Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Summary

A bit of everything, well if you consider Running and Biking everything. I have written about the Calico 50k and Tour of Sufferlandria in posts before, so I will not focus on that now.

I missed out another 200 mile month but then I was only running for 3 weeks of it!


That said the Tour had an impact against overall mileage as you would expect but it also bit into the overall time of running, carving out nearly 25% of the month. Here is the division;

image image

Overall my time on the dirt has increased in the last month which is a good thing.


This is the ongoing accumulation across terrain;


I passed the 6 month mark and it looks like this;

  • Road; 519.47
  • Treadmill: 309.99
  • Trail: 359.111
  • Total 1188.57


Friday, January 30, 2015

Skratch Labs Taste Agent

As you may have read Becca and I are both experimenting with using real food for our longer runs at the weekend. This is moving us away from gels and blocks, the usual things that we have been using for years. So far it’s going well, we have been using bread, PB&J and boiled potatoes. Some of these are portable others less so!

It was when I was cruising he internet before Christmas that I found myself on the Skratch Labs website. I wondered if they had a Brand Ambassador program (or something similar) and to my surprise they did. So of course I applied!


I have used both of Allen Lim’s Books Feedzone and Portables a fair bit in the past, the Feedzone more than the other book. Both have produced some really good meals, wholesome, tasty and healthy! Here is some proof…although two of these are portables!

(l – r) Bread Pudding, Quick Crusts, Coconut Macroons

Anyway I had kinda forgotten that I had applied, with all the Christmas and New Year hoopla it went out of my mind until…

…until I got this email from them!


So there you go I am an official Skratch Labs Taste Agent! So what does that mean? Well more pictures of food and more fueling with real food. I am going to try to get at least one recipe from either book reviewed on a weekly basis too as well as give you some (and them) some feedback on their products! I hope to have some contests and giveaways throughout the year so stay tuned!

In the meantime check them out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and of course their website!

In case you can’t tell…I am super stoked about this!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SOB50k Wk 12

This week was always going to be a bit odd. A pseudo taper combined with a race weekend and the Tour of Sufferlandria starting on the Friday! All these added up meant that there was going to be a 15 day block with no rest day! Here’s how it shook out;

Monday. 10 miles. It was a holiday so I didn’;t have to go out at the crack of dawn or the early evening so I went slap bang in the middle of the day. It took a good 5 miles to warm up but I actually felt pretty good at the end of it.

Tuesday. I haven’t been on my bike for months, probably 5 times since Vineman 70.3 last summer! So I thought I should do an FTP test. The result 216, down 14 points from last year…I’ll take it!


Wednesday. 7 miles. Progressive speed work, all things considered this went ok. There is life in the old dog yet!

Thursday. 5 miles. Nice and easy…aka sluggish!

Friday. Day 1 Tour of Sufferlandria Elements of Style and The Long Scream. 40 minutes working on your form followed by 40 minutes of time trialing! My ass thinks my brain has gone numb!


Saturday. Day 2 Tour of Sufferlandria. Blender. One hundred minutes of a bit of everything, climbing, time trialing, sustained effort. That was hard! Feet up for the rest of the day before tomorrow's race.

Sunday. Calico 50k. You can read the race report here.

So for the week; 4 runs 9:12 and 52.76 miles and 3 bikes 4:13 and 68.17 miles!

No news on the waitlist for SOB so I may be running the Bandit 50k instead!?!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Calico 50K

I last ran the Calico 50K race back in 2008, it was only my second Ultra race and I went into it pretty naive and managed to fudge my way round. Fast forward 7 years and while I might be a bit greyer I am for sure a bit wiser. This race is one of the first ultras on the Southern California circuit and as with most trail races it’s pretty relaxed and low key. I had a couple of goals for the race, my “A” goal was a sub 6 hour finish, the “B” goal a sub 12:00 min mile. Overall I wanted to run a sensible race and not go out too fast, blow up and have to hang on to the finish. The goal was a solid pace throughout. It was also a good opportunity to continue the real food experiment that Becca and I have been using for our last few long runs.

The race itself is just outside of Barstow in what is known as the high desert. Calico sits at approx. 2300’. This area has very little vegetation, summer highs average 105F and winter lows in the 30Fs, it’s best described as harsh! To put that into some perspective here is a screen grab from Google Earth of the course, see what I mean, not a lot of green!


