Unfinished Business: Jim Walmsley on Project Carbon X 2

HOKA ultrarunner Jim Walmsley set the running world on fire with his 50-mile world record at the 2019 edition of Project Carbon X. However, he has some unfinished business, as he wasn’t able to hold that pace through 100K (roughly 62 miles). With the upcoming Project Carbon X 2 on January 23rd at 7am MST, Jim has a chance at redemption, so we sat down with him to learn about 2019’s race, how training has gone this year, and what his goals are for Project Carbon X 2, and more.

JimBlog

HOKA: Before we dive into this year’s event, tell us about 2019’s Project Carbon X. How did that race go for you?

2019’s Project Carbon X was a really good day for me. I was able to break Barney Klecker’s American Record from 1980 of 4:51:25 and Bruce Fordyce’s World Record from 1983 of 4:50:51, with my own time of 4:50:08 for 50 miles. It was a little nerve wracking trying to decide on which distance to target for 2019’s event. It was a pace of 5:48/mile for the 50 mile WR or the 100K WR pace of 5:56/mile. On paper, I had thought those might be close enough paces to be able to target both goals in one race, and that’s what HOKA set up for me to try. With warm temperatures in Sacramento in May, some unexpected hills along the chosen route, and running some impatient early miles, it all added up to not be my perfect day. Instead, I was realizing as I kept getting closer to 50 miles, that it was going to take my full gas tank in order to just pull off the 50 mile WR time. In reflection, the 50-mile World Record has a rich history, dating back to before I was born. It was very rewarding to target the record held by Barney Klecker and Bruce Fordyce. I wasn’t able to hold onto the 100K WR pace from there, but I still took away a really great experience.

HOKA: 2020 has been a tumultuous year; how has training gone for you since the 2020 Marathon Trials?

Like most runners this year, races have been few and far between. Since the Trials, I tried to mix in some other training like indoor cycling on Zwift in my garage, as well as still going out to Colorado for a summer of camping and big mountain running. In 2020, I’ve gone through confusion like most people. I have felt periods of being tired or unmotivated; I have sometimes struggled with distinguishing the difference. Despite that struggle, training has been really great overall for me. I’ve had long blocks of steady mileage without reaching too much for big weeks and I have avoided taking much time off. I ran a really fun 72-mile run in the San Juans with 25,000ft of climbing and I got to race my first ever stage race on super technical trails in the Azores Islands. Both were a nice, much-needed change from road training earlier this year. 2020 will be the first year of my life, that I know of or I have documented in training, that I will reach 5,000 miles for the year. That mileage also has about 800,000 feet of elevation gain in it.

JimBlog1

HOKA: What are your goals for this year’s Project Carbon X 2? What did you learn from the 2019 race? Has anything changed in terms of training for this year’s 100K?

My goal for this 100K is to put my best foot forward and to put things together from what I’ve learned from my previous attempts at 100K road races. This will be my third attempt at a road 100K. I feel that my results in the 100K road distance are still disproportionate to my capability. So ultimately, I would like to take away the feeling of a good result. Going into this, I will be setting my sights and pace goals in line with trying to break Nao Kazami’s World Record of 6:09:14, at 5:56/mile pace. The biggest thing I learned from 2019’s Project Carbon X is not to lose patience. I want to maintain patience even when I am feeling good. I can’t start to wind up the pace and speed up too much too early. I need to stay with the goal pace and trust myself to be strong later. Perhaps closer to 55 miles is when I can start thinking about running below 5:50/mile pace. It would be a very positive feeling to run an evenly paced first 50 miles and build onto that the last 12 miles. Like many people, I have self-doubts about how I will feel late in races. I need to trust my training and fitness and make this about running the full 100K and aiming to break 6:09.

