headed towards the city I came across someone who was still running the marathon, 7 hours after the start.  I wished her luck and continued on, finally arriving at the hotel.  For the night, it was awards, dinner snacks and an upset stomach again so back to the room for an early evening.
Sunday was a travel day back to VT.  Tony and I caught the bus to get to the airport for our 11:00 am flight.  We got there plenty early, 8:45 or so.  After waiting a while, we learned that our flight was delayed due to weather and so the wait started.  I think it was every 30 minutes that an update was announced saying that the fog in Washington was too heavy therefore we couldn't fly in.  I was getting quite antsy and after many hours of waiting decided to put on my running gear.  I still needed to get my run in for the day, so why waste time sitting in the airport.  I got on the shorts and shoes and started to run to opposite ends of the terminal.  Thanks to Kasie for the suggestion.  I felt like OJ running around the terminal, jumping around airport travelers.  When I got to the far end of the airport, I heard an announcement that they were finally boarding and quickly ran back.   I think it was 7 hours at the Charlotte airport, way too much time but at least there was good company to hang with.  The next leg to Washington was short but there would be another 5 hour wait until we could fly back to Burlington.  I left the shorts on for the flight under my jeans and as soon as we got settled in Washington, I grabbed my license, boarding pass and left the airport to go explore.  I chatted with a woman at some help desk to see if there were any nearby trails and she was kind of surprised by the question as she never had someone ask that before.  So off I went exploring, as I do quite often.  I tried to run completely around the airport but was interrupted by a large body of water.  When I turned around and headed back I ran into what looked like an official escort of some kind, maybe political as secret service vehicles where there.  I ran through the flashing lights and continued on, wondering if I would get pulled over.  Just after that I noticed a path which looked like a golf course path and followed it.  Wow, this was some National Park system of trails.  So I jumped on and off I went.  I headed towards the lights and soon could see the White House all lit up and the Washington Monument in the distance.  So I headed towards the city.  I found a map of the trails and this network headed into Washington and also to the start of the tow path which I ran on at the JFK 50 the month before.  It was farther than it looked but I soon reached some big bridge that crossed the Potomac River and kept on going.  At the far end I found the Jefferson Memorial and did some site seeing.  Just across the river was the Washington Monument but I had no idea how far it really was so I decided to head back just in case an earlier flight popped up.  On the way back I passed under some bridge that was pitch black on the way out.  On the way back I could see a little better with the lighting and almost ran over what looked like a body of a homeless person sleeping under the bridge.  Finally I make it back and found the other travelers.  Now hungry after an hour and a half run, I sat at the bar for a burger and tequila with Tony.  A great way to end the journey before the last leg back to Burlington.
Jefferson Memorial

As I always say, it's not about the race but the journey.  This weekend, even with the poor race results for myself and stomach issues, it proved to be a fun weekend of exploration and adventure and good company.


With 2010 out of the way, it's time to look forward to the new year, 2011.  This new year looks promising in bringing new adventures and a whole new perspective on life.  Where it goes, who knows but the outlook is very positive for this year.  Sleep, yes, need more of it.  Nutrition, need to focus more on that.  Races, still in the works as many have lotteries.  I didn't make it into Western States.  If I did, I was planning on doing the Grand Slam so I guess not for this year.  So for now, I am entered into the Hardrock 100 but there is a lottery for that one in February.  Another one is the Ultra Trail De-Mont Blanc.  I am totally psyched for this one as I have never been to Europe before and am really looking forward to this new adventure.  I will find out in a couple of weeks if I am in or if there will be a lottery.  Beyond that, I will take it one race at a time and see what life brings. 

Mont Blanc

Quote for the year, "No matter how life is today, I won't let another moment slip away", "Everything is possible, nothing is impossible".

Have a great 2011!