Davy Crockett’s Running Frontier

I like to Run Insanely Long & Crazy Distances                                                                                                             Pony Express Trail 100
                                                                                                                                                                            www.ponyexpress100.org

 

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I ran a relatively new 100-miler, the Kansas Rails-To-Trails 100 held in eastern Kansas, part of the Kansas Rails-to-Trails Fall Ultra Extravaganza. The course really intrigued me, running on a former rail bed, the 51-mile Prairie Spirit Trail. There is also a spring edition of this race.

Railroad Depot in Garnett

Railroad Depot in Garnett

In 1867 construction began of a 143-mile rail line running north/south through eastern Kansas and was completed in 1871 connecting a number of small towns. During the 1880s, passengers rode on the train at speeds up to 35 m.p.h. The rail line was active until 1990 when it was abandoned after being sold. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks was granted title in 1992 for a recreational trail. By 2008, a 51-mile stretch of the trail had been developed and named the Prairie Spirit Trail. continue reading…

The Bear 100

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The Bear 100 was the first 100-miler I attempted back in 2004.  It was a small event that year with 51 starters and you wouldn’t see other runners for many hours.  I didn’t quite finish that year, but it started my long association running The Bear. Since then I had finished it seven times and hoped to accomplish it eight times, which would make it the only 100-mile race that I have finished that many times. During the early years the course was a loop format in the mountains above Preston, Idaho, but in 2008, it changed to a point-to-point course from Logan to Bear Lake.

My summer mountain 100s had been a struggle.  Starting in July I discovered that I was having great difficulty keeping my speed up during races with steep sustained uphills. This led to DNFs at both Cascade Crest 100 and Wasatch 100 where my progress was significantly slower than any previous years. This became discouraging during both races. For the first time since my rookie year I had to keep my eye on cutoff times.  This was disheartening and both times and I mentally quit as I realized I would need to run well over 30 hours to finish. Leading up to the The Bear 100 I put in more effort with hill training and believed I would be fine early on, but probably would still struggle later in the race.

My best Bear finish was back in 2010 with a solid time of 26:30. I always hope to beat my best times, but this year I set realistic expectations based on my recent elderly results and put together a pace chart to finish in 32:30.  I hate running 100 miles in more than 30 hours because of the toll it takes on my body being out there for so long.  But if I wanted to finish Bear this year, I decided to expect slowness and just focus on finishing. continue reading…

Don Ritchie

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1Don Ritchie is from Scotland and some people argue that Don is the greatest ultrarunner in history on tracks and roads. In his early teens he took part in school sports as a sprinter and usually finished in the top three. When he was sixteen years old, he participated in his first “walking race” which was popular at that time. The race was for seven miles and had 45 walkers. Don finished “a tired fifth” and walked in his working clothes and shoes. He walked the race again the following year and was bothered that two girls beat him. He concluded that he probably needed to train.

Don ran cross-country in school and during the track season raced the 440 and 880 yard races. His coach advised him to concentrate on the 880. In 1963 at the age of 19, he started to run fifteen miles regularly with Alistair Wood, one of the great ultrarunners of the early 1970’s, who later won London to Brighton race in a record time. Don eventually started to keep up with him on training runs. continue reading…

My favorite mountain range is the Uinta Mountains in Utah. There are other ranges more beautiful, but the Uintas are so remote and challenging to run and has its own special beauty. It is one of the few ranges in North America that runs east to west. The Highline Trail (#025, #083) runs nearly the length of the mountain range. In its entirety, the Highline Trail is about 107 miles long. (mileage will vary because long sections are routes with no trail wear and the trail splits at times giving alternate routes.)

Eastern Trailhead

Eastern Trailhead

Many runners and hikers have considered the eastern trailhead of the Highline Trail to be the Leidy Peak trailhead, resulting in about 82 miles for the Highline Trail. I too considered that to be an end-to-end run when I ran it in 2010, the first to run it solo, unsupported. These runners and hikers are too quickly discarding the eastern portions of that trail to give themselves credit for an end-to-end Highline Trail run or hike. They are skipping 25.5 miles to the east that for decades has been documented as being part of the Highline Trail. continue reading…

 

The Uinta mountain range in Utah is one of the few ranges in North America that runs east to west. This mountain range contains all of the Utah peaks higher than 13,000 feet and it is the most remote mountain range in the state. The highest continuous established trail in the Uintas is the Highline Trail (#025) that runs the length of the mountain range. This very remote trail is one of the most remarkable trails in the nation. In its entirety, the trail is more than 100 miles long.  An 82-mile stretch from Leidy Peak on the east to Hayden Pass on the west is generally recognized as the end-to-end expanse of the trail. The rest of the trail is through mostly forest outside the wilderness area.

Previously in 2007 and 2010 I had successfully ran the Highline Trail (the first to run it solo), documented that experience, and shared my GPS data and waypoints for others to follow. Others have tried and succeeded in running the trail, but many have failed. This is a difficult, rugged experience that should not be taken lightly. The effort is very similar to running a tough 100-miler with no support. The reasons for difficulty are:

  • Thunderstorms are frequent in the high Uintas. If the trail gets wet, if becomes very slow and difficult.
  • The Uintas are known for its boulders. Much of the trail goes up and down boulder-strewn drainages between passes. Trail maintenance is performed infrequently because it is so remote and they don’t try to divert all the streams from going down the trail.
  • High Altitude. Much of the trail is above 10,000 feet.
  • Bail out. Once you get into the heart of the mountain range, any trailhead is about 15 miles away down rugged, difficult trails.
  • If you go in a group, there is a very, very high probability that at least one of you will need to bail out.
  • You need to take everything you need with you. The trailheads are too far away to go in and drop things off.
  • For long stretches the trail is faint or non-existant, only marked by occasional cairns. If you don’t know the way, you will get off trail, especially at night. That really slows things down. Following a GPS track or waypoints can help. Getting lost is pretty impossible for ultrarunners. All the trails heading down valleys eventually get to a trailhead with campers.

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The fastest 100-mile ultrarunners during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s

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I am always drawn toward the stories of the early pioneers of ultrarunning. I think it is important to take time to appreciate the history and accomplishments of the runners who paved the way before us. The birth of the 100-mile trail race has been attributed to Gordy Ainsleigh, who in 1974 wanted to see if he could run a 100-mile horse race in California, the Western States Trail Ride, on foot, instead of riding a horse. He was successful, finishing in 23:42, proving that a person could run 100 miles in the mountains in less than a day.

But ultrarunning, including 100-mile races, did not start there….

This started out to be a blog post, but turned into a free online book.

Download the entire book (PDF) here: Swift Endurance Legends

5,000 downloads since May 3.

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The journey to becoming an ultrarunner has many varied paths. I personally never dreamed to be a runner of any kind and in fact most of my life, pretty much despised running. But along these unexpected paths, running somehow evolved. This story is mostly for me, to look back and understand where I came from, but it also may be of interest to others as they too become an ultrarunner.  Perhaps this is my runner memoirs.  It is a attempt to bring together many of my experiences and lessons learned over the years. Recently updated (3/17)

Full book, download PDF here: My Path to Ultrarunning  to read off-line. 268 pages, 18 meg. 15,500+ downloads to date.  

To be continued…

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The early trail 100-mile races, including Western States 100, Old Dominion 100, and Vermont 100, all have their roots in horse endurance rides. The parallels from those rides to 100-mile ultras are many. Much of the experience and practices of those rides became part of trail 100 mile runs that were established in the 1970s and ‘80s.

In 1955 Wendell Robie, a successful businessman and outdoorsman from Auburn, California had a discussion with an associate about whether a horseback rider could cover 100 miles in a day. He got riled up about it and vowed to prove it could be done. He wanted to conduct the ride on a trail he had particular interest in, a historic trail used by miners in the 1800s between the California gold fields and the silver mines in Virginia City, Nevada. Wendell named the trail, “The Western States Trail.” It went through little old gold towns between Lake Tahoe and Auburn, Califronia, crossing over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Wendell made plans, established a committee, and worked to get support from the city of Auburn. A stated purpose of the ride was “to determine if Western horses are bred today as tough as those of the Pony Express era.”

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