I see there are two big differences in my build up this time around. The first difference is there is no goal race, like Western States, looming afterwards. I am able to take full advantage of this race opportunity. The second difference is that this training block has the benefit of more speed training from my marathon block from the 2020 US Marathon Trials. My speed and efficiency on the roads have never been better in my ultra running career than this current block. Speed sessions from 2018 were really eye opening for me. They were a bit frustrating. I was able to knock a lot of rust off to run 1:04:00 for the half marathon in Houston in 2019, where I initially qualified for the trials. Then, revisiting that leg speed later in 2019 for another half marathon, workouts clicked differently than my first time back in the saddle in 2018. I was able to take a minute off of my half marathon time the month before the trials. Now, training for the 100K, I am currently feeling good about being able to hit threshold work in the range of 4:45/mile. However, I am still including sub-70 minute climbs out of the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab trail once a week into my training. This provides more strength for my long road runs. It is now about one month out and I am getting very excited about my training leading into Project Carbon X 2. I have kept a nice balance in my training so far.

HOKA: The Carbon X shoe has been updated; what are your thoughts on the Carbon X 2 compared to its predecessor?

Compared to the original Carbon X, this shoe feels faster, no question. It has a nice heel to lean back into when I’m focusing on staying relaxed, while having a responsive forefoot to run at a quicker pace. I find my position while running is more ideal. I don’t feel as far forward as I did with the original shoe. It makes for a great tempo pace shoe and I am excited to feel even better for this 100K.

JimBlog2

HOKA: How do you feel about this year’s field in the 100K? Who do you think will be your biggest competition?

I am still learning more about who has confirmed for this year’s race. COVID-19 is playing a much bigger role and making it difficult to have as many international athletes as we would have hoped for. That said, HOKA is making the most of the situation in a creative way that should enhance the event greatly. There will be a concurrent 100K race held in Japan. Japan, as a country, has been the kings and queens of the road 100K event. Knowing they will be time trialing as well, it will add a really great benefit for us in the US. It adds a type of ghost on my shoulder all day. I hope it will push us at the front of the race towards breakthrough times, knowing they are aiming for the same goals.

It will also be fun to see many HOKA athletes I haven’t gotten to see at races in 2020. Elov Olson, Joacim Lantz, and Johan Lantz from Sweden sound like they will be able to travel in for the race. I’ve become good friends with them over the years. We should have some really interesting dark horses traveling in from South Africa. Many of us Americans don’t know as much about those athletes. South Africa, like Japan, is another ultra road-running-crazed country engulfed by the great Comrades Marathon race. It is their Super Bowl of events in the country with a 56-mile road race in June every year. Tyler Andrews, Tim Freriks, and Jared Hazen have been training up here in Flagstaff with me. I know they are ready to chase fast times. It will also be great to line up as HOKA teammates again with Hayden Hawks. I would love to get him back a little for breaking my course record at JFK last month! haha

HOKA: What do you think about this new course in Arizona compared to last year’s 100K course?

A lot of planning went into Project Carbon X 2 to make it even better than the course in Sacramento. In retrospect, 2019’s course ended adding some difficulty with the May temperatures in Sacramento and some of the punchy, little hills along the course. 2021’s course has all the right ingredients for a fast course. I am excited to have the opportunity to chase a world record in my hometown.

I feel humbled that HOKA is able to take the necessary precautions to hold an event like this during the difficulties of 2020. I have a little bias, but the desert in Arizona makes for a perfect place to race in the winter months. Good temperatures and flat land in this area of Phoenix make this area ideal in January. Project Carbon X2’s course should be very fast and we should be able to maintain a good flow of pace all day out there. At HOKA, we all learned from 2019’s Project Carbon X. I feel like Christian Moore and the team at HOKA have really dialed this 100K race course in on near perfect. It’s on myself and the other HOKA athletes now to show up ready to run fast!

Jim is seen above wearing the new Carbon X 2. Good luck Jim, and to all the athletes racing at Project Carbon X 2 on January 22nd at 4pm MST in Japan, and January 23rd at 7am MST in the US.

JimBlog3

Chasing Fastest Known Times with Ashly Winchester

Ashly Winchester knows a thing or two about Fastest Known Times (FKTs). In fact, she currently holds 36 different FKTs around the US. We asked Ashly to tell us about her journey towards FKTs, the logistics around an attempt, and more.

Ashly-Blog
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

My journey into running was borne out of necessity; I needed a way to escape, and going for long, solo runs in the backcountry was the only way I found my solace.

