No one ever really wants to train when it's miserable outside. But the next time you get cold feet, take a path less traveled and put your mental toughness to the test. You'll be glad you did. Scott Jurek »
Now is the time runners are beginning to plan their calendars for 2014, and so-called "destination races" get plenty of consideration. Globetrotting to a race seems so romantic. Just imagine the Facebook posts, and the possibilities.
I did, and days later I was toeing the line at a boutique half-marathon, the Llao Llao 21K in Bariloche, Argentina, a small adventure-oriented city in the foothills of the Southern Andes. Llao Llao is part of the four-race National Parks Marathon Series. For more information, go to www.runargentina.com.
Known for its chocolate industry, Bariloche is surrounded by the kinds of places travel writers keep to themselves. It's smack-dab in the middle Patagonia, where broad rivers lumber by snow-capped pyramids, spilling into ocean-like lakes, and December means the start of summer, not winter. An escape from winter alone could justify the trip.
The Llao Llao hotel, which is the race's base of operations and start/finish, couild also make it worth the trip. A "World’s Best" resort and spa, it has the riddle of refinement solved: it's five-star and unpretentious. Running shoes are welcome and Vibram-soled trekkers a norm.
And it's all about the environment. The Llao Llao occupies a peninsula hilltop in Nahuel Huapi National Park, which is comprised of nearly two million acres of calving glaciers, "monkey puzzle" trees, and an alpine trail system (complete with huts, or refugios) that's ripe for running.
Race day was is warm and breezy. Idyllic and spring-like at the 11:00 a.m. start. Local heavies from rival provinces Rio Negro and Chubut front one big wave of runners, and the celebratory mood at the back borders on a dance party. Sleep deprivation adds to the euphoria.
We're off, and a while later the finish-line banner seems to be held taut by some sort of dream. I was a winner that day, because it was the single-best running experience of my life.
However, it takes more than dumb luck and a wad of pesos to guarantee a great destination-race experience. Here's what I learned in Argentina, essential tips for destination runners no matter where they're headed:
Less than a month after World Anti-Doping Agency officials visited Jamaica to conduct what the nation's minister for sport called an "extraordinary audit", the entire board of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission and its chairman, Dr. Herb Elliot, have resigned.
Former JADCO executive director Renee Anne Shirley revealed in a Sports Illustrated article that the organization conducted only one out-of-competition drug test in the five months leading up to the 2012 Olympics, that it had never conducted a blood test on an athlete, and that it was perpetually understaffed.
WADA President John Fahey had previously charged that JADCO officials were engaged in "farcical" attempts to delay his organization's inquiry for a year, and hinted that such behavior could result in sanctions that might have included Jamaica's expulsion from the Olympics Games. It was soon determined that a timetable for WADA's inspection visit to Jamaica was indeed in place, a fact that undercut Fahey's claims.
Six Jamaican track and field athletes have been banned for positive drug tests in 2013, including three-time Olympic gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown, former world 100-meter record holder Asafa Powell and relay gold medalist Sherone Simpson.
Patrick Smyth's plan to forgo marathons and reinvent himself as a trail runner is off to a pretty good start.
The 27-year-old Salt Lake City, Utah, resident with a 2:15 marathon PR has raced just twice on the trails, but has a a national title and a world championship to his credit, won $3,000 in prize money and earned a spot on Nike's newly-formed trail-running team.
On Sunday, Smyth torched a strong field at the sixth annual XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. He covered the rolling 21K course over a combination of singletrack trails and dirt roads in 1:16:38.
Joe Gray (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who tied for the XTERRA win last year and placed seventh at this year’s IAAF World Mountain Running championships in Poland was second in 1:17:26. Max King (Bend, Ore.), a four-time winner at the XTERRA World Championship and 2011 World Mountain Running champion, was third in 1:20:53, while Nathan Peters of Salt Lake City (1:23:44) and Roberto Mandje of Boulder, Colo., (1:26:53) rounded out the top five.
Polina Babkina, a 26-year-old Russian who is attending graduate school in Honolulu, won the women's race in 1:37:24 with, a 31-second margin over 2012 winner Lucy Smith of Sidney, British Columbia.
Smyth and Babkina earned $2,000 apiece for their victories.
Smyth shot to the lead from the start, with Gray and King hot on his heels. In the early going, Smyth extended his lead on the climbs and flat sections, only to have King and Gray catch up on the descents and semi-technical sections. By the four-mile mark, though, Smyth had a lead he would never relinquish.
A new nonprofit organization, the Collegiate Running Association, aims to provide college students opportunities to compete and earn prize money in national championships. The CRA will offer collegiate championships in the disciplines of road racing, trail racing and mountain racing, which are not contested by the NCAA.
The CRA will announce details of its inaugural road racing championship on Dec. 3, but the organization's founders have secured a $10,000 overall purse for the top 10 college students in the men's and women's races.
The organization will hold its championships at existing events that can accommodate large fields. They plan to announce the location and date of the trail and mountain running championships in January.
"Given limitations that college students and coaches face with roster limits and the elimination of track and field programs and others across the country, we felt like there was a need for this opportunity and to increase [opportunities for] college students," says Steve Taylor, president of the CRA and head cross country and track and field coach at the University of Richmond.
Unlike the NCAA, which has a 417-page manual that outlines its rules, the only eligibility requirement for earning prize money in a CRA championship is that participants be high school graduates who are currently enrolled in at least one college course of any type.
The former head of the UCI has refuted Lance Armstrong's claims that the sport's governing body helped him cover up a positive test for corticosteroids during the 1999 Tour de France, offering an explanation that amounted to this: The UCI didn't know a now-infamous prescription was backdated.
Corticosteroids contribute to recovery in endurance athletes and have been used in the peloton for at least two decades.
In a story published by The Daily Mail that centered around a meeting between Armstrong and former U.S. Postal Service soigneur Emma O'Reilly, Armstrong claimed it was former UCI president Hein Verbruggen's idea to cover up a positive test for cortisone, a banned steroid, with a Therapeutic Use Exemption, or TUE. Armstrong had previously said there were no true "deals" with the UCI, but has now changed course.
In an email to VeloNews, Verbruggen -- who stepped down from his UCI presidency in 2005 but remained on as "honorary president" -- said it was the French Ministry, not the UCI, that was responsible for conducting anti-doping controls at the Tour de France until 2006, and refuted Armstrong's assertion that it was Verbruggen who helped cover up a positive test.
"It must be very hard to cover up a positive case that was not a positive case," Verbruggen wrote. "[Until] 2006 it was the French Ministry that was responsible for anti-doping in France with the UCI as kind of an observer. It was the Ministry that decided that [Armstrong] was not positive since they accepted his explanation (ointment). Conclusion: [the] story about cover-up is nonsense."