Tuesday, February 19, 2019


Garmin. Suunto. Strava. Two of those three words barely existed a decade ago (well, as running-specific uses, anyway), while the third wasn't even a twinkle in its parent's eyes.

My, my how times have changed in 10 years. Now it seems like just about all runners have some sort of running-specific GPS device. Runners ramble on and on about them like they're these magical bands and if worn properly, they will run the exact number of miles that their schedule calls for, because, of course, their GPS device is 100% accurate. Even if you and your friend run the exact same route and your devices show different mileage totals, you'll both swear that yours is correct.

My favorite part of the distance discrepancy is when runners compare their GPS distance with their online training website distance (i.e., Strava, Moves Count, Garmin Connect, etc) vs the advertised course distance of an event. If a race course is certified, then it really doesn't matter what your GPS device and online training website show for your distance; the distance is the race distance and that's what everyone officially gets credit for (and when we go off course for a couple of miles, well, those are just freebie miles). No one is perfect at running exact tangents, and unless a course is certified, then advertised distances are usually "ish", anyway, and the steeper, twistier, and bumpier the course is, the more "ish" the advertised course distance, and a GPS device, is. As long as we're all running the same course, that's really what should matter.

I digress...

Another thing that I find funny about GPS devices in races is when people refer to their "Garmin time". What? Garmin time? What about just, simply, your time? Apparently "Garmin time" is sometimes different than "official time" or "chip time", and often, by more than a few seconds. I love it when I hear "Well, the race had my time as 5:02, but my Garmin time was 4:54, so I'm going with that". Um, okay. I'm guessing that usually means the runner's Garmin was set to auto-pause so the stopwatch would automatically stop timing when the runner stops moving. As a race director, every year I receive emails from finishers telling me that their time is wrong in the official results and they can, and sometimes do, show me their Garmin as proof.

That's just silly.

Maybe you're wondering "what kind of GPS does that old fuddy duddy curmudgeon use?" Well, my watch is a Timex Ironman. As far as figuring out my mileage, sometimes I'll use a map to plot routes and get mileage estimates, sometimes I'll use mileage markers on roads, trails, etc, but usually I'll just use my built-in GPS earned from over 35 years of running. If I'm off by a bit here and there, oh well. I'll glance at my watch when I start and then again when I finish and some quick math tells me how long, time-wise, I was running.

Now, I'm not saying all of this because I think GPS devices are useless, because they aren't. In addition to being fun gadgets to play with, they can help runners learn pacing, tell them about how far they've run at just a quick glance, and can even help getting un-lost in unfortunate situations. Just don't get so obsessed with your GPS that you lose the essence of just running. Running is supposed to be one of the easiest and logistically simple forms of exercise there is. And that's pretty cool.

Time may change me
But I can't trace time

See what my fellow synchrobloggers, including our newest addition Wyatt Hornsby, have to say about the changes in ultrarunning over the past decade:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What the last 10 years of Western States have meant to me

Zero score and 10 years ago, back in the days when blogging was, well, much bigger in the ultrarunning community than it is now, a motley crew of five geeky ultrarunners took the U.S. ultrarunning blog scene by storm. Scott, Craig, Andy, Bryon, and I (SCABS - haha!) launched the first Western States synchroblog. Basically, we had fun in rousing a little controversy, creating some humor, and making good memories along the way. It was pretty cool.

Now, a decade later, four of the original five of us (SCAS) are taking another shot at this with the idea to tell what the last 10 years of Western States have meant to us. Wow - that's going to take a bit of rolling back in the memory bank for me, as well as reviving my thought-to-be-dead blog (I'm amazed I remembered my password and how to actually post this thing, likely with some formatting errors).

If you want to know what I thought about 10 years ago, here are my five posts from that original synchroblog project:

Ten years ago, WS was just getting warmed up for what was yet to come. 2009 saw Hal win for his second consecutive time, Anita broke into the overall top-10 to win for the women, and Andy out-paced Victor perfectly to barely nab M10.

Enjoying some trail time with Krissy and Scott approaching Duncan Canyon in 2009.

2010 brought us incredibly exciting match ups for both the girls and boys. Tracy finished first for the girls, and was the first of six to run 19:xx. I can't remember exactly what the boys race was dubbed as, but it was something exciting with Kilian vs Geoff vs Tony vs Hal, with Geoff pulling himself out from his non-happy place to chase down the boys ahead and pull off a pretty amazing W in course record time. Of note, this was also the beginning of the Sharmantor's string of 9, top-10 finishes (will he get #10 this year?).

