Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Problem With Running Really Long

The problem with running really long is...not running long. The common knowledge of "post-race depression" is accepted but not talked about beyond mentions. The issue with ultrarunning, or any over the top activity, is that during the event we feel such strong feelings. Our blood pumps unlike in regular life. We're in ourselves and the community of the race; we don't have to deal with (insert real life issue) while we're running. So some of us just keep running. It's at least partially why the culture of over-racing exists in ultrarunning.

Early in my running career I quickly realized that real life just doesn't compare to ultrarunning. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday after a spring 50k aren't depressing, they're simply less rad than Saturday's race. How do you focus on identifying trees when you just spent all of your energy and smiles barreling down a mountain two days ago? I can't.

Even if a race isn't magical, if you don't achieve flow (read: Bighorn 100), you still experience feelings that aren't typical or normal. I don't want to cry on a daily basis. I don't have my best friends whispering, "you're ok Rudy" to me every time I wince. I don't need to pull out parts of me that I didn't know existed on a daily basis. I'm glad I don't do those things frequently, because they tear apart your endocrine system. I can't live my life as a skeleton, but I can't live my life without those feelings.

Recovering from a hundo is like recovering from hard drugs (from what I've seen from the movies at least). Somehow you're happy, but immediately upon finishing you start shaking, your head is screaming at you, and your body is literally throbbing. It is horrible. I felt it after Bighorn and saw Glove shivering on a cot and clenching his teeth at 5am after WS100. You fight it and wake up the next morning feeling better, but you can't do normal things. You feel stupid. Routine questions and decisions take time to process, and nothing really matters besides eating. A week later you feel like you can run and you can, but your hormones are still messed up. Daily life is a low-lying steady state of underwhelming existence. It's not bad, but it's not great either.

Of course I'm dramatizing a bit, but am I totally off? Maybe I'm just having a rougher recovery because it was my first hundo. Maybe I'm just freaking out because I start a job that I somehow feel unprepared for despite carrying a 3.87 and two degrees into it. I've gotten myself into this fantastic, crazy, addicting, loving world of ultrarunning, but I have to cope with it. Feelings of isolation during the months preceding a race?You bet, just talk to my man Henry Wakley about sacrifice. I have to cope with the not-awesomeness of not running long because I'm trying to be smart and take a long-term approach to this lifestyle. I think we as ultrarunners all have to cope and NOT sign up for another race immediately. What should we do instead? Besides eat, sleep, and be merry, of which we get our fill rather quickly, I'm not sure.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

2014 Bighorn 100

The sun is high in the sky; barely any white dots the blue landscape above. It’s 10:15am on Friday June 20th, 2014 and a whole bunch of nervous energy is sitting on a bridge, twenty yards away from the start line, jockeying for shade and a seat. Us runners can’t do anything but wait for forty-five more minutes. It still doesn’t feel like I’m about to run 100 miles. I just feel the sun and don’t know what’s about to happen in the next day. I’ve been ready for this moment for a while now. The aura is tense—“why can’t we just start running now?” everybody seems to ask. I sit near the bridge, oddly relaxed, like I should be more nervous, or excited, or something. Patrick McGlade and I exchange terse comments about the time and heat.

Waiting with good company! 

My miles. 0-30
I stop at the first stream crossing, dip my hat in, and splash water on my chest and neck. Stop, squat, dip, splash. Stop, squat, dip, splash. This routine defines the first chunk of the course; it’s so hot. How is it so hot? I’ve been camping in the Bighorn National Forest for the past nine days and basically haven’t taken a jacket off since I arrived. I’m overheated nonetheless. It’s no surprise that I see other runners lying down in the streams, looking like zombies. I’m a tad reassured to know that I’m not the only one feeling like we’re in Mexico.

Fifteen minutes in. That's a forced nervous smile. 