I grew up in the wild spaces of Northern California. At a very young age, I would be sent outside along with my siblings with instructions to “go play.” We’d find a stream and follow it as far as we could, or go fish in the pond, or see who could climb the furthest up into the canopy of oak trees. I’d snack on wild blackberries, miner’s lettuce, and sheep sorrel as I trod on bare little feet through the grassy hills and valleys of my home. I’d pick wildflowers and dig up soaproot, cautiously aware of how much I took because Mom said to always leave enough for the plants to propagate. I’d bring these items back as gifts for her, although the blackberries rarely made it home.

Because of this childhood, being alone in the backcountry has never felt scary to me, on the contrary; it feels like home. The wilderness is my safe space, always there to wrap me up in solitude, free of judgement. It’s the only place where I truly feel like myself.

So when my adult life began to crumble within the grasp of domestic violence, I turned to the only thing that I knew would comfort me and bring me peace: I went home to the wilderness.

Completely lost in thought, I would disappear into the backcountry for hours and the miles would fly by. There’s something trance-like and meditative about running long distances, and it was the only way I could process what was going on. My anxiety and depression would lift and I could think clearly and logically again. It was on a particularly long run that I decided I needed to find a way out of the situation I was in. I’m not sure I would have made this decision if it weren’t for the thoughtfulness that comes with a good, long run. This simple act of putting one foot in front of the other saved me.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

My Journey Into FKTs

Running became a fundamental part of my life. It felt natural to try my hand at ultra-distance racing, but races always lacked something for me. Or perhaps it’s that racing offered more than I needed. As much as I enjoy the camaraderie that comes along with trail races, I crave the solitude of the wilderness. The crowds and noise and aid stations and colorful flags are too much for me.

That’s when I discovered Fastest Known Times, often called FKTs.

FKTs embody everything I love: big, solo, unsupported days in the wilderness with all the planning, prep, and logistics done on my own. The high mileage days in the wilderness coupled with the obsessive planning is exactly what feeds my soul. All of the noise and fanfare are removed. It’s just me and the wilderness and my goal. Nothing more.

FKTs have been gaining traction over the last few years, but there’s been a huge boom in popularity this year. The Covid epidemic has canceled races and key events for a lot of athletes, so it seems natural that some athletes have turned to FKTs. It’s been a manner in which runners can use their fitness from all the dedicated race training, and still accomplish a goal.
What is an FKT?

FKT stands for Fastest Known Time, and is essentially a speed record on an established trail, ridgeline, or mountain route. Common FKTs that many people are aware of include the John Muir Trail (Nuumu Poyo), Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, and the Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) of the Grand Canyon. These all happen to be longer trails, but FKTs can be short too, and encompass a wide range of terrain and technical aspects.

What most people don’t know is that there are hundreds of established trails and routes that have existing FKTs, or are just waiting for an FKT to be established. Fastest Known Times are accessible to anyone and you do not need to be an elite or professional athlete to take one on.

There are three main styles of FKTs:

  • Unsupported – You receive no outside help. You have no partners, pacers, or resupply. You are not allowed to leave caches for yourself, or accept help from “trail angels” (those nice strangers who offer help). You carry everything you need from start to finish. However, it is okay to collect water from natural sources.
  • Self-supported – You can set up pre-planned caches or resupplies for yourself, but receive no pre-planned help from anyone else. You may purchase items along the way, and you may also accept food or water from “trail angels.” Pacers and partners are not allowed.
  • Supported – You receive pre-planned help from someone, have pacers or partners, aid-stations, etc. This might mean that you have a crew helping you the entire time, or that one person hands you a bottle of water once. Any amount of assistance can make an effort classified as ‘supported,’ even if that assistance was not planned.

Keep in mind that what I’ve shared here are just guidelines, and that each FKT may have a different ethic surrounding it, meaning that rules for some FKTs may differ from others. It’s important to do the research and plan, plan, plan.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

How I Plan An FKT

One of the beautiful things about FKTs is that there’s a lot of room to plan and schedule your FKT attempt on your own terms. You can choose to attempt an FKT in any of the style formats listed above, during whatever time of year you choose, and starting at any time of day that suits you.

