Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mike Foote - Missoula's Trail Master

I've been trying to write this blog post for some time.  In fact, I've been trying to get to it since right after the 2012 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) race (September, 2012).  But, about that time the high school cross country season was getting into full swing; and, with coaching the team, taking care of work responsibilities, and seeing to my own training build up for the Austin 3M Half Marathon - I just didn't have much free time to be able to sit down and "pen" this profile of one of the nation's up and coming ultra-trail running studs.  But, found a bit of time over this holiday season and decided it was time to put my thoughts together and put "pen to paper". 

As suggested by the title of this post, Missoula's Mike Foote is clearly showing himself to be a trail master - here and abroad.  A baseball-playing Midwesterner who migrated west as a ski-bum and whitewater guide, Mike spent his first couple of Montana winters working and skiing at Whitefish Mountain and summers guiding whitewater rafters.  Mike also was finding time to get in a few trail runs, taking full advantage of all the opportunities of the Flathead/Glacier region.  Kind of the classic western outdoor/fitness bum lifestyle.  Pretty sweet gig for a adventurous 20-something.  Over the next couple of years; and, as he began to develop his running legs, he found himself migrating in the non-ski seasons to Missoula, where he eventually landed seasonal work at the Runner's Edge.

And, it was at about that time that Mike began his amazingly short and successful ascent within the ultra-trail running world.  He'd begun to realize some racing success between 2009 and 2011 -  including a 1st place at the 2009 HURL Elkhorn 50 M; winning the 2010 Bridger Ridge Run; winning the 2010 Bear 100; an 8th place finish at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 M in San Francisco; and, an impressive 11th place at the 2011 UTMB.

By the end of 2011, Mike took stock of his high placing on a national scale at the North Face Endurance Challenge; his international performance at UTMB; and his selection to the North Face National Team Program.  He also had some conversations with friends within the ultra community (including good pal Mike Wolfe - another Montana boy) about what it would take to make that next step in his running at racing.  With all things considered, Mike made the choice to pass on the 2011/12 ski season and commit to year round training focused on ultra-trail running.

With his employment opportunities at the Runner's Edge; the great access to trails (think Blue Mountain, the Rattlesnake, Mounts Jumbo and Sentinel, Pattee Canyon, and on and on); easy access to at least moderate altitude; and, the active lifestyle vibe of the community - it was an easy choice for Mike to stick around Missoula and make that his home training base.  Shortly thereafter, Mike leased a small plot up the Rattlesnake Valley and proceeded to set up home-sweet-home in his very own backcountry Yurt.  (For a great piece on Mike and his yurt living ways, check out this video at - originally posted as a Running Time webcast.)  He also felt that this location and lifestyle would provide the ability to have a personal and mental refuge that would allow him to escape from te rigors of training and to mentally focus on the tasks at hand.

Clearly, Mike made a smart choice, as he had a breakout year in 2012.  He started the year with a bang, winning the Bighorn 100 Miler in Dayton, Wyoming.  His 18:36 performance broke Mike Wolfe's course record by around 8 minutes.  He then spent the summer with some focused training and a goal of improving on his 2011 UTMB performance (where, besides being 11th overall, he was the top placing American).  Part of that build-up included a 3rd place at the Bridger Ridge Run (at which Wolfe got a new CR and just missed going sub-3 hours).  The most impressive part of that day however, is that Mike's race day warm-up included 15 or 20 miles of pre-dawn trail running in the lower Bridgers and then hitch hiking to the start line in time to take in the 20-mile main event.

And, then came UTMB.  One of the premiere ultra-trail races in the world, UTMB is scheduled as a 168 Kilometer (104 miles or so) race through 3 countries (France, Switzerland, and Italy - and beginning and ending in Chamonix, France) around the massif of Mount Blanc.  With over 30,000 feet of vertical elevation gain and multiple mountain pass crossings, it is one nasty bugger of a run.  To add even a bit more of a challenge, the race has an evening start, which insures that all runners will have at least some amount of their race under technical, night-running conditions. 

Unfortunately, 2012 saw the third consecutive year where nasty, cold, wet weather rolled in just ahead of the race.  This year, conditions were so bad that the organizers were forced to shorten the race to 104 Kilometers (a bit over 65 miles).  They made the decision at 11:00 a.m. on race morning - giving runners just 8 hours to get refocused before the 7:00 p.m. start.  In spite of the course changes, virtually all of the elite men decided to line up and face the modified challenge - in spite of the conditions.  Sure, the race distance was shortened; but, the playing field was mostly leveled out when considering the cold, wet conditions.  And, most of all - for the front runners, it meant the entire race would be run in the dark.

In spite of everything, Mike stuck to his game plan.  Get out conservative and focus on calorie intake, fluids and energy level.  And, even though he didn't feel real good over the first 30 Kilometers, he stayed committed to the race.  And, then, right around 30K, he came "awake".  At that point things began to click; and, he didn't worry about being back in the pack (in fact, at that point he was outside of the top 20 overall).  Instead, he began what called "the best-race-tactics-of-the-year".  He just began to steam-roll people over the next 60+ miles - moving into the top-15 at about midway, the top 10 after about 7 hours in and top 5 about 10 hours in.  His biggest problem was probably running out of room before the finish.  But, in the end, he picked up a podium spot with his 3rd place finish, the only American in the top 10 and the prestige of being at the front of a top international field.  (For some great interviews with Mike about UTMB, check out posts at

Not long after UTMB, Mike traveled to the North Face Ulta Marathon De Los Andes - an 80 Kilometer race in Santiago, Chile.  There, Mike topped the field and took home a nice little payday.  Not a bad way to end the primary part of your racing season.  (Sure, Mike ran a jet-lagged, leg-weary 13th at Montana Cup XC the next weekend; but, that was all for fun.)  A great season all the way around; but, clearly, the UTMB performance was the highlight of the year for Mike and one that will pay dividends as he looks to participate in high-level events for 2013.  And, considering that he won't turn 30 until next September, Mike has plenty of time in front of him to reach the highest points of the trail-ultra world.

Sure, the running accomplishments of Mike have been impressive.  But, maybe just as important to us in the Big Sky State is the way in which he has fully committed to improving the western Montana running scene.  As previously noted, Mike has been employed by Runner's Edge over the last couple of years.  And, with Mike's full-time residence in Missoula, store owner Anders Brooker has tapped Mike for a number of special projects. 

Mike is the wizard behind the curtain for much of the content on  He's acted as the race director for Missoula area events such as the Blue Mountain 30K, 11 Miles To Paradise, and Resolution Run.  He was the technical course director for the 2012 Missoula Marathon.  And, he was a driving force behind bringing in a screening of the film Unbreakable:  The Western States 100 and the recent visit by ultra legend Scott Jurek. 

He's also served as an assistant coach for the Hellgate High School cross country teams.  And, right before Christmas, he assisted Hellgate HS senior (and cross country ace) Adam Peterman with his senior project - which involved a self-powered (bike and hike), 135-mile trek from Death Valley (280' below sea level) to 14,500' Mount Whitney.  That's right - 5 or 6 days of his own time and money to help one of his athletes meet a personal and scholastic goal.

To top it all off, Mike is just a great guy.  Always a smile on his face and a happy word.  Willing to lend a hand when needed.  Pretty much just a John Denver type, good old country boy.  In the end, it's all comes back to being the fastest yurt dwelling, trail runner in the upper Rattlesnake valley, living large and enjoying the Big Sky life.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Monday, December 24, 2012

Eating & Running With The Jurker

For those of you who weren't aware, ultra marathon legend made a trip to Missoula recently.  Luckily, I was able to adjust my schedule to allow me to take in the events on December 11th and 12th.

Before going any further, I need to make sure to recognize the people who really made this event a possiblility.  First and foremost is The Runner's Edge.  Using Mike Foote's connections to the ultra community and Anders Brooker's ability to make things happen for the benefit of the runnign community, they were able to convince Jurek to make a stop in Missoula as part of his "tour" promoting his book "Eat & Run".  And, special thanks to Rick Wischcamper (an accomplished ultra man himself) who donated the use of the Wilma Theatre in downtown Missoula to host the Tuesday night talk.  Thanks to their efforts, all of the events were free and open to the public.

