Public Speaker / Elite Athlete / Coach
Contact Dave James for information on his public speaking engagements, event appearances, or private coaching at firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Speaker / Elite Athlete / Coach
Contact Dave James for information on his public speaking engagements, event appearances, or private coaching at email@example.com
The Black Hills National Forrest has an incredible network of trails. In the last month since moving to Keystone to work at Mount Rushmore for the non profit History Association I’ve had the chance to run and hike a bunch of them in South Dakota and Wyoming.
One of the newer trails is #40, the Deerfield Trail. Established in 1992, the National Forest Service and Volunteer Groups have maintained 23 miles of pure trail running bliss. While my favorite local trails are literally in our backyard in the Black Elk Wilderness I wanted to take on a little challenge that ended at a camp site with a lake view my better half didn’t mind waiting for me at.
We woke up at 4:30am to have breakfast and be on the road by first light. Since my girlfriend Amy was dropping me off and proceeding to the finish we took a longer route so she was familiar with the dirt forest service roads which have a county road number also and makes map reading a challenge sometimes.
I hit the trail around 7:30am from the Deer Creek Trailhead. It was clear, sunny, and 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Amy bid me a good run, reminding me to enjoy myself. I forgot I was retired and told her I’d probably see her by noon. The direction I was traveling was a net gain of about 2,000 feet from 4,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. Yes, South Dakota has hills! The total vertical gain for the entire trail in the direction I ran was 4,000 feet of formitable climbs and 2,000 feet of quad busting decent.
The initial climb up from the Deer Creek Trailhead to the junction of Centennial Trail #89 quickly woke me up. After I left the shared trail section I had to negotiate some downed trees but was rewarded with a ridgeline view of two mule deer to my left prancing and two white tailed deer to my right running. The steepest descent of my day was down 1,000 feet to Pactola Resevoir before mile 3!
After a creek crossing by Jenny Gulch and another little climb I was rewarded with amazing views of Pactola to the east with birds flying overhead and chirping encouraging me along through the meadow. At the edge of Silver City the trail joins the paved road into the tiny town for a short bit before traveling down a dirt road along Rapid Creek.
This section is flat following an old road and railroad bed. There are about 3 concrete bridges circa 1965, 1962, and 1961 over Rapid Creek after the parking lot for the walk-in fishing access. Schist Canyon walls towered above me as I continued upstream crossing a couple wooden pedestrian bridges. This three mile stretch is known for cross country skiing in winter. Every so often the sun would shine down over the canyon walls on the water helping make a motion picture with the soundtrack provided by the rushing water. Birds continued to serenade me. Geese and ducks took advantage of the grassy patches and slower moving sections of water. Goose Pasture Draw no doubt takes its name from these waterfowl.
After five miles of criss-crossing Rapid Creek on beautiful wooden bridges I came to the confluence of Castle Creek and Slate Creek where they become Rapid Creek. I followed the muddy horse trail up Slate Creek. Here the foot bridges were washed out or overgrown so I was mainly following the horse tracks. This section would be difficult to mountain bike.
Perhaps my favorite part of the day was running up to Flanagan’s Cabin. This old wooden structure is miles from any developed road at the bottom of Spaw Gulch and without a doubt visited by more deer than humans.
After the cabin, Deerfield Trail continues up Slate Creek for another five miles along an old Forest Service Road closed to motor vehicle traffic in 1999 to protect the fragile meadow ecosystem. There are still some old brick line fords.
The only section where I was confused enough to stop was along this route when the trail markings diverted me up a steep hill. Since horse traffic doesn’t use this section and the beetel kill had left lots of ponderosa pine trees down across the trail, it wasn’t until I came across an old slate staircase that I knew where to proceed.
After a dozen newly installed narrow plank bridge crossings and another old cabin it stared to heat up. There were some old mine shafts along Slate Creek. I had started the run with two 24 ounce hand-held Ultimate Direction bottles and an INOV8 backpack with two more. At the top of a steep climb up from Slate Creek I stopped to enjoy the view and swap empty bottles for full ones and put a couple Camelback Electrolyte dissolveable discs in one.
