Trail Running in Mammoth Lakes California

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If you have a free weekend get over to Mammoth Lakes. If you don’t have a free weekend then make a weekend free.  If you can’t make a free weekend then quit your job and move into your car (ill advised advice not recommended…)

There is a lot of big, steep, wild country to explore our here.  Hundreds of crystal clear lakes are scattered around the area. Each lake is surrounded by steep granite walls and most are easily (relatively, considering most are at 10,000ft) accessed by the 1000’s of miles of trails that criss cross the Easter Sierra.  Just a few minutes drive from downtown Mammoth Lakes you can be on the PCT and a few miles after that you can connect with the John Muir Trail. These are some of the best trails I have ever run and the accessibility is unbelievable.

Here are a few brief runs I would recommend that Nike Trail teammate Tim Tollefson and Gnar Boss Hayden Teachout helped me discover.

Duck Pass– Park at Cold Creek Campground. I did an out and back but can be a loop as well. Strava link

Agnew Meadows to 1000 Island Lake– Park at Agnew Meadow (before 7AM to avoid shuttle)  Make this a loop if you have time.  Here is a link to my strava segment, basically just lots of lakes and beautiful views of The Minarets. The JMT section is much more challenging, rocky and technical while the PCT is super plush runnable trail.  Strava Segment

Mammoth Mountain Via Dragon’s Back- Short, steep and technical but pretty awesome and ends at 11,053. Strava Link

For a complete list of awesome running in the area check out Sage to Summit

Here is a picture gallery from the weeks running, but don’t waste your time looking at my pictures.  Get out there and take your own.

Gear that kept me alive during the week of training

Nike Zoom Wildhorse 3 – Get em here Backcountry-Nike Trail                                          Simple Hydration Bottle – Message me at Davidlaney12@gmail.com for %35 off Code. Ugo Bars and plenty of GU and Sport Beans.

Huge thanks to Visit Mammoth and the Mammoth Crib for putting me up in an awesome house for the week.  I can’t thank them enough and hope to be back soon! Many more trails to explore!

Chuckanut Number 3. Two Years on the Trails

My first Ultramarathon was Chuckanut 2013, two years ago.  At the time I didn’t really know what the marathon plus world did to a person, the highs and lows of each race and season.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been doing this thing two years, it (like the last two miles of last weeks race) feels much much longer.

Going up Chinscraper at my first Chuckanut
2013. Going up Chinscraper at my first Chuckanut
The pack heading out the Interurban at the 2014 Chuckanut
The pack heading out the Interurban at the 2014 Chuckanut, my second Chuckanut running.
2015 Chuckanut, Here, at Sugar Bonk City, with about three miles to go, things started to fall apart.
2015 Chuckanut, here, at sugar bonk city, with about three miles to go things started to fall apart.

Trail running isn’t exactly easy. The sport destroys feet, wrecks digestive systems, frys mitochondria and occasionally sends the mind into a tailspin. But what’s pretty cool is at then end of the day there is always somebody to lift you up.  You may have had a rough few miles, or rough day on the trail, but the runners, the support system, and the family is what makes the sport amazing.  Thanks to everybody out there who knows way to much about GU, trail shoes and reads IrunFar daily, and an even bigger thanks to those people out there who don’t know much about trail running but care about it because its important to someone they care about it.

When it comes down to it, I’ve enjoyed the trails and been inspired and freed by the mountains. I’ve been strengthened by the difficulties,and toughened by the challenges. In two years I’ve learned much more than simply how to run fast in the mountains. I still have a lot left to learn.

 

Tips for a Fast First Marathon

CIM 2:17 Pack
CIM chase pack on 2:17 pace. Photo from Hayden Teachout

 

Having raced every distance from 100 meters to 100 miles, and I’d have to say 26.2 is probably my favorite event.  Elements of both speed and endurance are combined to create a race that is just long enough to get some serious chaffing, but not so long where the chaffing actually scabs and scars. Essentially 26.2 is long enough to destroy you, but just short enough to keep you coming back for more. Here are a few rules and thoughts to keep in mind if you are thinking of graduating to the marathon.

