Tuesday, December 21, 2010
RunCommuting and Nearly Indecent Exposure
There's something very freeing about running places when most would expect you to take a car. I almost felt like some sort of a running superhero, as I had running clothes hidden underneath my blue jeans and shirt, ready to go when the opportunity came. Now, this unfortunately led to a very awkward encounter on the light rail train car. I chose a seat in the middle of the train where no one was sitting, and in this spot the train is very narrow and there are only 2 rows of seats, both facing inward and therefore facing each other. As I rifled through my bag to get my running shoes, etc., 3 nice young gals sat down in the row directly in front of me (literally picture 3 inches between our knees...). I then sat for a moment, pondering how to warn these women in such close proximity that I was about to remove my pants... or if I should say nothing, move quickly and just get it done. I didn't want to get slapped or scare anyone, so I opted for a fair warning. Not sure what to say, I just looked at them and kind of blurted, "So, I just wanted to let you know that I'm not a creep or anything, but I am about to take off my pants. But not to worry! I have running clothes on underneath." The looks on their faces went through countless permutations during the short course of my warning- from shock to fear to confusion to perhaps a look of relief and amusement. As I stood up and popped the button on my jeans, they responded, "wow, thanks a bunch for warning us! We would've literally freaked out!" We all laughed, and the crisis was averted.
Anyway, despite the awkward changing experience, it was a great trip. I got my bag packed up, and when we got to the Westlake station downtown, I was on the move! While I can't say I'd recommend running 10+ miles with a garment bag in hand and a full pack, it worked alright, and like I said- it was very freeing to arrive back at our front door mostly under my own foot power. Lessons learned- 1) Find or invent a wrinkle-free suit that I can smash into a pack and not worry about. 2) Always warn people before taking off pants. 3) Running is incredibly freeing and a very valid form of transportation.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Stroller Derby and Renewed Motivation
I haven't run any races or really any major training runs in quite a while, and this race with the girls was a really nice energy boost for me. Perhaps I've been in a funk from a post-Rainier Triple Threat hangover of sorts. I've gone through this sort of thing before; you are so focused on a single big event for so long, that when it's actually completed, it's pretty difficult to get motivated to move forward. That said, my body was ready for a nice break anyway, and I feel fresh and ready to jump back into running more seriously in the coming weeks and months, and I'm excited about it. I have no major plans in the works, but am excited to be back on the running train for the sheer joy of it.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Carkeek 12 Hour 2010
Carkeek 12 Hour race is this Saturday, October 30! If you're in the Seattle area and want to come out and cheer or join the fun, please join us. We'd love to have you.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Katrina Anniversary... What 5 Years Can Bring
Typically anniversaries are a time of celebration- celebrating a marriage or something similar, seems it's always the celebration of something's beginning. Therefore it seems a bit strange to celebrate an "anniversary" of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast and bringing such destruction and in essence an end to so many things. That said, 5 years ago yesterday Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and changed the lives of countless people, including my own. As I think back on my role in the Katrina recovery and the intensity and singular purpose of my work there (helping people get back on their feet and in their homes), it becomes a bit easier to think of this anniversary as a time of celebration. While there is much recovery yet to happen on the coast (especially in light of the most recent BP travesty), there has also been much progress and the wonderful people there have emerged stronger and in many cases the necessity to rebuild has led to a rebirth of school systems, the arts, restaurants, tourism, etc.