This is the Race elevation and route, in Garmin Connect and Strava. The Screen Grab below is from SportTracks.


Calico is an old/restored silver mining town dating back to 1881 and is now a California Historic Landmark which receives tourists all year round. The area is used for ATV and quad-bike off-roading and it’s not unusual to see folks out with rifles shooting, I certainly heard my fair share of automatic weapons being discharged!

The race was scheduled to start at 7am and despite some kerfuffle with bibs a couple of minutes before 7am we were ready. There were roughly 150 runners ready to start including those running the 30k. Without much fuss the race was underway. Becca and I had gone back and forth on whether we would or should run together. We hadn’t come to any definitive decision but Becca had said she was ok being on her own or being with me and I should run my own race. The first couple of miles are on the road out of town. It’s a nice easy downhill which takes you onto the main road, in fact the only road. From there you’re directed onto a Jeep track and you’re onto the trail proper and the trail continues through until the last mile which is back through the paved parking lot 

The race is definitely a race of two halves. The first half is a steady climb up to the 18 mile mark. There are few rollers and a couple of short technical sections but essentially you are on a jeep trail for the entire time. I tried to take a photo every mile or so, here are the best of them. As you can see, this day I was a better runner than photographer but you do get an idea of what the desert looks like!


I ran past the first couple of Aid Stations, I was wearing my UD Wasp which was full of water. I also carried a UD Handheld which had High5 in it (think of Nuun but less fizzy). On the solid food list I had stashed several brioche PB&J rolls, I also has some Plum “Mash Ups”, essentially baby food and a couple of Peanut Butter Company single servings. My goal was to have one thing every 38 minutes and work my way through them until I reached the Drop Bag which had more of the same and I could just refill there.

At the 18 mile AS I sat down and made a point of emptying my shoes. The trail was dusty and rocky and with hindsight gaiters would have been a good call. I was feeling pretty good and I had been catching and passing people for the last 5 miles or so and had only been passed once. I tried to minimize my time at the AS and this allowed me to get out quick and pass a couple of people who had had arrived before me and were still doing stuff. At this point in the race the field was very strung out and usually I could only see one or two people ahead and the same behind. With that perspective it’s very hard to judge anything.


The next mile or so was a short climb up and then you had a technical shale decent. This crazy section is followed by 3 miles of downhill, you can let rip and click off some quick miles but by the time you got to the very bottom you have another 9 miles to the finish. If I was to make the sub 6 hours I needed to cover the last 9 miles in 1:45…kinda doable. However after the downhill you have another 3 miles of climbing. It was going to be very close.

I decided to keep it steady and cruise along. I was passed one more time by someone who I then caught up with at the next AS and then left ahead of. The folks at the AS told me I was #32 coming in so in my mind I decided my goal was to try and get in the Top 30.

Finally around the 26 mile mark you start the last downhill section, I use downhill loosely as it’s really a roller coaster that has a net downhill at the end. That said when you get to the bottom there is the penultimate short sharp climb that puts you on a ridgeline where you can see the finish and has you running in the opposite direction! I was still picking off people all the way back into town! The final climb is at the back end of the town and then you run down Main Street much to the amusement of tourist who have come to visit the old mining town!

I crossed the finish line just over 6 hours with an official time of 6:03:26 8th in my AG and 18th Male and 27th OA.


Overall I was really pleased. Despite missing my A goal I ran a completely sensible race. I passed enough people to come in the top 30. My hydration and nutrition was on point and I actually felt really good the next day which was great as this race fell into the first weekend of the Tour of Sufferlandria! I also beat my course PR by 31 minutes! Not bad for someone who was seven years older…and wiser!

If you’re looking for a challenging race that is low key but highly organized this could be a great race for you, if 50k is too long there is a 30k option too although your get to skip all the challenges that the second half of the 50k offers.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 Plans…redux (probably not for the first time either)!

Had you asked me 18 days ago what my plans were for the first 8 months of the year were and I would have said this;

Then this happened;


Then this happened;


So now it’s kinda like this...sorta...ish!

  • Calico Ghost Town 50k – Registered
  • Tour of Sufferlandria – Registered
  • Sean O’Brien 50k…well maybe, we’re waitlisted
  • Bandit 50k – depends on the above!
  • Leona Divide 50m - Registered
  • Grand Canyon R2R2R – not enough time for Becca to recover before IM Boulder, no worries, it’s been there a few years and I am sure it will be there for a few more!
  • TransRockiesRun Run 6 – looked at the finances on this one and it costed out at $7,000+, and the house needs painting and the closets need remodeling, and I need (don’t want, but need) a new car…being an adult sucks!

