Wednesday, December 18, 2013


A little recap for 2013, for those of you who don't geek out to or get your overseas subscription to Trail Runner Magazine. Rob Krar won the Leona Divide 50 miler in the spring, earning him a spot at Western States, where he got second behind Timothy Olsen. He set the record for the Rim to Rim to Rim run at The Grand Canyon, shaving Dakota Jones' record of 6:53:38 down to a stubbly 6:21. In September, he took first at UROC100k in Colorado, once again besting Dakota Jones by the hair on his chin. And finally Krar finished with an epic year with a win at the North Face 50 miler in San Francisco. Did I mention that he ran his very first ultra in the fall of 2012? My best educated summation is that it is all about the BEARD:

There is now some pretty clear evidence that links facial hair follicles to everything necessary in an ultra: VO2max, slow-twitch muscles, an iron gut, patience, and perseverance. I won't bore you with all of the data, just know that it is out there. Beards also, quite literally, will retain gels and pieces of Clif Bars and even a pretty decent amount of hydration that you needn't carry in your pockets and are ever-ready at your disposal. The beard secret has been known by only a few, but it is ancient: think Abraham, Socrates, Jesus, Confucius, Darwin, and these guys. Good beards make you better at what ever you do, period. Other ultra runners have proven this theory over and over:

Nick Clark crushed the Grand Slam of ultras in 2013, (I won't mention here that he was beaten by a smooth-chinned Ian Sharmon.)

Unresearched fact: Hal Koerner has won more ultras bearded than he has beard-bereft. 

Before his PBR addiction, TK used to crush races with his beard.

Krar and Olsen. What!?

The major problem with this phenomenon is that I, at age 37, have nearly, almost (not quite… I'll never give up!) realized that my dream of growing a proper beard in this earthly realm may never be realized. Perhaps in those Elysian fields beyond the sun may my follicles grow long and strong, thick and soft-as-silk, inviting and exciting…
nowhere to hide...
In our own little corner of the world here in Kimchilandia, the beard hasn't been in fashion since Sejong and there is little to no indication of its imminent come back…. except by a few local yokels, who are having huge success with their winsome whiskers. Case in point- Javier, who has blasted onto the scene with youth, vigor, and brains. Compare, this picture of Javier beardless, and unable to break 4 hours in a marathon.

He looks happy enough, yes. But once he began to grow a beard he became a freaking mountain lion, tearing through the forests, leaping and flying through rocky crevasses, nimbly floating through gnarly, stumpy landscapes and devouring his helpless, beardless prey. Look at this animal! Unstoppable!

Another case in point. Back in November, Travis, Yann, and Zac set forth to cover a 74km section of the Baugil trails west of Gangneung. Tragically, Zac shaved his beard, and Travis appeared shorn, leaving Speedgoat Yann as the solitary carrier of the sacred whiskers. Did it have any negative effect? Despite their heroic efforts, the day ended without finishing, and one person getting lost. Beard or no beard? You guys be the judge. 

There are countless, unreliable, anecdotal stories like these that strengthen my argument. For example, I recently heard of a powerhouse in our community who moved to Daegu, shaved his beard, and now he runs road marathons. Road marathons! 
I, for one, am bummed out. My facial hair will never grow beyond that of a small rodent suffering the early stages of mange. On the other hand, I am looking forward to 2014 as being one of my biggest years yet on my feet. Should I rely solely on training, nutrition, good living, and trail wisdom? Will those be enough? I'm not so sure!