I was training for my first road marathon in 2006 when I met someone who had just finished running 100 miles on trails and lived to tell about it. My disbelief turned into fascination and was quickly followed by participation. I’ve always loved the outdoors. I spent a lot of time backpacking and camping during my college days, so the ability to cover more terrain in shorter periods of time appealed to me. The more I ran the more I enjoyed it.
I’ve been at it pretty hard since December. Through the winter I survived on 6am runs along the Charles River and weekend long runs in the Fells. In April and May I put more emphasis on the weekend long runs at the expense of weekday mileage. The backbone of this training cycle has been four 50k races and a 42-mile “training run” in the mountains of Northern Georgia. Memorial Day weekend I ran the 50K at Pineland Farms on Sunday and 27 miles in the White Mountains on Monday.
Very excited, but the anxiousness is starting to build. I‘m in the midst of my taper, and these things never go well. I’m questioning whether I ran enough downhill, whether I climbed enough in the mountains, whether my cranky ankle will behave itself on race day, whether I’ve heat-trained enough…the questions go on and on. I feel bad for Katie (my wife and kick-ass crew chief). She takes the brunt of my neuroses during the taper. But at this point, the hay is in the barn. Now I just need to execute on race day.
One goal. No regrets.
I’m in love with the Pemi-loop up in the White Mountains – 31 miles with 9000+ feet of elevation gain on the gnarliest terrain you can imagine. I’ve been on the loop 7 times in the last 12 months and every trek brings something unique and adventurous. My first trip, the wind speeds topped 90mph and my last trip (Memorial Day), we found ourselves in waist-deep fresh snowdrifts. In between, I’ve been growled out by a bear, run dehydrated for hours, and had picture-perfect views from every summit…and there’s always a soak in the river and cold beer at the finish. Most importantly, many of these runs I’ve started with near strangers and finished with great friends.
What does “trail culture” mean to you? Any examples would be great.Trail culture is blood, sweat, tears and joy in a single moment – but it is also about community. My second 100-miler (Mohican) I was beaten and bruised and trying to drop around mile 70. My crew and a few random strangers were trying to get me out of the chair, but mentally I had given up. Then came Star – pacer extraordinaire. She had run Grandma’s Marathon that morning, hopped on a plane, then drove two hours to join me for a long night in the Mohican forest. By this point we had a wicked task ahead of us, but we fought the cut-offs for 30 miles and finished with 15 minutes to spare. On my own, I would not have finished that race.
This is a tough one. Despite my love for the ultra-running community, I’m beginning to realize that ultra-running is inherently a very selfish endeavor. Balance doesn’t exist. I’d be lying if I said that running hasn’t caused an argument (or 20) in my family life. At the same time, I have an amazing life partner that supports my running endeavors. She has raced around mountains in the middle of the night to bring me my rice and bean burritos (hauling a 1-year old no less) and given me a swift kick in the ass to get out of an aid station when I was taking too long. She has even crewed and paced other runners when needed. On top of this, she will be spending our 5-year anniversary chasing me around the Western States course – that’s love. But we are still searching for this “balance” thing.
I turn 30 next year and want to do something epic. Hardrock is at the top of my list, but very difficult to get into as a first-timer (although I’ll have 8 tickets in the lottery). Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc is #2 on the list. While less epic, Burning River makes the cut as well for 2014. Although I’m pacing a good friend at Badwater two weeks after Western States, and the preparation alone is generating some personal excitement/interest/intrigue…
1. Favorite ultra food? Rice burritos
2. Hand held or pack? Depends on distance between aid stations
3. Music or no music? 50/50.
4. Favorite blog or ultra site? www.irunfar.com
5. Double Top? 42-mile training run.
6. Post race meal? Veggie burgers and black bean soup
7. Beer me. Yeah or nay? Absolutely.
8. Running injury? Cranky ankle.
9. Western states? No regrets.
10. Walking in ultras? Depends on terrain and distance, but most often necessary.