Thursday, August 28, 2014

10 Reasons To Run A 50K Instead Of A Marathon

Photo Credit: Samantha Lovett Photography

Marathons are an entirely different ball game than ultras. Although a few miles difference doesn't seem like that much, marathons have several major differences than ultras.

Here are ten reasons to run a 50K instead of a marathon:

1. It's only a couple more miles and you get some serious bragging rights.
A 50K (31 miles) is only a mere five miles longer than a marathon. Go those extra few miles. I promise it'll be worth it.

2. The aid stations (and volunteers) are WAY better.

This is me at the aid station of the Red Rock 50 a couple of years ago. I'm wearing a German beer-maid costume. Salted potatoes, anyone??

Tyler and Stephanie looking happy to be at the aid station for the Nine Trails 35-Mile Ultra!

Look at that SPREAD! (Photo cred:

I apologize in advance if this offends anyone who has volunteered at a marathon. While I can't speak for those hardworking volunteers who do their job right, I have had my fair share of shorter-distance races where the volunteers had absolutely no idea what they are doing. Instead of the local high school track team awkwardly handing you cups of water, you'll find actual ultrarunners volunteering at the aid stations of Ultras. They will treat you like royalty; ask you what they can get for you and bring it to you. They will place towels that have been soaking in ice cold water on your back, give you endless words of encouragement, and lift your spirits. They know what they are doing. I cannot tell you how many times I've walked into an aid station dead-set on quitting and been completely revitalized thanks to the volunteers. The food options at ultras are also incredible. I have seen sushi, pizza, candy, homemade cookies, name it-- it's been at an aid station in an Ultra. I double-dare you to find an aid station at a marathon that has fireball whiskey and cupcakes.

3. Trails are more beautiful than running on the road.

Where would you rather run?

I'll never forget my first 5K-- it was around an airport hanger and every single step was misery. There was no beautiful backdrop to distract myself with; it was just me and the pavement. The repetitiveness of the race drove me mad, I couldn't imagine 26.2 miles of it. I struggled to push myself and wondered why I was even running in the first place.

I didn't run again for several months, let alone try to run any longer.

Ultras, on the other hand, are often designed specifically with the location in mind. The majority of Ultras happen on trail-- most of which are beautiful. When you are pushing yourself through the miles, nothing is more rewarding than an expansive view of a valley at sunrise. Or seeing animals scurrying through the forest. Many ultras give you an excuse to travel to parts of the world and see trails that you'd never get a chance to visit otherwise.

4. You get a more supportive community filled with friendlier people.
In my research, I compared marathon runners with ultrarunners on their personality types and competitiveness. I found that marathon runners were more introverted and much more competitive than ultrarunners. If you have toed the line at a marathon, you'd notice that most people have their headphones in and aren't talking to anyone. In ultras, it's the opposite. I have made countless friends in the middle of ultras. I almost never listen to music when I run with other ultrarunners. Try and make friends during your next marathon and see how hard it is; you'll probably get some weird looks if you try to strike up a conversation with another runner during a marathon. Also, unlike with marathons where you tend to go home right after, Ultras usually are an all weekend affair complete with camping, socializing and all-around FUN!

Maggie and I ran into eachother during the last section of our 50K and finished together. Those miles went by so much faster as we laughed and chatted about life!

5. Dollar per mile, Ultras tend to be cheaper. 
$300 for 26.2 miles? You've-Got-To-Be-KIDDING-Me. While you will surely find some 100-Mile ultramarathons that have a hefty price-tag, you can at least assure yourself that it makes sense given the distance and amount of work required to put on such a long race. Marathons with a $300 price tag just make me scratch my head. I'd rather get the most out of my dollar, thank you.

6. You're supporting locals rather than corporations.
The majority of Ultramarathons are directed by Ultrarunners themselves. They rely on volunteers and local running groups to support their races. I have several friends who are race directors and trust me, there is just something magical about having a race director who knows what they are doing from experience. Making sure the aid stations are well-stocked with food you actually want, accurately marking the courses, finish-line parties....Ultras just do it better. You never know what to expect when you go to an Ultramarathon. Especially if it's put on by Luis Escobar ( See examples below:

Have you ever been to a marathon that had an epic after-party with a metal-meets-mariatchi band? I bet not. (Photo credit: Larry Gassan)

Or how about an Ultra with a beer mile the day before?
(Photo credit: Samantha Lovett Photography)

7. Better chances of placing in your age divisions.
Ultras tend to be much smaller than marathons in terms of people signed up. 20,000 people in one marathon?! Not only is it going to be congested as hell, but the chances of you placing in your age division (or overall...) are much much harder. In Ultras, the playing field is leveled out more. The average Ultra has between 100-300 participants.

The NYC marathon....what do you think your chances are in this one? (Photo Cred: Kaftan Bikini Photography).

8. You'll be happier and healthier.
There are numerous studies which show that immersion in nature makes you happier. It lowers your blood cortisol levels (stress hormones), it improves your mood, and it is more challenging (which gives you more endorphins!). After a couple of hours on the trail, you are guaranteed to be in a better mood than if you were doing the same amount of miles on the road.