I went down to the Gulf Coast in my dad's pickup truck loaded down with supplies to help out for "a few weeks" right after the hurricane hit 5 years ago. Little did I know that a few weeks would turn into months and then more than a year as I started a life-changing non-profit operation to rebuild homes through the Presbyterian Church in Bay St. Louis, MS. As this operation ramped up, I was recruiting volunteers from around the country and was soon employing upwards of 120 volunteers daily to work in the community free of red tape. For me personally, this was a very special time and although the work was harder than any I've ever done, the feeling of being exactly where you're supposed to be and helping others with your whole spirit was pretty incredible. Not only that, but I met my wonderful wife Kirsten on the coast, as she came down from Seattle to volunteer with the very first group of volunteers to my operation. I couldn't be happier with the way Hurricane Katrina changed the course of my life. Now 5 years later, not only are Kirsten and I happily married, but we have 2 beautiful baby girls who I can't help but think wouldn't be here if it weren't for Katrina. People often speak of looking for the silver lining when bad things happen, and 5 years out from Katrina the silver lining is more clear than ever. We still pray for recovery to continue on the coast and know that things will never be the same there, but I am also so grateful for the time we had on the coast and the way it altered the course of our lives forever. Here are a few pictures of my Katrina silver lining;
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Rainier Triple Threat
For a teaser, here's a video of Brock and I on the Wonderland Trail last year (just one leg of the Triple Threat expedition this weekend);
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
To give a brief summary, the race began Friday at 11am, and I started out fast (thanks to my Prefontaine 'stache), but not too fast. I watched the front runners rolling up the canyon, but stayed at a nice pace. I was still in the top 10 coming into the 30 mile mark, and still in that neighborhood at the 48 mile turnaround spot. I felt great, but could feel myself simply running out of energy (which I knew would happen eventually due to lower mileage training...). So I embraced the fatigue and moved on. Night fell just as I hit the turnaround, so I was fortunate enough to see the whole course in daylight. The night was clear, the stars bright, and the temps pretty chilly, but the night passed quickly. Saturday morning's dawn was spectacular, and I was surprised by a lovely red fox bounding past me up "the Wall." I vividly remember grubbing on some fantastic bacon at the Cow Camp aid station (mile 76), which fueled me well.
Toward the end, my body was completely cashed out of any possible energy reserves, but my mind kept pushing me on, even though I was moving slow. The last 5-6 miles are quite flat and on a gravel road, but with no energy left I had already resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to speed hike it the best I could. After just a few minutes of that though, I simply couldn't take it, and drew up energy from nowhere to really hammer those last miles in. I finished utterly spent, and incredibly happy.
It was fun to see my friend and teammate Mike Wolfe out on the course just eating it up. He ultimately destroyed the previous course record by 35-40 minutes... simply awesome. The wildlife was fantastic, the wildflowers abundant and vibrant, and the Bighorn Mountains were simply a thrill.
This was a great race for my mind, and I think it was a great first step in getting my body back to where I'd like it to be for actual 100 mile racing shape. Huge thanks to all the wonderful volunteers and race directors who made Bighorn such a special time!
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Back on the 100 Mile Train
So today I’m headed to Sheridan, WY and the Bighorn mountains to undertake the Bighorn 100. My training has been minimal, but it has involved a high percentage of miles with the added benefit of pushing 2 babies in the Chariot stroller.
I don’t have a pace chart. I have no pacer. I have no crew. I have yet to figure out drop bags, etc. I got a great course briefing from a friend who’s run it before and a few solid pep talks from my friend and TNF teammate Diane Van Deren. I’m not a huge planner in the first place, but I am going into this adventure with a new level of lack of planning. This is by no means to say that I don’t care about the race. I definitely do and I hope to do well. I simply have no real reason to expect it. My main goal for this race is to have fun, and enjoy a spectacular long run mountain adventure through some ridiculously gorgeous terrain, and if that results in a good time on the clock- cool.
For the past year or so I’ve grown and shaved a large mustache for any big races I had, and I’m continuing that tradition this weekend. I do this in celebration of the running spirit that Prefontaine embodied. I plan to run Bighorn in a similar fashion. Many would call it stupid. I call it fun and for the love of the sport. I’m going to run hard from the start and just see what happens. Hopefully it comes down to a “pure guts race” (as most 100’s tend to), and this weekend’s race for me is all about having fun in the mountain playground I love. Go Pre!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Commercializing the Outdoors?