Remaining possibilities;

  • Cuyamaca 100k Registration opens June 15th…yeah I set a reminder for that!
  • Waldo 100k It’s a lottery which announces the run list on March 1st
  • Backbone Trail 70 miler (self supported) There’s something to be said for being in control of you own destiny! I have run the entire thing but in sections; here, here and here.

The elevations South to North (approx 15,000’ of gain)

And…we’ll see!

It’s all good!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

SOB50K Week 11

Another build week! I was finally feeling like I was getting back into the groove at work which meant things at home are easier. Along with 100+ mile daily commute 3-4 days a week our combined family has four kids that need lunches and school runs etc. Having had nearly 2 weeks off over Christmas meant that I was a little rusty!

Monday. 10 Miles. Becca’s plan has longer back-to-back runs. This was hard, it sucked for the first 5 miles. The next 5 miles I was pissed so I just ran it off to get home and eat!

Tuesday. Off. Doing my happy dance!

Wednesday. 4 Miles. Treadmill, nothing fancy just a recovery run.

Thursday. 10 miles. Went out, warmed up and then picked up the pace and didn’t look back. 7:44 pace for the run which isn’t “blazing” fast compared to say my Half Marathon PR which is a minute a mile faster but hey I will take it!


Friday. 8 miles on the Treadmill. 3% incline at 8:57 with last mile at 1% at 9:15

Saturday. Off. Like. A. Boss!

Sunday. 22 Miles. My race plans have taken a hit…more on that to follow. So we tried something very new as the weather forecast was for it to be somewhat hot. We drove through to Topanga State Park which is closer to the Ocean and should be cooler with the plan to run two loops around the XTerra 15K course and then add on some more

Long story short, we got ourselves onto the Backbone Trail and ended up at the southern end of it at Will Rogers State Park. All that said it was a section of the trail that Becca had never seen and I section I had only run once back in 2009. It also sowed the seed for something for later in the year.

We had the pleasure of bumping it a friend of our Louis who was out with his pals tearing up the trails. I decided to do my best Beaker impression!


As per last week we were using real food although we ran a little short as some was left in the car with a view to picking it up for the second loop. That all said it was a good day out and while there was a fair bit of uphill walking I felt pretty good the entire run!


The new plan seems to mean bigger mileage so this week I ended up just under 55 miles and I am already over 130 miles for the month!

This coming weekend we have the Calico 50k AND the Tour of Sufferlandria starts, it’s going to be a couple of tough weeks!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Clif Bar; Berry Pomegranate Chia and Nuts & Seeds.

Clif Bars are ubiquitous, what started as a sports nutrition product (and still is) has become a healthy snack that you can pick up anywhere from your local running store, grocery store, gas station and all points in between! Ideal for most activities it’s also just a great snack to have in your desk drawer at the office! Clif are always looking to keep moving forward and stay ahead of the competition. They have a seasonal flavor set that comes out in the fall and a few years ago they ran a limited edition Paneforte bar which was amazing! Let’s face it in a sea of bars they have be imaginative with new flavors. Allow me to introduce their two newest kids on the block; Berry Pomegranate Chia and Nuts & Seeds.


Berry Pomegranate Chia. this had a slightly unusual flavor, the berry wasn’t quite tart enough for me. The pomegranate didn’t quite come through. I have added chia to homemade granola before and it’s not something that you can really taste. The texture was something that all Clif Bars have, that moist pliable feeling that just rolls around your mouth. Overall totally edible but not something that makes you go crazy.

Nuts & Seeds; this was on the other end of the spectrum altogether. Off the charts yummy. The flavor was earthy, nutty and very edible. Was it me or my imagination that each bit tasted of a different nut variety? I am not sure but this was just like eating a piece of soft nut brittle. Perfect for enjoying with a coffee or for having on the side of a trail! It’s that perfect blend of sweet, salty, crunch and chewy! It was just…Really. Really. Good!

So there you go two new additions that you can add to your pantry or running pack or desk drawer…as I say they are everywhere so they shouldn’t be too hard to find!

Talking of stores, something I found out is that if you buy bars at Whole Foods by the box you get a 10% discount…I didn’t know that, that’s actually a better deal than at Trader Joes!