So, as noted above, Jurek has been on the road for some time promoting his book "Eat & Run".  Most of his venues were in bigger places like Dallas, Chicago and New York City.  He's at the end of his "tour" and, thankfully, h agreed to come to one of the small, trail-crazy ZooTown.

The day started with an easy group run from the Runner's Edge.  Scott and his partner Jenny were part of the small crew of 25 people or so who did a modified version of the River Root's 4-mile course.  Scott floated back and forth between groups and did his best to at least touch base with as many runners as he could.

Friday night involved a talk to about 450 or so folks at the Wilma.  He opened with a short video of his book trailer (which you can find on his website here: ).  Then he gave a low-key talk that mostly focused on some of his running, his trips to the Copper Canyon, overcoming adversity at Badwater and his general philosophy on what it took for him to reach the top in the ultrarunning world.  He took some Q&A from the audience and had some very insightful comments.

After the talk he proceeded to the lobby where he sold and authographed his book for any and all.  Jenny sold some t-shirts (that included quotes from the book).  From the t-shirt sales they donated part of the proceeds back to the Missoula Youth Track Club (I think they raised over $150 for the club) - very cool thing for them to do.

I then had the good fortune to be able to attend a late dinner with Scott and some of the Runner's Edge crew; and, was even more fortunate to end us sitting at the far end of the table with him and a few others.  The topics ranged from the psychology of endurance to running in cold weather to his next project in Ethiopia (some more info on that here from Scott's blog - ).  And, once again, it proves something about elite runners.................they are a lot more like us than we think.  We far too often put them on a pedestal and think that they are filled with magic answers and an impenetrable aura.  (I think that we get that perception from our infatuation with pro football, basketball and baseball players.)  But, over and over and over I have found that elite runners are much like use in that they have the same self doubts; the same issues with pre-race nerves; that they're typically a bit odd and geeky just like the rest of us; and, they like to hang out with other runners.

The next day there was a presentation on the 2nd Floor of the Runner's Edge with a small group of about 40 people.  Scott and Jenny whipped up seasoned popcorn, hummus and some vegan "cheese" spread - just to show how easy it is to make some of the vegan foods that he eats on a regular basis.  They shared the foods with the group; and, I have to say, it was Gooooooood Eats!!!!

But, the bulk of the time was Scott just answering questions from the crowd.  It was a much more relaxed and intimate setting and allowed for some great feedback and insights from Scott.  The topics were very wide and varied.  He talked about his training, his racing, winter running, his diet, his work with Brooks on the Cascadia and with Ultimate Directions on their new line of race vests.  It really gave some good insight about what makes him tick and the "secrets" to his success.

All in all it was a great two days of running related activities.  And, I came away very impressed with Scott - even more so than after I had originally read his book.  He's a pleasant, articulate, thoughtful person who happens to be a trail warrior.  His message was basically "Hey, this is what worked for me.  And, here's the things in life that led me to trail running and a vegan lifestyle.  Maybe it will work for you; but, everyone needs to find their own way.  Just be thoughtful and passionate in what you do and how you approach you life choices."  Certainly a message that I can respect.  If you ever get a chance to sit in on a future Jurek presentation, by all means take it.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, December 16, 2012

One Month To Go

With the end of this week, it's just 4 weeks from today until I hit the streets of Austin.  This past week was generally pretty good.

Started off with a really good 14-Miler in Thompson Falls on Sunday.  Included a couple of mile out and back section up the Thompson River Road.  It's always a pleasant segment of the run with the Thompson River running right alongside the road.  Finished with a few miles between 7:15 and 7:20 without forcing it or pushing at all - so, was really quite happy with how the run went.

Wednesday saw a strength interval workout on the treadmill.  Went onto the treadmill so that I could make sure that I ran the desired times; and, to try out my new Brooks Pure Connects (which is what I intend to use to race in at the 3M Austin Half Marathon).  The interval session went just as planned - 3 X 1.5 miles with 800 rest at 9:49, 9:45 and 9:39 (6:27 to 6:35 pace - right at my goal).

The rest of the week was pretty much just getting in miles.  This will be my biggest mileage week of my build-up - topping out at 56 miles.  [Which is quite a bit less than I would traditionally do.  But, have found with my cardiac issues that I tend to get overly fatigued and flat if I do too much in the way of weeks over 50 miles.  So, have been trying to find a balance of enough miles to have the endurance to cover the half at sub-1:29.  And, at the same time, stay fresh enough to allow me to hit some good quality work that will make 6:45 pace seem comfortable.]

Did have the opportunity to get in a couple of runs in Missoula with some of the Run Wild Missoula crew.  Was in town Tuesday for the Scott Jurek talk and group run (more on that in another post) and Thursday for some business.  In those runs was able to run with Anders Brooker, Em Kendrick, Pat Cross and Tim Brooker.  Always a pleasure to get to town and run with some other folks.  (Sometimes it gets a bit lonely out here in little ol' Plains.)

Finished off the week with a nice, leisurely run up Weeksville Creek Road.  Nice to get out and away from the highway and enjoy the quite "sounds" of nature.  Always calming to stop for a minute at the creek crossing about 1.5 miles up the route and enjoy the sights and sounds of the little stream.

A bit fatigued by the end of the week.  A bit of travel, a heavy work load at the office, biggest mileage in probably at least a year, and a couple of high quality workouts.  Guess with that I should probably expect to be a bit worn down.  The ultimate test will be to see how well I come back this coming week (with a bit of a drop in mileage; but, a couple of hard workouts on tap).  Regardless, it's all a pleasant part of the training adventure.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Still Ridin' The Roller Coaster

A bit of an odd week this week. 

Sunday started with a decent 12.  Did it on the treadmill due to cold (33 degrees), heavy rain in the morning.  Didn't want to wait until the afternoon to get in the run (had some chores that I had to get completed); but, really not up for a long run in miserable conditions.  So, hit the 'mill.  Ran pretty well through 10.  But, during the last 2 the lingering effects of the cold and flu symptoms that I've had caught up with me and made for a tough last couple.

Was on the road pretty much all week.  Left Monday morning and got back late Friday afternoon - hitting Helena, Butte and Bozeman.  Did get to go on a run with Jeff Thomas.  Spent one night with Jeff and Lyla.  Also spent a night in Bozeman with Kelly and Liz Fulton.  Plus got to see my parents in Butte and Zoe in Bozeman.  And, on the way back home on Friday, was able to stop and say hi to Nicole Hunt and the boys (Eon, Ember and Roam).  So - the travel had some pretty decent upside.

Had planned a 2 X 2-mile with 800 workout for Wednesday.  That day found me in Bozeman.  It was a warm day - probably on the order of 55 degrees when I headed out to run.  The trails were a bit muddy and wet; but, footing was okay.  Right from the get go, felt heavy and sluggish.  Don't know if it was the altitude; or, the slight upgrade on the way "out".  But, decided to give it a go anyway.  Got some work in.  Not quite the quality that I would have liked.  [Goal was 13:05 to 13:20 for each 2-mile segment.  Only able to hit 14:00 on the "out" section.  Better coming back in - 13:06.........but, some of that was aided by the net downhill over that segment.]  But, did get some quality work; and, some days there's value in fighting through a less than stellar workout rather than bailing out at the first sign of trouble.  Sure, there's some physiological value.  But, there's a bigger mental/psychological benefit.  Some times you just have to "suck it up" and work your way through the bad spells.  Those bad spells are bound to occur during, it doesn't hurt to get used to fighting through and coming out the other side.

On Friday, the schedule called for a 5-mile temp run.  Goal pace was 6:45 to 6:50.  Felt much better than Wednesday - even the warm-up felt okay.  A bit of a breeze going out.  But, still pretty close to goal pace.  Right onto goal pace coming back in over the last 3.5 miles.  Hit 34:06 for the 5-miles ............. 6:49 pace.  Mostly controlled effort.  Didn't feel that I was "going to the well" at any point.  So, really pretty pleased with how it went - especially considering Wednesday's effort.

Ended up with 49 miles for the week.  Right about where I had hoped to be for the week.

