“So much of the time you get into trouble not because you are not doing well, but because you think you should be doing better.” – PoDog Vogler
45 year old Arkansas ultra runner, PoDog Vogler, recently won the 2011 Arkansas Traveller 100 in a time of 17:24:30. This was PoDog’s second win in three years on this historic course. (2009 – 17:49:50) PoDog focuses his racing year around this early home-turf October ultra and over the past year built his fitness to new levels and set a 50 mile course record in early September. Confidence was high and PoDog showcased – You can get faster with age!
PoDog was super kind in sharing with the Endurance Buzz community some insights into his running background and training, the Hardrock 100 adventure this past summer, his Arkansas Traveller win, and some possible epic adventures in the coming years.
Background / Training
[EB - OK, gotta know...what is the story behind PoDog?]
PoDog is my name from a local running club called the Road Dog Running Club. We are kind of like hashers with our own history and traditions that have developed over the roughly 25 years of the club.
To be a member you must do the “initiation run” which is from the training center to the nearest bar. Since the club is centered in a dry county, the nearest bar is about 9.3 miles away across the Arkansas River. Of course after completing the run, we sit around and eat and drink and you may even lobby for what name you might like, but there are no guarantees.
I joined with my wife, who is a pretty good ultra-runner herself (beating me to a first 100 finish). My wife was named Flo Dog after Florence Griffith-Joyner, often considered “the fastest woman of all time”. So they named me PoDog to go with that. Basically, my name was an afterthought. It’s nice to have friends. We laugh about it often, but I still love my name.
[EB - What is your running background? When did you start ultra running and what led you to explore the sport?]
I spent my childhood playing soccer and played in High School and College. So running was just a way to keep in shape.
I ran my first road race when I was 25 and my first marathon at 30. I then ran marathons for a few years, but a friend of mine who ran some of the local trails wanted me run the Sylamore 50K with him. We entered and I loved it. I wasn’t fast, but I really loved the combination of running and being out in the woods.
The next year the president of the Arkansas Ultra Running Association invited me to run in the “trail series” that they have. Two weeks later I was running a trail race in the series and I haven’t ever stopped. I still didn’t even consider doing 100 mile races. But after running with the trail running group, and everyone in the group has run 100s, it is just a natural progression. However, my wife beat me to the punch by running the Arkansas Traveller in 2006. I paced her 40 miles of the race, and I was hooked. I knew I had to do this race.
The next year I “trained scared”. I was so intimidated by the distance that I trained really hard. I ran the race without a watch, totally by feel and managed to finish second in 18:36. After that I was definitely hooked on 100s. It is the main distance that I train for now. Everything I run now is with some future 100 in mind.
[EB - Do you have any specific running mentors that have influenced you along your journey so far?]
I am not shy about asking people questions about their running. I think everyone has experiences that are good to consider to help you figure out what works for you.
I think the guys that have helped me the most are Stan Ferguson, (the AURA president who invited me to run the trail series from years ago) and Paul Schoenlaub, an extremely experienced ultra-runner from St. Joe, Missouri. Both these guys are very talented, very experienced runners who have given me more advice than I can remember. They both generously share their experience but also understand that you have to find out what works for you.
[EB - What does a typical training week look like for you? How much training do you do on the trails? Do you do any type of cross training?]
I train differently than anyone I know.
First of all, I train almost 100% trails. This is not because I think it is better, but I just really love the run trails and I am fortunate to have trails within running distance from my house.
My training year for the past 5 years has revolved around the Arkansas Traveller 100 in October. Most typically I train hard for the Traveller, take a couple months off afterwards and then start gearing up for the spring season. I usually run another 100 in the summer, either for fun or to tune up for Traveller, but my focus is always doing well at Traveller.
When I am not training for anything, I typically run about seven hours a week. I rarely count miles just because it is so much easier to count hours. I run several 15 mile to 31 mile races throughout the year. I may train pretty hard for them, but typically I train hard for 100s and use them as part of my training.
My training plan for 100s is to push my everyday run to a two hour run. To do a long run on the weekends of three to six hours and then add a long run. Eventually I will do three long runs back to back to back of 25 to 31 miles. I also typically do a very long run of 40 to 50 miles 3 weeks before a 100.
I love using races to train if I can because nothing motivates you to work hard like a race.
[EB - You finished in 39:41:00 and kissed the Hardrock this past July at the gnarliest 100 mile race in the United States, the Hardrock 100. Was this your first attempt on this course? What are some of your strongest memories from this adventure?]