This product was provided by Clif Bar If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Third party face-palm!

I’ve been so focused on Leona Divide 50m that this happened!


Back up plan, Bandit 50k the weekend after!



Monday, January 12, 2015

Review; In the Footsteps of Greatness by Josh Mathe (Audio-book)

Life is typically so busy that I really don’t have any time to sit down and read a book. I used to be an avid reader but that has long since fallen by the wayside. To that end and to stop my brain from turning into complete mush I am a keen listener of audio-books and Podcasts. A 120 mile round trip commute and 8-10 hours of running each week gives you that time!

I was fortunate to have been given an audio copy of In the Footsteps of Greatness by Josh Mathe by Josh himself. Full disclosure, Josh is the husband of the coach that Becca used last year. While we have never met “knowing” Josh added a degree of intimacy to the listening of it.


Starting with Josh growing up in Los Angeles and his move to Northern California. It touches on his relationships with his family and wife, the latter provided him with his training plan for this event. His commitment to his business and to his clients is covered and how he manages to juggle it all while training and racing himself in preparation for his venture. Finding balance is something we can all do with some help with! It covers his systematic overall  approach to the venture breaking it down into three distinct elements; Mental, Physical and Logistics.

In the book Josh tells the story of his several attempts and the ultimate completion of the John Muir Trail, (Yosemite to Mt Whitney ~212 miles). It’s a personal account which recounts Josh’s fast packing of the trail. Including fascinating technical detail of the logistics; gear choice both good and bad. It does a great job of capturing the majesty of the landscape and scenery. While only on the trail for a short time there’s no doubting that Josh encountered many interesting characters both human and non-human (bears!) and his interaction with them is perfectly captured.

The story also peels back the onion on Josh. Emotions are revealed, both the joy felt on the trail covering the miles alone with his thoughts and that of sharing a meal at the end of the day with other travelers. On the darker side Josh’s insecurities and fears are revealed including the possibility of not completing his journey when only miles from the end.

The book is well written and narrated by Josh himself, this adds much authenticity to its reading. He has an easy to listen to voice. The writing is not aimed at “endurance junkies” and posits that anything is possible if you are willing to try and try again. Josh avoids the “what you need to do is” trap, one that other athletes who have written books have fallen into. It’s more like catching up with a friend who is telling you the story over a beer!

Overall it’s a completely enjoyable listen. It contains that subliminal inspirational messaging the gets under your skin and develops over time until the point you realize your looking at the National Parks websites on how you get permits!

Available in hard and soft media versions. As an audio-book it comes it at four hours, perfect for one or two longs runs or a road trip although don’t be surprised if you find yourself listening to it at every opportunity, it’s that compelling.

This product was provided free of charge by Josh Mathe. See previous gear reviews in the Reviews tab above. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at

Sunday, January 11, 2015

SOB50K Week 10

Another build week, although Monday got the best of me and I had to push my back-to-back long run to Tuesday. With Becca and I training for the same races I have decided to switch to her plan, I will post about that separately. So here’s the details:

Monday. Off. Work, life, <insert excuses>!

Tuesday. 11 miles. Treadmill. Treadmill at 2%. Not feeling this at all and a day late. Going back to work hit hard, not so much hit the ground running...more like just hit the ground! My Garmin and the Footpod always runs longer than the Treadmill so the miles are accurate to the ‘mill.

Wednesday. 4 Miles. Treadmill, nothing fancy just a recovery run

Thursday. 8 miles. Quick temp run around a local loop. Nice to add a bit of pep into my step!

Friday. 7 miles on my local trail out and back. Another hard run, nonstop there and back. Nice and solid Z2/3 at 2% grade


Saturday. Like a Boss!

Sunday. 22 Miles. Plan was to park a car at each end of an out and back and then run it three times. Ended up adding extra miles on one section then hopped a fence got kinda lost. Ran past someone people making a video/movie! It rained, it was sunny it was just one of those crazy ass days! Big departure on this run was the introduction of more real food. We had brioche with PB&J, boiled, salted potatoes and single servings of Peanut Butter Company PB&Chocolate.


They worked really well and we will try that again next weekend. Only downside for this run was coming up just under 2 miles short with just over 20 miles for the day, that said it was another 4 hours moving and nearly 6 on my feet!


This one pretty much killed my Peregrine 4s off, so I will break out a new pair for next weekend.