So, to come around to the reason for my topic (commercializing the outdoors), I'll focus on the Mailbox Peak section of the day's activities. I've run Mailbox many times, and am there quite frequently doing repeats- it's one of my favorite local mountains within easy striking distance of the city. That said, when I go to the mountains I love nothing more than the feeling of getting away from the city, away from the vehicles and the branding and the noise. On this particular day up Mailbox, I arrived at the peak to a shocking new addition- corporate branding. There was a bright yellow newspaper box attached to the mailbox post with a huge First Ascent logo emblazoned on it. I have a large problem with this.
Granted, a mailbox in and of itself at the top of a mountain is a bit strange and out of place, but it's part of this particular mountain's story and personality. It makes it unique and is completely anonymous and in the spirit of the outdoors, with a registry for trail-users to share comments, etc. Seeing a local outdoors company take corporate branding to nature is not only offensive, but sad. While it's a unique free advertising idea (their box apparently is full of temporary tattoos of their logo...), it simply has no place in the outdoors. I'm uncertain whether or not First Ascent officially placed this box up there, but they are clearly endorsing it on their Facebook page, and the guys who put it up there blatantly documented their actions. All my feelings about corporate branding in nature aside, this is a criminal act in that it's vandalizing/littering on public lands in a national forest, and it's just plain lame.
I'm curious to hear what other people's reactions might be to this. Have you seen anything similar elsewhere? I realize we see a lot of corporate logos at trail races at aid stations/starts/finishes, but those are temporary and the logos are from sponsors actually supporting the race. To me, this is an example of an "outdoors" company blatantly exploiting the outdoors. Anyone else have similar experiences seeing branding outdoors? Is this the wave of the future? Will we start seeing bumper stickers on trees in remote wilderness next? Either way, next time I go up Mailbox (within the next few days...), I'm going up with a prybar and coming down with that offensive yellow box. Oh, and I'm certainly not buying any First Ascent stuff. Ever. Poor form, First Ascent. Poor form.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Comrades and Starfish... Go team!
Another reason for the added excitement surrounding Comrades this year relates to some incredibly fast American runners who will be running in a race traditionally dominated by the locals. I'm extremely excited about following the race live online, and am confident that our Americans will do amazingly well. A group of my teammates from The North Face is traveling to South Africa (or already there at this point), and I think they're going to be a force to be reckoned with without a doubt! Kami Semick, Lizzy Hawker, Nikki Kimball, and Michael Wardian will all be toeing the line this Sunday, and I wish them all the very best race possible.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing a brief presentation from my friend Kami Semick detailing not only the history and significance of the Comrades race, but also explaining what is a far more important part of the team's trip to South Africa. Kami and the team are on a mission to raise support and awareness for the Starfish Greathearts Foundation and their incredible work. While I think most people are painfully aware of the AIDS epidemic plaguing South Africa, I (and I think most others) was not aware of the impact this has had on orphaning millions of vulnerable children. There are more than 2 million children in SA alone orphaned by AIDS, with over 90% of these children being NOT HIV positive. Starfish is a fantastic organization that is focused solely on nurturing these orphaned children and working to break this destructive cycle. With the world's attention focused on South Africa in the coming weeks, I encourage you to spread the word about this great organization, and hopefully this will be a platform for increased awareness and an impetus for real change there. Please consider supporting my friends' efforts and the work of Starfish by visiting their page HERE.
Here is the story of a Carol, who cares for 97 children herself, and is aided by Starfish;
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Slowly but Surely
I finished the day at 64.something miles (basically 65), and it was a tough day. I felt fantastic for 4 loops (about 20 miles) and led at what felt like a comfortable pace. I remember thinking how nice it was to be out for a long run on such a beautiful day and how good I felt and hey, I might just go for breaking my record today... Then things took a turn on the 5th loop quickly. I still kept a good pace, but just was feeling worn out. Fortunately, a friend came out to pace me (a.k.a. in this instance "keep me company") and he joined me for the next 5 or 6 hours, which made the time pass quickly, even if my legs weren't moving quickly. I had some stomach issues and ended up throwing up a lot around 3pm. It was tough to recover from that and I never really got re-energized after losing so much fluid and calories.
