On the Road to the Leadville 100 – Approaching Risk and Deflecting Doubt

Life is often lived in hindsight. In the moment of a big decision, it is often hard to fully understand all the factors that go into what you are thinking at the time. And it is nearly impossible to know what the impacts of any given decision will be until it plays out. You can research, plan, and try your best to predict all the possible outcomes. This is what one should do when taking risks. These risks are calculated, and not reckless. But with any big decision, there will be uncertainty and doubt.

I signed up for the Leadville 100 trail run.  Yes, I did this!  I was able to secure a spot in this race by signing up for one of the limited training packages, which also means I am working with a running coach for the first time in my life.  For those who may be unfamiliar, the Leadville 100 trail race entails 100 miles of beautiful, extreme trails in the mountains of Colorado, from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet and a total of more than 18,000 feet of climbing – all in a 30-hour time frame or less. It is one of the absolute classic races of ultra-running. It is hands-down one of the biggest challenges I will be taking on in my running life, if not my life in general, so far. Did I agonize over this decision for days on end before I did this? No, I did not. Did I fail to think this through before I did this? No, I did not.  What I did do was make a conscious decision to approach risk, as opposed to deflect risk. So much of truly living, to me, is exactly that, approaching risk versus deflecting risk.

To me, approaching risk often looks like this: I get an idea. I get really excited about this idea (probably over-excited) and convince myself it is a good idea. I set a plan in action of how to implement or set on the road to making the idea actually happen.

Basically, when approaching risk, I decide to live my ideas.

Part of approaching risk is deflecting doubt. When the doubts are internal, I tend to try to talk to someone who can provide me with real-life experience on the matter. I often seek out someone I know who trusts my decisions and thinks positively.  And someone who really knows me and supports my BIG ideas. When the doubts are external, I recognize that it might be easier for some to deflect risk.  In most of the “unconventional” challenges I have taken on in my life, the majority of the responses have gone something like, “I would never do that ….How are you going to make that work?” In the case of the Leadville 100, typical reactions also include “You’re nuts” and “That sounds awful.”

These responses surprise me because challenges are exciting! And I can think of less responsible things than taking on challenges and following a passion through. In any event, anyone can do anything for a day or two! Remember, these risks are calculated, and not reckless. I clearly see the value in encouraging those taking calculated risks in our world…just the other day my friend said to me, “If anyone can conquer the unconquerable it is you!”  The outcome will remain unknown until the race, but I certainly appreciate such encouragement over the alternative.

The one thing you can never predict when approaching risk is the reality of how you are going to feel. This risk, the unpredictability of how you are going to feel, is the true risk… yet the one that holds the most potential for growth and rewards. All of the other risks are just doubts that can be resolved one way or the other.

I am sure the road to the Leadville 100 will be a true range of experience, both positive and not so positive.  The perfect opportunity to…

Approach risk.  Deflect doubt.  Live my ideas.

Ilene Bloom is an evolving ultra-runner, mother and lawyer who lives in Denver. In conjunction with training for the Leadville 100, she is raising money for the American Cancer Society at this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/leadville-trail-100-run-for-cancer/fundraiser/ilenebloom.  If you have any questions or thoughts about this article, Ilene can be reached at ilenebloom@hotmail.com.

Exclusive: FBI joins probe into Mo Farah coach Alberto Salazar

by Ben Rumsby, Daily Telegraph

The FBI has been dragged into the drugs probe into Sir Mo Farah’s coach as anti-doping investigators step up their pursuit of Alberto Salazar.

Telegraph Sport can reveal that the United States Anti-Doping Agency has enlisted the assistance of America’s national intelligence and law-enforcement service in what is now a four-year inquiry into the man who transformed Farah into Great Britain’s greatest ever track-and-field athlete.

News that the FBI, which brought Fifa to its knees, is working with Usada chief executive Travis Tygart, who brought down Lance Armstrong, emerged less than two weeks after a leaked report from the agency accused Salazar of “unlawful” conduct.

It also came days after it was reported Usada was seeking to retest Farah’s blood samples for the banned substance EPO, or erythropoietin, as part of its investigation. The 33-year-old, who vehemently denies any wrongdoing, declined to comment last night over the involvement of the FBI in Usada’s inquiry, whether he had been spoken to by agents, or whether he would co-operate if asked to do so.

Britain’s four-time Olympic champion has previously agreed to be interviewed by Usada investigators and last week declared himself happy to have any of his stored samples retested “at any time”.

Salazar, who also denies any wrongdoing, did not respond to requests for comment, while Usada declined to comment on the reason for, or the nature of, FBI involvement in its investigation.