I decided to run Hardrock after looking at the pictures of the race in a spring 2010 Ultra runner magazine piece. It was amazing and I just said, “I’ve got to do that race”. I later realized what a difficult race it was, but I already felt committed, and it was still awesome, so I signed up. Having only one ticket made getting in a long shot, but I made it on the wait list in good position, so I started training.
The run itself was great. I had very few problems or issues. I tried to take my time and enjoy the amazing place I was running. I lucked into a friend of mine from Boulder to pace me through the night, and that was huge. Anytime I started struggling, I would stop and look around and just realize how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place. I loved the run and would do it again without a second thought.
[EB - Did you learn anything new about yourself or have to access parts of yourself you haven't before in order to get to the Hardrock finish line?]
The only time I struggled was above about 12,500 ft. elevation. But once I realized that it was just going to take me forever to make progress that high, I adjusted my expectation, and everything was fine.
So much of the time you get into trouble not because you are not doing well, but because you think you should be doing better. [EB - ultra wisdom nugget. Read that a few times.]
Arkansas Traveller 100
[EB - Coming into the AT100 how was the body and mind feeling?]
After Hardrock, I took about three weeks off and then started training for Traveller. My training went great. I had a nagging pain in my right forefoot left over from some Colorado rocks and I had a bout with some back pain, but I was able to train hard through both of those things, so I was getting in plenty of miles.
I really pushed my pace this year which I do not generally do. Generally, I run how I feel. When I feel good I hammer, but I do not worry too much if I do not. I hit five weeks over 100 miles with a top week of about 138 miles. I topped out my training with a 7 hour 28 minute 50 mile race at Bartlett Park in Memphis. A new course record. (the only course record I’ve ever set)
I had a lot of confidence going into Traveller. By the time race day arrived, I was in the best shape of my life, rested, and I had recovered from any foot or back pain.
[EB - Based on some of the aid-station estimated splits, it looked like you led for most if not all of the race. Did you feel "hunted" throughout the 17+ hours or did you remain more internally focused? Also, what were some of your strongest memories across the 17+ hour scamper? What were some of your biggest challenges you had to overcome?]
I didn’t really think about the other runners too much until the turn around. The first 50 miles are really just for positioning anyway, unless someone really gets out there. It’s a long race, and anything can happen. You need to worry about yourself for at least the first half.
After the turnaround, I looked at my watch to see how far back the next guy was. You usually do not get much information about your lead after the turnaround. When I saw my lead was only about 8 to 10 minutes, I decided I needed to make a plan.
I knew that the more the next runner gained on me, the more that would help him. So I decided to move up my race plan of switching to caffeine to give me an extra boost to the next aid station. I also started pushing more and I told my pacer to push me more. My plan then was to push until I couldn’t push any more. I always finish the last 25 to 30 miles strong. I told myself that this year I would just have to finish the last 40 miles strong. And I have to say that this race was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Usually during 100s, you can pick your times to push and then other times you recover a bit. I did not allow myself to relax for the last 40 miles.
One of my strongest memories of the run was that at almost every aid station, and certainly every aid station after I was in the lead, people were cheering and yelling “PoDog”. It was awesome to have such support out there. Especially for the last 30 miles of the race when I was trying to push and was tired, it really helped me keep pushing and stay focused. I knew I had to give everything I had after having all that support.
[EB - What were the first thoughts in your mind after crossing the finish line and winning your second Arkansas Traveller 100?]
My first thoughts were of just being happy to be done, because I was DONE. I did not leave anything out on the course. Within 10 minutes I had an IV bag hanging over my head. (a first for me) I’m sure I was not all there, but you would have to interview someone else to find out how much.
[EB - Do you have any running events planned for the rest of the year? Any other epic ultra adventures on your radar you would like to experience but haven't yet?]
I have entered Western the past three years without any success. If I get drawn for Western, my plan is to try the grand slam. If not, possibly Hardrock again or maybe Bighorn. I love the mountain runs.
A couple of my friends and I are talking about a point to point trail run on the Ozark Highlands Trail. It’s 165 miles of pretty rough single track, but it is one of the most beautiful trails in the state and the first trail I ever backpacked on as a 16 year old explorer scout, so it has a lot of pull. I was going to try it last spring, but a late injury stopped me. We are talking about a try in February, but I haven’t committed to it yet.
What a fun read!
A huge thanks to PoDog for sharing so much of himself with the Endurance Buzz community!
A special thanks to Lisa Vorwerk, the Pink Panther, for her great AT100 photos.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com