My main goal for the day was to get in a long training run and be on my feet for 12 hours. I accomplished that goal and feel good about my run, despite it being a less than spectacular performance. I've been getting more sleep lately, and am training more consistently, so I know things will just continue to get better, which is great. Summer in Seattle is coming round the bend, and it's going to be another great one I suspect.
Video from last year;
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Singletrack Goes to Georgia
SingleTrack Goes to Georgia from Sam Thompson on Vimeo.
A visit to the brand new 50 mile course at Pine Mountain, Georgia; this is the latest addition to The North Face Endurance Challenge Series of races. The Southeastern regional will take place October 16-17, 2010. Start training, get registered, and see you out in Georgia soon.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I don't think it's necessary to go into great detail, nor do I particularly want to relive the experience in great detail, so I'll keep it brief. The brief summary is that I've realized extreme sleep deprivation (caused by newborn babies) translates to extreme exhaustion in general and markedly poor running performance. In addition to completely dead legs from the start, I was amazed by how quickly the negativity demons (which I normally only encounter only deep in the dark of night in the mountains during 100 milers) found me and attacked with full force. It was rough running through such mounting self doubt and negative thinking, but thankfully the weather was truly gorgeous and the views spectacular.
It was great seeing many friends out there and Krissy Moehl put on a fantastic race this year- everything went great and couldn't have been better. The speedy crowd running this year was inspiring to see, and it was amazing to see the depth of the field and the large number of really fast times run. Congrats to all who ran, many thanks to Krissy and all the fantastic volunteers who made the race happen, and thanks for the motivation for my next race... whatever and whenever that may be! Time to lick my wounds, train hard, and move on to the next one.
Monday, March 15, 2010
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Friday, February 26, 2010
2009 Running "Slasher" Awards
"The what awards," you ask? The Slasher awards. Nope, you've never heard of the running Slasher awards, because I just dreamed them up last night in a sleep-deprived-semi-awake-baby patrol-comatose state of mind. But if there's one thing the ultrarunning world needs, it's Slasher awards. I know it's a bit late in 2010 at this point to be handing out awards for 2009, but it's high time the running world saw Slasher awards.
So what exactly is a Slasher award? I'm awarding Slasher awards to the top men's and women's runners of 2009 that I feel have exemplified the Slasher mindset. That is to say, they have excelled not only in the trail-running world but also found success in the oft-forgotten road running genre (i.e., trailrunner SLASH roadrunner). As a trail running bum (dare I say dirtbag?!?) myself, I feel it's very easy to live in a bubble and to ignore and shun our leaner, better-groomed, more meticulous, pavement pounding brethren. Likewise, road runners in general probably couldn't care less about what the bearded, smelly, muddy contingent is doing galivanting around in the mountains. Ah, but once in a blue moon (which incidentally happened this past December for anyone counting), there comes along a runner who truly bridges the gap. This rare runner is able to fly through negative splits while sucking down gels in a marathon with ease, and in the very same year can slosh around in the mountains slamming cheeseburgers with the best of them. This runner carries a proverbial white flag of peace as a constant beacon of running unity to all the world. So, in an effort to bridge the gap, spread the love, and further the path toward a running utopia, the Slasher awards have arrived. In the famous words of Mr. King, "Why can't we all just get along?" Thanks, Slashers, for being so awesome!
So without further ado, I'd like to announce the first ever Slasher award winners. While I'm certain I've overlooked some noteworthy runners, I've gathered the information at hand and am now happy to announce the 2009 Slasher Award Winners. I haven't made a ranked list. Rather, I'm just naming an outright winner and one honorable mention spot.
- On the women's side, Kami Semick is undoubtedly the Slasher of the Year. Her incredible world class performances in 2009 both on road and off were absolutely unrivaled. With world championship victories on the road at both the IAU 50km World Championships in Gibraltar and the IAU 100km World Championships in Belgium, she showed the incredible footspeed and turnover of a true road runner. Meanwhile, she excelled on technical mountain trails throughout the year, clinching wins at uber-competitive Miwok 100km, American River 50 Mile, and the White River 50 Mile this year (not to mention a smoking fast 2:47 at Twin Cities Marathon...). Kami is a Slasher with a capital 'S,' and she pounds the traivement like no one else.