**This is written for anyone, but it is most applicable for competitive minded runners with a background in track and cross country, and who have trained consistently for a few years. Its not so much focused on specific training, rather just general principles. These have been important in my training, and I believe they are applicable in many training programs.

1. Don’t forget the track.  Its easy to focus on road running, long runs, tempo and threshold workouts and neglect the speed that is imperative for racing.  You don’t really need to be doing 200’s every week, but regular kilometer and mile repeats will undoubtedly help you keep the speed needed to run a competitive marathon.  Do them on grass or track or dirt.  You may struggle to run as fast as you normally do when training for cross country or track. That’s OK, focus on short recovery rather than blazing intervals.

2. Sundays not for Gossip.  College long runs are usually a social hour (or two), recapping the team drama or previous nights festivities.  This is great if you are training for a 5k. With your key race being over 2 hours, the long run needs to be a more focused effort.  This isn’t to say that talking isn’t allowed, but the long run should be a workout.  If I’m running hard enough I usually don’t want to talk.  Sunday long run shouldn’t leave you ruined for the upcoming week, but it probably should leave you wanting to spend the rest of the day on the couch.

3. Wear Pants: If it’s under 50 degrees (Fahrenheit), bundle up. The first glimmer of warmth or sunlight usually leads to every dude on the team pulling out the split shorts and running shirtless through campus. This is why so many people get injured during the winter. Wear tights, wear a long sleeve shirt.  You don’t have to be sweating profusely, but wearing tights will keep your muscles warm, relaxed, and less likely to get injured.  When the temps warm up instead of being stuck in the pool aqua jogging you will be able to run outside…in shorts.

4. Wake Up. Marathons typically start before 8am.  Waking up 3-4 hours before the race will make you feel and perform better. I know waking up at 4am sounds ridiculous on a night when you just want to get some sleep.  If you give yourself that extra time to really wake up, eat, and warm up you will feel fresh and ready when you finally get to that starting line.

5. Don’t be Stupid. Depending on your fitness and goals a training segment may be 8-14 weeks. During that time you are bound to get a cold, tweak a muscle, have a bad workout, or get stuck in a blizzard. These things aren’t the end of the world, (except possibly the blizzard…) If you respond properly to these blips in training they likely wont effect your race at all.                                                                                                         This fall I took a trip to Boulder, Colorado for a Nike Trail meeting.  When I left home it was 55 and sunny, when I landed in Denver it was 20 and snowing.  I had mile repeats scheduled for the next morning. When I woke up it was 15 and there was 4 inches of snow blanketing the town.  I jogged out of the hotel looking for a plowed road or track that might allow me to do the workout I had planned.  I quickly realized that running 4:40 pace in snow, ice and 15 degrees was likely going to result in injury. Instead I ran 10 miles easy and called it a day. The next day the conditions were worse and I was forced to do an easy 90 minutes on paved streets.  When I landed in Portland I eagerly got my gear together for a hard workout.  When I got to the track and finished my warm up my right Achilles tendon was painful and seemed swollen. I tried to do strides but every step was causing it to tighten up.  I realized that during my runs in Boulder I had worn long tights and tall socks, covering my entire Achilles and ankle, but the snow had still frozen to my socks and caused the area around my ankle to stay cold while I was running on it.  Needless to say I was frustrated.  I had missed two key workouts and now was tiptoeing around a potential injury.  I foam rolled, iced, pumped anti-inflammatory, got back to sunny Southern Oregon and restructured the training for the week. That Saturday I had the best workout of the segment. I was fresh, and was able to run faster and easier than I had expected.  The workout convinced me I could PR in every distance from 10k to the marathon and gave me a boost of confidence going into the last three weeks of the training block before the Cal International Marathon. Its a long story but I think proves a point.  Things are bound to go wrong, when they do use logic and reason to adjust your training.

