Thursday, May 31, 2007

WS100 Training Camp

Preliminary report: I survived all three days of training, and feel pretty darn good. My runner (Patrick Perry), is very fit and confident, and he's on track for a sub-24 buckle.

Western States 100 training camp was awesome! It's hard to simulate (here in the Midwest) running down a steep mountain trail for 45 minutes at a sub-7-minute pace; and it's really hard to simulate a climb that lasts for over an hour. We had more than a few of them. The first day was the toughest...I ran out of water twice.

Running for 3 days in a row over the Sierra Nevada Mountains was great training. I'd recommend this training to anyone that wants some really tough training towards a mountain event.

I'll post some photos and have a better report, once I've caught-up a little with my "regular life" here in Humid-Flatland.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Corporate (Paved) 5K and Berryman Trail Marathon

It's been a busy couple of weeks.

One week ago, I ran in the Corporate Challenge 5K, which is the only paved race that I compete in on a regular (once per year) basis. I was running against 1,000 other male runners on race day. We were all competing for our various companies, trying to get points. (At least in an all-male race, I couldn't get "chicked" in this race).

I ended up 4th place in my division, which earned our team 5 extra points, in addition to my one "participation" point. It's kind of cool; now that I'm 50 years old, I can clean-up with the points, (even though I'm not fast: I ran a 23:22). Woo hoo! I did my part for the team!

The Trail Marathon:

This past weekend, I drove down to the Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri. For once, they were a part of my annual pilgrimage to the Berryman Trail Runs. The event headquarters is in a campground between Steelville and Potosi, Missouri. The course is run on hilly single and double track trails, and is in quite the gorgeous setting.

We pitched our tent in the primitive campground near the start/finish line. The smell of the tall pine trees there always reminds me of camping in the Pacific Northwest. The weather was nice, if not a little hot for the 50-milers in the afternoon. Forty-seven degrees overnight, and mid-eighties by the afternoon.

I had signed-up for just the marathon this year, and I had a good excuse to opt-out of the longer distance. I'm going out to WS100 training camp next weekend, so I didn't want to rip myself up too badly doing a 50-miler. Especially when I know that it will be a tough 70+ mile weekend in the mountains and elements.

Saturday morning, the day of the race, I woke up at 5 a.m. feeling okay. I'd already prepared my race stuff the night before, so I donned it and got ready.

Prior to the start of the race, I got to give away some Vasque Trail Series schwag: some bottle openers, a couple of shirts, and a pair of Vasque shoes. I included Berryman in our Midwest Vasque trail series, as well as it being a TrailRunning Mag series race. David and Victoria White, the race directors, let me put up the series banners, also.

About David and Vicky and their daughter, Jessica: they have that race buttoned-down, nicely. Every detail is accounted for, and it goes off without a hitch. I love to not only run in this race, but also sit back and learn from them the proper way to put on an event. I can honestly say that most of what I've learned about proper ultra event race direction was from the Whites, the Sheridans (KUS), and Joe Prusaitis (of Rocky Raccoon, Bandera, etc).

The race started right at 7:00 a.m., as planned. There is an out and back on a dirt road at first, and then you hit the trail. This is a good thing, because everyone spreads out to their own paces, instead of bunching-up on the trail. I got into my "trail rhythm" right away. The sights, the forest aromas, and the sounds of birds waking up made for a wonderful start to my day.

I was running the race with the intention of not expending too much energy, but at the same time trying to hit the downhills as hard as I could. I wanted to give my quads a darn good pounding. My intention was to get my legs ready for the long downhills on the Western States course that they would encounter next weekend. (I was "reasonably sore" on Monday, so it must have worked).

My race strategy was not only enjoyable, but was working well for me. Maybe I'll do this more often. I was really using the downhills more than normal, and basically short-stepping all of the uphills. I noticed some of the same folks that I was letting pass me on the uphills, I would blast by them on the down side.

After the Brazil Creek crossing and aid station, I decided to wear my earbuds and listen to music for last nine miles of the run. For my Shuffle's mix, I went with easy-going Jazz, Dub, Soul, Alt-Country and Underground Hip-Hop, this time. Most notably: Miles Davis' "Sketches of Spain" for the Jazz, some Scientist and Sly and Robby for the Dub, Al Green for the Soul, Hank III for the Alt-C, and El-P's awesome new album for the Hippizzle. I think I'll stick with this kind of mix for my next 100-miler, except I'll add some Blues, as well. It kept me "flowing" down the trail, instead of hitting it in fits and starts, like when I listen to Punk.