This section of trail in the Mystic Ranger District was hot and dry with mostly Ponderosa Pines with a few quaking aspens mixed in. I was happy to start the descent down Lind Gulch along Forest Service Road 245 to the Mickelson Trail. I took a Power Bar double caffinated cappuccino flavored gel as I opened up my stride on this fast downhill.
The tunnel along this shared trail section brought some much needed shade and coolness. I put a couple iodine tabs in one bottle and refilled from a stream near the Mystic / Daugherty Gulch Trailhead. The climb up past Whitetail Gulch along Crooked Creek was tough for me. Numerous times I soaked my Run Steep Get High Trucker Hat in cold running water. Evidence of logging and an active mine were the highlights of this section.
By the time Deerfield Trail #40 intersected Forest Service Road 443 I was toast! I kept moving forward thinking I was back in Flagstaff. The single-track descent into the creek bed near Slate Prarie was amazing as were the open fields near Signal Knob at 6,200 feet above sea level.
By the time I reached my water stash near the Kinney Canyon Trailhead I was out of water. I hid my pack and old white INOV8 Team racing singlet behind a tree. I refilled two hand held bottles and chugged the remaining pint of water from my hidden glass growler. Left in just a pair of UVU grey shorts I tucked my National Geographic Map #751 Black Hills North into a front pocket and took off into Deerfield Recreation Area.
This section was around 6,000 feet above sea level and a cool breeze cut the sun’s intense rays against my skin. Running without a pack sans singlet down to the junction of the Deerfield Lake Loop Trail #40L gave me hope of a finish. I don’t run with a watch or GPS but knew I was twenty plus miles and four hours in based on my body’s feedback.
Crossing the grass bridge over Castle Creek with the giant earthen Deerfield Lake Dam in view gave me enough motivation to attack the final climb up to Reynolds Prarie. I was treated to a wildflower covered tall grass open hilly field where Pronghorn roam! The 2 miles to Custer Trailhead sign is a typical old wooden government one that rounds to the nearest whole number. NatGeo shows 2.4 miles.
At this point I was ready to be finished running. Two weeks earlier I had run this loop in reverse so I knew I was close. The high prairies are an ecosystem I haven’t run in much. I am fascinated by these tall grass areas. Reynolds Prarie is a trail runner’s dream. Soft dirt! As I coasted down the Forest Service Road into camp with Deerfield Lake behind Zoey, our Great Dane, and Amy, the wiser and better half, I was so happy to sit down and untie my Scott Trail Sneakers.
It only took me a cold soak in the lake and two hours to recover enough to pop a cold can of Spearfish’s Crow Peak IPA, set up our tent, and grill some Johnsonville Chedder Sausages. Although I didn’t race anyone it felt good to set a goal and accomplish it. Amy said I finished around 1pm so I was only an hour off my race day effort. She has been a great support for me the last couple years as I retired from competitive running. Zoey, Amy, and I maintain a blog about our adventures we invite you to visit. #tinyhomegiantdog
Last year at this time I was in what I thought was a really good place as an athlete. A return to Silverton, Colorado (site of a 2011 marathon win) and an easy win at the Alpine Loop 50k gave me confidence coming off a huge block of training. I was fit & running big miles in the San Francisco Peaks above Flagstaff doing what I loved with a great partner in Amy supporting my dreams. But things don’t always go as scripted. Overall 2015 was a huge disappointment as a runner for me with races not going as planned at the Ultra Trail World Tour’s Vibram Hong Kong 100k, at Salzburg’s Mozart 100k in Austria, at Aravaipa Running’s Golden Ticket Black Canyon 100k, at US Skyrunning Series’ Ultra Adventures’ Tushars 93k & (most devastating personally ) 50 miles into the $10,000 Run Rabbit Run 100 miler. I shook it off as best I could, and after a great week running with Old Glory for Team RWB from Utah to Colorado & another fun time at trail running camp in the hill country of Texas fatigue hit hard. I crashed and burned bad. I tried to just hide it.