The effects of the cold are pretty much running their course.  Looks like I should be able to get some rest - especially as we hit the holiday season.  So, hopeful that things will come together over the next few weeks and I'll be able to sharpen up and ready to hit the sub-1:29 needed for guaranteed entry int NYC.  35 days and counting.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Very, Very, Very Ugly

Not the greatest training week ever.  I had come down with some cold symptoms last week in Seattle during the Thanksgiving week.  After we got back home on Sunday, I was pretty beat down - so, decided to postpone the long run until later in the week.  But, things went a bit downhill from there.

Started some nightime coughing Sunday night and only got a couple of hours of sleep.  So, postponed the long run again.  Started to take some Nyquil to help me get some sleep.  That worked great, except I was groggy and sluggish all day.

Decided to try the long run on Tuesday.  Got into it about a mile and realized that it wasn't going to be my day - so cut the run to 3 miles.  Wednesday was better; but, still sluggish from the Nyquil and the long one wasn't going to happen.  By this point in the week, it was pretty clear that the long run was going to have to go by the wayside. 

At this point - also decided to quit the Nyquil and other OTC meds.  Slept much better Wednesday night and felt a lot more alert and in tune on Thursday.  Wanted to make sure to at least get in one quality workout for the week.  Was able to get in a good 7-mile workout with 4-miles of tempo.  Goal was to be at Marathon Pace effort - 6:50ish pace.  Averaged 6:40 for the workout and felt pretty controlled; so, was happy with that.  Things seemed to be looking up.

Went to bed about 9:00.  Did some reading; and, about 10:00 realized that things weren't feeling so good in the belly and bowel area.  By 10:30 p.m. I was on the toilet with what seemed like and enless stream of liquid feces exploding out of my butt.  How can that much fluid turd matter come out of your body?????  By about midnight the puking commenced.  Finally settled down about 1:00 a.m.  But, then the coughing fits started up again.  Needless to say, it wasn't the most resful night.

Feeling better today......a bit tired.  A bit weak.  A bit bleary eyed.  But, vertical and all the fluids going in are staying in.  Actually got in a few easy miles and felt okay. 

Hopefully things have settled down with the cold and with whatever I had going on last night.  Not entirely thrilled with losing some training this week.  But, still will get in about 40 miles; and, got in a quality workout.  Still have 5 full weeks before Austin, so, plenty of time to still sharpen up and be ready to hit a decent half.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is There Anything Left

Yesterday I was reaching up into the cabinet to grab my morning pill/medication routine.  Yeah, for years I've taken a daily multi-vitamin and some fish oil pills.  And, when the aches and pains were a little much, a couple of ibuprofen in the morning were not unusual.

But, now my daily routine also includes levothyroxine, coreg, lisinopril, simvastatin and low dose aspirin.  I'm now one of those that has to travel with a little container to keep my meds straight.  The AARP card must be right around the corner.  Never did I expect that I would be the guy who had some heart function issues; and, what the hell is with having to an internal defibrillator implanted?  But, like it or not, those are the cards I've been dealt. 

From a day to day standpoint, I've chosen to not let it define me or limit my lifestyle choices.  That includes my running.  Sure, I'm no longer able to compete at the levels I was accustomed to (see The Buzzard's Wings Are Clipped at  But, I can still run; and, to a lesser degree, still race.  And, there's still a couple of events I'd like to participate in.  One of those being the New York City Marathon.  I've done Boston and Twin Cities; I've competed in national championship events across the country; I've run Bloomsday and other top road races; but, have not had the pleasure of competing in the Big Apple.  And, in our sport, it's about as big as it gets.  So, it's about time that I go to see if "I Can Make It There".

At the same time, I really would like to "earn" my way to the starting line.  I could go through the lottery route; and, perhaps get luck enough to get in.  But, would prefer to go the guaranteed entry route.  The primary way to achieve that goal would be via running a time that meets the marathon's guaranteed entry standards.  For the 2013 event, you can achieve that in one of two ways:  For 50-54 year old males, that means doing a marathon in 3:06:00 or faster; or, a 1/2-Marathon in 1:29:00 or faster prior to January 31st, 2013.

For me, I've decided to go the 1/2-Marathon route.  Even in the early phase of my cardiac issues; but, before I was fully diagnosed and treatment started, 1:29 would have been no big deal.  In September of 2010, off very limited training, I was able to pop off a 1:20 at the Montana 1/2 in Billings.  But, with the meds, my pace and heart race maximums are limited and that's resulted in some significant limits on my performance.  In practical terms, it has meant a slowdown of 60 to 90 seconds per mile at all efforts and distances.

Now, a 1:29 Half equates to a 6:47 per mile.  Again, just two years ago, that wouldn't have been a problem.  Heck, that was still training pace for long runs.  But, now................6:47 is sort of on the bubble for me.  So, hitting the time standard isn't a walk in the park.  But, I'm going to take a stab at pulling it off.

My all-eggs-in-one-basket race is going to be the Austin 3M Half-Marathon in Austin, TX on January 13th.  It's a medium sized event (5,000 or so runners); the weather is typically good (mid-40's to low-50's); and, it's a net downhill course.  So, I think that I've picked a course that gives me a good opportunity to hit my time goals.

It's also the first time since my diagnosis in October of 2010 that I've set out on a focused, dedicated training plan.  As of yesterday (Saturday, 11/24), I'm halfway through the training cycle.  It's been going pretty well.  I caught a bit of a bug this last week (which resulted in laryngitis during Thanksgiving); but, at this point it's only created a minor bump in the road on the training cycle.  At this point, I'm cautiously optimistic.  I'm hitting a bit over 50 miles per week with long runs of up to 14 miles so far.  And, I seem to be hitting my goal paces in training.

I'll keep you up to date over the next 6 weeks as I give it a shot to see if I have anything left in the tank to meet a defined, specific time and race goal.  If nothing else, it will be an interesting adventure.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, October 28, 2012

More Thoughts On MT Cup 2012

If it's not obvious, let me be clear - the sport of running is my passion.  From top to bottom.  The training, the racing, the supplemental work.  The shoes.  Love me a good running specialty store.  Watching a race/meet at almost any level.  Race directing.  Coaching.  There's pretty much nothing about the sport that I find to be negative.

But the most positive aspect of the sport is the people.  The friendships, acquaintances and connections that I've made in my time in the sport (going on some 35 years now) are invaluable.  And, that all comes together at the Montana Cup.

Had the opportunity to host Alan King and his Billings team overnight before the cup.  That group included Zach Hunter.  Both Al and Zach were part of the Church Of The Blue Dome's Sunday Morning Run Club during my days in Billings.  They were also part of the "Church Camp" at Dave Coppock's cabin in Cooke City in 2007 right before I moved to Plains.

I was able to run the last 2K of the race yesterday with the oldest of my running friends, Jeff Thomas.  We first met in 1978 and have been running pals ever since.  We used to run side by side at the front of races; now, not so much.  But, it was great to be able to cross the finish line with Jeff.

I first met Tim Brooker back in the mid 80's when I first got married and we lived in Plains the first time.  Now, I get the pleasure of being able to spend time with the whole family - Carol, Anders and Meg.

All in one day I get to connect (however briefly) with so many other friends like Ray & Nicole Hunt (and the twins), Jacque Maillet, Big Bird Jodoin Casey Jermyn, Pat Judge, Shaun Marshall-Pryde, Dewey Peacock, Scott Creel, Mary Thane, Evan Eck, Michelle Bazzanella, Kent Hoffmeyer and Suzie Kaluza.

Plus, all the new friends that I've been able to make over the last few years while living in Plains.  Mike Foote, the Morleys (Steve, Jill, Makena, Logan, Bryn), Pat Cross, Tara Browning, Kevin Plumage, Trish and Andry Drobeck, Tim Mosbacher, Jenny Newton, Jimmy Grant and Andy Tucknott.

How about the folks from the little known Clark Fork Valley Running Club and all that they did to help put the race together.  The Naegeli family (Bill, Sarah & Logan); Kathy Conlin; my XC runners Kayla Holmes, Aaron Garrison and Russell Kujala; T Falls XC runners Kelsie Luckie and Abby Croft; Denise Montgomery; Ernie and Marti Shertzer; Gena Ferlan; Dave and Nancy Mackenzie; and, my wife Erin and her mom Peg. 