This freedom is one of the many reasons I love FKTs, but it also means that planning and prepping is immensely important. One of the things you’re paying for when you enter a race is the race director’s time and energy to plan and prep. You don’t have to carry all of your water and food because there are aid stations and drop bags and there are emergency personnel on standby should you become injured or ill. The route is marked and you (usually) don’t have to worry about all the logistics. Races are planned for you, so all you have to do is train.

So, if you want to try your hand at a Fastest Known Time record, where do you start?

First of all, when you find a route you want to attempt an FKT on, you need to study it. Seriously. REALLY study it. Knowing your route will help you plan your water and food, create an emergency plan, and set you up for success.

Here are some questions to ask yourself going into an FKT:

  • Am I capable of traveling the distance?
  • Am I comfortable with the terrain?
  • Are there technical aspects like class 3, 4, or 5 scrambling? Can I make those moves?
  • Is there off-trail travel and route-finding? Can I manage that?
  • Are there places to refill water? Is the water flowing? What is the quality of the water? Do I need to filter or treat it?
  • How much food do I need to bring?
  • What will the weather be like?
  • Do you need to prepare to be out there overnight?
  • Do I need wilderness permits?

These are just a few of the questions that I ask myself as I prep. You can also visit the Fastest Known Time website to research and find information on existing FKT routes. You’ll often find trip reports, photos, GPX files, and other information that will help you prepare.

As most endurance athletes know; it’s good to push yourself outside your comfort zone, but when taking on a solo or unsupported FKT you want to use caution so that you don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation that you can not handle on your own. Be as safe as possible, and take risks within reason.

Planning, training, and prep may take a matter of hours, days, or even months depending on your chosen adventure.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

Providing Proof

There’s no official governing body for FKTs, just passionate athletes who volunteer their time to verify records as best they can, so FKTs aren’t official records. But there are still some strict requirements that are necessary to prove that you completed a route.

The most important part of the verification process is providing GPS verification. You need GPS data that shows that you were where you were, when you say you were, and that you traveled at the speeds you claim. When submitting a new Fastest Known Time record on the website, you must submit a gpx file from your FKT attempt. More competitive routes may as that you also use live tracking tools, such as a SPOT tracker or Garmin InReach.

So what stops someone from cheating? The answer is: photos and trip reports. This is how you prove that you were the one who actually completed the FKT. Taking a selfie in key areas such as trail intersections and summits, or on any recognizable section of the route, will provide time-stamped photo evidence. Writing a detailed trip report adds an extra personalized touch on the whole experience.

The FKT admins take all of this information and make a decision on whether or not the FKT is legitimate.

Have Fun With It

There’s always competitiveness surrounding speed records, but the most important part to remember about chasing FKTs is that you enjoy it. There’s no medal and there’s no finisher’s purse for completing them.

My proudest FKT moments have been achieved completely alone in the middle of the night. Celebrating a completed FKT might involve making ramen soup in my Jetboil, cracking open an Athletic Brewing beer, and then falling asleep in the back of my car. For most FKTers, these are very personal endeavors.

Running Fastest Known Times has inspired me to find and run new-to-me trails and routes, and has given me the impetus I need to get out there, move my body, and learn new skills. And while most FKTs are done solo, there is a whole community of fellow FKTers who are cheering you on. Once you step foot in the FKT world, you’re part of the community. We all want to see one another succeed. We share beta and stories, and lift each other up… even if things don’t go as planned.

Some of the most interesting and memorable stories come from failed FKT attempts; those times where you truly push yourself, hit your limit, and learn the most. The pursuit of FKTs can give you the most formative experiences you’ve ever had. It’s not always about going fast.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

Find more information at FastestKnownTime.com

Ashly Winchester is a runner, writer, and mountain guide based in Northern California. She is also the host of the podcast, Womxn Of The Wild. At the time of this writing, Ashly has collected 35 FKTs and is ranked as the number 1 female, and 3rd overall on the board at FastestKnownTime.com.

Ashly on Instagram: @ashly.winchester
Womxn Of The Wild on Instagram: @womxnofthewild

Why HOKA with Tony Kanaan

TK_Hoka_CarbonX_1

Why HOKA?