I was still in good enough shape to easily win another low key 50k in Arizona last fall near course record pace after volunteering with course marking and race set up for an old friend, but that was the end of chasing fast times and course records. A combination of sciatic pain, over training, & stress led me to retire last December from competitive running and accept a role as Event Manager for a company that allowed me to stay connected to our sport with a little bit of income that is not dependent on placing on top of podiums at races. Initially I thrived as my five year commitment seemed like a dream come true. I was painting the podium for others to run for, but with less time to run and lack of motivation to train I burned out, started eating unhealthy, not sleeping good, drinking more, and have put weight back on and now find myself out of sorts without any athletic or new life goals.
Initially I told myself I would gut out the busy winter and spring and refresh my outlook in the mountains over the summer. There have been incredible moments, with friends atop summits and watching others achieve their race goals due in part to my hard work, where I have felt a little like the old athlete I once was, but I haven’t been able to string together enough good days to out number the bad ones and get out of my current rut. I long for that fire and zest I once had. Six months is a long time to feel like this for me so last week as I watched Olympic athletes chase goals for themselves and country & endurance runners complete super human mileages at the Silverton 1000 Multiday Run I decided I was going to try to take my life back. I made a schedule around my work hours to earn my first 100 mile buckle in a long time and I am heading back home to my east coast roots to reconnect with family and friends for a little bit now. Stay tuned because although my fastest times might be behind me I plan to continue to enjoy life while continuing to help and inspire others. We all have ups and downs in life, and I think it’s important to be honest and not hide when the going gets tough. I look forward to whatever the future has in store! Keep running strong folks!
Vibrations from a tiny prop Austrian Airlines plane over Vienna with views of green forests and farmland remind me of my European heritage. I am back in Salzburg for my third run of the classic Mozart 100. I won the premier edition in 2012 and struggled through sciatica last year to barely finish in memory of my father. Northern Arizona is now very much home but my heart is filled with joy to be here in the land of the Sound of Music. Despite the two red eyes this weekend I feel awake and alive and excited to pin a bib and race Saturday on the scenic course where I first won a race in Europe. Minutes before my transcontinental journey began Friday I was running and marking the Big Pine / Blackout course in Fort Tuthill Park for Aravaipa Running. I am so proud of the folks back home who ran, especially Amy, my Arizona adventure pal! Lunch with my mom and sister in Manhattan after a stroll down Times Square was a nice break in between long overnight flights. I have big expectations for myself Saturday here in Salzburgland, but before the race I plan to wear my leitherhosen with pride and emurse myself in authentic Bavarian culture.
Silence here doesn’t indicate the excitement this Spring has brought in America. After disappointment in Hong Kong I impatiently tried to race again to soon, but since the lion roared in early March Amy and I have been exploring the Southwest’s mountains & lakes, and scouting the Arizona Trail. In April finishing with a beer in Hurricane, Utah a “Donald Duck” ran second to my old housemate, who looks a lot like Goofy, at the Sand Hollow Marathon. Orchards and canyons at Lee’s Ferry were explored. Red Rocks in Sedona were hiked. Snow covered mountains were traversed. Rattlesnakes were hurdled, a mountain lion was spotted, and deer, antelope, and elk have been raced. I even almost ran into a big horn sheep! We paddle boarded on Lake Havasu & kyacked on Lake Powell.
Vegas couldn’t handle us during the Final Four and we have visited most of the old mining towns from Utah to California along the Colorado River. Fishing has produced the same results those gold prosecutors had, but love has been found! Most exciting is the giant dog house on wheels that Zoey, the Great Dane now owns! Camping takes on an entirely new meaning. Two of the marathons I ran this season were epic Grand Canyon South Rim to River journeys, and I carried Old Glory 26.2 for Team RWB at the Buffalo Marathon after a public speaking debut at the expo opening for the legendary Bart Yasso, Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray, and former New York Road Runners CEO / President Mary Wittenberg. Summer Solstice will coincide with my trio of Mozart 100 finishes and I plan to make the third time a charm. With views of snow on the Alps and a loop around crystal clear lake before a 1000AD castle finale how could it not be?! Follow my race and adventures on Instagram & Twitter at @rundavejames and on my Facebook athlete page, Dave James.