With special mention to my wife Erin McCarthy.  She agreed to take on the timing and results efforts.  Even though her life is more than filled with work activities right now.  But, she stepped up to the plate, learned the timing program and killed it with taking care of the results on race day.  Thank you to the love of my life.

Here's just the most classic example of what a great group the running community is.  As I'm working with Erin to verify results and address a couple of post-race issues, I look up across the course.  And, what do I see.  Groups of runners from Bozeman, Missoula and Helena coming back with armloads of course marking materials.  They took it upon themselves to clean up the course as part of their cool-downs.  It was a race director's dream.

Yeah, this post has all the delusional ramblings of a mad-man whose been holed up in rural NW Montana for too long.  But, I just had to take a minute to throw down a few thoughts on how lucky I am to be part of this amazing community of distance runners.  Thank you for letting me continue to be part of your circle and for allowing me to continue to pursue my passion.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

MT Cup 2012

So, it's been a day or two since I've posted.  Work has been busy and the 2012 HS XC season has been underway since early August.  And, had also been getting things sorted out for the MT Cup in Plains.  But, that's all behind me, hope to get back to regular posting.  And, with that, here's my summary of the MT Cup event from yesterday. 

Running On The Wild Horse Plains

Plains is known for being one of the more temperate areas of western Montana.  Legend has it that Native American tribes used to winter their horses on the broad plains of this portion of the Clark Fork River valley.  This then led to the area being known as the Wild Horse Plains – which ultimately resulted in the town’s proper name becoming Plains.

It was here; at the town’s namesake golf course, that the Clark Fork Valley Running Club hosted the 21st Annual Montana Cup on behalf of the Kalispell region.  And, the town’s temperate climate was on full display over the course of the event.

It was a day that started out cool and wet as course set up was completed (but lacking any of the white, fluffy version of precipitation).  And, most of the teams participating experienced some form of snow and wintery conditions in traveling from their home bases.  But, about the time that teams started to arrive for packet pick up, the rain lifted and things stayed dry until about 30 minutes after the awards ceremony.  With the sun even peaking out a time or two – temperatures for the races were in the 40 to 45 degree range.  And, with no wind, conditions were perfect to encourage some fast and furious racing.

The course was a two-lap affair, comprising a total of 6,500 meters.  A hill of moderate length and incline was located in the first 400 meters, followed by a short, steep hill at about 1,600 meters.  From there, the rest of the course was a set of gradual inclines and declines.  The footing consisted of a mix of grass, dirt, and gravel cart paths, with even a short section through a Ponderosa pine grove covered in needles.  The course map can be seen at  It wasn’t as extreme as a few of the past Cup courses; but, it was by no means a flat, easy or rhythm type of course.  It was an honest cross country course that tested the athletes; and, gave a real advantage to no one.  The back and forth nature of the course also lent itself to being extremely spectator friendly – which meant lots of cheering for all of the runners.

The women were first out of the starting boxes.  In the early stages of the race, high school phenom Makena Morley took the lead.  The high school sophomore from Bigfork (running for the Kalispell team) was fresh of a win at last weekend’s Class B High School State Championship.  After finishing 2nd in the 2011 cup, she was running for a win this year.  Behind her, Missoula teammates Megan Brooker and Trisha Drobek were running side by side in pursuit of Makena.  At a bit before 3K, Brooker made a break from Drobek and charged after Morley.

Meg evened up with Makena right as they passed the finish area at the conclusion of the first loop.  By the time that they crested the hill at about 3600 meters, Meg had a gap and wasn’t going to be denied.  Makena was holding a slight gap over Trish; and, that’s pretty much how things ended up at the finish.  Meg 1st at 24:15, Makena 2nd at 24:28 and Trish 3rd at 24:46.

They were followed in by Elizabeth Paddock of Missoula (25:23), Nicole Hunt of Butte (26:03), Jenny Newton of Missoula (26:12) and Carly Holman, also of Missoula (26:41)

Meg wasn’t even racing a year ago, fighting some chronic hip pain.  She sought help for the pain from a orthopedic surgical specialist in Vail late last year; and, chose to have surgery.  While the rehabilitation was long and arduous, the results were clearly positive.  Meg appears to be on her way back to a national class track athlete (specializing in the past at 5,000 meters).

Not surprisingly, with all 5 of their scoring runners in the top 7, Missoula easily won the Open Team title with 21 points.  They were followed by Helena with 76 points and Kalispell with 85 points.

For the master’s women, super-mom Nicole Hunt was back on top.  Mom to toddler Eon and infant twins Roam and Ember (who were born the week after the 2011 Cup), she held off Missoula’s Jenny Newton by just 9 seconds – 26:03 to 26:12.  They were followed in by Mary Thane of Missoula (27:06) for the top spots on the podium.  And, notably – all three of these masters finished in the top 10 of the overall results.

On the junior’s side – it’s no surprise that 2nd place overall would garner Makena Morley the top 19 & under slot.  Her 24:28 saw her 2:21 clear of former Glacier High School star Heather Fraley (26:49).  The 3rd spot went to Gilia Patterson of Missoula at 27:37.

An hour after the women’s start, the men broke from the line at the blast of the starter’s shotgun (this is rural Montana – and, what is more appropriate than a shotgun start????).  (BTW – the shotgun start was a nice complement to the regular gunfire coming from the shooting range located just across the road from the 6K point.  It was the Plains version of thunder sticks!!!!)   A big lead pack was stuck together through the first 1500 meters – including Cesar Mireles of Billings, Troy Fraley of Kalispell, Alan King of Billings, defending champion Chris Kollar of Missoula, Jimmy Grant of Missoula, James Rucker of Kalispell and Scott Creel of Bozeman. 

Over the next kilometer, Mireles and Fraley opened a bit of a gap on the field, with King, Kollar and Graydon Curry of Bozeman giving chase.  Into the second lap Mireles and Fraley continued to run side by side – in lockstep all way until the closing reaches of the race…………….where Mireles finally pulled ahead.  His 2 second victory (21:11 to 21:13) matched the closest margin victory in Cup history – matching the 1995 (Ted Zderic over Pete Metzmaker) and 1999 (Rowdy Sargerson over Scott Creel) finishes. 

Cesar, who is one year removed from his eligibility at Rocky Mountain College, owns a mile PR of 4:08 and competed in several national championship events while at Rocky.  He’s currently serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater while he finishes his degree program; and, he’s giving serious thought to chasing the elusive sub-4:00 mile barrier this coming spring.

Fraley was 3rd overall at last week’s AA State XC championships in Helena; and, continues to show that he’s one of the toughest, gutsiest runners in the state at any level.  Finishing 28 seconds behind Fraley was Rocky Mountain coach Alan King (2011 Muddy Buzzard Runner of the Year) at 21:41.  He was followed by defending champion Chris Kollar of Missoula (showing that Ultra Trail runners can keep their speed) in 21:51 and Graydon Curry of Bozeman in 21:59.  World Champion Firefighter Andy Drobek of Missoula was 6th at 22:01; and, James Rucker of Kalispell rounded out the top 7 with his 22:02.  In all – the top 11 men all finished within 60 seconds of Mireles.  Quite possibly the deepest, most competitive men’s Cup ever.

Clearly, his 2nd place finish (like Morley on the women’s side) secured Fraley the top 19 & Under honors.  Behind him were Adam Wollant (as a potential Grizzly trackster next spring he ran as an unaffiliated runner and wasn’t eligible for prizes) in 22:11, Aidan Theard of Butte/Anaconda in 23:00, and Logan Morley of Bigfork/Kalispell in 24:05.

The master’s were led by 50-year old Scott Creel (9th overall) of Bozeman in 22:07.  The podium was filled by Steve Morley of Bigfork (father of Makena, Logan and Bryn (4th in the 19&under)) in 22:12 and the “father of The Cup” Ray Hunt of Deer Lodge/Butte in 23:07.

For the Master’s men’s teams – Bozeman led the way with 36 points, besting Missoula (46) and Helena (67).  The Overall team title went to Missoula (winning 3 of the 4 team titles today) with 40 points, easily besting Kalispell (63) and Billings (64). 

