Tag Archives: running

Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp Application: Lael Wilcox

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This is my application for a scholarship to the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp in Juneau, AK this summer.

1. Briefly describe your running history/background and where you see your running going in the future:

Running keeps my mind and body in balance. It gives me the time and space to think. Running quickens my blood and excites me. I dream and make plans while running. I think about what is important to me. I think about the things I’ve done and the things I’ve yet to do. I have my best ideas while I run. I run for my own freedom, to cultivate and sustain a lust for life, to move in the natural world and to get real places. Sometimes I run in the woods, sometimes I literally run errands.

I started running at the 5K and 10K distances when I was seven which fostered a non-competitive appreciation for running. It was always about the experience, and accomplishing the distance. I played in a competitive soccer league for many years and it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I began to run competitively, with rapid improvement. Soon after graduation, I ran the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage in a time of 3:18. This was my first marathon attempt. I raced cross-country and track in college. I continue to run daily because I love it, although I only race about once a year. I enjoy racing and typically do well, but consider the entry fees prohibitive. Races are an opportunity to do something extraordinary. To me, it’s a celebration of my abilities as a runner. I’m easy to spot in a race because I’m the only one smiling.

I’m fascinated by overland travel. For the past five years, I’ve travelled extensively by bicycle in various countries. Living car-free, I commute by bike everywhere I go. In 2010, on a trip starting in Seattle, I rolled into Urique, Mexico two days before the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon. Spending four months on a bike didn’t leave me in great running shape, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to run with such a wild group. Everyone was running– all shapes and sizes. The Raramuri ran in their blouses and skirts. They quietly and calmly stole the race. Mexicans, young and old, ran in jeans and t-shirts, track singlets and whatever they could find. They hollered, sprinted, walked, smoked joints and sucked down Coca-Cola at every opportunity. I ran forty of the fifty miles. After forty, my legs gave out and I could hardly walk. I biked the last couple of miles back to my tent.

That experience has left me curious about running great distances. After this past summer of hiking and bicycling adventures, I’ve settled into Albuquerque to save money. I’ve decided to compete in a few endurance races this year. On April 13, the 45 mile Cedro Peak Ultra Marathon takes place in the Sandia Mountains just outside of Albuquerque. I plan to ride my bike to the start of the race. I’m also seeking a longer-distance event at the end of the summer.

My goal is to continue to run for the rest of my life. I work very hard to keep mobility and strength in my joints and muscles. I practice yoga daily– maintaining feeling and space in my feet, knees, hips and back. My running and yoga practices are essential compliments to each other. I seek constructive practices that will allow me to remain active for the rest of my life.


My skills as a runner are:

I can establish a quick and comfortable pace.

Long distances don’t bore or scare me.

I never get injured because I listen to my body.

I stay mentally upbeat while I run.


My running goals:

To run a sub three hour marathon.

To compete in ultra marathon distances this year.

To run and maintain physical health for the rest of my life.


2. How did you first hear about Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp?

I found the Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp through endurance running and biking blogs.

3. What are your main reasons for wanting to attend Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp?

The prospect of committing a week to running in a beautiful place with great runners is inspiring. This camp will help me achieve my near-term running goals, and will give me the confidence to reach new distances. As an Alaskan, running in the mountains around Juneau is enticing.

4. Please describe your financial dynamic which you feel makes you a good fit for a need based scholarship:

Since 2008, I’ve worked seasonally as a server to support my travels and pay my student loans. I teach yoga for free. I travel by foot and by bike. I save the money I earn so that I can explore and learn. I wouldn’t be able to attend this camp without a scholarship.



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New Years Day.  I rode up to the Sandia Mountains, about fifteen miles away.  I hadn’t planned it, but I went for a run.  I wore Nick’s long underwear and wool shirt, and my Clarks.  Hobo chic, says Joe.

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Sandal Running


I spent three months running in minimal sandals. On the 4th of July in Marseille, I realized that I forgot my running shoes at a yoga studio in Peterborough. With limited selection, I bought a pair of Patagonia sandals on closeout at a local outdoor store. I have been experimenting with barefoot running techniques for several years, since reading “Born to Run” and running with the Raramuri in the Copper Canyon.  Until buying these sandals, I’ve always run in normal shoes, often past their prime.  I have begun to look at my shoes as a barrier from the hazards of the road or the trail, rather than integral to support or to my stride.  I enjoy running barefoot on grass and on sandy beaches, when available.  Excepting the racing flats of my school days, I have never bought minimalist running shoes.   

The sandal design is simple and reminds me in many ways of huaraches— the sandals worn by the Raramuri.  The sole is several millimeters thick and the synthetic, woven structure hugs my feet . The sandals don’t offer any structural support, serving mainly as a barrier.  



Basic Technique

Long term runners can experience heel and knee pain from impact. To run safely and effectively in the sandals, I run on the toes and the balls of my feet. It looks kind of like tippy-toe running. In one fluid motion, I spread my toes wide, evenly plant the balls of my feet on the ground, roll over the knuckles and push off the tips.  

Short strides reduce strain on the knees and require quick leg turnover. To avoid stressing the knee joint, my legs assume similar alignment to isometric 90º lunges. My ankle is never ahead of my knee when it lands. This engages the muscles instead of the framework. Landing the foot is an active process.


The experience

On fresh legs and feet, sandal running is euphoric. The feeling is light and turnover is rapid.

Over three months, activating the muscles in my toes has built up the inner arches of my feet and strengthened the external shin muscles that support my knees. I have more awareness and strength in my feet, and both balance and stability have improved. However, after several consecutive days of sandal running on hard surfaces, my feet feel hammered and my legs like mush. It’s harder to maintain good form.

The sandals limit where I run. I feel everything through the thin soles. Europe was easy; the surfaces forgiving. In Corsica, I ran on sand and dirt and in Berlin, grassy parks. Colorado was more challenging and the sharp rocks kept me off the trails and on the roads. New Mexico is a mix– it has soft sediment, but also sharp goatheads and cacti.

I love running and I want to run everywhere. I try to run with physical and mental awareness to stay healthy. Experimenting with different footwear and form keeps me learning, but sometimes I just want to turn up the music and launch out the door. Sometimes shoes are convenient.


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Running Errands.


I’ve been busy trying to figure out Albuquerque. Pressed for time, I run places to get things done. Yesterday, I ran to Michael Thomas for locally roasted coffee. I bought a half pound and ran home, coffee in hand. This morning I ran to yoga and then the library to get a library card. Headed to the grocery store the other day, the girl I was staying with laughed at me because I was literally going for a food run.  I like running on trails to nowhere, but if I don’t have time, it makes sense to run for transportation.

Carrying things while running can be awkward, so I usually try to limit what I bring. This morning I left the house with my driver’s license and a postmarked letter I sent to myself on Saturday. The empty envelope proves to the librarians that I live in Albuquerque and am not trying to steal their books and go on the lam. The books I wanted were checked out, so I reserved them. Maybe next week I’ll run downtown to pick them up.


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