The FBI, meanwhile, told Telegraph Sport: “We cannot confirm our involvement or the existence of an investigation.”

The bureau’s last major foray into the world of sport came when it conducted a four-year probe into corruption at Fifa that culminated in dawn raids of the governing body’s luxury hotel and the arrest and prosecution of several of its most senior officials.

Its involvement in the Usada inquiry will crank up the pressure on Salazar over a series of alleged anti-doping breaches, details of which first surfaced almost two years ago.

The American found himself in the spotlight again at the end of last month after the emergence of Usada report, leaked by Russian hackers Fancy Bears, which claimed he had “almost certainly” broken anti-doping rules and failed to provide an “acceptable justification” for possessing testosterone.

Athlete support personnel are prohibited from being in possession of banned drugs without “valid justification”, and Salazar claims he carries it for his own personal use due to suffering from hypogonadism – a condition that causes low levels of the hormone.

The Usada report dismissed this explanation, saying the documents he provided them “do not establish Mr Salazar has suffered from hypogonadism… or that he requires testosterone replacement therapy”.

The report added: “Despite Usada’s request that he do so, Mr Salazar has still produced no laboratory testing records, blood test data, examination notes, chart notes or differential diagnosis substantiating that Mr Salazar suffers from hypogonadism.”

Source: Exclusive: FBI joins probe into Mo Farah coach Alberto Salazar

Trails for All: Opening Up Trail Races to Visually Impaired Runners

Impaired sight isn’t stopping a growing number of runners from hitting the trails.

by Amanda Loudin, Competitor.com

There are some runners who make trail ultras look easy. Folks like Killian Jornett or Devon Yanko, for example. But even those at the top of their game will tell you running 50 or 100 miles is never an easy undertaking.

Imagine, then, adding an extra element of difficulty to the game. Say, running those same ultras without the benefit of sight. That’s just the challenge a growing number of ultra runners are proving doable. These visually impaired runners have decided their disability won’t get in their way of doing what they love. They’ve run 50Ks, 50-milers and even some of the most legendary monster runs, such as Leadville and Badwater, all within the same stringent cutoff times as their sighted counterparts.

Each will tell you, however, they couldn’t do it without their wingmen (or woman), skilled guides who offer up their vision to get visually impaired runners across the finish line. Together, the sighted and sight-challenged runners make up a determined, fierce team that can navigate the gnarliest of trails for miles on end.

Finding a way around
When 41-year old Kyle Robidoux was growing up he was an active kid and played an assortment of sports. As the genetic condition retinitis pigmentosa (RP) led to progressively limited vision in his 20s, however, he became less active and more convinced that he couldn’t run.

In his early 30s, overweight and a new father, Robidoux started walking in a nearby park to drop some pounds. “One day, in my work clothes and shoes, I just started running,” he says. “I tried again the next day for a little longer and then just started increasing my runs.”

It wasn’t long before Robidoux started running marathons, and after mastering the art of guided road running, the next step was getting onto trails. “I wanted to change up my training and I love being outdoors in nature,” Robidoux explains. “I started with shorter trail runs and progressed from there.”

Now he has an impressive number of ultras under his belt, all with the help of skilled guides by his side. “I have tunnel vision, so I like to run two steps behind my guides,” he says. “I can mostly follow his or her back but I can’t see anything of the terrain we’re covering.”

This is where a guide’s ability to call out all obstacles—from logs to roots to rocks and steps—becomes essential. Robidoux has a regular pool of guides from which to draw in New England, where he is based. “When you know your guide and run with him or her regularly, you can relax and trust that they will get you through it,” he says. “My favorite call out is ‘smooth sailing.’” That’s when the team hits a patch of smooth, buffed trail without anything technical to face.

In the course of a typical ultra, Robidoux will use several guides, usually in 15-mile increments. The job of guiding is not only physically taxing, but also mentally tiring, thanks to the laser focus it requires. He has found about half of his guides via United in Sight, a visually impaired and sighted runner matching service, which has been around since 2015.

One of Robidoux’s guides last year was Amy Rusiecki, a 37-year old ultra runner and race director of the Vermont 100. “Kyle first contacted me asking about qualifying for my race,” she says. “We got to talking and I offered to help guide him at a 60-mile qualifier.”

It was during their 15 miles together that Robidoux proposed an idea to Rusieck: Offering up a disabilities division at this year’s Vermont 100, the first of its kind at an ultra race.