The 2013 Montana Cup will be held in the Butte region.  And, if history holds true – it’s definitely not too early to start your hill and altitude training in preparation for next year.  It’s now just 364 days away!!!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Goodbye To My Buddy

We lost our buddy Tsavo this weekend.  He was our first family dog. 

I can still remember getting him in 2002 as a Mother's Day present for Erin.  Just a little round, brown puff of a dog.

An Australian Shepherd mix, he grew into a brown, bundle of energy.  He was our very own ADHD, 4-legged child.  Yes, he was a handful.  Yes, he had his moments.   But, we loved him.

He was imminently happy when we moved to Plains and had acreage all around us.  Chasing after his arch-nemesis the chipmunks.  Getting chased by coyotes.  Rolling in cow shit just because it felt so good.  Barking into the darkness just to scare the bad guys away.  Taking a walk and showing up at gramma's house over the next ridge.  It was puppy heaven.

But, his favorite place of all was our property at Vermilion Bay.  He loved to chase the squirrels.  Swimming in the lake and shaking his wetness all over us on the deck.  Taking walks and runs to "the point".  In his younger years he would run himself to the point of limping.  But, as soon as you headed out for a walk he wouldn't hesitate to shake it off and head out for another adventure.  We would come home from a weekend at the property and he would be most of the next week resting up and recovering.

But, he was 10 years old.  Over the last year he was really starting to show his age.  He spent a lot of his time just sleeping.  He didn't much care to be outside unless you were out with him.  He had started to show a few breathing problems.  And, there was even a day at Vermilion this summer when I actually had to help him get into the pick-up. 

And, then, on Friday night he went out in such a Tsavo sort of way.  We had gone up to Vermilion for the Huckleberry Festival weekend.  I had also brought up a bunch of my high school cross country kids for a pre-season "camp".  Well, we were all having a great time.  Tsavo had been swimming and chasing chipmunks.  Best of all, one of the girls was throwing sticks for him, playing tug of war and chasing him.  He was having a grand time.

And, then - he just fell over.  Erin ran over and called to me that he looked like he was having a seizure.  I ran over.  He was seizing and we tried to calm him.  His breathing was shallow and his heartbeat was very fast.  And, then - his eyes glazed over, his heart stopped and he was gone.  Just like that - my buddy had left us.  It was very surreal and very sad.  Even now, I'm tearing up thinking about my poor puppy just laying there limp on the ground.  I couldn't believe that he was gone.  We suspect a massive stroke, heart attack or aneurysm.  Whatever the cause - he's gone.

So, here it is 8:30 at night and we have to bury him.  I can't yet do any shoveling after my ICD implant.  So, I had to recruit two of my boys to help dig the hole.  (They were troopers and did a great job.).  We found a nice spot on the bank above our camp.  It's a spot where he used to run up and down chasing chipmunks and squirrels.

Yes - it is incredibly sad to no longer have our buddy with us.  But, he passed quickly with no pain.  We were there with him as he breathed his last and were able to comfort and pet him.  He had a great day of running, swimming and chasing forest creatures in his favorite place in the whole world.  We didn't have to agonize over declining health and having to make the call to put him down.  He didn't have a long, lingering illness.  In the end - it was a pretty great way to go.

But, I already miss him terribly and it's going to take some time to get used to not having him greet me at the top of the driveway when I come home; or waiting at the door in the basement when I come in; or having a buddy to take on hikes around the property.  But, we'll always remember Tsavo as our first family pet.  RIP buddy - you silly ol' dog.

Tsavo Dog - at the Vermilion property earlier this summer

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Of Mo and Rupp

Holy crap.  What a great Olympic men's 10,000.

Mo Farah carries the weight of his country on his shoulders and pulls out an amazing win.  After seeming to "fight" the early miles, he found his groove over the last 2K and made the race his.

Rupp raced smart the whole way.  But, I honestly thought that he was out of it at about 200 meters to go.  Then to see him slingshot off the corner with about 120 to go, I was jumping up and down and shouting.

Salazar and "his boys" definitely proved the haters wrong.  They showed conclusively that a smart, scientific, focused, long term approach to training is still the best way to bring home the medals. 

Congrats to Mo, Rupp, Alberto and the entire Oregon Distance Project group.

The Muddy Buzzard

The Buzzard Turns Gadfly

Had the pleasure last night of being able to attend the wedding of Meg Lerch and Anders Brooker in Missoula.  It was a wonderful ceremony and a fun, fun night.  Seems fitting that the wedding would be held on the opening night of Olympic track & field events.

As would be expected, the event included a who's who of the western MT running world.  From the trail and ultra world we had Mike Foote, Keifer Hahn, Tyson Warner and Kevin Twidwell.  There were a number of Meg's Mountain West teammates such as Courtney Babcock, Mary Thane and Jennifer Burke.  A whole slew of Anders' Hellgate track & XC kids like Paige Gilchrist, Adam Petermen, Chris Herrick, Taz Scariano and Chris Everett.  State Class B mile champ Carter Montgomery.  Master's studs Kevin Plumage, John Herring, Brian Fruit and Dean Lipp.  Super running couples Andy and Trish (Miller) Drobek and Andy and Darr Tucknott.  Former Big Sky track & XC champ and current Bozeman Running Company owner Casey Jermyn.  Run Wild Missoula exec. director Eva Dunn-Froebig.  Ageless wonder Bob Hayes.   (With many more Missoula area runners present as well.)

RWM club member JB Yonce hosted the event at his home up Rattlesnake Creek.

There was beer aplenty, fine wines, Big Dipper Ice Cream, S'mores and sweets as far as the eye could see.

It was just a great night.  And, it was all to celebrate two people who give significantly of themselves to better the Montana running community.

From the Buzzard to the Brooker-Lerch's.............................Best Wishes to a long and happy marriage with many miles under your feet, lots of laughs and plenty of love.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Little Things

Sometimes it seems like we just have too much drama in our lives.  It can be from external forces (work, family, etc.).  It can be internally produced (procrastination, health, ego, et al).  And, too often we get to drawn into the all the crap and forget to appreciate and enjoy the little things.

This morning, I had one of those days to appreciate.  Met with one of my former HS runners for a nice a.m. run.  Took off from his house and ran east towards Paradise.  Had the Clark Fork River running along side us.  Mountains in every direction.  Cooling breeze on the way back in.  Saw deer, osprey, geese, ducks and a wide variety of other birds. 

We did a nice 6 at around 7:15 pace.  Swapped some stories.  Told some jokes.  Passed some gas.  All the things that make for a good run.

Thinking about it, what more could a guy ask for on a Sunday morning than a nice visit to the Church of the Blue Dome????

So all my friends out there - remember.  Take some time to enjoy the day and appreciate the good times.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bionic Run #1

Had my one week post surgery checkup on my ICD (implanted defibrillator) today.  All looked good.  Incision looked good and post surgery dressing removed - glad to have it off - means I get to take more than a sponge bath for the first time in a week.

Also cleared back to full exercise.  Took two days compeletley off, then had been walking 30 to 45 minutes the last several days.  At least had the body moving; but, you know - it just ain't the same as a nice easy run.

So, got out for an easy 4 on the Kim Williams trail in Missoula.  I have to admit - I was a bit freaked out/anxious about the first run with this device.  Would it misread my running effort as an "event" and shock me?  Was the device going to feel like it was bouncing around and hurt like hell?  Would I pull a lead loose and cause all kinds of mayhem?

The easy answers were no, no and no.  Yeah, the device (which sits under the skin just below my left collar bone) feels a bit odd.  Hell, it is a foreign device in my body.  Maybe a bit uncomfortable; but, not painful.  And, I'm sure that I'll get used to it in no time.

All in all a pretty uneventful run.  About the only thing of note is that there seems to be some interference between the ICD and my Garmin heart rate monitor.  My HR readings seemed way out of whack for the effort.  But, that's a pretty minor detail.

In the end, it felt good to be out on the roads & trails again. 

The Muddy (and somewhat bionic) Buzzard

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oly Predictions

We're just a bit less than 2 weeks out from the start of the Olympic track and field competition; and, I thought I would give you my predictions for the US medal chances for 800 Meters on up at the London oval.  So, without any further ado - here we go. 

