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Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson – Transition from College XC to Ultras

Headsweats Ambassador Matt Johnson ran track and cross country at the collegiate level, culminating in a trip to the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Champtionships. After college, Matt wasn’t ready to give up his competitive running career, and found a new passion for the sport through training and racing in trail races and ultra marathons. Matt’s friend and college teammate Clay Holton interviewed him on what it’s like to transition from being a collegiate athlete to an ultramarathoner and what advice he would give other runners looking to continue their competitive running careers after college.

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How long have you been running? What made you start enjoying it?

I have been running competitively for a little over 10 years now.  I decided I wanted to try out cross country at the end of my 8th grade year in school (2006).  My  middle school PE teacher at the time was also the high school cross country coach.  He talked to me about joining the cross country team going into my freshmen year of high school after we ran the mile fitness test in PE.  I had always played football during the fall up to that point, but for whatever reason I decided to give running a try.  Looking back now, I can’t really think of a time when I didn’t enjoy it.  I have always loved sports that require a lot personal motivation and hard work to get better.  Regardless of my talent level in any given sport, I have always prided myself on being a hard worker.  I think that was the initial draw for me towards running.  It truly is one of those sports where you only get out of it what you put into it.  Outside of that, I have always loved the “team” aspect of the sport.  The camaraderie and respect amongst runners is unlike any other sport I have ever been around.  My best friendships in life have come through the sport of running.

Did you run in college? What was your favorite distance to run? What were some of your best times?

Yes, I ran at Augusta University (formerly Augusta State University and Georgia Regents University).  While I ran both cross country and track at the collegiate level, I would have to say that cross country has always been my favorite.  I am a true cross country guy at heart.  As far as my favorite race distance goes, it’s pretty simple…the longer the better (an early sign of an ultra-runner to come, haha)! In college that meant the 10k.  I have to admit…I was always a little jealous of the NAIA guys though, because NAIA sanctions  a marathon national championship every year, haha.  I did race a couple half marathons in college and really enjoyed those.  As far as time goes, I ran 26:05 for 8k in cross country, 15:59 for 5k,  and 33:25 for 10k…nothing crazy fast, but times that I am proud of.  Unfortunately, I was plagued with some untimely injuries during my last couple track seasons.  I also ran a 1hr 13min (5:35ish pace) half marathon.  I had a fifth year of eligibility in track, so I had an entire fall to just train in preparation for the spring.  My coach and I decided to play to my strengths and give a half marathon a go.  I actually think that my half marathon time is my fastest PR once you start converting it to shorter distances.   I definitely think I have still have some PRs in my legs whenever I decide to take a break from the trails.

Do you have a favorite college XC/track racing moment?

I have many great memories from my college running experience, but the best would definitely have to be qualifying as a team for the 2013 NCAA Cross Country National Championships.  That was literally my biggest goal in college and had been a team goal for four years.  That entire fall was a dream season for us.  As seniors, we were able to win our second conference championship and go on to qualify for nationals.  Toeing the line at a national championship and ending my career on the biggest stage (at the collegiate level) with all of my brothers (aka teammates) was a dream come true, and a perfect way to close out my cross country career.  It is truly something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

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What kinds of races are you training up for now? What are some of the highlight races you’ve done since college?

My post-collegiate career thus far has consisted mostly trail racing (with a few road races mixed in).  After college I was looking for new ways to challenge myself and get me excited to train, so I decided to turn to the trails.  I have always loved running on trails, and I feel like my strengths as a runner suit me well on them.  I have raced in several Xterra races, as well as other trail races ranging in distance from 10k to 11.5 miles.  I also competed in my first  ultra marathon (50k) this past April! Racing a 50k was equally one of the most awesome and hardest things I have done in my entire life.  It tested me physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways like nothing else ever has.  I found out a lot about myself that day.

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Do you have a coach or any specific training partners?

I currently do not have a coach.  I read /research a lot, talk to people, and use knowledge I have gained over the years.  That was a decision I came to after college for a couple of different reasons. One, being married now, working full-time, coaching, and having a number of other responsibilities/obligations to take care of throughout the week, my schedule is constantly changing.  I have always been a very meticulous when it comes to my training.  Now that I am in “the real world”, I have had to learn to be much more flexible with my training.  Sometimes that means switching workouts to different days because of the way I feel or a lack of time…others it might mean missing a run completely.  Bottom line, life happens and things come up sometimes.  I have learned to go with the flow and not get frustrated if my training week doesn’t go exactly as planned.  With all that being said, if I have a coach putting in the time and effort to write training plans, I want to make sure I am giving that back by following exactly what he or she has planned for me.  I have always maintained the mindset that if I am going to commit to do something, I am going to do it right.  As I continue to adjust to “the real world” and my new normal, I will definitely consider going back to having a coach.  Right now, I am having fun writing my own workouts and experimenting with new things in ultra training.  It keeps things fun, and as corny as it sounds…that is always most important!  In regards to training partners, my main one is my wife, Tia!  I also run a lot with the high school athletes I coach, as well as a few of my former co-workers.  I will always take any opportunity I can to run with people!

What is the next big race you’re training for? Any specific time/place/finish goals?

My next big race will be The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50k in San Francisco this December!  I would be stoked to come home with a top-ten finish!  I have learned that time/pace on the trails isn’t quite as relevant because of the varying terrain/course conditions from race to race.  I am just excited for the opportunity for the challenge of competing against some of the best athletes in the sport.  Leading up to it I plan to compete in a smaller race or two (both road and trail).

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What kinds of workouts are you focusing on? Do you have a favorite workout?

Again, the specific workouts I am focus on really depends on what race I am training for.  However, throughout most of the year my training is usually going to incorporate some sort of tempo run, long run, and faster paced intervals or hills, among general mileage/recovery runs.  I also do strides throughout the year to help maintain foot speed/overall running economy (even when training for an ultra).  More specifically for ultra races, I have learned that it is important to research the course you are going to be racing and do your best to mimic that terrain in training.  The further I get into a training cycle for an ultra, the more my workouts become focused on helping me encounter/prepare for what I will see on race day (same applies for practicing nutrition intake as well).  As far as my favorite workouts, I have always loved long runs!  I also love longer progression runs and fartlek runs….basically any “effort” based workout that is less focused on hitting specific splits, and more focused on “feel” and allowing your body and the workout to progress naturally.  Lastly, I enjoy running any sort of hill workout.  I have learned that practicing downhill running is just as important as practicing uphill running when it comes to ultras and trail racing.  Right now in training I have been working on increasing my overall long run distance, as well as practicing my climbing and descending.

Do you run mostly on roads or trails?

Definitely TRAILS!!!

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I saw recently that you started being sponsored. What kinds of sponsorships do you have?

Yes, I currently represent four different companies as a brand ambassador in my training and racing:  CEP Compression, Nuun hydration, and Headsweats performance headwear.  The team I run for, Anchored Elite, is also sponsored by Janji.  Janji is an awesome running apparel company that also works to provide clean water for those who need it in countries all around the world!  I am very thankful to have the support of these great companies as I continue to pursue competitive trail running!  I truly love their products and would highly recommend them to anyone!  For any other running gear needs I go to Fleet Feet Atlanta!

Lastly, do you have any advice for runners who want to continue running competitively post-collegiately? Or advice for runners who are seeking to get any sort of sponsorship?

For those that might have a dream to continue running competitively post-collegiately, I encourage you to not give up on that dream.  My main motivating factor was not wanting to look back in 10 or 20 years and wonder what I could have done in the sport if I stuck with it.  One of my favorite quotes has become “Only those who risk going too far, can possibly find out how far they can go.”  It is not always easy considering the majority of post-collegiate runners aren’t supporting themselves by running, but it can be done.  Set new goals for yourself after college so you have a sense of direction and purpose with your training and racing.  Also, always make sure you maintain a healthy balance in life.  I believe too much of one thing can be a bad thing.  Now that I am working full-time and married, I have had to learn where running fits into all that.  Make running something you do, but not who you are.  Adjusting to the “real world” and all of life’s demands can be difficult sometimes, so you have to learn to be flexible.  Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout or have to cut a run short because “life” happens.  Ultimately, you have to find ways to continually make it fun.  You have to enjoy the process before you can enjoy the result.  As far as gaining sponsorships, don’t be afraid to reach out to companies yourself.  Most of the time, unless you are at a world class level, companies aren’t going to come find you.  Find products you love and believe in and start there.  Put together a “running resume” and start sending it out to companies that you are interested in.  Don’t be upset if you don’t hear back right away from companies.  Positivity and persistency can get you a long way when it comes to both running and seeking out sponsorships!

*Blog credit goes to Clay Holton. The original blog post can be found here: http://www.holtonphysicaltherapyandperformance.com/matthew-johnson-transition-from-college-xc-to-ultras/

 

A Race Experience Abroad – The Amsterdam Marathon

A Race Experience Abroad – The Amsterdam Marathon

Running is such an amazing sport because it constantly introduces you to new people and places. Headsweats Ambassador Kim Cowart experienced this first-hand when she had the opportunity to race in the Amsterdam Marathon earlier this month. Read more about Kim’s experience in Amsterdam and what she learned from racing in another country!

My three passions in life are running, writing and traveling.  My dream is to combine all three writing about my running adventures in far away places.  My most recent adventure was at the Amsterdam Marathon.

What set this race apart from so many other big races is there were three races in one day: the full marathon, a half-marathon and an 8K.  The day before the race, we took part on the Good Morning City run which was an easy jog through Amsterdam.  Four miles later we had a better idea of the layout of the city and had already seen many of the highlights.

Because the streets in Amsterdam are quite narrow, the start times were staggered.  Full marathoners began at 9:30.  The course was a loop course, starting and finishing in Olympic Stadium.  Spectators dotted the stand above, giving them full views of all the action on the track.

The energy was electric with music pumping at the start, and big screens around the stadium so we could see the elites take off.  Five minutes after they began, I crossed the same start line.

Amsterdam is the most beautiful European city I’ve ever seen.  The weather was a perfect 50 degrees with plenty of shade from the gorgeous trees lining every street.  The half marathon course follows most of the full course.  The advantage of the full marathoners is we got to run around the Amstel River which offered the most scenic, bucolic views.  Horses running across the fields, sheep grazing in the pasture.  Yes, we even ran by a few iconic windmills.  I had to pinch myself to make sure it was all real.

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A view from the race course.

While this is only my second European marathon experience, I have traveled to numerous other big marathons like New York and Boston.  Here are a few points that set Amsterdam apart from the rest of the pack.

First, the race is cheap.  At around $80, this race is by far the cheapest big city race I’ve ever run.  By comparison I paid over $250 to run New York and $180 to run Boston.  Half marathoners only paid $45 to run through the streets of Amsterdam.  The support didn’t suffer; in fact, it was even better than some of the bigger races with plenty of water, energy drink, food and bathrooms along the course.

Second, there was music at every kilometer along the race.  I didn’t know what a difference this would make in my mood until around the 10K mark I realized I was starting to look forward to the bands and DJ’s that dotted the course.  A marathon is 42 kilometers.  So, yes, there were 42 music stations to keep us pumped and it worked.

Third, we started and finished in Olympic Stadium.  Not only was it just plain cool to run around the stadium, but it made it easy for spectators to cheer on their runners.

Fourth, there were a variety of distances to choose from.  Most big city races limit themselves to the full marathon, and for good reason.  Logistically it’s difficult to close down the streets on a Saturday or Sunday.  Accommodating tens of thousands of runners can be a challenge as well.  But Amsterdam made it happen.  By staggering the start times, more than 35,000 people ran either the full marathon, half marathon or 8K.

Finally, the views were spectacular.  It was like running through a postcard.  Every turn offered stunning views of canals and tree-lined streets.  While many streets are cobblestone, we avoided most of that.  My legs were grateful.

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With my finisher’s medal!

It wasn’t all roses.  I was disappointed at the finish line offerings.  The only food at the finish was bananas.  There was water, but only in little cups.  There was also plenty of Isostar, their energy drink of choice, but my stomach did not agree, so we declined.  There were food trucks, but I wasn’t willing to spend money on them.  They did distribute free toothpaste, so there’s that.  I would recommend packing some extra food in your drop bag.  I didn’t and I lived to regret it.

Also, more than 16,000 runners ran the full marathon.  European streets are narrow.  This makes for a tricky start.  I had no intention of racing, so I was fine with going with the flow.  There is an attempt to organize runners by pace at the beginning, but they aren’t strict about it so there were quite a few people who started at the front and slowed the crowd.  It wasn’t until mile 10 I felt I could find a comfortable stride.

My last complaint would be transportation.  We did a dry run on the busses to the stadium, only to wake up race morning to find the busses were shut down.  Not even the concierge at our hotel knew that would happen, so we scrambled to find a taxi that could get us somewhat close to the stadium.  Getting back to the hotel after was tricky, too.  We walked quite a ways until we could find a tram to the hotel.  I ran with some money just in case, and I was glad I did.

Overall I loved the Amsterdam Marathon.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I love the diversity.  I loved the energy.  I loved the beauty.  This flat course is well-worth your money.

Boulder IRONMAN Headsweats

Boulder IRONMAN Headsweats

It’s been 11 days since Headsweats Sr. Account Manager, Lisa Maloney, and her husband, TR, completed the first full IRONMAN in Boulder. It was an amazing feat and we are so proud of what they accomplished. Here’s a recount from TR of the rigorous trainging and day of event, enjoy.

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My first Ironman event was back in 2009, and once I could walk up and down stairs again I swore I would never do another one. You know, “one and done.” Late in 2013 there were rumblings about an Ironman in Boulder. My wife works at Headsweats, so sporting news is common at the dinner table. She and I began talking about the event that night, and before I knew it we were both signing up for the big day.

Other couples thought we were nuts. It’s bad enough having one tired and cranky IM athlete in the house…why would you want two? We brushed aside those thoughts knowing that we make as great a team as we do a couple.

Long before the last snow we were prodding each other out of bed at 5am to make our way to the pool for morning swims. We rode together and ran together whenever we could. Most of all we recovered together and made sure the other was eating right and stretching.

Before we knew it the race had arrived and we were ready to go. We woke up, had breakfast together, grabbed our race bags and headed out the door. There we were, ready to go and sitting in the car looking at each other as the engine would not start—more drama for race morning!

After remedying our car issues, we were there at the start of Boulder’s first Ironman, marked and ready to enter the water. We held hands and strolled down the ramp and wished each other well. As soon as Lisa’s foot crossed the timing mat she was gone! She entered the water so fast I thought she was being pulled by a jet-ski.

The swim seemed to take forever! I know Lisa wanted to get on her bike (her strength) and I wanted to get on the run (my strength). Before we were even out of the water we both had our issues to deal with, she had to deal with broken goggles and I took a nice kick to the face and sternum. Seeing the exit arch was pure heaven.

After a quick trip through the transition tent, I was on the bike wondering if Lisa was ahead or behind me. Little did I know, she was a full 6 minutes ahead of me! Even with broken goggles full of water, she dominated on the swim.

Once we were on the St. Vrain out and back, I caught a glimpse of her and we both smiled from beneath our dorky shaped helmets and went back to work. It wasn’t until mile 80 that I finally caught her. She was having a great bike leg and it was impressive watching her pass guy after guy. Finally I pulled up next to her, cheered her amazing effort and made my way forward.
Right around mile 85 the heat began pressing on us and I was pushing the pace to finish the bike. It was then that I realized the insanity of hurrying a 112-mile bike to run a marathon. Luckily the crowds on the course were picking up and the screaming and fun signs lifted my spirits to keep at it. During the hardest climb of the day, I was greeted by the Headsweats crew and I can honestly say it is the only time I have ever smiled on that climb.

Off the bike and into the running shoes is when the real shock came. There were SO MANY PEOPLE CHEERING ON THE PATH! It was insane! I knew Boulder would come out pretty strong but this was like nothing I have ever seen. All racers have their names printed clearly on their number and soon I had what seemed like 5,000 fans.

With the 3-part out and back two-lap course I knew I would see Lisa soon. This was the whole goal of the training and picking Boulder Ironman as our event. We would see each other multiple times throughout the day. Speedy Lisa was 8 minutes behind me when I saw her running down the path. We slapped hands and kept going. Soon I would see her again and we would yell words of encouragement.

During the run my stomach started giving me trouble and I knew I would miss my goal but at that point I didn’t really care. I saw so many friends that I decided to make the last 6 miles a party and started jumping in photos with friends and stopping to give my step-daughter a sweaty hug. At one point, I even ran up to a cooler and grabbed a beer. Boulder knows how to party and Ironman is no different.

Running down the finishing chute I heard the words all Ironman competitors want to hear from Mile Reilly – “You are an Ironman!” Not only did I hear them I was there to hear them for Lisa. Our journey was complete. We dreamed together, trained together, were tired together and finally raced together. Congrats Boulder for putting on a great race. The scenery, the tough course and the amazing Boulder community made it a special day that we will never forget.

Headshots for Headsweats

Headshots for Headsweats

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Headsweats, leader in perspiration technology headwear, is excited to be a partner of the Santa Barbara Triathlon! Established in 1981, the Santa Barbara Triathlon is one of the longest running triathlons in the world and will take place this year on August 23rd.

While at this year’s race, be on the lookout for “Headshots for Headsweats” – photo stations where you can get your photo taken by one of our professional photographers and receive a 25% off discount card at Headsweats.com. Your pics will be available on their website after the race! And if you enter the #SBTriHeadsweats Instagram Photo Contest, you’ll be entered to win 2 free entries to the 2015 SB Tri and a Headsweats collections of 6 pieces of headwear for you and a friend.

Instagram#SBTriHeadsweats Instagram Contest

Here’s how to enter:

1) Take a photo of you in your Headsweats hat or visor
2) Post it to Instagram
3) Tag @Headsweats & @SantaBarbaraTriathlon
4) Use the hashtag #SBTriHeadsweats or #TriHeadsweats
5) That’s it! You’re entered to win. We’ll announce the winner on Instagram Tuesday, September 2nd.

For more information about the Santa Barbara TRI, visit their website at www.santabarbaratriathlon.com.

The “Next Big Thing”

The “Next Big Thing”

Sherpa John
Sherpa John

by “Sherpa” John Lacroix

I started running Ultramarathons in 2005, and at the time my family and friends all thought it was just “the next big thing” on my list of things to take on. They truly felt like I would run a few ultras, accomplish my goals and then move on to the “next big thing.” To this day, nothing can be further from the truth. Ultrarunning has become “THE THING” in my life. It has brought me a wealth of experiences, knowledge, and metaphors to use in my everyday life. Ultrarunning is hard though. No really, not just from a training and racing perspective, but from a mental perspective. We give so much to do what we do. We sacrifice time with our immediate family and friends. We miss out on BBQ’s…or choose to run the 30 miles to the BBQ and arrive late. The training, the sacrifices, the racing; it all can be very taxing on an ultra runner.

DNF’s in our sport are inevitable. For the first many years that I ran ultras I crossed the finish line of everything. Until I finally DNF’d. Suddenly, Did Not Finish turned into Did Nothing Fatal. It became OK to walk away from a race. Mostly because after 35 ultras, I had nothing left to prove. I lost my direction. Lost my drive. I had run so much and ran in so many races and events (Western States, Leadville, Vermont, Massanutten, Barkley) that I was running out of any real reason to train or strive for better. I grew complacent with my training and I eventually burned out. I attempted the Grand Slam of Ultra Running in 2010 and after being so incredibly undertrained, I out at Leadville. I returned to Leadville in 2011 and finished the race, but DNF’d others. In 2012, I finally realized at mile 66 of the Bighorn 100, that I needed a break. I was burnt out, looking for purpose, reason, and drive…so I walked away. I took 5 months off from Ultra running and did NO RUNNING at all. I ballooned to 185 pounds and started to look for “it” again.

Finally, at the end of 2012, I had the itch again. I set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to lose 25 pounds and return to Vermont to finish my 5th Vermont 100. Not only did I lose the weight, but I set a Personal Best for 100-miles in under 23 hours. So 2014 was a no brainer, return to Big Horn and get redemption there as well. If nothing else, to get a Hardrock qualifier to continue my quest of bucket list races. Below is a short film chronicling my journey. Click to watch:

Sherpa John

Pruhealth ITU London Grand Final Sprint Distance Championships

Pruhealth ITU London Grand Final Sprint Distance Championships

Our Headsweats-sponsored Athlete and Ambassador Erin Lockwood got back from London this Fall after competing in the ITU London Grand Final Sprint Distance Championships. It was an amazing experience for such a young athlete…here’s her recap of the race:

Erin Lockwood, HS Athlete

What an incredible and amazing experience. I could have done without the cold water temperatures, but hearing people from all over the world yelling my name and Team USA as I biked and ran past them, it went above and beyond my expectations.

My trip to London started on Wednesday September the 11th when my mother and I arrived with bike in hand at Heathrow airport. We took a shuttle to our hotel which was located right at Hyde park where the race took place, so that was very convenient. After we checked in I went to pick up my race packet at the expo which was full of booths, people practicing in the pond and of course biking and running.

Some people had been there since Friday. I however couldn’t take off because of graduate school classes. once everything was taken care of, mom and I began to wander around, and by wander I mean go to Harrods and Burberry. By 9 pm I was in bed exhausted since i didn’t sleep on the plane over.

Erin Lockwood, HS Athlete

The next day, we got up wandered some more, it had rained overnight so the roads were slick. I practiced biking and running before I had to drop off my bike at 6 pm and went to bed early prepped for the next morning. I heard from some folks at bike check in that in the morning when the U23’s raced that many crashed because of the roads so I of course was more nervous than before.

Friday morning, it was raining, 61 degrees but kind of humid and oh the water temperature was 61 degrees. THAT WAS FUN. I have never swam in water that cold, prior to that it was 68 in wisconsin. The transition area was huge (ie more to run) and they did not allow towels inside…. so no drying off after the swim. It was very cool being with my fellow USA’ers and how our bikes were all racked together. We also had a lot of room at our transition spots which was lovely. The race started at 8:00 and my wave went off at 8:45. Everyone was so friendly and nice and cheering each other on. It wasn’t mean or rude.

For more on her race update, go check out her blog: http://adventuresoftribarbie.blogspot.com/

Erin Lockwood

Athletes of the Month ~ Gold Rush Adventure Racing

Athletes of the Month ~ Gold Rush Adventure Racing

This October, we’re happy to feature an amazingly dedicated team of individual athletes and adventurers. Meet Gold Rush Adventure Racing – our Athletes of the Month. Here, they’ve recapped an epic championship race – the 2013 Gold Rush Mother Lode 4 Day Expedition Race.

Gold Rush Adventure Racing

The 2013 Gold Rush Mother Lode 4 Day Expedition Race was a tight competition between the top 4 Teams in the beautiful California Sierra Mountains: Bones (USA), Sweco (Sweden), YogaSlackers / GearJunkie (USA), and Adventureteam.dk (Denmark), all teams vying for a winning free entry into the Adventure Racing World Series in Costa Rica. Weather was a factor, as it was very hot the first day, mild the second day, and cold with snow, hail, and rain on the third day and night, clearing up on the fourth day for a spectacular finish.

The Day Before – Wednesday, Sept 18th

The Racers Arrive

climbingThe day before the race, 15 3-4 person coed teams gathered at the Long Barn Lodge in Long Barn, CA. That afternoon all racers were required to do an equipment check, rope climb, and swim challenge to make sure that everyone had the basics. That evening we all congregated for a hearty meal and warm welcome and introduction by Adrian Crane, race founder. After dinner was the moment everyone was waiting for – the revealing of the maps and race directions by Mark Richardson, course director. Racers spent hours looking over the maps and charting the check points from the masters to their copies, making sure each one was correctly placed. Then it was off to bed to try to get some sleep. Not so easy for everyone as the excitement was building!

Race Day – Thursday, September 19th

At 6 AM all the buses were loaded and ready to take the racers to the starting line on Lake New Melones. Once we were all gathered, the clock started ticking at 8:00AM marking the start of the race. It began with a 3 mile run, followed by a 30 mile kayak interspersed with a 15 mile fast trek. Skies were clear and the temperature rose close to 90 degrees by noon. Not really a problem but a bit challenging to those not used to the heat. At the end of the first leg teams tied their kayaks to a buoy in the middle of the river, swam to shore and trekked up a steep bank for 3 miles to the first TA (transition area).

 race start

TA1 – Kayak to Bike

Teams started arriving at TA1 in the early evening and on throughout the night. Here teams rested a bit (or not!), resupplied with food, built their bikes and started a 60 mile mountain bike out of the canyon. There was a tremendous amount of very steep climbing involved. Teams rode all night, up and up and up. Some stopped for a quick cat nap and to fix any mechanical issues due to all of the fine dust on the climbs.

Kayak to Bike

TA2 Sponsored by FRS –Bike to Trek

By now in the teams started to be spread out. This is typical when you have world class athletes competing with weekend warriors and every combination in between. At TA2 racers took apart their bikes and repacked them into their bike boxes. Once again they rested if needed, resupplied and planned their next assault – a monster trek!

bike to trek

This trek, which was the crux of the race, started with a 45 mile trek to the climbing site, a HUGE ropes course. Each person had to carry their climbing gear to the site. The ropes course was epic with a 300 foot free hang ascent, then a low angle repel to a 300 foot zip line and finish with a 300 foot repel. They then scrambled back to the CP to get some water and drop off their gear. The accent was daunting and not for the faint of heart. A number of people were unable to complete the ascent as it was technically and physically very challenging, especially after such a long trek and so little sleep.

trek

trekThe trek continued after the ropes course for another 30+ miles and climbed to over 8700ft. No one can predict all the variables that will be encountered in an adventure race, especially when it comes to Mother Nature. This year was no let down as far as surprises go! Up to this point the weather had been excellent… But then it turned ugly with an unexpected winter storm rolling in. Slower teams that got caught before doing the climb and ones that were well on their way past the climb fared better. It was the ones in-between that got hit the hardest with a 30 degree drop in temperature, drenching rain that turned to sideways sleet and finally snow.

It’s always a hard decision on whether to accept outside support since this will take teams out of the running according to race bylaws. But given enough lack of sleep, fatigue, cold and lack of supplies, it can be the only choice. This is a hard decision for an adventure racier, but sometimes any other decision could be disastrous.

TA3 –Trek to Bike to FINISH LINE

As the storm raged on many teams accept outside transportation and were dropped off at TA3 were they got something to eat, rested and most importantly, warmed up. Then it was off again for the final leg of the race, a 60 mile bike ride that was, thankfully, mostly downhill! By the time most teams did the bike ride the storm had blown through and the skies were sunny and clear. Hard to believe that just 18 hours before there was a howling storm with sleet and snow whirling in sideways.

All together the teams had traversed hundreds of miles using just a map and compass to find as many check points (CPs) as possible. In all there were 30 CPs with the podium teams getting them all. Quite an accomplishment!

And a big congratulations to everyone for their valiant effort…

finish line

Teams competed non-stop, navigating with map and compass to find checkpoints in four disciplines: Trekking, Paddling, Mountain Biking, and an awesome Ropes Course. The Ropes course featured a difficult free ascent with Jumars and a 500 foot Tyrolean/Zip Line over a 300′ deep canyon that ended up being the Achilles Heel for a few teams. Partly through careful strategy, Bones was able to throw Sweco off their trail, and Sweco ended up missing CP25. YogaSlacker / GearJunkie and Adventureteam.dk were the only other teams besides Bones to capture all checkpoints on the course.

The final standings were: First Place: Team Bones, Second Place: YogaSlackers / GearJunkie, and Adventureteam.dk came in Third, Sweco in Fourth. The competition was outstanding, and as usual the Gold Rush Team put together a fantastic race.

Check out more videos here.

About Gold Rush Adventure Racing

Gold Rush Adventure Racing is proud to be the North American qualifier for the Adventure Racing World Championships. We offer an event where US teams can test their mettle against international opposition and potentially win a place at the World Championships. In 2013, the Championship Race is in Costa Rica. We also work to attract international teams to the race so they can experience the incredible natural beauty that is California. We never lose sight of the fact that we live in such an incredible part of the world. Our event in 2013 attracted teams from Europe and South America. In 2014 we plan to increase the home and overseas entries and cement the status of the event in the 10 race circuit of Adventure Racing World Series qualifiers. With the help of our sponsors we hope to host the Adventure Racing World Series Final in the near future. The Gold Rush Mother Lode expedition race has been a 4 or 5 day event but we plan to expand it to an 8 day event in 2015 to become a true destination event for Adventure Racers the world around.

ÖTILLÖ 2013

ÖTILLÖ 2013

Ironwoman and Headweats-sponsored Athlete completed Ö TILL Ö – otherwise known as “One of the toughest 1-Day races in the world.” That’s right, WORLD. Here’s her recap of the race:

Written by Penny Comins

Penny with her race partner Renata at start of the race.
Penny with her race partner Renata at start of the race.

Being the only kiwi that has ever raced I felt I had to knock this one off. As the waves rushed up the rock face, crashing me against them and then sucking me out as quickly as they had compressed me, I was more worried about my life than representing my country. Drawing on my rock climbing lessons at school I looked for finger holds and pulled up on the wave, scrambling with hand paddles failing around my wrists and my pool buoy trying to separate my legs, I made it out of the water. No time to soothe myself as we had to press on. Time to engage legs and run, and scramble. This was the Swim-Run World Championships in Sweden. My partner Renata and I were deep into the race, learning on the job. 22 islands, 65 kilometres of running, 10 kilometres of swimming.

A neutral start set us off on the first island of Sandhamn. The sun rose through the cloud in a star formation, symbolic for the adventure that lay ahead. We were a bundle of nerves. So many questions that had stirred around in us couldn’t be answered until we were actually doing the event. Hitting the water for the first time and swimming to a flashing beacon showed us just how raw and open this race was going to be.

On paper, the race sounded achievable; O till O is 75 kilometres of racing over the Stockholm Archipelago, the second largest in the Baltic Sea. Broken down, the longest swim was 1,650 meters while the longest run was 20 kilometres near the end of the race on the longest island Orno. Completed in pairs, my partner Renata was an accomplished Irish long-distance triathlete. We mused for weeks over kit and how the distances broken down would be achievable. We had tried to calculate our splits being very generous on the timings to allow for getting in and out of the water. With these times laminated and glued to my swim paddles we thought we would have a tough day but make all five cut offs and finish in time for beers before dinner.

O till O Race 2013

The first island was nature’s slap in the face, timings went out the window as our focus shifted to getting through each cut off with time to spare. Our mantra was always to ‘keep moving forwards.’ We were told repeatedly to not stop moving at any time. The rocky shoreline, boulders and slippery granite that greeted us was not conducive for a nice easy running flow. We got down to a fast scramble and picked our path along the shore, through scrub and over boulders following carnival tape hanging from trees.

O till O Race 2013

We were told at the briefing that we had to go around the side of several islands due to land ownership issues; we were cursing the owner after 4,400 meters of wobbly walk/running in ankle deep waters.

Prior to the race I had been in contact with the previous winning woman’s team; they had said to get your ‘in’s and outs’ practiced. If you waste five minutes with each entry and exit over 22 islands that equates to three and a half hours of dead time. Simply, we would never make the cut offs if we mucked around. We had a decided to verbalize our process as trying to put your goggles on when you already have your hand paddles on just wouldn’t work. “Pull buoy, goggles, paddles, push off.”

Once in the water it was nice to cool the legs. Each island had a yellow flag on the shore that we had to sight towards or in the swims over a kilometre a flashing strobe light. Without the comfort of buoys marking the course, we could take any line we liked. The rules state you must be 10 meters from your partner at any time; many using a tow rope. We trailed a rope but found that it was more hindrance than help and opted for looking out for each other. This added to the adventure when the current was ripping between the islands pushing us out to sea. Having been brought up near the beach in New Zealand I didn’t find this too stressful and just swam in a vector to the current. For my Irish teammate this was a new sensation and she nearly missed the exit points several times, showing how nature has the final say each time. This made for interesting swims watching out for her while still navigating to each exit. The birds flew above while jellyfish pulsed below, an overwhelming feeling of being in nature rushed me many times. We were really doing this!

Climbing out of the rough water onto equally rough terrain
Climbing out of the rough water onto equally rough terrain

We made it through the nine am cut off with 25 minutes to spare. This was going to be a tough fought race with nature; our minds and the time checkpoints. The course headed west for four islands before a crossing of 500 meters to head south. The weather forecast had given us favourable winds for the day pushing us to the final island Uto. Due to the nature of being 60 kilometres off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea several storms rolled through bringing thunder and hail at times but these were brief and almost a relief when running in our wetsuit.

Either the favourable weather or the fact that this year’s race was the SwimRun World Championship where teams had to qualify through the Uto swim race or merit meant that of the 114 teams on the start line 99 made it to the finish, the highest completion rate in the eight year history of the race. Last year only two woman’s teams finished and this year nine of the 13 finished indicating the level of participant that the race now attracts. 120 teams were given slots from over 300 applicants and with the use of qualification or merit proved to be a winning formula meant the top teams pushed each other harder than in previous years. The record of nine hours and 15 minutes set in 2011 was smashed by 32 minutes this year.

O till O Race 2013

Sprint prizes throughout the race kept the teams pushing all the way. The Red Bull sprint prize was first on the island of Rumaro and won by Team NybrovikenRib passed the line in first, which was the same as last year. Followed by Paul and Björn of team Head swimming and Lelle and Magnus who were last year’s winners.

However at the Addnature sprint prize, 24 kilomteres in to the race the order had changed to Paul and Björn in the lead while Magnus and Lelle had used their prior course knowledge and over taken Nybroviken Rib, Simon and Rasmus.

The Milebreaker.com last 15 kilometres was a test of who had paced their race in a way to have enough gas for the last half of the 20 kilometre run and then five more islands to hop over. As Michael and Mats, race organizers, had said in the race briefing, this is where the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker.

O TILL O - Island Hopping Race

Coming up the last hill dubbed ‘Devil’s Hill’ to the finish line at Utö Värdshus Björn and Paul of Team Head swimming held their lead and won Ö till Ö 2013 World Championship in a winning time of 8 hours and 35 minutes. Lelle and Magnus followed seven minutes after. Simon and Rasmus of Team NybrovikenRib rounded the podium off. A total of four teams finished under nine hours, a new record that tested the logistics team of the race.

In the woman’s it was a one horse race with mother-daughter team Puppy TS of Bibben and Lotta leading the whole way and setting a new course record of 10 hours and 55 minutes placing 21st overall. Last years winners Helena and Linda of Lisa’s Cafe finished second and Sanna and Victoria, Team Cougar completed the set. In the Mixed competition Team Freddan and Ankan smashed the last record in 10 hours 33 minutes, a compelling 15th overall. Björn and Marika of Team Adeptic came in second with Erica and Thomas of Team Bisnode pushed hard for third.