- The honorable mention spot goes to Devon Crosby-Helms, who has also had an incredible Slasher year. From a stellar course record win at the fabled JFK 50 to a smoking 2:53 at Boston, Devon kept her jets blazing regardless of the surface this year. She also had a killer 4th place finish at the IAU 100km World Championships in Belgium.
- On the men's side, the 2009 Slasher of the Year Award goes to Michael Wardian. The sheer volume and scary speed of his marathon running in 2009 are mind boggling, and he threw in a handful of impressive finishes on the trail this year too. With at least 10 road marathons in 2009, he posted a year's best 2:21 at Vermont City Marathon, and finished 3rd in the world at the IAU World 50K championships in Gibraltar and 6th at the IAU World Cup 100K championships in Belgium and won the Caumsett 50k in a scary 2:56. Meanwhile on the trail, he finished very strongly in the top 3 at the White River 50 mile and in the top 5 at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship. Add to all that a crazy fast 2:34 marathon run at the Route 66 Marathon... while pushing his son in a stroller!
- The men's honorable mention spot was a really tough call and I'm fudging a bit to include historical data pre-2009 (seeing as how this is the first year of the award and all...). I assure you this won't happen again in future years. That said, the honorable mention spot goes to Uli Steidl, who has had a pretty spectacular track record as a Slasher. This year he ran a blistering course record race at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship. Though I couldn't find any road results for 2009, I wouldn't be surprised if he slipped in a few fast performances under the radar. That said, Uli ran to victory 8 years straight at the Seattle Marathon and boasts a marathon PR of 2:13. (*edited added note: Uli did indeed slip in an amazing '09 road performance... a blazing 2:19:42 at the Dusseldorf Marathon!)
Saturday, February 20, 2010
All in a Winter's Day
All in a Winter's Day from Sam Thompson on Vimeo.
If this ain't global warming, I don't know what is. I'm loving the sun, but it's just not normal!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
World Record, Seriously?
My wife wanted to go to the gym this afternoon, so I thought that sounded like a fun adventure to join. So I ran out and did some miles, then ran to the gym to meet her there at the designated time. So there I was, on a beautiful sunny 50 degree Seattle afternoon stuck inside a stuffy gym. Obviously I needed to do something exciting to compensate. So I remembered reading a link someone sent me a few months ago about this guy that broke a bunch of "world records." I use the quotes as I think it's debatable as to what exactly constitutes a world record. But I digress. I remember seeing that one of these trivial (in my opinion) records was the World Record for running a 1/2 mile on a treadmill with a 40 pound pack on (now see what I mean about trivial?). The mark was set at 2:51. I figured I could beat it. So the race was on. I unloaded my hydration pack, and filled it with 5 pound plates (8 of 'em), slapped on my pack and headed to the treadmill. I ran a 1/4 mile first to get the feel of the weight on my back, then pounded out a 1/2 mile in a blazing 2:49. Yep, that's right. You read it correctly. I shattered the world record by 2 seconds.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Seeing these images, I cannot help but be reminded of my time on the MS Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and I only wish I were able to help as directly as I could when tragedy struck the Gulf. Ha, I wish I could run around Haiti to show my support in lieu of running 51 marathons. Of course, my life was in a different place then, and while I can't go to Haiti and set up a relief operation like in Bay St. Louis, I hopefully can help in a small way by offering at least a little bit of direction. The many aid organizations active in Haiti now are working in high gear to triage the situation, and their greatest need is certainly financial. Secondly, the need is for skilled volunteers (specifically at this point the need is for medical help). I was thrilled to learn that my brother (an orthopedic surgeon) is headed to Haiti to help directly. Although helping directly would be incredible, I know that right now the best help I can be is to contribute financially what I can to the efforts already in place.