800 Meters Men.  Duane Solomon just ran a real fast time in Monaco; but, he seems to lack the experience necessary to get through the heats & semis and still be ready to get a medal in the finals.  Nick Symmonds has the experience and is a big meet performer.  But, I just don't see him quite getting over the hump.  Best case scenario - 5th for Symmonds.

800 Meters Women.  I think that this is about how well Alysia Montano can handle the heats and semi's.  She's proving herself as a racer and has put down some fast times this year.  I predict a bronze for Montano.

1500 Meters Men.  With some of the performances that have been getting laid down this year, I just don't see our men being able to pull it off.  Centrowitz and Monzano have proven themselves to be good big meet performers; and, I think that they'll make the final.  One of them will likely make the top 5; but, I think that's it.  Wheating seems to be a big question mark; but, I just don't think that he's on top of his game and don't expect him to get out of the semis.

1500 Meters Women.  I think that all 3 of our women will make the final.  But, only one of them will come home with hardware...............and, I predict Rowbury.  Uceny and Simpson just don't seem to have the magic that they saw last year.  And, Rowbury is the most experienced and smartest racer of the bunch.  I think that she's finally ready to bring home a medal.

3000 Steeple Men.  Ignorance will be bliss for Evan Jager.  He's only run 5 steeples so far in his career.  One of those was to convincingly win the Oly Trials.  Another was this past week when he set a new AR in 8:06.81 - making him the 5th fastest time in the world this year.  He seems to have positioned himself well; and, I think that he may be just naive enough to pull off a bronze behind the top 2 Kenyans.

300 Steeple Women.  Although Emma Coburn has the 12th fastest time in the world this year, I just think that there is too much experience and speed in front of her.  So, she should make the finals; but, probably no better than 8th or 9th.

5,000 Meters Men.  Super interesting.  We have Lagat, Rupp and Lomong.  Lagat is smart, fast and experienced.  He'll definately make the finals.  Rupp is improving all the time with his speed and tactics.  He too will make the final.  Lomong - he has the speed and the desire.  I think that we'll get all three to the final.  That will be quite and accomplishment for the American team.  I think that Lagat brings home hardware.  I expect Rupp to be a bit too beat up from the 10,000 and the 5K heats to get a medal; but, top 6 is a possibility.  Lomongs lack of experience at championship 5K's keeps him out of the top 10.

5,000 Meters Men.  Unfortunately, I don't see any of our women making the final.  They are solid runners; but, don't see them having the wheels to pull off the Q time for the final.

10,000 Meters Men.  I think that all 3 of our guys will perform admirably - Rupp, Ritz and Tegenkamp.  But, I think that only Rupp will be in the top 9.  And, I think he will bring home a bronze.  He's developing the tactical sense and the finishing speed necessary for a championship 10K.  He's ready to go and I think he'll ride along with training mate Mo Farah to the medal stand.

10,000 Meters Women.  My prediction is that only Hastings will be in the top 12.  As in the 5K, I just don't think our women have the wheels this year to challenge for hardware.

Marathon Men.  I love Meb and Abdi - but, championship marathoning has changed dramatically since Meb's silver in Athens.  I think that Hall is the only one with the speed endurance to be in the hunt after 30K.  But, I see him 5th at best.  Still, a great run; but, just too much East African blood to overcome.

Marathon Women.  One of our women will win a medal.  It won't be Desi Davilla.  She's a bit beat up and not having the training block necessary to be ready.  And, I just don't think that Kara is back to 100% after the birth of Colt.  Top 10 maybe; but, not medals. That leaves us with Shalane Flanagan.  She has the endurance, track speed and race smarts to pull it off.  And, if she really runs smart and puts it all on the line in the last 10K - gold is not unrealistic.

So, there you have it.  Let me know what you think I have wrong and what I have right. 

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dream Season

Although some of this is old news, I just had to make comment about what is perhaps the best ever season that a female high school track athlete has had in Montana.  No diminishing the performances of some greats of the past like Julie Brown, Laurie Sax, Loni Perkins, Heidi Lane and Zoe Nelson - I would argue that Dani Aragon's 2012 season surpassed them all.

No wanting to overlook the fact that she ran a 4:53 mile or a 10:58 2-mile during the season; but, wanted to focus on her 800 meter performances starting with the Eastern AA Divisionals on May 19th.

At Divisionals she won the 800 meters in a stellar 2:10.33.  This time was within site of the all class record of Julie Brown from the 1970's and had people excited about what she could do at the State Meet.

Which then brings us to the state meet at the mile-high altitude of Butte.  With less than stellar weather (cold, wind, snow, rain) she smashed the 800 Meter record with the first ever sub-2:10 perfromance in running 2:08.31.  (On top of that she got 2nd in the 400 at 57.23, won the mile in 4:56.43 (just off the state record of 4:55.18) and won the 3200 in 11:09.28.)

But, all of that was a mere warmup for the biggest and best part of her senior season.  In mid-June, she headed to Bloomington, Indiana for the USA Track & Field Junior Championships.  She ran solid in the preliminaries with a 2:10.45 that qualified her for the finals.  Then, in the finals is where she had her real breakthrough performance.  Running 2nd to Ajee Wilson, she ran an incredible, 3 second PR with her 2:05.06.  But, even bigger than that was the fact that her performance qualified her for the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain in mid-July.

Once she got to Barcelona, Dani kept on rolling.  In the heats, she ran a 2:07.84 to qualify for the semi-finals.  In the semi-fnals (held the day after the heats), she ran another PR in 2:04.19. That's 4 performances under 2:10 in a 6 week span - AMAZING.  Unfortunately, that's where Dani's run ended.  It took a 2:03.18 to qualify for the finals; and, that was just beyond Dani's time.  But, what an amazing run she had.

Now, Dani will take her talents to Notre Dame to join her junior to be sister Alexa (and to follow in the footsteps of their Dad Chuck - a ND alum and former school record holder in the mile).

I've had the pleasure of knowing the Aragon family since the girls were infants (during my time in Billings).  Dani (and the rest of the family) is a pleasant, intelligent and talented young girl.  She has a bright, bright future indeed.  My daughter Zoe was between Dani and Alexa during their junior high years at Lewis & Clark JH in Billings.  Zoe always thought that Dani was going to have a great career - guess she was right.

So, consider this my tip of the cap to the amazing spring of Dani Aragon.  I wish her all the best as she continues with her running and her time at ND.

The Muddy Buzzard.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Buzzard Goes Bionic

So, finally sucked it up and followed the doctor's recommendations.  Went in on Wednesday and had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) put in.  So, what does that mean????

Well, as part of my reduced heart function (left ventricular ejection fraction of 35% +-), I'm at an increased risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest.  Even though their underlying heart conditions were different, SCA is what struck down Ryan Shay at the 2008 Oly Trials and Micah True (Caballo Blanco from Born To Run).  Alberto Salazar suffered through an SCA episode (but got lucky due to very quick medical attention and survived).  Two international soccer players recently suffered SCA episodes on the field.  One survived, the other wasn't so lucky. 

Although the risk of an episode in my case is less than 1% in any given year, - there is a risk.  And, if you have an episode, it's usually fatal unless you happen to be somewhere with trained responders and/or an AED.   But, an SCA episode can also be treated by and ICD.  Under the right conditions (which have been programmed into the device), your heart will get a jolt or other form of electrical signal to bring it back into the correct rhythm.

The device is implanted on the left side of my chest, below my collar bone and above the breast.  Here's a pic with the dressing over the incision.

I was pleasantly surprised because I expected there to be more of a protrusion/bump from the device.  It will probably be a bit more evident once the dressing is off; but, it's not as bas as I thought that it might be.

The device really isn't that big.  It's a bit bigger than my Garmin 405 GPS Watch; and, about the thickness of a USB thumb drive.  Here's a few pix of a device sample that they gave me at discharge (it's an actual device, sans battery and leads.)

From the plastic piece on the top of the device are a set of leads that they thread through a vein and into the heart.  In my case, there is a lead to the atrium and a lead to the ventricle.  There's a very, very small "screw" that attaches to the wall of the heart. 