6. Find a Road and Love it. Whether its a bike path or road, find somewhere with little traffic that you can use a couple days a week for your tempo, threshold, marathon pace, or long runs. Having consistency in your training venue will allow you to gauge your fitness throughout the segment.  It might be boring at first, but you will probably grow to love it. The Bear Creek Greenway has become my home away from home over the last 2 years.

7. Dial your nutrition. If you take time to figure out what gels work and which ones don’t, you might end up in a porta-toilet at mile 18. You still might end up there, but spending a few workouts deciding between GU, Roctane, Power-Gel, Hammer Gel or Clif Shots can save you precious moments. You’re gonna have to take in calories and fluid during the race. Be comfortable with it.

8. Run a Lot. Mileage isn’t the only indicator of solid training, but going from racing 10k’s to racing marathons will require an increase in something, and part of that something is probably weekly mileage. You don’t have to run 140 miles per week, but also don’t be scared of running more miles than you have before. The marathon is a long race and it takes a lot of training to be ready to race that last 10k. This is where the magic of the marathon happens. Having a massive base of miles in your legs can get you ready to crush yourself, and the last few miles.

9. Learn.  I’ve been learning how to run slower and how to run faster my entire life. The trick is doing the things that make you run faster instead of slower.  Your first marathon could be amazing, and it could be a total disaster.  Most likely it will be somewhere in between, leaving you to feel accomplished but unsatisfied.  Learn from your experience. You spent months preparing for this race. Spend a few hours writing down what went well and what didn’t. Use the things you learned to get better next time.  I really believe that with enough work anybody can be a good marathoner.  In 2 marathons and 19 months I took 5 minutes and 32 seconds off my marathon PR by simply learning from past mistakes and tweaking my training. The learning curve is big. For somebody with a lot of desire the marathon is a good place to race.  But, don’t take my word for it. Go do it.

Good Luck!

Finish of Cal International Marathon. Photo from Hayden Teachout
Finish of Cal International Marathon after getting my Olympic Trials qualifying time. Photo from Hayden Teachout

 

 

Part 2: The Marathon. Race Day

One of the beautiful lies I tell myself every day is, “If you are on the starting line you have as good a chance as anybody to win”.  On Sunday I got out of bed at 3 a.m. and did a shakeout in the quiet downtown streets of Sacramento.  I ate toast, shot bloks and drank tea, and waited for 4 hours, until the 7 a.m. starter sent us off down Auburn Folsom Road, 26+ miles to the Capitol Building in Sacramento. The first few miles passed quickly, in relative silence, besides the pounding of racing flats on the asphalt.  8 miles in I was surprised at how flat my legs felt, with 18 miles left to run I wasn’t in the highest of spirits. For the past 10 weeks I had put all my effort into the preparation for this day, and for the past 14 years I’ve had this goal in the forefront of my mind. I had trained hard and tapered well, and now my legs felt bad… In a moment of inspiration I decided I just was not going to slow down.  My legs may not be able to speed up, but I simply am not going to run any slower, as every mile ticked the pack of runners got a few hundred steps closer to the finish line, and the goal.  At 20 miles when the group disintegrated I knew the small time buffer I had accumulated could easily be wiped out over the final mile,  as it was last year.  I kept telling myself, just don’t slow down.  5:13, 5:13, 5:13, 5:12, the crowds were growing, not slowing down was getting harder. 5:12,  I could feel my legs losing the strength I had spent the last year building.  The pack of 15 strong, confident machines had dissolved into a scattered string of stiff grimaces. I finally turned onto the Capitol Mall, people lining the final 400 meters I saw the clock reading 2:16:30, 200 meters to go.

Crossing the finish line was great, I’ll probably always enjoy that moment. But watching the other men and women gain Olympic trials qualifiers was unforgettable.  The victorious moments, celebrations and emotional faces were inspiring.  In the end that will probably be the most memorable part of the day. Congratulations to the 9 other men and 20 women who spent months and years in dedicated preparation for this race. Needless to say I didn’t win this years Cal International Marathon, But I did run 2:17:02, good enough for a ticket to the 2016 Olympic Trials which will be run in February of 2016. I now have 14 months to train hard, race harder and wait.

Thank you all so much for the thoughts, prayers, encouragement and advice.  I greatly appreciate all that has been done for me over the years.  Thank you to the California International Marathon for a great event, and for creating an environment of success for all runners.

14 months till LA.

Time to find a coach…there is work to be done.

Part 1: The Marathon. How It All Began

I was a surprise. With 7 years between me and my closest sibling, saying I’m the baby of the family is an understatement.  Being the baby didn’t mean I wasn’t going to claw and fight my way into the mischief and general competitiveness of my sisters and brother. Being the baby also didn’t mean I was treated like the baby. (OK, that second part is a lie…)

With older, stronger, taller, smarter, cousins and siblings being my main competitors I didn’t win a lot.  But I did learn a lot. I learned that competition is far more about getting back in the fight than the actual act of winning.  Learning this lesson was a process.  The Inner City Steppers Track Club hosted all comer track meets at Madison High School on Wednesday nights during the summer months.  As a 1st grader I typically ran the distance events, the 200 and the 400 meters, yes distance events (as opposed to the 50 and 100m).  One evening I lined up for the 200, and the starter sent us off.  50 meters in I found my self in last place, 100 meters in I was far behind, at 150 I stepped off the track… before I could sit down in the grass a small hand firmly gripped my arm and in a tone I hadn’t heard before, my Mom said, “You never quit.” Her usually gentle eyes made it clear, I was going to finish the race.

My Dad ran a lot, marathons, Hood to Coast, etc,  and I would make him take me running and to local road races.  My siblings were all moved out and in college by the time I was in middle school, but the local road race scene proved more than enough competition for me to channel my need for competition. In 5th grade I figured out that to make the Sydney Olympic Marathon Team, you had to run the Olympic Trials.  So I dug around on the USATF website and found that to make the Olympic Marathon Trials you had to run a marathon in 2:22, with some quick research on Google I discovered the Cool Running Pace Calculator a tool that would tell you the average pace and splits for any race distance.  I learned that running just over 5:24 per mile 26 times would qualify me for the Olympic Trials.  Considering my mile PR was a stout 5:59, I blindly considered this goal very doable!  I upped my training plan and started every recess with 8 laps on the dirt track at Glencoe Elementary.Train hard, race harder, repeat.  In 2004 I remember spending my lunch break reading Track and Field News in the CCHS Library, I looked at the photos of Alan Culpepper, Meb Keflezighi and Dan Browne racing through the cold streets of Birmingham, Alabama and thought, I’ve got to run this race. Train hard, race harder, repeat. After the 08 trials the qualifying time was lowered to 2:18:30 and after the 2012 Trials I discovered 5:17 pace wasn’t going to be good enough to get into the 2016 Trials, 2:18:00 was the new qualifying time, requiring 5:15 pace for the 26+ mile race… Train hard, race harder, repeat.  Fast forward to California International Marathon last year. You can read that story/blog here.  In 2013 I missed the Trials qualifying time by 26 seconds.   I learned lessons during that race that I applied to my training and racing during 2014, namely, you don’t need to lead the first half of the race, especially in a marathon.  (And for all of you who reminded me of that over the past week, Thank you).

The training segment for the last ten weeks has gone pretty well, not amazing, but got some pretty good quality efforts in.  Based on the previous years workouts I estimated I was about a second a mile or about 20-25 seconds over the course of the marathon better than last year…that would leave me at 2:18.01. A very empty feeling PR. So I did what I’ve done 100 times before, I went for it anyway.

I’ll post Part 2 of this blog…soon, probably tomorrow.