Look at all those happy runners! You'd never think we all just ran 31 miles.

9. The playing field is leveled out between genders.
New research suggests that in distances lasting several hours or more, the gender gap is significantly reduced. Not only are more women able to compete against men in ultras, but some are actually beating them. Women, rejoice!

10. There is room for growth.
Unlike the marathon, which is always going to be 26.2 miles, in ultras, you have room for growth. There is actually a big variance of distance in ultramarathons. They range from 50K (which is the shortest distance to be considered an ultramarathon), to 50-miles, 100K, 100-Miles and beyond. This gives you numerous areas for goal-setting and growth.

These are just some of the various reasons I came up with to run an ultra instead of a marathon. I'm sure there are countless more. What are other reasons to run an ultramarathon instead of an ultra?

Monday, August 25, 2014

10 Signs You're A Dirt-Bag Trail-Runner

Tyler and Cat channeling their inner dirtbags in Bryce Canyon. (Photo Credit: Molly Nugent).

Chances are, if you're reading this, you are or suspect someone you know to be a dirtbag trail-runner.

I'm here to set the record straight and throw some of my awesome dirt-bag friends under the bus a bit (sorry guys, it's for the greater good of the dirtbag community).

We've all read the article that compares ultrarunners to hipsters. And loved it.

However, I'm not sure that hipster is the right word for us. We simply aren't that clean. Or trendy.

I think dirtbag is more appropriate. It's like a hybrid of hipster, homeless person and adventure junkie.

Photo credit: The New York Times

If you wonder about your own (or want to determine someone else's) dirtbag status, here are ten signs:

1. You are nomadic. You either a) Live in your car/ RV/ tent , b) Are planning on living in your car/ RV/ tent , or c) Are couch-crashing long-term. Traveling is a must for every dirtbag trail runner (unless you live in Boulder, Colorado, in which case I hate you. ....can I sleep on your couch?)

Tyler Tomasello's epic tent set-up in Colorado (Photo cred: Tyler).

Shacky and Vanessa's awesome RV, affectionally named The Summit Seeker. (Photo cred: Shacky)

Another fellow dirtbag, Flint, in his "Flintmobile". Living the hobo life like a PRO! (Photo credit: Mike Miller).

Cat Bradley and I on one of our adventures to Seattle, in full-dirtbag mode.

2. Showering is a complete and total luxury. If you've found that even after home from an adventure that you still take a shower only when completely necessary, chances are you're a dirtbag. Double-points if you have ever worn your running clothes straight into the shower, because it just. Makes. Sense. 

3. Flannel is worn all-year-round (even on your runs) and preferably in a disheveled manner. Patagonia Houdini jacket? Puh-leasseee.

Cat Bradley rocking her flannel and Luna Sandals like a true dirtbag.

4. Buffs are basically another name for the Dirtbag Hair Whisperer. In fact, you can't imagine life before buffs. They keep your hair where it should be, are stylish as hell, and in a bind can be used as TP (note: never touch an abandoned buff in the wilderness). Second to buffs are trucker hats. Every dirtbag must own a trucker hat. Race t-shirts are another must for the dirtbag trail-runner.

Tyler and Sean in full dirtbag attire. (Photo credit: Molly Nugent).

The Dirtbag King and Queen....Jenn Shelton and Anton Krupicka (Photo cred: Luis Escobar).

5. You rarely (or never...) wash your handhelds, hydration packs, ect. Because that takes entirely too much effort. Black mold? Who cares! If you're going to get sick from something it's going to be that sketchy pool of murky water you drank from on your last trail run.

6. You have a love affair with craft beer (or PBR-- the gauntlet tends to swing in both directions). Double-points if you have a cooler in your trunk that is literally just for beer. (And always filled with beer to look forward to at the end of your longer trail runs. Sometimes you wonder if that's the reason you trail run at all.)

Double-points if you drink your beer out of a cozy. 

Budweiser in the back of a truck, total dirtbags.

7. Speaking of beer....You've also done a beer mile.

Post-Born To Run Ultra Beer Mile. (Photo cred: Nancy Kaplan).

Beers are ready! (Photo cred: Traci Asaurus).

The beer mile Master, Pat Sweeney (Photo credit: Abby Dunne).

8. You have a beard (or mustache). Ladies, for us this means pretty much not shaving anything and giving absolutely no fucks.

Beards, Beers and Buffs....the dirtbag trifecta. 

9. You've wandered into a public place post-long run and wondered why the hell everyone is staring. Because, I mean, salt caked on your face and dirty legs are totally normal. It's not like you're walking around naked or something. Double-points if you have ever taken a hobo shower in the bathroom of a public place.

Tyler Tomasello and his dirty post-Western States 100 feet. Photo credit: Luis Escobar

10. All of your friends also fall into the above categories. This is called your dirt-bag trail running posse. Double-points if you guys already have a nickname for your group. Oftentimes also referred to as your running tribe.

This is my dirtbag trail-running posse. Oh wait, why do we look so clean?! (It's because our dirtbag leader, Luis Escobar, made us all take showers. Have you noticed I mentioned not-showering three times already?)

What are other sure-signs that you might be a dirtbag trail runner?