The race seemed shorter, this year. Maybe it was the music, or maybe it was the cooler weather (compared to last year's record-breaking scorcher). I didn't realize that I was running up the last hill until I saw the road crossing and campground, otherwise I may have finished one or two places ahead.

The results were just posted. I was 3rd in the "Senior" division, with a time of 4:42:00. I'm happy with that result, because I haven't had a lot of long runs of late, due to being too darn busy.

A lot of the times were fast this year, and the competition was fierce. Eric Grossman broke the old record for the 50-miler by quite a bit, with a time of 6:33:27. Tom Whalen broke the old record also, finished 2nd overall, and set a new Masters record by 63 minutes! "Trail Nerd" Paul Schoenlaub took 7th place overall. There was no stopping Deanna Stoppler; she was 9th overall and first female with a time of 8:51:05. (She won my 40-miler at Free State two weeks ago, also). Dave Wakefield dropped from the 50, but finished with a respectable marathon time of 3:58:17. Brian Beckort of Indiana set a new open Marathon record with a 3:11:46. David Lawhorn of Kentucky was 2nd, and Andrew Karandjeff (a fellow SLUG) was third. First Female was Marla Luckey in 3:57:00. Don Fichtl set a new Senior record, with a time of 3:46:39. Tony Kramer set a new Grand Master record, in 4:33:20.

Pat Perry, who I'll be pacing at Western States, finished the marathon with a time of 4:10:33. He also brought 22 other folks from his Lees Summit, Missouri company (Genesys), that he has coached for the past year. It was his folks' goal to run their first marathon as a trail marathon as part of their wellness program. They not only succeeded, but they had matching shirts and had a lot of fun, also. I was honored have one of their team's shirts given to me.

Post race, there were burgers, brats, and other food fixin's. Kevin "the Mathineer" brought some of his pale ale homebrew, also. Thanks, Kevin! Just hanging out after this race is a lot of fun. I had a blast.

If you want to run a fast and runnable trail marathon in a beautiful setting, with great race direction, you've got to do this race.

Happy trails,

Bad Ben

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Lounging around after the race.

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The Digs and the Dog.

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Eric Grossman, 50-Mile winner and record-setter.

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Pat Perry (#1000) at the start of the race.

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Dave Wakefield and me (about 1 minute after I finished).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Modern Existence and Unnatural Folly

In this modern world, there are lots of diversions to keep people occupied and out of touch with nature and their own bodies. Many of these diversions are self-imposed.


Work, commuting, and even blogging can get in the way of a "real" and natural experience. That's why I love trail running. Last night's run in semi-muddy conditions was just wonderful!

Some people get so out of touch with nature and the physical world that they don't do any non-technical recreation. They end up devolving into total techno-potatos. Many others that strive for some kind of physical fitness end up needing a lot of artificial gizmos to stay in shape and recreate.

Runners don't need much in the way of modern gizmos to recreate. A pair of shoes is all most of us need (and some runners don't even need the shoes). Clothing can make the experience more enjoyable (and socially acceptable), also. But most runners THINK they need pavement, sidewalks, and groomed trails to go out for a run. Most of them actually think that it's NATURAL to run on these unnatural surfaces, but they are missing the point.

In my opinion, pavement-pounders don't realize that their runs are just an extension of their unnatural and modern existence, and they are missing out on a real pleasure. Many of them are running on pavement for the same reasons that I would never, ever choose to do as an activity: they are turning their brains off, in a kind of robotic sensory-deprivation. You don't get away with that when you're running on a rocky, ever-changing surface (in the woods). And all of the sights, sounds, textures, and smells that you encounter makes you realize that the "real" part of you craves this natural pleasure. It's imprinted into us as a species, but until you experience it, you won't have a clue what you're missing.

If you are a pavement-junkie, you might try to spice things up, sometime. Come out and join us for a run sometime, and see what you are missing! Beware, though. You may never want to return to the hard, flat, and artificial.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Race Director's Report: Vasque Free State Run

Well, the 1st Annual Vasque Free State Trail Run, held at Clinton State Park in Lawrence, Kansas is now history. What a fun event! I loved every part of this process…the planning, the build-up, and especially the delivery.

Photo by Rachel Seymour, Lawrence Journal World

The Planning:
For the past 4 years or so, Kyle Amos and I had kicked-around the idea of holding a 50-miler at Clinton State Park, on the North Shore trails. We even had it in a local race schedule (in 2004) for a few months before pulling it. The reason we pulled the plug on the idea? This venue didn’t conveniently lend itself to a 50-mile course, with loops of a little over 20 miles per loop. We also thought that 50Ks and 50-Milers are done to death in the ultra-world at large. And it just didn’t “feel” right.