So, basically, here's how it works.  The ICD continuously monitors my heart rate.  If, for some reason, it starts to beat too fast (an indicator of the onset of Sudden Cardiac Arrest), the ICD tries to "pace" the heart back to a normal heart rate.  If that doesn't work, then, the device sends a shock to the heart to shock it back into a normal rhythm.  In my case, the "fast" rates have been set at 190 and 210 beats per minute.  (That shouldn't be a problem with running for me.  Since I've been on some of the heart meds, my max HR is now at around 155 to 160.)  Again, the risk of experiencing SCA is pretty small; but, this device is a good insurance device just in case it does happen.

The procedure went well.  Dr. Simone Musco from St. Patricks International Heart Institute did a great job.  He's been great to work with and has been really flexible in setting this whole thing up in a way that will minimize the impact on my day to day lifestyle; and, will still allow me to run.

They don't put you completely out during the procedure.  You are sedated; and, I don't really remember much of the 90 minute surgery.  I think I slept through most of it; but, I do vividly recall them forming the skin pocket and putting in the device.  It didn't really hurt; but, man, this thing doesn't gently slip under the skin.  There is some serious pushing to get the damn thing in place.

I came out of the procedure wide awake and ready to go.  Seems like I kind of get amped up on the back side of the sedative.  I was talking and visiting and all kinds of awake.  Within about an hour, I was pretty well back with it; and was already sending out some texts and making calls.   

I didn't seem to have any significant after effects of the sedatives; but, my left chest was pretty sore.  Finally wore down about 10:00 at night and was hopeful of getting at least some sleep.  But, it was not to be.  First, there was the IV antibiotic that they hooked me up to at midnight.  Then vitals at 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.  And, they wanted to do a chest X-ray at 5:30 a.m.  But, that wasn't the worst of it.  The bed in the room had an air mattress and was set up to almost continuously adjust the air pressure within the mattress (I'm sure to help avoid bed sores).  Every 30 seconds a small air pump would come on and pump air into or out of the mattress.  And, this wasn't some quite little pump.  It was like the battery operated pumps that you can use to blow up air mattresses for home or camping.  With that going on twice a minute, there was no sleep in my night.

Yesterday, my chest was still a bit sore; but, manageable with just Tylenol.  But, I was quite tired with no sleep.  Was able to get a bit of work done in the morning (email mostly)  Was home by about 2:00 p.m.  Took about an hour nap and did some more work in the early evening.  Then to bed pretty early.

So, here it is on Friday.  The pain is pretty minor.  Took 2 Tylenol early this morning; and, that's been it.  I'm still a bit fatigued; but, was able to get in a full days worth of work.  With a full weekend of rest, I should be back at it full force by Monday.

I do have a few short term restrictions.  I can't run for 5 or 6 days (although I can walk or do recumbent bike before that).  I can't shower or get the incision site wet for a week.  I do have an appointment on Wednesday to check the wound site and to double check the device programming.  Once that is done, I should be able to get back to regular running and normal activities.

But, for 4 to 6 weeks I can't lift my left arm above my shoulder; and, I can't lift more than 10 to 15 pounds with my left hand.  That's to make sure that the lead wires "set in" properly and don't move out of place.  After that, there should be no real restrictions on my previous lifestyle.

The ICD doesn't fix the underlying problem; and, I still expect that my performance/racing will be limited by heart function.  But, it does give me some peace of mind knowing that the risk of kicking over and dying out on a run has been significantly reduced.

At any rate, it's now another part of this big journey; and, I'm hopefully that the future road blocks are minimal. 

And, in just a few more days...............................I'll see you back out on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Running At The Bottom Of The Lake

Okay - so my love fest with Missoula running is going to continue into this post.  But, I can't help it.  That's what happens in the afterglow of an event like last weekend's Missoula Marathon. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again - it is perhaps the best overall running event (dare I say festival) in Montana.  It's a 3-day celebration of running.  With the Run Wild Missoula Beer Run and packet pick up on Friday evening; the Missoula 5K and Kid's Marathon on Saturday moning; the expo on Saturday; and, the main event (full and half marathons) on Sunday - there's some level of running event for anyone and everyone.

Run Wild Missoula and the marathon race committee do an outstanding job of putting the race logistics together.  The Missoula community get's solidly behind the event.  And, when you combine in all of the local markets and weekend community events - you get a weekend full of energy, excitement and a "buzz about town" that is unmatched in the region.  Trust me - it's an event that is well worth puttig on you calendar.

And, on top of that, there's the little matter of the races themselves. Top to bottom, the marathon and half marathon have developed into highly competitive races with excellent fields.  (And, with an enhanced focus on the Missoula 5K, I expect that event to grow and become even better in the next couple of years.)

In the half marathon, high schooler Chiara Warner (Townsend/Broadwater HS) was a suprise at the front with her 1:21:59 win.  While a talented and accomplished HS runner, there was nothign to suggest her ability to step up to the 13.1 distance and beat some accomplished runners like defending champ Emily Schertzer, Meg Lerch and Brooke Andrus.

For the men, Matt Shyrock of Missoula jsut snuck under Casey Jermyn's course record as he pulled of a sub-1:10 finish with a winning time of 69:51.  A sub-70 Half is pretty impressive; and, it gave him an 80 second win and took the scalps of runners such as pre-reace favorites Devin Cowan, Jacob Naegeli and Adam Peterman.  In all there were 5 total men under 1:15.  Not a bad race.

At the full distance, the pre-race favorites were Jimmy Grant and Collin Fehr - and they lived up to the billing.  Both were looking for performances in the 2:30 or under range.  Collin took things out hard with a 1:14 opening half, opening a 2 minute + lead on Jimmy.  Race reports later had that lead up to about 3 minutes.  But, over the last 10 miles, Jimmy slowly chewed into the lead.  But, in the end, Collin held on for a 44 second win, 2:32:38 to 2:33:22.  Pretty competetive racing over a full 26 miles.

On the women's side, it was all Trisha all the way.  Running under her newly married name of Drobek (nee Miller), Trisha had one of the finest women's performances in recent Montana history.  Coming off a sub-2:50 win at this January's PF Chang's Marathon in Tempe/Phoenix, AX, Trisha pulled off her second super fast time in 6 months and smashing the course record with her win at 2:49:33.  This gave her a dominating 14 minute win.

All in all a great, exciting weekend in the Garden City.  Already looking forward to 2013 and seeing if the race festival can exceed the 6,000 runner mark and improve again on the level of performances.  Based on what I've seen over the last couple of years, I'm predicting yes to both of the above.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails.

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy #11 To RE

Let me start with full disclosure.  The Brooker family (Tim, Carol, Anders [and soon to be Meg]) are friends of mine.  But, that friendship has little bearing on my comments below.

Yesterday (July 13th), the Runner's Edge celebrated their 11th Anniversary as Missoula's (and western Montana's) running specialty store.  That's a big deal for a small business - to fight off the competition, economic turmoil and a myriad of daily challenges to success.  But, here they stand after more than a decade.  But,, the question begs - why have they been successful and survived when so many other small businesses (in Missoula, Montana, and throughout the country) have folded up their tents???

Because they "get it".  They know the sport.  They know their customers.  They provide unparallelled customer service.  They've developed partnerships with other local and regional events, organizations, businesses and individuals.  They are actively (and I mean actively) involved in all aspects of the sport in the Missoula region.  Sponsorships, classes, coaching, group runs, donations, etc.  If there is something going on with running in the region, you can almost be certain that Runner's Edge will be somehow connected.

They have great products and a full selection of shoes, clothing, gear and accessories.  They know the products they sell.  They stand behind their products. 

The staff is great.  Anders, Tim, Vicki, Mike, Tyson, John, Colleen, Meg.  Pleasant - Knowledgeable - Committed  They bring their best to the table every day to make sure you have the best possible products to help you enjoy the sport.

Time Out Sports in Billings is Montana's first running specialty store and has been around for over 20 years.  Bozeman Running Company has taken over the old Fleet Feet store and is on the upswing.  And, Tread Lightly in Helena and Southwest Sports in Butte are a couple of the new kids on the block.  They all do a good job and it's great to have that many running specialty stores in our little corner of the world.  But, in my mind, they all take a back seat to Runner's Edge.  RE has set the gold standard in the Big Sky for running specialty stores.