A short 13 minute documentary produced by Peter Zander entitled “Dave Runs” has been submitted to film festivals and is available for preview via the motion page at this link. On a sad note, my old training partner, and on most mornings after Jen died, the reason I got out of bed, Buddy went were all good dogs go a few weeks back, heaven. He lived a great life and will be missed.
The groundhog predicts another six weeks of winter, but I have ran the last two days back home in Flagstaff sans shirt, so I am not sold on the Pennsylvania rodent’s attempt to take up meteorology.
Since Asia, my recovery and workouts have been going very well so on the biggest betting weekend of the year I decided to roll the dice on myself and gamble on my fitness in Texas.
I came away with a sore back but confidence that 2015 will be a comeback year for me as an athlete. The almost effortless and pain-free 20 mile loop at Joe & Joyce’s Rocky Raccoon I ran in 2:25 and change was head over heels an improvement from a year previous for me even if the weather was ideal. I didn’t have to tape my ankle! Although some NCAA Division One stud blew me up by dropping some sub 6 minute-hurdle over an armadillo-trail miles on me, I came away from the weekend pleasantly optimistic and very excited to race again.
The weekend before, Amy, her giant puppy, and I ventured down from the Ponderosa Pines and snow to help at Aravaipa Running‘s Coldwater Rumble. The drive to the Pedersen aid station under the sacred Maracopia Mountain in Esterlla Mountain Regional Park near Goodyear, Arizona was bumpy, sandy, and fun. We set up camp for the night to the sounds of coyotes and the company of ring cats. We didn’t sleep much; after a few hours of work, the cowbell employed by the graveyard shift to encourage the amazing runners grew ever louder. However, the Great Dane spent her first night ever in a tent.
That last Sunday morning in January, as the last handful of endurance athletes were approaching, I left the ladies to fend for themselves in the desert and got a nice hard run in on the same trails where I won the 50K in 2011, days after moving to the Grand Canyon State. In 2013 I also won the 50 miler. Someday soon I think it will be just fitting to win the Hundred. What was really cool is the same 65 year old runner ran both Coldwater and Rocky, and I got to work an aid station in Texas on an overnight shift with his wife this past Sunday morning.
This week, in Costa Rica, is also one of the events that molded my competitive racing career. While two consecutive wins in my last two attempts proved enough for me, I am happy some other elites are getting to experience the costal rain forest and mountains. You can follow Ian Corless from Talk Ultra as he covers the stage race. Speaking of Ians from England, Sharman’s win in Texas was very impressive to say the least!
As to what’s next for me, I have my eyes on the entrants list for the Montrail Ultra Cup‘s Black Canyon race as my next race back to health and fitness. I hope there will be a solid regional, if not national field, as before I travel abroad to race again I would like to get a solid run in under my belt close to home. A special thanks to Vitargo Nutrition for allowing me to spend a quick 36 hours in Texas at the USATF National Championship event I am proud to have won twice. Big shout out to Nicole and Paul, fellow RWB Eagles on their Championships!
It was amazing to see so many Team RWB folks running, crewing, & volunteering. We encourage everyone that reads this to give back in some way, shape, or form to this community. Thank you.
The Asian island of Hong Kong has a rich history of culture. The Hong Kong 100 presented by Vibram has established itself as the first major trail ultra marathon of each year with its partnership with Ultra Trail World Tour. The race takes place in the New Territories on some of the most scenic “urban trails” and single-track I have ever run on. The course is diverse; juggling road running, concrete paths in jungle, stone steps that would make any mason proud, and some steep rocky coastal volcanic trail.
I was slated to race the 2014 edition of the Vibram Hong Kong 100 as part of the inaugural race on the UTWT but a week before the race I wasn’t walking pain free so the idea of forty hours on an airplane in a week before and after a run was not appealing. I bowed out of the race, but this year I was fit and my training was going great, albeit mostly at high elevation on soft snow. I arrived in Hong Kong the Thursday before the race rested and excited. The room key the hotel gave me didn’t work so I had to wake up my roommate Sondre, who would go on to run an incredible race. I laced up my Montrail Fluid Flex’s and had a nice shake-out run on the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s infield and up above the sky scrappers of Hong Kong Island. Think Manhattan with Mountains!