Photo by Dick Ross,

Flash forward to Winter of 2006 – We were on a Thursday night training run on the Blue River Trails, when Kyle said, “why not a 40-miler and a 100-K?” That idea struck us like a bolt of lightning. Later on, Greg Burger thought it would be nice to add a trail marathon as well, with the intent of drawing-in some crossover pavement-pounders. Yep. Another good idea.

Emily Horn Photo by Dick Ross,

Why would we pick a 40-mile and a 100-Kilometer distance, you might ask? Why not? Many aspiring ultra-distance runners would like to move up in distance from a 50K to a 50-miler, but want to run an "in-between distance" first. The same goes for runners who have finished a 50-mile run, but would like to move up to the 100-mile distance. There just aren't enough in-between distance ultras to run "out there," especially ultras that are on 100% technical single-track trails. It would also be nice if these in-between ultras were positioned in the Spring, prior to some of the popular 50 and 100-mile races. It would also be nice if these races were close to a major airport, thus eliminating the need for long drives in rental cars for out-of-towners. It was a slam-dunk of an idea!

Sarah Sinning Photo by Dick Ross,

With the planning for numerous short-distance trail races and our three years of experience planning and implementing a successful 50K in the dead of Winter, (Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run), we knew we had the knowledge, skills, and connections to pull it off. Having Vasque (trail shoes) pony-up as our 2007 Trail Series sponsor helped, also.

The Build-up:
We ran on the actual race course on multiple Sunday mornings for the months leading up to the race. Us “Trail Nerds” seem to do our best planning on our feet; especially on long trail runs. The re-hash every week in our muddy outdoor “meeting room” seemed to have paid off. We looked at the race from a lot of angles, and fleshed-out the details pretty darn well.

Greg Burger. Photo by Dick Ross,

We had nothing but a good and helpful experience with Clinton State Park, Kansas Department of Recreation & Wildlife, and the Army Corps of Engineers, as far as planning and getting the necessary permits in order. Top notch folks, all-around. We also had some expert help for race day coming from KUS, (the Kansas Ultrarunners’ Society). Stacy Sheridan, Phil Sheridan, Randy Albrecht, Jim Davis, and Matt Becker signed-on to run our half-way aid station. This helped put my mind at ease quite a bit.

Photo by Dick Ross,

The week leading up to the race was of course, very busy. It was also raining cats and dogs. The race was going to be held on Saturday, April 28. On Thursday night, Greg Burger and I marked about 4 miles of the course. On Friday, I was at packet pickup all day with the Midwest Vasque rep. (Dan Dehlin), while Kyle led a group of Trail Nerds (Greg, Ben Reeves, Mike Swords) to mark the majority of the course. It was raining hard and threatening tornados as they marked it.

Friday night I camped at the park at the Start/Finish area, along with Josh Pool and Caleb Chatfield. I drove my last load of stuff out to the park at 12:30 a.m.

Jason. Photo by Dick Ross,

The Delivery:
Saturday morning was beautiful. We did some last-minute marking and logistics deliveries, and then started checking participants off of the list as they arrived.

I started the 40-mile and 100-K ultra races very close to the scheduled 7:00 a.m. starting time. The marathon soon followed at 8:00 a.m.
And, they’re off!

In very short order, it was obvious that it was going to be a hot, sunny, and humid day; our first “hot running day” of the season. When Kyle Amos came in on his first 20-mile loop of the 100-K, he said, “start pushing the electrolytes and water, and keep it up all day. It’s getting hot out there.”

We didn’t get the middle aid station setup until after the start of the marathon. This aid station was a logistical challenge. All of the supplies had to be driven to Campground #1, taken through a special gate, and then hand carried to the course location. And, there was an additional challenge. There was very limited access to Campground #1, because of a road bicycle criterion being staged. This station had to do double-duty as well, because the runners went through it twice on each loop. (This fact had escaped us during the initial planning, for some reason). Stacy Amos, Josh, and Caleb were in charge of this important station, and they did an awesome job, despite the restocking issues.

In the meantime, the 3 races were proceeding nicely. We had some notoriously fast trail runners for all three events. We also had some “trail rookies” and quite a few trail veterans.

Of the marathon speedsters, we had our Midwest Vasque representative, Dan Dehlin, who had recently won a tough trail marathon in 2:52:00. He ended up winning the Free State marathon in 2:40 and change! He had also been a big help at packet pickup the day prior. Maria Eifler, of Lawrence, took 1st place female honors in a time of 3:36:40. Dann Fisher (sans his usual K-9 race companion Bart), flew through the course and took 2nd place overall in just under three hours. Ivan Marsh from Ashland Nebraska was third. Second place female honors went to Emily Horn, of Lenexa, Kansas. Third place (and enjoying the race the whole way) was Erika Nilles-Plumlee of Lawrence, Kansas.
The 40-Miler had two fast runners battling it out for first place. Michael Adams (36), who had won the Lake McMurty 50K just two weeks prior, was competing with Alex Luedtke, a fast young runner from Omaha. Both men are new to ultra-distance trail running. Michael won the 40-mile race in 5:54:22, with Alex a little way back at 6:12:43. Rich Stigall did very well in his first ultra, taking third overall in 7:05:17. Rich, a resident “Trail Nerd,” is slowly gaining confidence and will be hammering out 50-milers soon enough.

In the women’s 40-mile race, S.L.U.G. Deanna Stoppler of Ashland, Missouri cruised to a 8:15:18 victory, followed by local (Shawnee, Kansas) Trail Nerd, Deb Johnson. Deanna had way too much fun, and hung around to eat multiple burgers and was excited about winning a pair of Vasque trailrunning shoes. Deb, ever the tough trail runner, was paced on a loop by her ultra-hubby Stuart. Third went to Rachel Kugel, of Des Moines, Iowa. Rachel seems to like our Trail Nerd races as much as we like having her run them.

In the 100-kilometer race, there were three front runners: Kyle Amos, Phil Sheridan, and Tammy Stone. Kyle and Phil were within a minute of each other for 40 miles! Tammy was always within striking distance, just in case either one of them slowed significantly. All three of these runners were a joy to watch; they were focused, friendly, and were having fun, despite running a tough race.

Kyle is co-founder of the Trail Nerds, and is a fast and solid ultrarunner. He had spent all of the rainy day before the race marking the course. Phil has set records and masters records at many ultra trail races. He’s also a favorite co-Race Director of the Rockin’ K Trail Runs, with his wonderful wife, Stacy. Tammy Stone is a fast veteran ultrarunner from the sleepy little ex-coal mining town of Florence, Colorado. She ended up mining our 100K for gold! She ended up as first-place female and third overall, with a time of 10:59:03.

Kyle Amos and Phil Sheridan were hitting aid stations at about the same time for their first two 21-mile loops. It was fun to watch. They even took a cooling dip in the lake at about the same time. Both men were doing their best to stay hydrated and cool on the very humid and warm day. At the aid stations, Phil would have us put ice in his hat, and Kyle had us put ice in his neck bandana. Caleb Chatfield was working the middle aid station with Josh Pool and Stacy Amos and waiting for Kyle’s last loop (to pace him the last 15 miles). That was the turning point for the Kyle-Phil first place battle. Caleb pushed Kyle back out of his comfort zone and into a pace 1 to 2 minutes faster per mile. He finished in 10:02:34, and Phil finished in 10:16:50. Gary Henry (Lawrence, KS) ran a steady race and took 4th Place at 13:06:13, followed shortly by Chis Corbin (Sand Springs, OK), and Patrick Perry of Lees Summit, Missouri.

Pat Patrick enjoys his 100-K Photo by Dick Ross.

Kyle Amos directly after his 100-K finish. Photo by Stacy Amos

Gabe Bevan ran a smart and steady race and nailed the 100-K race in under 14 hours. Greg Burger had a tough last loop, but had the fortitude to finish his first distance over 50-Kilometers. He was very emotional after finishing, to say the least. His words at the finish line (to Gary and me) were, “how the heck do you guys run one hundred miles?” One step at a time, was what we told him.

Steve Hughes (of Chicago), “toughed it out” to the end. Charles Stroud (from St Louis, Mo), who’d had me a little worried earlier in the race, finished strongly. Kelvin Riley of Olathe, Kansas finished last, and just 13-minutes and 5 seconds under the race’s deadline. Kyle Amos, who after his race-winning finish, had gone to work the middle aid station with his wife, had decided to “sweep the course” and come in with Kelvin. On his way in, he also picked up course markings. (Keep in mind he also led the course marking effort the day before the race in a rainstorm).

Kelvin was an inspiration to all of us. He had never run further than a marathon distance and had only one (short) trail run to his credit. He was a very determined runner. “Quit” was not part of his vocabulary. I’m sending him the “most inspirational award” for his day long life-changing experience. This is what makes being a race director such a rewarding experience!

We had so much good help with this race. Stacy Sheridan, Phil Sheridan, Randy Albrecht, Jim Davis, and Matt Becker (and Jay) took care of the half-way (KUS) aid station in the Army Corps of Engineers area. Stacy, Phil, Randy, and Jim are ultra-distance race directors, and Matt, Phil, Randy, and Jim are top-notch ultrarunners.

In the middle (Land’s End) aid station, Stacy Amos has 3 years experience of taking care of ultrarunners at aid stations. Caleb and Josh are very speedy ultrarunners, and know just what the runners want, (even if the runners don’t know what they should want , themselves). And Kyle…well he’s just terrific.

At the main aid station, we had lots of great aid station workers and “Cook Devine.” We also had Sara Risser, who knows how to put on a race, and local speedy “trail-ace” David Wakefield, helped me with the finish line, (especially when I was out rescuing runners). Ed Payne and Laura were huge helps, also. And Ben Reeves was everywhere; he would restock water, drive and or run everywhere and anywhere needed. Mike Swords was Mr. Everything, too, along with running in the marathon. As Gary Henry put so succinctly in his race report (about experienced ultra-distance race event help), "they've all been through it, so they know how to do it." Even my 4-1/2 year old grandson got into the act, and would help me run with some of the finishers up that last hill. He also helped me pick up course markings the next day.

Speaking of rescuing runners, I had to rescue two from the edge of heat stroke. But I had help. Jesse Walden, D.C., was giving “active release” massage at the main aid station to any (sweaty & muddy) runners that needed or wanted it. He had also provided this service at our Red Bridge Ramble run back in March. In fact, he was working on me at the time (between runners coming in), when I received a phone call from Stacy Amos that Shane Jones was “down on the course,” and was somewhere around the “Mile 5” marker on the White Trail. Jesse heard this and asked if he could go with me to help. We both hopped in my Honda Element and headed to an area that we could get near that course area in a speedy fashion.

Jesse Walden, DC. Photo by Dick Ross.

We started running down the trail, but soon realized when we came to a mileage marker that we were going the wrong way. We headed in the other direction, and cruised right along. Jesse is a decent runner, but had never run on rocky trails before. He commented, “much more of this, and you may be carrying me out of here.”

We found Shane laying on the ground and in a bad way. Sarah Sinning was with him, and had been making sure he wasn’t left alone. We got him up and moving (with some help), and got him out of there. Some electrolytes, air conditioning, cold packs and lots of water helped get him going in the right direction (physically).

Soon after that episode, we got a call for another “runner down.” This was a potentially serious situation, also. The poor guy had cramps and “Charlie-horses” so bad that he was in terrible pain and couldn’t even walk. With some help from a relative of his that was pacing him, we got him out of there and back to the main aid station. His wife was a Registered Nurse, and she went to work on him. With some electrolytes and water, we got him to start recovering within 30-minutes.

Well, that’s the long-winded version of my Race Director story, and I’m sticking to it. I love to run in these races myself, but it is so darn rewarding to see a race from “the other side” also, especially a race that came together so beautifully.

Once again, we also had some wonderful designs come to fruition for our shirt, medals, and the 100-K buckles. These were designed by Jason Crosby ( The Park’s staff was very helpful. And there were many folks involved with the setup, logistics, marking, and de-constructing of this race. Good things just don’t happen by themselves.

Until our next race…keep your powder dry and your shoes dirty.

Happy trails,
Ben Holmes

For more photos, results, and race reports, go to:

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Trail Marathon, 40-Miler, 100-Km in one Weekend

Well, the 1st Annual Vasque Free State Trail Run, held at Clinton State Park in Lawrence, Kansas is now history. What a fun event! I loved every part of this process…the planning, the build-up, and especially the delivery.

Waiting for the final 100-Kilometer runner to come in after 17 hours and 47 minutes may sound like a drag to you, but I loved it. It was so worth it, just to see the expression of accomplishment on his face.

I'll post a formal Race Director's report soon. Until then, here are a few photos:

Photo by Rachel Seymour, Lawrence Journal World

Photo by Dick Ross,

Kyle Amos, 100-Km Winner Photo by Rachel Seymour, Lawrence Journal World

Aid Station relief. Photo by Rachel Seymour, Lawrence Journal World

Phil Sheridan, 2nd Place 100-Km Photo by Rachel Seymour, Lawrence Journal World

Photo by Rachel Seymour, Lawrence Journal World

Tammy Stone, Female 1st Place 100-Km Photo by Dick Ross,

Sarah! Photo by Dick Ross,

Photo by Dick Ross,


Photo by Rachel Seymour, Lawrence Journal World