My name is Tony Kanaan and I’m a professional race car driver. I’m 45 years old and I’ve been racing since I was eight. Yes, eight. I started in go-karts because my dad was a huge auto racing fan and got me into it when I was little. Watching races together was “our thing.” One day he took me to watch a race at the track and I was immediately hooked… Before we left the race track I heard the magic words from him: “Hey Tony, would you like to try racing go-karts?” Well, we went straight from there to the go-kart factory! But, what does this have to do with running? We’re getting there…

When I first got into a go-kart, I was tiny. Like, tiny even for my age, tiny. Since I needed to build strength and conditioning, but at eight you can’t really go to a gym, my dad put me in swimming lessons, had me running and riding my bike. I started racing and was actually pretty decent at it, so I would spend a lot of time at the track. If I wasn’t in school or at the race track, I was exercising. As I was growing up, I was also moving up in racing. Unfortunately, dad passed when I was just 13 after battling cancer for a few years. Just before he left us, he asked that I never quit chasing my dreams, always help my mom and sister and never, ever quit racing. Pretty tall ask for a 13-year old that was losing his dad, best friend and biggest supporter.

Life went on and I kept the promises I made to dad. I didn’t quit racing and in order to keep myself in good physical shape, I was always working out. Working out became part of me, part of my daily routine (some might even say that if I don’t work out I get cranky…). Fast forward to many years later, a good friend and coach approached me one day and gave me a suggestion: “Hey TK, you swim, you bike and you run. You should get into triathlons.” That was a pretty easy sell and shortly after that I was dipping my toes in my first ever tri experience, a 70.3 distance race.

TK_Hoka_CarbonX_2

Triathlon became a passion of mine and even having a busy travel schedule because of my job, I always found time to train for a 70.3 or a sprint triathlon. By the end of 2010 I went to the 70.3 Worlds in Clearwater, FL and got connected with the folks at IRONMAN. That led to an invitation to do Kona in 2011, which was something totally out of my comfort zone, but I couldn’t pass on that opportunity! I trained for Kona as much as I could during the INDYCAR season. The Kona event would take place between two INDYCAR races, so I needed to make sure I was not draining myself too much in order to perform at a top level while having to drive at 230 miles per hour one week after doing Kona. Everything turned out well. I raced Kona at my pace and got back to my day job the next week.

After the Kona experience I continued with my workout routine and doing my 70.3s here and there, but suddenly I hit a roadblock with shin splints. It got to a point that I wasn’t enjoying running anymore and it became something that really bothered me. My tri coach told me that there was this new shoe company on the market with an innovative product and that I should give it a try. He sent me a picture of a HOKA Clifton. I didn’t know what to think about it when I first saw it, but if it was supposed to get me back into running, I was sure going to try it. I placed the order online and after my first run with the Clifton I couldn’t believe how much easier running became to me. I slowly started running again, getting back into it, building confidence and in no time my pain was gone. Not just gone, but I was running better than I ran before I had any pain. Those Cliftons got me back to running, back to enjoying running. And that’s my “why HOKA” story. Pretty simple: HOKA got me back to running and made me a better runner at that. What’s not to like about it?

Tony Kanaan is wearing the new IRONMAN Kona Carbon X

Kona-Carbon-X

Hannah Halvorsen’s Return to Ski

Hannah Halvorsen has been a member of the U.S. Cross Country Ski team since 2016. After growing up in Truckee, California, she moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 2017 to become a full-time college student and member of the elite team at Alaska Pacific University. She was a sprint finalist at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and a member of the first relay team to win a medal at Junior World Championships in Park City, Utah. In November of 2019, Hannah was hit by a car while crossing the street. After missing the 2019/20 race season, she is making her way her way back to the world stage with a long year of recovery and learning invaluable lessons about patience and gratitude.

Hannah-Blog

I am a 22-year-old professional cross country ski racer who has been on skis since I could walk. I was born and raised in Truckee, California, which has sunshine and mountains and a large community of active people who take advantage of it. My family was part of this culture, and my five younger siblings and I grew up playing all kinds of outdoor sports. The one I connected most with was cross country skiing. Throughout middle and high school my goals in skiing grew with me because I loved the way it challenged me. To compliment my ski racing and change up my training I ran cross country in the fall and did triathlons in the summer. This gave me another way to be a part of the endurance community and enjoy the trails, lakes, and mountains.