2011 brought Kilian back for revenge and another Canadian (resident) win for the women, with Ellie coming within 18 minutes of Ann's course record set 17 years prior (and shooting a glob of blister goo into Kristin's eye in the process!). This was also the year that Kami and Nikki had an exciting 2-mile sprint to the finish after dodging a bear on the way up to Robie.

A big turning point for WS, administration-wise, took place in late-2011 or early-2012 (I can't remember the exact date and am too lazy to look it up), as that's when Greg announced he was retiring as Race Director, and with this announcement, one of the most prestigious RD'ing gigs in our sport immediately opened up. I gave serious consideration to applying for it, even asking Craig to be one of my references. After not hearing back from my never-at-a-loss-for-words friend for a couple of days, it dawned on me that Craig was applying for it. Duh!! Once I made that realization, I emailed him back to give my apologies for putting him in an awkward position and offer my best wishes to him in applying for his dream job. I also immediately decided to not apply, as I knew that there was no one who would be a better RD for Western States than Craig. Clearly, the board knew that, too.

2012 was a year for exceptionally cool weather (runners were hypothermic coming into Duncan Canyon) and course records. Ellie crushed Ann's course record by 50 minutes, and won by 1hr 20min, and Tim brought the cougar back to Ashland with a men's course record, becoming the first man to break 15 hrs for 100 miles at WS (Jim King ran sub-15 in 1984, but on a short course). 2012 also marked the last time I would make my annual pilgrimage to WS since 2004. Living in Sisters, OR, it was a pretty easy drive down to the Tahoe / Squaw / Auburn area for the weekend, but a big move to Durango, CO, turned Hardrock into my new WS.

2013 brought two cougars to OR, with Tim edging out new-kid-on-the-block Rob to repeat, and Pam making a huge comeback from her almost-fighting-cutoffs-in-2012 to excelling in the heat wearing her cotton t-shirt and fueling with orange pop on her way to a top-10 overall and women's win by almost 45 minutes.

2014 saw new faces up front. Steph kept the girl's cougar in OR in winning her first 100-miler, while Rob stamped his first W and sub-15 in taking the boy's cougar to Flagstaff, starting its reign and first step in challenging Ashland for town with most WS victories. I also made the long trip up from Flag for the weekend (where I was living for a couple of years) to cheerlead and help my buddy Ian in his fifth straight top-10. Eight men ran sub-16 that day. Eight!

2015 saw Rob take another cougar back to Flagstaff with him, while Seth defended his runner-up title. An Olympic marathoner won for the girls, with Magda's excellent performance in her debut 100-miler. Also, Nikki finished her 10th time, all in the girl's top-10, with 3 victories and 3 top-10s overall.

2016 was just the 4th time a girl broke 18 hrs, with Kaci smiling her way to a big win. For the boys, this was the year of crazy-insane running up front for 90+ miles, followed by a big missed turn, resulting in one of my Flagstaff buddies walking it in to the finish and another Flagstaff buddy, Andrew, running strong and steady all day long for a very deserving victory. Also, Jeff surprised a whole lot of people in grabbing a podium spot.

2017 was a big snow year, but that didn't stop Jim from racing like it wasn't. It also didn't stop Ryan from becoming just the second non-American boy's champ. Cat ran a perfectly executed race, similar to Andrew's 2016 race, quietly and steadily working her way through the field all day for a much deserved win (btw, I coached her back in the day when she was still in college, just trying to figure out this whole ultra thing!). At age 56, Meghan finished her 10th WS in the girl's top-10 (11th finish overall). Also, I got married two weeks after 2017's WS, so that was pretty cool.

2018. Courtney and Jim. They both crushed the field, each winning by well over an hour. That's a lot. Along the way, Courtney ran the second fastest girl's time and Jim ran a boy's course record, bringing the cougar back to Flagstaff to tie Ashland with four cougars each.

Sooooooo...what have the last 10 years of Western States meant to me? Memories. It's fun for me to look back on the last 10 years of the iconic event of our sport and think about what happened in each of those individual years, as well as the decade as a whole. Sure, there have been changes and people will argue the good and bad of these changes, but it's still a super exciting event that brings together 369 (mostly) really cool people every June for a fun run from Squaw to Auburn.

I think that's pretty cool.

Read what Western States has meant over the past 10 years to my fellow synchrobloggers: