Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pictures from 2004 - Eureka to Talkeetna

Here are some random pictures from the beginning and end of the 2004 Eureka to Talkeetna race.  This was the year Gordy Vernon and Thai Verzone reminded us that subterfuge, strategy and innovation will often beat pure endurance in the Classic.  These two veterans schooled everyone by coming from behind and winning the race.  They carried a huge raft but eventually used it to float the entire Talkeetna Canyon while everyone else had to portage around it through thick brush.

Gordy and Thai told nobody about their plans and also brought a large cooler of free beer to the starting line for other people to take.  After months of shaving 1/100th's of an ounce off their packs, several people opted to calm their nerves with some brew and actually carried some of the beer in their packs.  Whether the cost/benefit ratio favored this decision is anyone's guess.  What we do know is that Gordy and Thai knew exactly what they were doing.  

Erin McKittrick on the left in purple with Bret Higman just behind her.  Bob Schnell just to the right of them in the blue hat.  Jason Geck in the center, Butch Allen, Jim McDonough and Dick Griffith on the right. 

Thai Verzone on the left, Jim Lapkass just to the right and Michael Martin in the red coat. 

Thai and Gordy bringing out the cooler of beer to the starting line. 

And they're off!  Roman and Cody Roman Dial on bicycles. At 17 years old, Cody Roman was and still is the youngest person to finish the Classic. 

Gordy and Thai carry their raft to the finish line in Talkeetna as they win the race. 

John Pepe and Rob Kehrer happy to be in Talkeetna. 

Hans and Anna Neidig greet John with a nice cold beer. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

1982 - The First Race

This is such great stuff!  Take a look at this article from 1982 - the first year the Wilderness Classic was run. 

As with the last one, you may have to do a bit of electronic manipulating and jumping from image to image to read the whole thing, but it's all there - except for the minor bits along the edges that have been worn away by time. Thanks once again to Roman Dial for providing the goods.  If for some reason, you can't t zoom in to read all of it, let me know. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Running Barefoot

This last summer I was inspired to try something a little different. After witnessing someone running down Flattop with only a pair of Vibram Five Fingers I decided to try the barefoot running thing myself. There's a dearth of information about it on the internet and apparantly nobody in Alaska sells "shoes" for running barefoot so I decided to take the plunge and try it comepletly barefoot. Besides, why bother to pay $85 for a pair of running "shoes" that just defeat the real purpose. 

I started out on Turnagain Arm trail and within about 100 yards I broke out into a cold sweat. Aside from the sensory overload, the first thing I noticed was the connection with the ground.  I felt the trail like never before.  My traction was better and I felt more stable.  I ended up going only about three miles total but the next day muscles in my legs were as sore as if I had never run before.

I've eased into the whole idea and have only done the occasional run to adjust slowly.  After about a dozen barefoot runs last summer I did one final run outside at Glen Alps in October just after a snowfall but when the trail was still bare.  Switching to a treadmill inside this winter has been difficult because the surface is like sandpaper.  This is where some sort of aquasocks or the Vibram Five Fingers might come in handy.

While it may seem a bit overboard at first, the benefits of running barefoot are endless.  The human body was made to run without shoes.  Most people have found that they are faster, stronger and have more endurance without shoes.  People claim it has cured back problems, fixed their posture as well as taken away bunions, severe callousing and other foot problems. 

It'll definitely slow your pace a bit until your feet adjust but mud, sticks and large rocks are generally not a problem.  Pavement takes some getting used to and sharp gravel doesn't feel good at all, as you might imagine.  At first, the shock value of seeing people's faces along the trail is amusing but after a couple times it's just annoying.  Gasping tourists ruin the mood so now I try to avoid people as much as possible.

As soon as the snow melts, I'll be exploring different places and I'll post updates here about good trails.  This is a great way to strengthen ankles, feet and lower legs for the Classic, so give it a try if you feel like something a bit different.

The book Born to Run is not only a great read but also has some great arguments for running barefoot.  It's in the Amazon sidebar on the right side of this blog if you want to take a look.  I haven't yet found anyone else who runs barefoot in Alaska but if you do, I'd love to hear from you.