After graduating high school in 2016 from Sugar Bowl Academy, I wanted to continue pursuing my Olympic dreams, so I moved to Anchorage, Alaska to join Alaska Pacific University, which has one of the best elite teams in the country. At the same time, I have had the opportunity to pursue a double major in Psychology and Business. Since moving to Anchorage, I stopped competing in triathlons and running races in order to focus on training for skiing full time. In the summer and fall we dryland train with a mix of roller skiing, running, and strength. In the winter we race throughout America and Europe. It has given me a sense of purpose to apply myself to the challenge of becoming the best ski racer I can, and I have made steady progress with my results each year. In my most recent ski season (2018/19) I raced my first world cups, which is the highest level of the sport.

Hannag Blog1

At the start of November 2019, everything was heading in the right direction. I was in the best shape of my life and I was excited for the chance to put another year of hard work to the test. I was three weeks away from getting on a plane for the 2019/20 race season when my whole life went on pause. I was crossing a street when a car that didn’t see me turned left and hit me head on. After being knocked unconscious, I was rushed to the ER, where they found I had suffered a skull fracture, bleeding and bruising in my brain, a tibial fracture, and my left MCL and PCL were torn completely detached from the bone. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be racing in the 2019/20 ski season.

For the first ten days after the accident, I slept 18-22hrs a day due to the concussion. I then flew to Vail, CO to have my knee looked at by the specialists at the Steadman Clinic. When the knee surgeon, Dr. Hackett, examined my knee he knew immediately I needed surgery, and I was scheduled for later that week. However, the night before I was supposed to have surgery, a brain trauma specialist called and told me he had delayed my operation after looking at my brain scans. He said there was still severe bleeding in my brain, and he didn’t think it was safe for me to be put under anesthesia. I ended up having to wait five weeks for the significant bleeding spots to drain so that I could more safely have my knee reconstructed. Today, this doesn’t seem like a significant amount of time to wait for such a life-threatening reason but at that time it made the challenges I was up against feel bigger. I am used to progress, even when things are hard, and although my brain was healing, my knee was on hold until I had the ligaments fixed. This made me feel like I was spending my days in pain without the consolation that my knee was getting better.

Hannah Blog2

However, once I had the surgery, it felt like things were moving in the right direction, and I clicked into the rehab protocol the same way I would a training plan. Similar to training for ski racing, it progressed one step on top of the other. This motivated me to work hard at each step, because accomplishing that would allow me to go to the next one. In May, which felt like an eternity of waiting, I was able to start running. To start running again after a knee surgery on two completely torn ligaments did not mean I was able to put my shoes on and go train how I normally do. It meant I was allowed to jog for thirty seconds, and then stop and walk for a minute, and then repeat that nine more times. So that’s a grand total of five minutes of jogging. Each week, I was able to run five more minutes. It’s in my nature as a competitive athlete to push the limits, so this cautious and slow progression challenged me to be more patient. Even though I wanted to jump out the door and run as far and as fast as I could, I was diligent with the progression because I wanted to be able to run for the rest of my life. It is an amazing way to be outside, exercise, and see beautiful places that you can’t get to almost any other way. And by not being able to run for half a year, I realized how important it is to me. One thing this healing process has taught me is that when something is taken, and you have to work months to get it back, you see how special it really is.

Hannah-Blog3

I decided I wanted to get shoes that would best support this goal as well, so I chose HOKA’s Clifton Edge and EVO Jawz. I have been impressed with how well they balance responsiveness, stability, and support, which are all things I take into extra consideration as I make my way back to full time training. I feel stable and balanced in my HOKAs while at the same time minimize the pounding on my healing knee. At this point, I can run for two hours, and have even done track intervals!

Now when I run, I am more present and aware of the joy it brings to my life. Good health is something I took for granted until I didn’t have it for many long painful months. While sitting out for a race season, I have had time to recognize how fortunate I have been in my ski career. I haven’t experienced much injury, sickness, or setback, and it took a big one for me to realize how fortunate that is. I have also realized how much support I have. The community of endurance sports that welcomed me in and believed in me when I first started ski racing didn’t hesitate to extend the same support to me when I needed it most.

If there’s one lesson that will forever be in my heart, it’s that I have not overcome this obstacle alone. I now make more cognizant choices to take care of my health that I have worked so hard to regain. Every day I have this realization that I am still alive and that I have no permanent injuries. I didn’t race this season, but it still feels like I accomplished some huge goals. I can run and ski again, and that means more to me than a lot of my best race results. I am a few months away from heading into the 2020/21 ski season and I have a new motivation and fight for the sport. I am grateful for the opportunity to be outside, challenge myself, and share my life with others. I head back into ski racing with big goals. The next winter Olympics is less than a year and a half away, and I believe I can make it there.

Hannah-Blog4

 

“Stringing Hundreds” with Patrick Reagan

Patrick Reagan has been steadily climbing the ultrarunning ranks since he jumped into the sport in 2015, and there’s no end in sight. Perhaps more impressive than his finishes at top ultra races, though, are the sheer number of races Patrick enters. We asked Patrick to walk us through his 2019 racing calendar, which saw four 100K or 100-mile races, and how he balances training, choosing his races, and more.

Pat-Blog5

Finding ultrarunning changed my life in the most positive fashion possible. In 2013, I was working full time as a head cross country coach at a university in Savannah, GA. My motivation to train was coming back, like a fire burning hot again off embers that never quite cooled from my collegiate running days. I started to experiment with running 5K-10K races again, having some success which lit the fire for me to run my first half marathon in 2014 and my first marathon in 2015. In the summer of 2015, ultrarunning found me.

In 2015-16, I began exploring my limitations by training on trails for distances of up to 35 miles. I began exploring my local region in Savannah – primarily on roads and trails in Chattanooga and Asheville. After experimenting with the 50K distance in 2015, I became curious about the 100K, racing both the USATF 100K Road Championships, the Ultravasan 90K, and the IAU 100K World Championships in 2016. The IAU 100K WC was my first race in a Team USA singlet and I was fortunate to finish on the podium in 3rd place. This was a big turning point in my career. Four weeks later, I signed my first professional running contract with HOKA ONE ONE.

In February of 2019, I decided to leave my full-time job as a collegiate cross country and track/field coach to concentrate on my running career. The year in sum was chalked full of transition and adaptation. When reflecting on the year, I think of it as a season of “Stringing Hundreds.”

EVO-Mafate-2

. . .

Typical training weeks for me are between 85-110 miles which include two days of strides and two long runs per week. Each week I typically engage in three days of core strength training, two days of weight vest strength training, and five to seven days of Phil Wharton’s activated isolated stretching program. Key workouts include 6-12 mile tempo runs, 1K/1 mile interval training at half marathon pace, and 2-3 mile intervals at marathon to 50K pace. Strength training (both core and weight vest) has become much more important for me as I’ve transitioned to 100 mile races. The quadriceps strength required to run Western States in particular has been the main catalyst for my coaches (Magda Boulet and Roxanne Vogel) to provide more strength training work. To enhance core and leg muscle strength, I walk my dogs for 2-3 miles a day while wearing a 20 lb weight vest.

When designing a yearly racing schedule, I pick 3-4 “A” races that are emotionally important while picking other events in the build to these where I can test my fitness and enjoy a new event on somewhat tired legs. Both Project Carbon X 100K and my first Western States 100 were slated to be my “A” races for the first half of 2019. In the sunset of the year, I planned an ambitious double of Javelina Jundred and the USATF 100 mile National Trail Championships (Brazos Bend 100). The gap between Javelina and Brazos was only a six week spread.

My year began with a win at the Daufuskie Island 40 mile Ultramarathon hosted by Rough Runners in January on one of our beautiful coastal islands in my region. Running in the southeast is quite different from the mountainous trails out west, yet showcase beauty in an entirely different way. The dirt roads around the island and beachfront running is a great winter escape for any runner from outside of our region. I set a new course record at the event racing to a 4:21.36 finish on the 39.3 mile course.