In fact, they may be one of the best running stores in all of the Western U.S.  During my travels, I like to check out running stores in the various cities that I visit.  And, quite honestly, RE can run toe to toe with pretty much any of the stores I've ever set foot in.

So - congratulations Anders and all of the Runner's Edge crew on 11 years of service to the Missoula running community.  Thanks for all that you do for the sport; and, here's to hoping for a strong, successful 2nd decade of business.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Wulf Howls Again

Nice weather, good trail conditions, great competition and amazing race organization – that’s what makes for a great event.  All those things and more were to be found at the 5th Annual Wulfman’s CDT-14K Trail Race.  The race takes place on the Continental Divide Trail between Homestake and Pipestone Passes east of Butte, Montana.  Named in honor of John “The Wulfman” Wulf, the Godfather of Butte’s Piss & Moan Runners, the race is held each year on the Saturday closest to the summer solstice, the anniversary of The Wulfman’s final group run.

Run in opposite directions every other year, this year saw the race in the southbound direction between Homestake and Pipestone.  Although not considered a technical trail, the course makes up for it with a combination of climbs and altitude.  With a starting elevation of 6,250’ the course rises 1,300' in a series of steps/climbs (high point around 7,500’) over the first 8.5 kilometers.  From there, it’s mostly downhill over the last 5.5 kilometers to a finish elevation of 6,350’ (net uphill of 100’).  Those last 5.5 kilometers are deceptively challenging though, with a couple of uphill “bumps” in the last 3 kilometers that really make you work.  As a result, finish times and runner comments suggest that this is the more difficult race direction.  

Being a single track trail all the way – the race start has to be adjusted to accommodate the 240-person field.  Based on predicted times and consideration by the race director (Ray Hunt), the runners are seeded to go out on the course in 10-second intervals.  With the faster runner’s going out first, this allows all of the runner’s great access to the trail with limited needs for passing or other potential conflicts.

Race day was mild, dry and sunny.  But, the shade of the trees and some well timed breezes kept the conditions reasonably comfortable.  The lack of winter snows and spring rains were evident when the couple of notoriously swampy spots were, at worst, a bit damp.  That made for probably the best trail conditions in the event’s history – and the result was some great racing.

The men’s race this year was a bit more of a question mark than it had been in the past.  Two time defending champion Lynn Reynolds was skipping this year.  Also absent were some top runners from the past such as Keifer Hahn, Alan King, Pat Judge, Scott Creel and Mike Telling.  But, that meant some new faces, some new blood and some new excitement. 

The one thing that went directly according to plan was the performance of Jimmy Grant of Missoula.  The 33-year old was granted the first starting slot as the top returning performer from last year.  He took his 10 second starting gap and never looked back.  Never really challenged during the race, he pushed on to a 43 second win with a time of 57:27.  Post race, Grant commented that in many ways he preferred a later starting position and liked doing the chasing.  But, it’s evident that he also does pretty well with the fear of being the hunted and running hard to stay in front of the pack.

Grant was a bit surprised at how well the run went today, having just competed in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon over Memorial Day Weekend (May 27th).  His 2:31:44 time brought him home in 4th place and just off his goal of a sub-2:30 performance.  But, buoyed by his performance today, he’s thinking about taking another marathon shot in two weeks at the Missoula Marathon.

2nd place was wrapped up by Butte native Clint Choquette.  Having made a big jump in his training volume this year (from 20+ miles per week to 50+), Clint has also made a big jump in performance.  Now living in Billings (and set to compete for MSU-Billings this fall in cross country – using his one available year of eligibility), Choquette moved up from his #4 starting position to compete the course in a fine time of 58:10

Helena’s Thomas “Big-Bird” Jodoin (the 2008 and 2009 champion) continued his 5 year string of top 3 finishes, hitting 59:03.  Rounding out the top 5 (and the sub-1 hour performers) were race-newbie Devin Cowan of Helena in 59:32; and, race director and master’s stud Ray Hunt (Deer Lodge) in 59:52. 

The women’s race held a little more to form.  But, the big question at the start was who was going to have the best comeback.  Would it be defending champion Sarah Graves of Ballantine, returning to competition after the Olympic Marathon Trials in January?  Or, would it be 2009 champion Nicole Hunt of Deer Lodge – who gave birth to twin boys Roam and Ember last fall (October)?

Graves was out first, with Hunt starting just 20 seconds back.  Although she indicated that she didn’t feel really sharp, Graves took it out hard over the first half of the race – she’s a racer through and through.  Hunt got out a bit easier over the first 5 kilometers; but, then began a big charge leading to the 2nd big climb at about 7 kilometers – where she made contact with Graves.  They continued to run in this order until a bit past the 40:00 mark (near 8K), when Nicole went around and made a big push over the top and through the downhill last 5K.  The result, a 42 second win over Sarah 67:58 to 68:40.  As the topping on the day, her time set a new course record by 78 seconds (and with it, the $75 record bonus).

Nicole has made some big forward progress on her racing fitness over the last two months and looks to be well on her way back to being one of the top master’s women in the US.  Who knows how amazing she could be if the boys would just let her get a full night’s sleep J

Another Wulfman newbie was master’s runner Jenny Newton of Missoula.  Her 72:35 placed her third, about a minute ahead of 17 year old (and high school senior to be) Olivia Wood of Anaconda (whose 73:27 replicated here 4th place performance of last year).  The top 5 was wrapped up by Michele Bazzanella of Butte in 74:07 (who once again made up several batches of incredible chili for the post race feast).

The master’s races are based on two criteria.  There are the traditional age-group results.  But, the primary awards are based on age-graded criteria.  In this format, your time is adjusted based on your age – trying to equalize your time against those of the younger, under-40 crowd.

For the women’s master’s – the age group ace was Nicole Hunt.  As the overall winner, her 75:58 gun time was also clearly the top master’s time.  The top 5 in the 40+ division also included Jenny Newton of Missoula (3rd overall @ 72:35), Julie Gilchrist of Missoula (6th overall – 75:39), Kathy Peterson of Dillon (7th overall – 75:57) and Megan Regnerus of Bozeman in 82:48.

Nicole also “owned” the age-graded division.  Her adjusted time was 64:40, smashing the old record by 2 ½ minutes; and, again, bringing home a $75 record bonus.  Next on the list was ageless Debbie Magilke of Billings.  Setting the age graded record for the northbound course in 2011, she had a whopping 24 minute + age adjustment from 91:50 to 67:19.  Following Debbie in the age-graded results were Jenny Newton (69:35), Julie Gilchrist (70:46) and Kathy Peterson (71:38)

The men’s master’s race was just as cut and dried, with Ray Hunt’s 5th overall place giving him a clear (3:23) win over Steve Bruner’s (Bozeman) 63:15.  3rd and 4th masters went to a couple of 50+ runners in Marvin “Mad Dog” Speece of Butte (67:29) and Kirk Keller of Three Forks in 67:59.  Clint May of Bozeman garnered 5th place honors with his fine run of 68:12.

On the age graded front, Ray kept the top slot there as well.  His adjusted time of 54:20 didn’t quite hit his 53:48 record of 2010 (where he literally ran himself sick).  But, it was good enough to pull in the $75 prize money for the sub-56:00 age graded premium.  The rest of the top 5 age graded looked a lot like the overall 40+ results.  Keller was #2 with his 58:16 adjusted time – followed by Speece at 58:19, Bruner at 59:32; and, Phillipsburg’s Kyle Klickir at 59:48.

 As I’ve noted previously – the great course, fantastic organization and superb competition will continue to make this a must-do event on the Montana race calendar.

As for the Buzzard himself – it was a nice run.  My fitness levels right now didn’t make it realistic for me to race.  So, I enjoyed the course and had a good trail run.  Plus, I got the opportunity to touch base with all kinds of friends (old and new) and acquaintances.  Add in a pint of good post race beer and some warm sunny weather – what more could an old bird ask for?

A full complement of race results (cumulative, male, female, age group, age graded, etc.) can be found at  A good selection of race comments (and photos coming soon??) can be found on the Wulfman’s CDT 14K Trail Race Facebook page.  Make sure to check them out.

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard