The international ultra running session starts in earnest this weekend with Transvulcania, run on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. There is a really great group of runners there this year (check out irunfar for interviews with Dakota Jones, Emelie Forsberg and others). I’ll never run an ultra as fast as these people (and I’ll almost surely never run anything in the Canary Islands) but it is a fun event to follow from afar. Here’s a highlight video from last year where Luis Alberto Hernando, Kilian Jornet, and Sage Canaday duked it out for the men and Anna Frost, Maite Maiora, and Uxue Fraile battled it out for the women’s podium.
It was 34 degrees my morning run which is way too goddamn cold for late April. Still! Summer is coming, and with it, the marquee ultra running events. I’m super excited for this year. A whole new crop of talented runners are on the rise, including the fascinating and talented Sally McRae, who placed 10th in last year’s Western States. I don’t know yet if she is planning on running it again. I hope so. I’d love to see what she can do now that she knows the course.
Here’s a really great video of McRae’s Western States quest. Enjoy!
The videos I post on Fridays are often inspiring because of the physical talent and hard work they display. This video of Western States champion Rob Krar discussing his battles with depression is inspiring on a whole other level. Sure it features Krar flying past tourists as he climbs in and out of the Grand Canyon. But more importantly it focuses on his struggles with depression with some frank talk about how his depression affects his loved ones and his running. Well worth a watch.
The Hardrock 100 is widely considered one of, if not the, hardest 100 mile race in the United States. It is surely the most beautiful and also wonderfully eccentric. Organized by a bunch of rocket scientists (seriously) and mountain weirdos, entry is determined through a complex lottery that rewards those who have finished the race numerous time, or haven’t finished it at all. The only people guaranteed an entry are the man and woman who won it the previous year. Everyone else, no matter how fast or famous they are, has to try their luck
With 66000 (yes, sixty six thousand) feet of elevation change, all of which happens way way high in the San Juan mountains, Hardrock is a challenge for even the best mountain runner to finish. It is, as the motto proclaims “Wild and Tough”. Only a select few people in the world can possibly compete for the win. This year, for perhaps the only time in a decades, many of the best ultra runners in the world happened to have gotten in to Hardrock turning it into one of the most competitive races of the year. Also, there are flash flood warnings. And it snowed yesterday. And its just fucking crazy and beautiful and totally captivating. If you want to see the best performances in ultra-running this year, you need to have your eyes trained on Hardrock over the next 24 hours.
Irunfar is doing comprehensive coverage of the race. It is definitely the best place to follow what’s happening. You can follow their live coverage with comments from ultra running obsessives here, or their more manageable twitter feed here.
Here’s a pretty awesome one about last year’s female winner Darcy Piceu (formerly Africa):
In its full form, the race consists of five loops of twenty miles each run through unforgiving Frozen Head Park. That the sixty mile version of the race is called the “fun run” gives you a sense of the race’s whimsical sado-masochistic qualities. The course is not marked and most of it takes place off trail. Participants must navigate by map and compass to a series of books placed on the course, pull the page which matches their race number, return to the start, and present the pages to the race’s mastermind, Lazarus Lake*
It is an insane event and for that reason it appeals to the certain type of masochistic ultra-runner. Every year, the Barkley Marathons gets more and more publicity, and every year, Lake makes the race harder and harder. Yet as the Barkley gets harder, it appears that better and better athletes become interested in this, the most impossible of ultra races. And now, it seems like every year someone finishes the race.
This past year, there was one finisher — the super accomplished ultra runner Jared Campell. Here’s a great short film on the race and Jared Campbell’s victory.
The film touches on everything that makes the Barkley so compelling – its difficulty, its willful obscurity, and, in a world where ultra racing is becoming a bigger deal, its stubborn refusal to be accessible or, really, even finishable.
I’ll never run this race. I have a terrible sense of direction and nothing sounds less appealing to me than being lost in a fog, freezing my ass off, while some maniac cackles at my misfortune at a camp strewn with license plates.
Still, its fun to follow.
If you want to dig deeper into the crazy, there’s a book about the race’s early days. And here’s a website compiling race reports for the 16 runners who’ve completed the race. And here’s another compiling more information on the race. And yet one more from the Believer.
* This race is bizarre and filled with a myriad of idiosyncratic rituals and traditions. For example, Lazarus Lake is not even the race director’s real name. Entrants must bring a license plate as part of their entry fee. The race starts whenever Lake feels like it, and it’s beginning is marked by the lighting of a cigarette. I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s a zany little race in the woods that happens to be nearly impossible to finish.
Ever have one of those months where you’ve spent so much time in the office that you start to forget what the park looks like? Where you’re barely squeezing in a run on a treadmill late at night? And suddenly while you’re eating dinner at your desk you find yourself watching a video of a Mike Foote, a hippie ultra runner who lives in a yurt in Missoula. He’s chopping wood, drinking beer, and running all the time and you think, “hey, that doesn’t look so bad.”
I’ve had one of those months.
Snows coming down in sheets here in NYC and there isn’t a yurt for miles. It’ll be another night on the treadmill for me. But tomorrow is Saturday, it is supposed to be fifty degrees, and I don’t have to work (much). I can’t wait to get out in the park.
Park Legends: Luis Rios
Park Legends – An occasional series of posts on people I see often on my runs in Prospect Park.
The first time I saw Luis Rios in Prospect Park, I wasn’t sure if he was a runner. Louis has a longish beard, and was, if memory serves, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and shuffling along at a modest clip. He could have been someone out for a brisk stroll. After that first day, about three years ago, as I ran more and more in the park, I saw Luis more and more. On almost every weekend run, and often during the week, he’d be out there, getting in some miles. The park in the winter can be a pretty empty place, but I’d always see Luis. Sometimes he’d be running, sometime walking, almost always in the opposite direction of everyone else. We never spoke, but he fascinated me. How was it that I saw the same guy, no matter when I ran in the park? Overtime, I learned more about Luis. I learned that he had run numerous ultra marathons, including the legendary Sri Chimnoy six day run in Queens. That he was a member of the same running club as me, Prospect Park Track Club, and that many runners knew him personally and spoke of his dedication admiringly.
And now the question of why I always see him in the park has been answered by a short New York Times profile. So many of us see him in the park so often because he is so often there, running in endless circles, sometimes running forty miles in a single day, all of it in laps around the park. The thought of forty miles of loops in the park fills my heart with dread, but hey, it seems to be working for Luis.
Some have said Luis is obsessed, and that his devotion to running is unhealthy. Maybe it is. I’m not one to judge. All I know is when I see him rounding the bend in front of me, it makes me smile. I’ve never spoken to Luis, but next time I see him, I think I’ll stop and chat for a while. Its people like him that make Prospect Park such an amazing place to run.