Pat-Blog2

In the build to Western States 100, I decided to take two trips to California to specifically prepare for the course. Living in the coastal southeast is limiting from a vertical ascent/descent perspective; thus, I decided to race the Way Too Cool 50K in March followed by an extended weekend of training on the Western States Course. The plan also included the Western States 100 training camp in late May. I’d recommend the Western States training camp to any runner preparing for the Western States 100. It’s open to competitors in the current Western States and anyone that would like to experience the last 30 miles of the historic race over the course of three days.

Midway through the build to Western States was my first “A” race of the year: the HOKA ONE ONE Project Carbon X 100K. Eight athletes competed in Sacramento, CA to test the limits on both the 50 mile and 100K world records. Sage Canaday and Kris Brown paced me through the 50K mark in 3:09, directly on pace to achieve my goal on 6:20 for the 100K distance. Through 40 miles, Kris brought me through in under American Record pace, but I hemorrhaged some time on my way to the 50 mile mark, crossing in 5:08.21. Finishing second overall, I finished in 6:33.50 for the 100K. My time held up as the fastest 100K by an American in 2019 and the 6th fastest all-time by a North American.

Pat-Blog1

My first Western States was 8 weeks to the day away from the finish of the race; thus, I had to prioritize recovery and rest. Following ultras, I take one day off for every 10 miles raced to focus on my other hobbies which include playing music, reading, and playing Magic: The Gathering. Recovery went smoothly and I was able to get back to training right on schedule.

The Western States experience is very unique. I was fortunate to be selected with an at-large bid by the Ultra Trail World Tour to compete in 2019; thus, I wanted to prove I belonged in the race by running patiently and finishing strong. The high country was quite snowy, but the weather started heating up as we entered the three canyons within the course that lead to Forest Hill, CA (the 100K mark). At Devil’s Thumb, I found myself in 22nd place and crept into the top 15 by the time we hit Foresthill. At the River (80 miles), I moved into 12th place and by the Highway 49 crossing (Mile 93), I saw Kyle Pietari who was the 10th place male at the time. From Pointed Rocks (Mile 94) to the finish, I ran the fastest split ever recorded to finish in 8th place and earned my spot in the 2020 edition of Western States.

Between Western States and Javelina Jundred (my next A Race), I had a significant amount of time to rest and prepare for the next training block. I took two weeks off from running in July and kept the training leading into August casual. In August, I ran both the Transrockies 6 Day Race with Camelia Mayfield to win our classification and finished 16th at OCC 56K in Chamonix, France.

In 2017 and 2018, I won the Javelina Jundred and wanted to repeat for a third victory in 2019 with intent to break the course record I set in 2017. I ran the first loop slower than the first two years, maintaining a more controlled effort that would allow me to even split the race. Loops two and three put me in a solid position to take a run for the course record. I finished first in 13:11.48, just ten minutes off the course record. Following the event, I had 6 weeks to the day until the start of the USATF 100 Mile National Trail Championships. This would be the most challenging double of my career. I stuck to my initial plan of taking off ten days following Javelina Jundred and resumed light training on day 11.

Pat-Blog3

The training block between Javelina Jundred and Brazos Bend was primarily focused on strength work, mobility, and lower mileage. I didn’t exceed 70 miles per week in my training and my longest run between the two events was 18 miles. On race day, I lined up feeling fresh and confident in my experience in the 100 mile discipline. The event went out fast, passing through the 50 mile mark in 5:57 in 2nd place. At the 100K mark, I took the lead and began to distance myself around the 75 mile mark. At this point, the fastest 100 mile race was the 2017 Javelina Jundred in 13:01. By the 90 mile mark, I’d distanced myself from the field and was chasing the clock. I won my first USATF National Championship with a mark of 12:11.43 and a new course record.

The body of work in 2019 earned me a 4th Place finish in Ultrarunning Magazine’s Ultra Runner of the Year voting. The year was all about pivoting, challenging my own limitations, and being confident in the training heading into competitions. This won’t be a year I forget anytime soon.

Patrick Reagan is a professional ultrarunner at HOKA ONE ONE and GU Energy Labs. He is the owner of Patrick Reagan Running Coaching Services in Savannah, GA and co-host of Tortoise and the Hare Podcast.

Pat-Blog