It's exciting to see the swell of support not only from our country but also from around the world. For example, I read that even the financially devastated African country of Liberia has donated $50,000 in aid. Amazing.
Another interesting connection for me between this devastation and the time I spent on the Gulf Coast leading aid efforts is the resiliency of the people. The Haitian people have had a strong influence on the culture of New Orleans, and it's wonderful to see the similarities. The stories of new communities banding together to help each other in Haiti are wonderful, and pictures of impromptu groups singing praise songs and banding together for support are amazing. Haiti will need help rebuilding for many years to come, and I only hope we are able to keep their people in our hearts and minds as the months pass, but the needs continue.
Here are a few great organizations working in Haiti if you're looking for some ideas;
- GHESKIO- an aid organization that has been active in Haiti for a while helping in AIDs relief is now on the forefront of setting up shelter and care for those in need. You can donate to GHESKIO here. Learn more about their efforts in an msnbc article here.
- Doctors Without Borders- another fantastic aid organization that is helping save lives directly through surgeries and medical care. Donate to their efforts/learn more here.
- World Vision- yet another great international aid organization committed to a presence in Haiti for years to come. Learn more/donate to them here.
Please feel free to share any other organizations you may be aware of or other ideas/thoughts. Let's all do our part to help!
Friday, January 8, 2010
Christmas Eve Marathon(ish) Video
Christmas Eve Marathon(ish) from Sam Thompson on Vimeo.
A quick running video with no actual running footage. Just a Christmas Eve celebration run with lots of good coffee with miles of running all over Seattle hidden in between stops.
Friday, January 1, 2010
The Fastest 6:03 Mile Ever
I'm not terribly into making New Year's Resolutions, so I won't say that trying to incorporate a bit of speedwork into my training is my resolution. However, I am somewhat motivated to give it a whirl in the coming months just to see what happens. After talking with North Face teammate Kami Semick a few weeks ago I definitely realized that I probably won't be racing a whole lot faster without actually training faster. Interesting concept.
So today I decided I'd better get a baseline reading- find out what I can run a mile in on the track. I'm not sure when the last time I actually ran on a track might have been, but it's certainly been a while. Fortunately I do know where a high school is in the neighborhood, so I knew where to find one of those 1/4 mile running ovals. So I ran over there today, did my mile, and ran home. I was sure I'd be able to get under 6:00, but didn't imagine I'd be much under. I was sorely disappointed. My "official" time was 6:03, but I've decided that that time needs some adjustment. What better way to start the new year than with a list of excuses? Hence, I have compiled a brief list of lousy excuses (complete with corresponding time deductions) in order to calculate my actual adjusted mile time for today;
Lousy Excuse #1- I ran to the track, so already had tired legs when I arrived. (- :05 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #2- A belly full of Swedish pancakes and coffee I had just consumed. (- :20 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #3- The cheese fondue I had last night was still heavy in my tummy. (- :10 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #4- It was really windy. (- :05 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #5- It was warmer than it looked so I was overdressed for optimum performance. (- :05 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #6- I was wearing trail shoes and not uber-fast racing flats. (- :05 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #7- My mind was too focused on all the football bowl games going on today to pay any attention to the track. (- :05 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #8- No iPod, so my eye of the tiger was absent minus Eye of the Tiger blasting. (- :05 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #9- Unaccustomed to the tight turns of a track, I felt intense pressure on my inside knee. (-:03 seconds)
Lousy Excuse #10- I'm a trail runner and never run so fast in the mountains. (no time deduction, just an excuse)
So if my calculations are correct, that brings my adjusted time to a 5:00 minute mile. Very respectable I'd say. Wow, I guess I'm not so desperately in need of speedwork after all. Yes, I'm very pleased with that.
Though I did run a mile on the track today, this is all a joke of course, and I am still motivated to try a bit of speedwork moving forward. We'll see how it goes. Happy New Year to you all! 2009 was a lot of fun, and I know 2010 will bring many exciting and fun adventures for us all!