“We talked about how to do this and what the advantages were on both of our ends,” she explains. “This is a group we want out there, and by having a division with a different set of regulations, it opens the race up to runners who otherwise might not be able to do it.”

Decorated ultra runner Maggie Guterl will be among Robidoux’s guides at the VT100 and looks forward to the job. “I’ve been guiding runners for three years with the Achilles team,” she says. “And when I heard he needed guides for Vermont, I volunteered.”

The day of the race may be Robidoux’s and Guterl’s first time running together, but that doesn’t concern either party. “What he’s doing is brave and cool, and having a chance to pace him will be fantastic,” Guterl says.

The Master

While he missed the cutoff for the Vermont 100 this year, Jason Romero, 46, from Denver, is perhaps trail running’s most well-known visually impaired runner. He can count Leadville 100, Badwater, Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, and even a run across America in his list of accomplishments. He’s excited by the new division at Vermont this year: “Creating a challenged athlete’s division is a monumental step in acknowledging and inviting people with disabilities to challenge themselves at the highest levels,” he says. “We need more champions like Amy in all areas of life.”

Like Robidoux, Romero is impacted by RP, and hasn’t allowed it to take away from his enjoyment of trail running. “I have about 15 percent of my sight,” he explains. “It’s like looking through two toilet paper rolls.”

When logging his miles at night, Romero likes to use handheld flashlights and headlamps, along with reflectors on his guides’ ankles. He also likes running with experienced trail runners. “They’re going to take the path of least resistance and for a blind runner, that’s essential,” he says. “They also have to have a certain personality type.”

Romero wants a guide who isn’t going to be frightened of the task or pity him. “I almost want a drill sergeant,” he says. “My guide’s job is to get me from point A to point B before the cutoff. I want to compete.”

Since getting started on trails around 2010, Romero has seen the numbers of guided runners increase exponentially. “I’m amazed at how many more are hitting trails now,” he says, “but I want to see more. People with visual impairment can do so much more than they realize.”

Source: Trails for All: Opening Up Trail Races to Visually Impaired Runners

Runner’s foot impaled by nail purposely placed on trail, 40 total found in park

The 1,100-acre Pinnacle Park west of Asheville remains closed after a runner’s foot was impaled by a nail purposely placed on a popular trail that leads to the Black Rock Summit.

by Karen Chavez, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times

The 1,100-acre Pinnacle Park west of Asheville remains closed after a runner’s foot was impaled by a nail purposely placed on a popular trail that leads to the Black Rock Summit.

Brian Barwatt, an engineer with the Department of Transportation, and the race director of the Assault on Black Rock, a trail race in Pinnacle Park in March, was at the park Monday with the Sylva police chief Davis Woodard, town maintenance workers and other volunteers scouting out more nails.

Since Saturday, 40 nails hammered into tree roots and logs have been found, Barwatt said.

“On Saturday we found eight in an isolated area and thought we had it contained, but when we explored more, we found it was more than we could handle ourselves and I called the police chief,” Barwatt said.

“We’re literally blowing every leaf off trail, and following behind with metal detectors. “It was a deliberate effort. Someone hammered 4-inch long galvanized nails and left them sticking out a half- to 1 inch, and at an angle so they’re like spikes.”

One person was hurt and another stepped on a nail that went through his shoe but didn’t hurt his foot.

“It’s hard to believe someone would do this and put a lot of effort in to doing this,” Barwatt said.

The East Fork and West Fork trails, each 3.5 miles long, lead to the Black Rock summit on a mixed gravel road and single track terrain, completely surrounded by woods in a remote area of town.

“We want to assure people we’re taking this very seriously and taking care of it swiftly,” he said.

There is a $1,000 reward leading to information about the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sylva Police Department at 828-586-2916.

Source: Runner’s foot impaled by nail purposely placed on trail, 40 total found in park | 9news.com

The Top FKTs of 2016, from Ultimate Direction

Joe Grant nabbed the FKT for bagging all of Colorado’s 14ers without the help of a car in 2016. Photo courtesy Joe Grant

The FKTOY award will recognize the top FKT by a Female and by a Male. The purpose is to learn, appreciate, and be inspired by the accomplishments of others. No one actually wins anything – just the respect of their peers.

by Buzz Burrell, Ultimate Direction

The “FKT” has arrived!  Runners all over the world now understand and use the term, and may expend more effort going for a Fastest Known Time than in a regular race.

So the time has come for a “Fastest Known Time of The Year” Award!  Following the long-standing Ultra Runner of the Year (“UROY”) awards that have recognized and celebrated the sport’s best since 1981, the FKTOY award will recognize the top FKT by a Female and by a Male. The purpose is to learn, appreciate, and be inspired by the accomplishments of others. No one actually wins anything – just the respect of their peers.