Thursday afternoon Sondre and I had a bland Chinese food meal at a local eatery in the Causeway Bay neighborhood, but that night Bryon from irunfar.com joined us and we had an incredible Thai dinner. Jet lag caught up to me and my full belly and I retired to sleep like a rockstar while my roommate went down to listen to the French W A A (sorry could not find a link online to the 3 guys) team speak at packet pickup at Racing the Planet. I made an effort to sleep in on Friday morning but was awake early, as my body was 15 hours behind and my circadian rhythms were all out of whack.
Friday was a mellow day spent resting in the hotel room. Saturday morning we had to catch a bus at 0530 to get us to the start two hours early, so we sat around and waited. Culturally, I experienced my first toilet sans seat which was unique to say the least. By 0730 I was warmed up, loose and ready to run, so I made my way to the elite start coral. I was excited and because everything was running smoothly, I got to chat with race directors Steve and Janet and pose for pictures with local athletes. The countdown was in a language I did not understand and at 0800 local we were off on a flat road section headed toward the trail. I knew the course was back-loaded with hills, so when we hit the single track I kept the leaders in view but held back.
By the first water stop the leaders had pulled away on a flat paved road section in between what looked to be water reservoirs, but I felt good with my pace and was running in the top 15. My first shock was the short stone steps down to the beach shortly after getting refilled on water. They were so steep and there were so many of them. The human brain is programed to run steps one at a time and I had not been training to bypass that reaction to patterns so I lost tons of time.
My race blew up when after a steep climb we hit another downhill section with steps and a long steep concrete path. A bunch of runners passed me, but I remained calm, enjoying my time on the next beach running with the guys from Nepal.
By the second or third place for snacks and water I was shocked to hear that we were running in 20th place about ten minutes back. The Canadian runner in front of me was happy with that news, but I wasn’t, as my lower left back and left ankle were starting to bother me. I kept on for some time, finally sitting down around 65K for some soup as I began to catch a chill and really have trouble with my stride.
I met so many great folks on the trail and volunteers at the water stops. I cannot begin to mention them all here and I was fighting through so much pain that I apologize if I forgot to properly thank and acknowledge everyone. I wish I would have kept on going but I was not prepared for night running save my mandatory gear items and was advised it would be much harder to get me off course after dark. What Janet and Steve have done with the Hong Kong 100 is incredible and I was truly honored to be invited back. I race to do my best, but I also race against my competition, so in my heart I knew it was time to heed the advice of the aid station captain and medics and hand in bib 17.
I am back home in the cold snowy Northern Arizona winter, still unsure of what day it is and when I am supposed to sleep. The great staff at HYPO2 has already taped my ankle and given me a back-to-basics rehab routine. My loving girlfriend, Amy, has not only put up with me being up all night but taken the time to massage my injured muscles. Asia was an incredible experience, and until I properly wake up from this jet lag, it will continue to feel like a dream. Just not one that came true. Stay tuned for my next adventure here. Thank you to the incredible sponsors and for all for your support.
Can two months on the road traveling across the United States of America with Old Glory for Team Red, White, & Blue change a person?
The tremendous honor of leading a project where one single American Flag would be carried on foot from the Pacific Ocean to the White House was bestowed upon me by the founder and chairman of the board of this incredible Veterans’ service organization a couple weeks after my father was laid to rest with a full military service.
The chance to honor my dad’s memory and the legacy of his parents who both served in World War Two and connecting with veterans across the United States of America was perhaps the greatest single honor I was ever given. I had no idea when I landed in California this Relay would also prove to be one of the most challenging periods of my life.
Every day was an adventure. The mission started with early mornings, hot days, and late nights. My body was called upon more than I ever imagined to simply carry Old Glory across California. I withdrew from UTMB with an injury and a week into this Old Glory Coast to Coast Relay I found myself in a tub of ice screaming with sciatic pain. I kept telling myself, it’s only a 5K! Repeat. My teammates were looking to me for motivation so I had to remain strong and just suck up the pain.
Eagle Nation stepped up and folks came to help us move Old Glory across America’s loneliest Highway in Nevada. High desert sunrises dominated the second week as we moved into the majestic Utah landscapes. Wind, hail, rain, and sun exposure made for long days but our RePatriot American Flag continued her journey East. After two weeks of high mileage my body was tired but my mind was sharp and focused on the task at hand.
Folks from around the country came to help us move Old Glory into Colorado. We missed the fires in California by a day and were a day behind the snow storm that blanketed the San Juan Mountains. Teamwork brought us over the Colorado River and up Monarch Pass over the Continental Divide. The run off the Rockies onto the Great Plains was bittersweet and hail, lightening, and high winds continued to make our journey a challenge.
In the heartland of our amazing country people started to show up ready to run and my body was given some time to heal. Somewhere in Kansas after a storm it occurred to me we would finish this project, but the mental and physical effects of a month of incredible stress on my mind and body took their toll.
Logistics proved to be a challenge as we moved east. More runners meant more interaction with awesome folks looking to honor Old Glory and what she meant to them, but it also meant more time on the road each day.
In Missouri I stopped taking care of my body along the Katy Trail, and after we crossed the Mississippi River I was physically sick. Pre-dawn alarms seemed to come earlier ever day, and as the day light shortened the stress of finishing high miles before dark increased. America is where they farm corn but the history along the roads was amazing and the local people so friendly as we crossed into Illinois and Kentucky.
The Land of Lincoln was coined the “home of the penny” in one of my Facebook videos and I was now on a diet of coffee and Day Quill followed by NyQuil and whatever local brewery I could find before bed each night. Kentucky was beautiful as the autumn colors changed before our eyes on the trees. Unbridled spirit came to mind as the horses along the road would try to Run with Old Glory.
Our couple days in Indiana were special to me as my Uncle, a Navy Veteran, came out to join us to retire the colors one afternoon. As we moved up the Ohio River into the Buckeye State the leaves had fallen and children and factory workers no longer lined our route. Snow was falling as Old Glory headed north towards West Virginia. The Great Allegheny Passage was a welcome change to asphalt and vehicular traffic and when we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line into Maryland the historic C & O canal picked up as we pushed east towards Washington DC.
Many times along this journey I thought of the men and woman who have served to keep us free, but I also thought of the settlers that centuries ago traveled the country west on a very similar route to Old Glory’s path. When we reached our finish I was overcome with pride and joy, but above all an incredible sense of duty and honor had been fulfilled inside of me. When I watched Team RWB’s Executive Director, who I shared a week with in Kansas, carry Old Glory into the White House on Veterans Day it hit me like a ton of bricks. Mission Accomplished! When I woke from my marathon nap I had this sense that I had just dreamed of this beautiful piece of cloth woven with red, white, and blue that I had just lead across the entire United States of America from sea to shinning sea.
Listening to Mr. Woodward introduce Team RWB before the Boss came on stage at the Concert for Valor brought the last decade of my life full circle. I remember meeting Bob back in NY after his injuries and having grown up listening to the music of Springsteen. I felt I was part of something much larger than I had ever imagined 13 months earlier when on the Bear Mountain Bridge headed back to West Point at sunrise after a run in the dark I was asked to lead the Old Glory Coast to Coast Relay.
So, yes, two months on the road traveling with Old Glory across the United States of America for Team Red, White and Blue did change my life in a positive way. The great Americans I met who helped this epic journey have inspired me to continue to follow my dreams. Looking back now, I especially enjoyed the early mornings where I had the honor to describe what Old Glory means to me. I am gracious to the men and women like my grandparents, father, uncle, and cousin whose service allowed me to freely wear “USA” on my vest when I represent this great country in athletic competition abroad. I am tired sure, but I am blessed by the work of veterans of the United States Armed Forces! America!