Meanwhile Team PenRen, the Irish and Kiwi girls were ticking off the islands one by one. Without Renata knowing, I had set my watch fast by 10 minutes so every checkpoint we went through we had a bit more to spare than she thought. Still, we were not on our times, down to the wire and starting to fade. Renata’s shoulders started to feel the strain of the paddles and the longer swims in waters of 10 to 16 degrees she was feeling the cold. Luckily running in our cut off wetsuits and swim caps meant she warmed up quickly. Momentarily we did wonder how we got in to this crazy race as we came to rock faces to climb over, ducked under branches, wove through reeds and swam in grey silt filled inlets all in our wetsuits, caps, paddles and a pull buoy tired to our leg.

O TILL O 2013

Getting through the 1,400 meter swim from MörtöKlobb – Kvinnoholmen was the demon we had in our minds as the current is tough in the exposed swim and has taken athletes up to an hour in the past. We got across the straight and out the other side relatively unscathed. It was the 20 kilometre run on Orno that showed us this was an ultra race in every proportion. We decided to take our wetsuits to our waist and run this section hard to make the six pm cut-off at the south end of the island. Once we passed here we could take as long as we wanted to get the finish.

We struck several hurdles when the terrain became rocky and slippery so we had to run the gravel road section hard. Renata’s body wanted to shut down but she fought hard to hold her legs together and support her shoulders that stabbed with every jarring step. After the milebreaker.com feed station we had an hour and 20 minutes to cover 7,900 meters. “Easy,” I hear you say. Not so when you have been in and out of the water all day covering 60 kilometres. We were reduced to a walk-run strategy and chatted with other teams who too were just ‘moving forward.’ We made the cut off by 30 minutes and gave garbled whopping interviews to the TV cameras at the timing zone. Mats said he would see us at the end for beers in the hotel, a great touch for the race directors to be out on the course.

O TILL O 2013

Only 7,100 meters and five islands lay between the finish and us. We totally underestimated the enormity of this simple thought; coupled with the sun going down and the current ripping around the smaller islands made for a rock n roll entry and exit at each island. Tired, slightly delirious, and starting to swell from the exposure we smashed over the islands in and out of the water. Each time we got out there were more people cheering us on yet the wind had picked up and Renata was shivering uncontrollably. Some blueberry soup at the last feed station helped as we pushed on not wanting to be swimming in the dark. The last exit was emotional as that was when the swimming was over. We ran-walked to the finish under the orange sun sliding to the horizon. As we got closer to Devil Hill, the hotel and finish line sat on top, Renata got a new lease of energy and bolted to the top and across the line. Her first words ‘Can I have a big beer for me and my mate?!’

O TILL O 2013

2014 entries open in February with qualification or merit the way in to the swimrun World Championship.

 For more info on the race, visit: www.otillo.se

Athletes of the Month ~ Tecnu Adventure Racing

Athletes of the Month ~ Tecnu Adventure Racing

Ever wonder how an extreme adventure racing team gets started? Here’s a quick recap of how Team Tecnu got started and how far they’ve come today. We’re happy to have Team Tecnu as our Athletes of the Month here at Headsweats!

Team Tecnu
Team Tecnu

Written by Earring Doug Judson

Tecnu Adventure Racing started in 2007 when we stumbled across our amazing partner in Tec Labs and we started off on our amazing journey together testing the boundaries of human endurance. For those of you who don’t know what Tecnu is, it’s a scrub that removes the poisin sumac oils from your skin, clothes, dogs, and gear after coming into contact with it. A not so subtle sponsor plug, but we do love them, and their products rock.

Tecnu Adventure Racing

When I formed the team we set out to find like minded athletes who love to train, and race hard, and love to do it together in exotic locations of the world. In the first couple of years, like in any when you are trying to build the right team and find the right chemistry that works for you to race hard and fast, we had mixed results. 4 years ago we brought Kyle Peter on the team after watching him for a year as a youngster and seeing him racing hard and suffering with a smile on his face, so I decided that we would start forming the team around him, and try to develop some athletes, and see what happens.

Tecnu Adventure Racing

Since 2010 we have won many races, always at or near the top of the podium, but ALWAYS a contender. In 2011 we became the top team in North America winning the ARWS qualifying race, the Gold Rush Mother Lode 4 day expedition race, and represented the U.S at the World Championships in our first venture there, and finished in 12th place as the top team from North America out of 82 teams. Not bad for our first international race against the best teams in the world. We were excited to build on that experience and exposure.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

2012 saw us string together a great season with 12 podiums in 12 races finished all over the globe including a 2nd place finish in Ecuador at the Huairasinchi Expedition race, a 3rd place at the Gold Rush Mother Lode expedition race, and a dominating 1st place in Costa Rica that qualified us for the World Championships in France. We also finished in 2nd place at both of our National Championships, narrow misses that we hope to remedy in the coming weeks. We were also featured in 12 episodes of the Wild Racers television series that is supposed to be airing in North America sometime in 2013 which is very exciting for all of our partners.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

In 2013 we tweaked the team a little bit adding several new key team members that we felt would help us continue our progression up the food chain in adventure racing. We started the year ranked first in North America, and are currently ranked 5th in the world. We started strong by heading off to South Africa and qualifying for Worlds by finishing 2nd at the most competitive race of the year. We followed that up with a dominating win at the innagural Cowboy Tough 4 day stage race in Wyoming in July, and a close 2nd at the Wilderness Traverse in Canada. We still have some of our main goals still out in front of us with races remaining at the Checkpoint Tracker Nationals, the USARA National Championships, and ending our season in December at the World Championships in Costa Rica. We are training hard hoping for the top rung on the podium at each race. We feel we finally have the team that can compete at any level, and feel that we are peaking at just the right time.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

Current team members are founder and manager “Earring” Doug Judson, Team Captain and the “next phenom in the sport of AR” Kyle Peter, Bob Miller the resident Nav God and Canadian on the team, Garret Bean our resident sherpa and whip cracker, the two Queens of the Machine Karen “Super K” Lundgren, and Mindy Fernando. Together we make up Tecnu adventure racing, and hope you will tune in to watch us live the life of adventure. Thanks to Headsweats for this honor, and for continuing to make amazing performance hats that help us push the envelope. Come out and join us in an adventure race. It will change your life.

 Tecnu Extreme Adventure Racing

Follow Tecnu Adventure Racing on Facebook, and for race recaps, updates, and news, check out their website: www.tecnuadventureracing.com

Texas Water Safari Update

Texas Water Safari Update

Headsweats Athlete Max Feaster just competed in the 51st annual Texas Water Safari. Here’s his recap of the 262-mile, non-stop race. That’s right, 262 miles. Non. Stop.

Canoe Racer, Max Feaster

Interviewed and written by B. Eriksson

There comes a time in every athlete’s career when the only option is to throw down everything you have on the course. It is the point when you realize that everything you have worked for during the past decade has built up to this moment. For Max Feaster, this moment came during the 51st annual Texas Water Safari.

The Safari is a 262-mile, non-stop, through the night, endurance canoe race running from San Marcos to Seadrift, TX. Regarded as the toughest canoe race in the world, the Safari has paddlers negotiate treacherous rapids, logjams, dangerous bugs and reptiles, triple-digit heat, and hallucinations, all at varying stages of sleep deprivation. In addition to the difficulty that is intrinsic to the course, Max was paddling what is regarded as the most challenging racing hull available: the USCA C-1.

The C-1 is a rudderless, 18′ 6″ solo canoe confined to using a single blade paddle. Built for short distance sprints in a straight line, this boat, as Max emphatically proclaims, dislikes wind, waves, aggressive turns, and many other things common in the Safari. When asked, “why on earth would you take a boat like that?” his reasoning takes a turn to the philosophic. For Max, the Safari is much more than a timed race. The Safari is not about getting to the finish line fastest. The Safari is about pushing yourself way past where you think your stamina, endurance, and strength end. The Safari is a precious adventure, and the C-1 is the best boat to fully grasp the intensity and intimacy of that adventure.

On top of these already strenuous factors, Max was pitted against one of the most respected Texas Water Safari racers around: Wade Binion. He was looking for his 18th finish, had excellent training, was in the same type of boat, and was a force to be reckoned with.

Headsweats athlete Max Feaster

Another factor that adds intrigue to the race is that designated team captains follow their paddlers down the course, being the only people who can administer supplies. This year, Max’s team captain was living legend Peter Derrick. Though English-born, Derrick has been racing the Texas Water Safari since 1975, and is one of the most respected and decorated racers in history. Until quite recently, the supply rule has been that team captains are only allowed to give water and ice to the paddler – everything else (food, repair kit, medical, lights, etc.) must be carried from the start by the paddler. Though the Texas Water Safari now allows full nutritional and medical support by the team captain, Max, holding true to his principles, abided by the old rules, and only received water and ice from his team captain.

When asked about race highlights, a cunning smile overtook his face and he began to describe a side of the race hidden from the bank. “The wonderful thing about this race is that there are too many factors to possibly control – so the race is constantly changing and staying fresh” Max said.

“For example, there is a 5 hour section down past Victoria which is notoriously known as ‘hallucination alley’. At about this point, you have been padding for 40ish hours, various body systems are starting to get dangerously close to failure, the hallucinations from sleep dep. are encroaching, and you know there are still 60 miles separating you from the finish. On top of this, the river starts getting eerily twisty and familiar: if you are not on top of your game, you could swear that you have the same right and left turn on infinite repeat. Luckily, I made it through the majority of this section with little-to-no issue, but coming to the final half hour, there was a tight, 180º turn that had simply dried up. I later came to find that the river had burrowed under a logjam/cliff/bank to rejoin itself after the turn, but in the moment, at around 3:00am, sitting on ~42 hours of exhaustive racing, I was lost, frustrated, and speechless. For the last eight years, including the training run I did the week prior on this section, this turn was a none-issue, but tonight, my entire race went ‘mission critical’.

My competition was making up all the time I had put between us, I was trudging around in the swampy, alligator-friendly part of the course, and I could not find any tracks or portage trails from other boats. Finally, after about 30 minutes of backtracking, exploring, and climbing, I reached the ‘FIP’ and decided to portage around the whole turn. Though slower, more strenuous, and far more dangerous, I knew that I could waste hours searching for the correct route if I was not careful. After ~10 minutes of slogging through deep mud and vegetation, I finally reached the rejoined river, and paddled on to the next checkpoint – way behind schedule. When I reached the stop, my team captain, Peter Derrick, told me that my competition had made a huge push, and had reduced my once solid lead of 84 minutes to 15. So with 7 hours left in the race, and a freight train of a competitor bearing down on me, it became clear that taking it to maximum for the remainder of the race was the only feasible solution. Long-story-short, Binion had the same idea, and upped his speed at the same point. Thus, we stayed at crisp 12-15 minutes of separation for the next 30 miles, sprinting our hearts out as our respective team captains egged us on. Now, though effective, sprint dueling at any point in the Safari is a dangerous game, with the only outcome being the complete collapse of one party.

Thus, for one reason or another, I was able to pull through to victory, while Binion lost 30 minutes in the last hour. All in all, it was an amazing finish against an overwhelming competitor – but without getting lost in the middle of the night, it would not have been quite as spectacular. And that is what makes this race wonderful. I planned everything out to the most minuscule detail, trained like there was no tomorrow, and I was still left guessing and stupefied. It is a course that you can never predict or perfect, and an adventure that you can never truly conquer – and that is what keeps me coming back.”

YouTube
Check out Max during the Texas Water Safari

Max won his USCA C-1 class in the Texas Water Safari with a total finishing time of 49:02. He placed 6th overall, out of 115 boats – one of the highest overall placements for this class.

Though Max plans on racing again, he is putting his boat away for the near future as he pursues a career in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. His thoughts on his new path? “Once you race and win the Texas Water Safari C-1, most things tend to seem a bit more manageable.”

Photos courtesy of: P. Rask