So a list of top candidates was created by Peter Bakwin from his FKT site, then a group of 21 experienced runners were recruited to vote … and after much deliberation, their votes decided it!  It was an amazing process.  The winners will be announced next week in Ultrarunning Magazine and on this blog, along with brief comments from the Voters as to why each was valued (Hint: they ALL were incredible, but two more so than the others

So here is the list of candidates and what they did.  What do YOU think about these routes?  Which do YOU think should be the inaugural FKTOY?  Please post your Comments below.

FEMALE (all in chronological order)

Joelle Vaught – 5/20; Trans Zion; 48 mi; 8h, 26m, 9s – Sweet route crossing Zion NP on trails; previous FKT’s by Krissy Moehl and Bethany Lewis.

Amber Monforte – 7/22-26; John Muir Trail Unsupported; 222 mi; 4d, 1h, 13m – One of the mostly hotly-contested long trail routes. Only 5h 13m slower than Sue J’s 2007 Supported record.

Gina Lucrezi – 8/10; Mt Whitney (car-car); 22 mi; 5h, 29m, 22s – 6,000′ vert in 11mi to highest point in lower 48 states; first known attempt by a Woman.

Heather Anderson – 10/7-27; Arizona Trail Self-Supported; 800 mi; 19d, 17h, 9m – “Anish” now holds the Overall Self-Supported records for the AT, PCT, and the AZT.

Meghan Hicks – 9/9-11; Nolan’s 14; 100 mi; 59h, 36m – Open Course tagging 14 14ers; few trails, lots of navigation, tons of vert. Supported.

Sue Johnston – 1/1-12/26; 4000ers Calendar Grid; 3,159 mi; one year – All 48 New Hampshire 4,000′ summits every month for a year. Reported 3,159 mi, 993,970′ vert, and hiking 205 days.
Yikes!  Stout stuff!  What about the guys?


Ryan Ghelfi – 7/6; Mt Shasta Ascent; 1h, 37m, 5s – This used to be an actual race. Ryan beat FKT’s by Rickey Gates, and John Muir from 1874!

Uli Steidl – 7/26; Mt Rainier (car-car); 4h, 24m, 30s – Bettered Willie Benegas 2008 time. This is the Runners Record; there are separate records for Skiers (which is faster).

Leor Pantilat – 8/6-10; Sierra High Route Unsupported; 195 mi; 4d, 16h, 21m – Technically difficult for most runners so few attempts have been made; this took 3 days off the previous FKT. Roughly paralleing the JMT but above it, mostly off-trail, with 3rd Class sections and navigation.

Nick Elson – 8/13; Grand Traverse; 17 mi; 6h, 30m, 49s – Legendary alpinist Alex Lowe had this FKT, then Rolo Garibotti at 6h, 49m for 15 years. 10 Teton summits, 12,000′ vert, climbing up to 5.8 grade, free solo.

Joe Grant – 7/26-8/26; Colorado 14ers Self-Powered, Self Supported; 400 mi; 31d, 8h, 33m – 3+ days faster than Justin Simoni from previous year. Start/Finish at his house, hike/run 400mi, bike 1,100mi, climb 57 14ers, no Support.

Karl Meltzer – 8/3-9/18; Appalachian Trail Supported; 2,189 mi; 45d, 22h, 38m – Speedgoat’s 3rd try took about 9 hrs off Jurek’s time from previous year. This is the original long trail, featuring David Horton, Pete Palmer, Andrew Thompson, Jen Pharr-Davis, Scott Jurek, and countless before.

Jim Walmsley – 10/4; Grand Canyon R2R2R; 46 mi; 5h, 55m, 20s – Took 25m off Rob Krar’s 2013. Super classic route. Blazing 2h 46m S-N to begin, which is an R2R FKT going in the slowest direction.

Pete Kostelnick – 9/12-10/24; Trans America; 3,067 mi; 2d, 6h, 30m – Goes way back to the “Bunion Derby” days of the 1920’s Broke 36 year old FKT by 4 days. 72mi/day for 6 weeks.

Incredible!  How does one choose between these?  The Voters were allowed to vote for up to 5, ranking them accordingly, then the scores were added up.

Source: The Ultimate Direction Buzz | Athlete Commentary, Product Development and Race Updates

Anti-Doping Measures Take To The Trail

An examination of anti-doping efforts made during 2016 in the trail and ultrarunning community.

Concerned athletes, organizations, and events are finally throwing down the gauntlet—drug testing has arrived and will be coming to more races near you. Spurred by ever-increasing popularity, large prize purses, salaried sponsorships, and the reality that known drug cheats are racing, the trail and ultrarunning community has taken a big step in legitimatizing itself as a professional sport. 2016 marked some of the most significant advancements in national and global trail and ultra anti-doping action.

Serious Dialogue Begins

iRunFar.com reported that The North Face Endurance Challenge Series (ECS) Championships added Italian mountain runner Elisa Desco to its elite starting field. “From 2010 to 2012, Elisa served a two-year ban from the IAAF after she tested positive for EPO at the 2009 World Mountain Running Championships.” This informational tidbit set off great debate among athletes and other news outlets about whether a previously sanctioned athlete should be allowed to compete for awards, prize money, and status. In this case, it was the ECS’s call since they had no PED (performance-enhancing drug) policy in place. In a release from Runner’s World’s Justin Mock, Katie Ramage, The North Face sports marketing director, shared, “…and while we’d like to have a solution readily available, we believe it’s more important that lasting change is created by doing it right, which takes time. Rest assured that as soon as we have something to share, we will.” To the chagrin of many, Desco was allowed to compete, though she did not finish the race.
Sage Canaday, outspoken PED opponent and elite ultrarunner, stated matter-of-factly in a December 2015 blog post and again in 2016 why dirty runners, like Desco, shouldn’t be allowed to participate. “Money, fame, and greed brings the real heavy-hitting and big-time threats,” says Canaday. “I think our best bet for the future is to try to do what we can to discourage new, competitive MUT (Mountain Ultra Trail) runners from using EPO to gain an edge and compete for prize money and sponsorship perks. The lack of drug testing, bio passports (blood-work history), and out-of-season testing in MUT running is a huge barrier that we must address in the future.”

Source: Anti-Doping Measures Take To The Trail

Boulder’s Melody Fairchild Takes Masters Title at the USATF Cross Country Championships

Jacques Sallberg was nothing short of impressive Saturday, while Melody Fairchild overcame a fall late in the first 2 km loop to dominate the masters races at the USATF Cross Country Championships …

Source: Boulder’s Melody Fairchild Takes Masters Title at the USATF Cross Country Championships | Colorado Runner

Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Will Marry the Firefighter Who Saved Her Life

On the day of the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, long-distance runner Roseann Sdoia was hanging out on the sidelines as a spectator when the bombs went off. Mike Materia, a firefighter on the scene, came to her aid and stuck by her side as she was rushed to the hospital. While looking at her blown-up leg, Sdoia asked Materia if she was going to die.

Source: Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Will Marry the Firefighter Who Saved Her Life | Runner’s World

Sue Johnston quietly ticks off an epic FKT in the Northeast 

The Vermont-resident tackled 576 summits and 1,001,820 feet of elevation gain in a quest to complete New Hampshire’s Grid challenge in a single year

by DOUG MAYER, Trail Runner Magazine

2016 was a year of dramatic accomplishments on the trails: Jim Walmsey’s new Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, Karl Meltzer besting Scott Jurek’s Appalachian Trail record and Megan Hick’s remarkable FKT on Colorado’s Nolan’s 14, to name a few.

But chances are you haven’t heard of one of the most impressive accomplishments that went down in the closing days of 2016. And that’s just fine with the record holder, Vermont ultrarunner and long-distance hiker Sue Johnston, 51, of Danville, Vermont.

Late in the afternoon of December 26, 2016, Johnston and her husband Chris Scott summited 4,000-foot-high Mount Isolation in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It was her 12th time summiting the peak that year.

The longstanding challenge, called “The Grid,” involves summiting each of the Whites Mountains’ 48 4,000-foot peaks 12 times— once in every month. Only 70 people have completed The Grid. Most of those individuals worked a couple of decades to get ther

Source: Sue Johnston quietly ticks off an epic FKT in the Northeast – Trail Runner Magazine

This Woman is Your Adventurer of the Year—Video Exclusive

Mira Rai once hauled rice sacks through the Himalaya. Now she wins international trail races and inspires young Nepali women. Meet your 2017 Adventurer of the Year.

While all of this year’s honorees are inspiring—from the cultural renaissance ignited by the Hōkūle‘a celestial circumnavigators, to the unwavering dedication of the Grand Canyon thru-hikers, to the audacious discovery of the world’s deepest underwater cave—one who soared to the top of the voting tally: Nepali trail runner Mira Rai.

Source: This Woman is Your Adventurer of the Year—Video Exclusive