Nike Trail Mug Giveaway

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This time of year people start looking for a hot beverages on cold mornings. With all the folks asking me how to get a Nike trail mug I figured I’d do another contest.  So here is the deal, I have 2 of the classic mugs left.  Here is how to win one.

1. Carve a pumpkin.

2. Tweet, instagram, email, snail-mail me a picture of it.  I don’t care how you show me your carved pumpkin creation, just get it to me. If you use twitter or Instagram just @davidlaney12 in the comment so I will be able to find it.  If you leave the pumpkin you have carved on my front porch with a note you might be disqualified or you might automatically win…Haven’t decided which yet.

3. Carving tools are sharp…Don’t accidentally cut yourself.

4. I’ll decide which stands out as most humorous, creative, awesome and let those two winners know.  Winners will be informed on Halloween and mugs shipped the same day.

 

Morning at Sparks Lake

 

Rebirth on the Steens

Every year when I get the phone call to work at Steens Mountain Running Camp I am overwhelmed with excitement and hope for another year in a life changing place.  Not only do I get to work with inspirational people, but I get to visit a remote area of southeast Oregon;  A remote area, inhabited rarely, by few, where I feel most at home.

Photo courtesy of camp photographer Kevin Jantzer
Wildhorse Lake. Photo courtesy of camp photographer Kevin Jantzer

As a young runner Steens Mountain Running Camp was a must.   The first time I went to The Mountain was a few weeks after I finished 8th grade.  My Dad taught me that to be a great runner I had to train with great runners. I figured Steens would allow me to do that.  What I didn’t foresee was the impact that a running camp, the love of the staff, and a rugged mountain landscape would have on my future.  The training load put on the campers is difficult for seasoned runners, unfathomable for most. The time I spent that summer strengthened my legs and lungs for the upcoming season, but changed my perception of the world forever.  The mountain quickly taught me through rolled ankles and scraped legs, the value of effort, selflessness and suffering.  The landscape of this mountain and the sport of long distance running complement each other and reflect life, in all its beauty, trials, failures and joy.

When you are on The Mountain, Flatland America, and the values it holds, becomes a distant memory.  The smell of juniper and sage in the thin morning air is a spirit shaping aroma.  In the words of Harland Yriarte Camp Founder, “Its not just a physical venture, its so much more than that.  But you use the physical, you use the running in order to get at somebody’s heart and head and allow them to breathe in this place…”.   This unique landscape is far from the only reason that special things happen on The Mountain.  The founders and directors of the camp create an environment that encourages kids, to be better runners, but far more importantly to be better people. To again use Harland’s words, “One thing that Steens Mountain has taught me is that people are chameleons: you become what you surround yourself with.  If you want to be a good person, you surround yourself with good people. If you want to espouse good values and internal beauty and strength you surround yourself with an externally beautiful and rugged world”.

I can’t wait to make the long drive out to Burns Oregon this July.  Take the right hand turn on to HWY 205 and speed out to Frenchglen.  I’ll roll down my windows, turn onto a dusty, washboard road and smile.  I’ll run the canyons, swim the lakes, watch the sunrises and sunsets, have one sided conversations with the antelope, race a jackrabbit; lose. I’ll get dusty, sweaty, dirty, sunburned and tired.  I’ll clean porta-potties, do dishes, set up camp, chop wood, build campfires, listen to coaches, chat with kids, make lasting friendships.

Sunset from camp. Photo courtesy of Kevin Jantzer
Sunset from camp. Photo courtesy of Kevin Jantzer

I’v spent many summers enjoying creation on the Steens, and I hope to spend many more. But when the light fades, and my joggin shoes get dusty send me to the realest place I know.  Let the autumn wind spread my ashes over the Kiger, for then and there I will truly be free.

Kiger Gorge. Photo courtesy of Kevin Jantzer
Kiger Gorge. Photo courtesy of Kevin Jantzer