            The first few miles were easy but by no means slow. Three miles in and I was around 30th place. Is this a 50k? I thought these 100 milers were slow and jovial. Everyone is breathing laboriously. People pass me hiking up out of the canyon, which, by turning around, looks like we’re on another planet. I tuck behind Ford Smith, an 18-year old from Texas, and I attempt to find a groove hiking. My heart rate eventually slows. The field begins to thin. I share a couple of miles with Eli who also grew up in Ohio, but he takes off ahead of me too. I don’t feel great, but it’s mile five. I’m not worried, and I’ve recovered from the shell-shock of 30 people speeding from the start of the race.
            I run the next 25 miles alone. I bop into Dry Fork Aid Station and smoothly get new gels from my drop bag. They don’t taste good like they normally do. It has to be the heat. My stomach feels full of water but I can’t pee. Jog to the next aid station. The course is just gorgeous. Double track as far as the eye can see, we parallel a small creek. I arrive into Cow Camp Aid Station thoroughly hot. I respond to inquiries with “uhhh, I feel moderately okay.” It’s a lie, but I know that I may be able to trick myself by saying it out loud. I’ve been taking S-Caps and Tums to figure out my stomach. Nothing seems to work.

View from Dry Fork AS on a training run

            I move slowly. I’m alone. I’m annoyed with the slow pace. I should be 30 minutes ahead of where I am, not at the front but near. It feels like I’m in the middle. The time passes and I just try to keep moving. Today is not magical. No fireworks or genuine smiles. I curse the muddy, divot-y, trail. I get passed again. Do it anyway. I tell myself, stealing a line from Eric Grossman's blog. My dad and friends are here for me. I can’t stop now, but I definitely don’t want to keep going. It’s 18 miles to the turnaround once I hit Footbridge, and walking 18 miles sounds abhorrent. I need to sit and cool off. I haven’t eaten anything in three hours. What can I tell them? Obviously I’m not dropping, but there’s maybe a 5% chance that I finish this thing.
            This train of thought occurs as I’m walking down the ~2mi, 2000’ decent into Footbridge AS. I get passed. The first and second women come up by me, and that kind of gets me to jog. Historically, not many women break 24 hours. If I’m behind 24 hour pace already I’m done for. I did not come here to walk 100 miles in over 24 hours. I came here to run well and run competitively and run around 20 hours.
            I walk across the footbridge and up the little hill where my Dad shouts with excitement. They know I’m behind schedule…by 45 minutes only 30 miles into the race. I pour the rest of my water on me and hang my head. I can’t look at him. I’m a letdown. I should be up there. I’m not as tough as I thought I am. Fuck this. I want to go home.

Dejection

            Immediately I sit and look like hell. My head is slightly spinning, and I can’t verbalize what’s wrong. A medical dude comes to me and asks if I’m ok. “Overtrained,” I respond. Maybe seven 100+ mile weeks was too much. I get doused with water and it feels heavenly. I complain to my crew, but they remain calm. Training partner and best friend Guy Love remains level headed. Obviously I planned to use my crew as a pit stop, in and out in a minute, but we need to adjust. Guy says my lethargic legs are from the taper and I’ll turn around soon. It’s still early. Roomie Wyatt Earp begins to dress to pace me to the turnaround, although that was not planned. (Due to Bighorn’s 11am start time, pacers are allowed from mile 30. While this rule is totally cheating in my opinion, it is legal, and there was no way I was going to run to mile 48 alone. I planned to pick up pacers are 50, but having Wyatt with me on the climb made continuing sound not-awful.) Once he’s ready, we leave, walking. A bad, bad, start to my first 100 miler and the race that I trained for since February.

Wyatt’s Miles 30-48
Now on the east side of the mountain, the terrain changes dramatically. We’re under trees and running next to a river. My mood changes with the change of scenery. I talk to Wyatt, haven’t really spoken to anyone in the last five hours. Having him makes me run steps here and there, and although I don’t feel good, I can run. We hit the first aid station in 45 mins and it felt like 10. Good sign. We pass a couple people.
            The terrain opens into massive grassy fields. We jaunt as I sip Coke and eventually listen to music. The sun switches sides of the mountain and the temperature begins to cool. The combination of company, coke, music, and cooler temperatures lifts my spirits. If only I had believed that the heat would pass I probably would have taken it easier in the first 30 and not been so mad and distraught. The first 30 miles in 100 don’t even matter.

Fields. Photo: Wyatt Lowdermilk

            The rest of the climb passed quickly. A couple laughs were exchanged, and things weren’t so bad after all. Topping out of the climb we started to see the dudes in front. I wasn’t really too far back. We must’ve climbed well. Seeing folks, especially Patrick who was in fourth and only 10 mins back, got me pumped. I told him it was going to be his night, and he was going to catch them. A heretofore-new sensation of pep sprang up in my legs, and I dodged the bogs and mud at the top of the course while Wyatt had to stop for el bano. Very near the aid station, I saw Rod Bien, a vey accomplished pro runner, looking pretty poorly. I’d catch him. I felt good, finally, and came into the aid station with cheers from crews. It took 48 miles, but this is fun.
            The AS went well. Efficient but not rushed…although I did leave my food bag. I had switched to all solid food. I took a baggie with potatoes and random gatherings (self-made trail mix of pickles and peanuts and nilla wafers ha!) and nibbled on that while running. I stomached the solid food, something I’d never done before in a race. Still, I wasn’t eating enough or consistently enough. Do it anyway.

Guy’s Miles (48-66)
Guy is clutch because he has a wealth of running knowledge and two 100s under his belt. We’ve spent probably around 500 trail hours together, and he knows me well. He knew my goal of sub-20 and knew I was more than capable of that; he wasn’t just going to jog with me to the next aid station. We were going to run. And indeed we ran. It felt good. We whipped out a portable speaker and started blaring some tunes. That coupled with seeing people climbing up to the turnaround, made the next 15 miles pass easily. Our headlamps turned on, and I strapped in for the long haul on darkness. Thunderstorms pop up in the distance, and rain makes for a small bit of drama. We pass maybe eight runners on this section. Things are going well. Guy reads a note from my mom and made some comments about how “you’re these rocks crushing this trail.” He leads a bit of the tricky decent into footbridge in some pink and green girl running shorts, which is hilarious. Guy keeps my spirits up and my legs came around on this section—he was so clutch.
            I started to get sleepy coming into Footbridge; close to 1am. In the aid station I change socks and shoes (socks were nice, wish I kept the shoes). Chrissy, who I really hadn’t run too much with, is set to pace me in to the finish. She’s visibly amped, raring to go, and we make good work in the aid station although I sit. I never pictured myself sitting in this race, but every time I saw crew I allowed myself a brief sit, which served as a small reset button to get me to the next aid station. I had no problem getting out of the chairs.

Chrissy’s Miles (66-95)
I stop running. Chrissy stops. “Turn off your headlamp.” We look up. Stars, milky way, lots of stars, beautiful stars. We pause like this for 30 seconds, then continue up the climb. A hard climb, we make it up well. I’m sleepy, listening to music, and hiking. The miles are starting to wear on me, but headlights are ahead. We catch one person, then another. Making purposeful passes intentionally. After the second or third pass I just want to get into a steady groove of a jog, but it seems like we’ve come upon a train of runners. I should just relax behind this next one, but we’re on him quickly. It’s uphill but I pass. “Good job!” he yells. I run hard for three minutes, but haven’t dropped him completely. He latches onto us for the next few miles, then takes of screaming on a downhill as he passes up. Bummer. That was a bad pass.
My body knows that it should be sleeping at this time, but Chrissy and I fight it. I’m able to take a gel. Every time I burp, Chrissy burps. It’s our form of communication as we don’t talk. Every time I grimace, which comes more and more frequently, she says, “You’re okay Rudy.”
Twilight comes slowly and we see a new person in front of us who keeps turning around. We play this game for a few miles. Dry Fork AS is in sight. I don’t want to pass this guy before the aid station, so we walk behind him for a couples miles into the aid station. It’s cold up here. I don’t want to go into the tent because I’m afraid it’ll be too comfy. I sit outside the tent. The sun isn’t up, but it’s light now. Daylight, finally. I realize how tired I am. The medical lady asks, “do you need anything from medical? That’s me.” I look at her, looking super motherly, and can only ask, “Can I get a hug?”

Early morning into Dry Fork, late miles


Chrissy and I walk the road out of the aid station. We learned that it’s 18 miles left, not 15 like I thought. Those three extra miles make my heart break. I have my jacket on, but I’m shivering with cold. I’m stiff, I can barely move. My lips are blue. My body says no. We walk slowly. We attempt at a downhill jog but I can barely go. “I just want to walk in.” Chrissy is internally worried and says “you didn’t come here to walk in Rudy, you trained too hard for that!”
We make it to an aid station. Five downhill miles in an hour and ten minutes. Ouch. The guy asks what I want to eat and doesn’t have any solid food that isn’t PB&J. I sadly accept a simple piece of bread. My hands are on my knees, and I feel my eyes welling up. We still have at least three hours. I just want to sit and wait till I get warm. Chrissy makes me move. Good Chrissy, thank God for this woman.
All downhill to go, Chrissy takes the lead and I’m chasing her down the decent. We’re flying and I look down at my watch. 12:30 pace. Downhill. NOT flying. We run through the aid station to get to mile 95. I’m close, but still so far away. It’s hot now, the sun is up and I’m melting like the wicked witch of the west.

Team miles (95-100)
The last five miles of the race are on a flat dirt road. Because of this, race directors allow infinite pacers. Wyatt and Lauren join Chrissy and I. They’re running ahead of me, and I’m gasping. Slow down, I have to tell them. Where is the pavement? Where is the pavement? I don’t look back but they do. We hit the pavement. For the first time all race I beam. I let out a pathetic yell of excitement. We did it! We cross into the park, I cross the finish line.


Two miles left. Photo: Wyatt Lowdermilk


Ruminations
That was utterly type 2 fun: no fun while doing it, but fun afterwards. I made so many mistakes. I’m glad it’s over. My next 100 will be MUCH better. I know it was dumb of me to make lofty goals for my first 100, but I WAS capable of top three at this race. Everything just went wrong. Which of course makes sense cause I was a complete 100 mile newbie. The distance is far and it demands respect. It demands patience. I did not expect a perfect race, but I did expect me to do much better. My crew carried me, and my pacers made me run. I would not have finished without them. I would have dropped at mile 30. I would have walked from mile 82. Dad, Glove, Wyatt, Chrissy, Lauren—THANK YOU.


I’m super stoked that Patrick finished second. He had a great race and is a great dude. Read his race reportBig things to come! Recovery-wise, my legs feel fine but I can tell I’m endocrine-ly messed up. I’m moody and tired but can’t sleep very well. So it goes. Now it’s time to crew Guy for a top-10 at states this weekend! Cheers. 

Worth it

Wyoming. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Initial Bighorn 100 Thoughts

(I'm not going to have internet for the next five or six days, so I thought I'd write something now although I'm only 24 hours removed from finishing my first 100 miler, the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic 100 Mile Trail Run. Obviously, my body, mind, and thoughts are still scrambled eggs, so we're gonna go bullet points and save for the narrative and fancy writing later). 

  • I would not have finished without my crew and pacers. Number one. 
  • I was in shape to break 20 hours, yet almost nothing in my race went according to plan
  • The first 30 miles were 30 of my worst ever ran. First sidestitch came at mile 2. 
  • About 30 people went out extremely fast. I became quite overwhelmed (and overheated).
  • I was 45 mins behind schedule at mile 30. I walked most all of the 2000' decent into that aid station
  • I would have dropped at mile 30 if it wasn't for my crew. I gave myself a 5% chance of finishing there.
  • I would have walked in from mile 87 if it wasn't for Chrissy
  • I almost cried at mile 87
  • I usually eat gels and honey stingers. That only worked for 2.5 hrs. Switched to all solid food.
  • Ate waaaaaay less than planned
  • Ramen and broth are delicious, especially in the cold night
  • I'm so sick of PB&J
  • I ate more bacon in those 22 hours than I had in the past four years combined.
  • I ate shrimp at mile 95?
  • Making purposeful passes on uphill is a poor idea in open terrain
  • Bighorn National Forest is gorgeous with more wildflowers than I've ever seen
  • 100 miles is physically and moreso mentally stressful
  • I felt good for maybe 15 of the 100 miles
  • I felt okay, like I was able to keep going, for about 30 additional miles of the 100
  • I felt absolutely terrible for the remaining 55 miles
Alright, almost all of those bullet points are negative. The race, during, just was not very enjoyable! Still, some things were awesome:
  • Wildflowers, canyons, moose, scenery
  • Wyatt and I walking 15 miles together
  • Glove and I blaring tunes out of a portable speaker at mile 50
  • Chrissy and I turning headlamps off at 430 am and listening to the birds in the twilight 
  • Turning competitive around mile 60
  • My dad slapping me at mile 30
  • Patrick McGlade getting second place!
  • The fact that I ran through an entire night
  • All the people I knew who were cheering for me
  • Running relatively quickly the last five miles which take place on a dirt road
  • This: 
21:51, 7th place. Photo: Wyatt Lowdermilk


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Week Before Bighorn

‘Twas the week before Bighorn,
all through the national forest,
no people were stirring,
save for Rudy alone.

At the turnaround he slept,
some ten hours a day,
while the snow melted,
praying, yes, please go away.

The moose active,
indeed he saw one on the course.
A majestic, powerful creature--
inkling of the magic alive on the route.

They say,
“you live your whole life in one day!”
Eagerness, ease,
Despair, angst.
Happiness, love,
Depression and hate.
All of the feels.

Pain and pain,
and pain and pain.
Hunger and blisters,
cramps and soreness.
The heat and cold,
sun and wind.
He kids no one—
it will not be perfect.
The highs are higher,
the lows are lower.

Solutions?
Mental fortitude,
smiling through it all.

So seven days to go,
taper in full effect.
The miles are logged,
the cup is full,
the hay in the barn.

The muscles twitch,
repair and rebuild.

The high mileage life has taken its toll.

Stronger than ever,
I’m ready to roll.


(There’s my attempt at poetry. Whatever to pass the time, sitting alone in the middle of nowhere. I took a creative writing class once. The first thing the teacher said in the poetry unit was, “poems that rhyme aren’t real poems.” I walk the line, perhaps.

The Bighorn National Forest is beautiful. Meadows show the vast expanses, while the pines still make it feel woodsy. I’m pretty sure the wildlife outnumber the humans here. I managed to run ten miles of the course yesterday and saw innumerable tracks. Mostly moose I believe. The course is super, save for the snow still present in small but deep patches. Other spots are quite wet and bog-like. I am at the turn around though, about 9,000ft, which is the highest point on the course, so everything should be more dry and warmer below. We’re quite north, basically in Montana. I did hit some super singletrack yesterday before I came to a large creek that I didn’t feel like fording so I turned around.

The next seven days are easy and simple. I basically just wait around. I move camp sites Sunday to mile 12 where I’ll be able to see one of the climbs on the course. Tuesday I move to the start line where Wyatt and Glove will meet me. Chrissy, Lauren, and my dad come Thursday, rounding out an all-star crew. I’m not only excited to run 100 miles, I’m excited to feel like a team. We’re all going to make this happen together. Wyatt, Glove, and Chrissy are set to pace. The last five miles are on a dirt road going into town for logistical ease. Everyone is allowed to pace and mule there. I’m visioning us running five wide on that road, breaking 20 hours, and breaking tape. I’ve never run past mile 66 before, so perhaps I’m a fool to set lofty goals. Yet I am fit physically and mentally. Whatever happens, I’m going to wisely destroy myself and tap into magic. And have the best time.)

ps. You can download the app “It’s Your Race” on your phone to receive live updates from the major aid stations, miles ~12, 30, 48, 66, 84, 100. The race starts at 11am MST.

pps. It's now Tuesday--the race is on Friday. I haven't had internet access until now. 

Cheers!

Some lakes, CO. 

Horn Peak, Sangre de Cristos. Favorite pic I've ever taken.

Music pass

Bighorn course! Mile 50ish

Creative showers

Dry Fork AS, mi 12.5 & 85. 

Just a taste



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Promises at Promise Land 2014

I promise you some things in life are just worth it and special. Hurling up and down mountains with strangers and friends alike is worth the physical (and perhaps mental) beating. Spending countless hours running with teammates, staying up a little later than you should at a bonfire the night before a 5:30am start time, those moments are special. Only two races give me butterflies: Promise Land and Hellgate. Two very special races. They're equal parts community and brutality. The vibes are nothing but positive, and even at the front of the race where we can get quite competitive, we still smile. Promise Land this year, my third running, was nothing but special.

5:29am. Photo: Dylan Hesse

The King, David Horton, seeded me first for this years race. After a breakout Hellgate, and some very solid racing this early spring, it seemed like I'd finally solidified in this silly game of ultrarunning. Still, I was wary of the "curse of the 1 bib" and was certainly in a tizzy the week of the race. I developed a little hamstring issue whilst running a solo road marathon back home visiting my parents the prior weekend, so receiving the #1 bib only exacerbated the nerves and pain. Thankfully, and I mean thankfullyDoctor Jordan Chang, physical therapist extraordinaire, selflessly gave his time up the day after he PR'd at Boston Marathon and worked on my hammy for a good 45 mins. I attribute my race at PL this year to two people in addition to high-mileage strength: Jordy and Darren. Jordy really helped the hammy issue, and Darren, well we'll get to him in a minute.

Rolling into Promise Land Youth Camp, I saw more cars than normal. It seemed more people camped out this past year compared to the last two years. The pre-race monolouge, bonfire, and car camping are just a few of the many things that make PL special. Horton told me I earned the 1 seed, but I didn't think I should be seeded first. Not in the likes of Jake Reed, Jeremy Ramsey, and Sam Danc. And don't forget about Guy Love, Darren Thomas, Jordy Chang, Jordan Whitlock, Ryan Paavola, Matt Bugin, Mario Raymond, Joe Dudak, and some Baltimoreite Jordan was telling me about, Chris Beck who introduced himself to me by saying, "I know you from the internet." (I might as well list all of my running friends, because it's amazing what we can do). Chris managed to play an important role the following morning too.

Happy Hokies

My last team race with UltraVT. Talk abounded the night before that Jake Reed was going to gun it from the get go, build a big lead, and hang on. And he did. Literally bolted from the start line, everyone started laughing. Still, we were on a mission. Lightless in the pre-dawn darkness, we climbed the gravel road past aid station one. Steady, steady, time flew by and daylight came. Drifting in the ins and outs of the grassy road, talking to Sam about Hellgate and how "last time we were here I couldn't see anything the snow was coming down so hard." Sam went up ahead a bit, and Darren and I caught up with Jordan Chang. We rolled on the fire road off of the Blue Ridge Parkway into Sunset Fields where our crew was awaiting. It felt...I'm going to say it...epic! We were on a mission, but not too serious to not laugh and chat.

Favorite pic. Darren looking Jack in the Beanstock tall . Photo: Kristen Chang
So pumped from the flawless transition of bottle and gels from the crew, we started racing down the dark side. Bombing it, Sam, Jordy, Darren and I started hooping and hollering at the top of our lungs, thoroughly enjoying the life we're living. Soon enough Darren, Chris Beck and I were on the paved section, cracking up for some reason or another. Probably because Chris was having a hell of a time having never run "more than three minutes uphill before." Here's where Chris played such a great role in the day. He was wearing 110's, a minimalist shoe, and was getting made fun of for it at every chance we got. He took the joking well, and provided novelty into our day getting to know someone new. He couldn't stand Darren and I talking about JellO shots before 8am, and kept remarking how all he feels is pain and we're smiling. His seriousness complimented our attempts at lightheartedness perfectly. And then the inspiration came. Darren and I knew we were going to drop Chris because he was breathing SO. HARD. He was wheezing, and had been for like the past hour. He knows how to PUSH himself like crazy. Still, he kept sticking with us on every uphill and every downhill. He might get back five seconds, but then he'd catch up. He was running a phenomenal race and causing Darren and I to run tempo pace. We arrived as a pack, running in 2-4 into the aid station before the big, infamous, stair-stepped climb up Apple Orchard falls.

About to book the dark side. Photo: Kristen Chang


Bolting into the aid station, I asked how far up Jake was. Horton said nine minutes. NINE?! While I was chugging coke, animated Horton shouted, "it's long, but you have to WORK for it. PUSH IT! WORK TOGETHER! YOU HAVE TO PUSH IT!" and I was off. We had been in race mode for the past hour, pushing ourselves and each other, no longer talking. Special happenings. Prior to the climb Darren and I were saying, "visualize it. Crush the climb." Steady steps. Pre-quad cramp. Two S-Caps. No walking. Push, push. Stairs. Darren five steps behind. 

Gasping,
"Talk to me Goose!"
Darren, "what?"
"Talk to me Goose!"
Darren, "what?"
"Talk to me Goose!"
"WHAT?!"
"Have...you...never...seen...Top...Gun?"
"No."

My dreams were disappearing. I led the climb, and I was faltering. I needed Darren to help me out, to tell me anything, hoping he'd say "no hiking." Switchback. Darren 10 steps back. "Come on Darren!" Friend Mike Jones running the opposite way down the falls and a quick high-five. "How far up is he?" "Point three miles." We're gaining. Darren's no longer there, damnit. The final pitch. I see the cars. I open onto the paved path. Crew shouts, I look at my watch. "Holy $&*!" I said too loudly. I ran the falls in 37:08 from the aid station. 

It was this intense. I was living 1:40.



Clark Zealand, race director of the Beast Series, with an intense and excited look stares at me, gives me a fist pound, and says "Oh baby, you've got a race on your hands! 2:30--go get him!!" Made up six and a half minutes on the climb. He must be faltering. 

I push. I let go on the downhill. It all hurts. I hit the gravel road, the last decent. No sight of Jake. I say "ouch" to nobody. I see him. He's far away. But I'm gaining. Another mile? He's at least :30 ahead of me. I'd have to run a 4:30 mile. Having never ran faster than a 5:02 mile, it wasn't in the quads for me to run any faster, but I certainly tried. I saw the clock, almost 4:40. I didn't catch Jake. I was cool with that. I snuck in under 4:40 and that was incomprehensible. I thought I was going to run 4:55. It was Jordy, Sam, Darren, Chris, and a little bit of Jake at the end. 

I'm so happy. You think I'd be unfuffiled that I didn't take get the W, and maybe I'd even be frustrated with three second place finishes in my last three Beast races. But nah, definitely not. I ran really fast, as hard as I could. That's all I could do. The first thing I did was give props to Jake because he earned that win. Off the front by himself for literally all day? Pretttty nuts if you ask me.  I distinctly made it a point, especially after Brett's thankful Umstead 100, to be thankful and happy this race. Last year I didn't run very happy, and there's no point in that. This year, I wanted everybody to run well and smiled all day long. If there's one thing I've learned this year it's that races are community time, and running should be a thankful, joyous act. 

Darren finished third and we did our shoulder-bump like we have the past three races we've ran. 

Darren and I, chestbumping at the finish of PL. Photo: Google dude.

Chris hung on to finish fourth with a would-be most years winning time still. Glove managed top-ten after puking a ton. Jordy finished 15th, just days after running a sub 2:50 marathon. We laid in the sun, we creek-bathed, we talked to old friends, talked to new friends. My last race on the east coast for a while, my last race as a Tech student, my last race with all of my friends. I promise you, trying not to cry, it was, yes, special.

Much love. Photo: K Chang

Last team race for the seniors!





Friday, April 18, 2014

Synchroblog: Why Do We Run?

Here we go again! Round two of the UltraVT synchroblog, this time formulated by Brett Sherfy. If you don't know, I'm a huge fan of running as well as the act of running. I love these posts where us running nerds get to analyse what we do.

What role does running play in your life?

Huge. I'm trying to think of something that tops running in my life, but I can't. Surely I'm obsessive about running and think about it most all day every day, but I've learned to care about other things (couldn't've said that a year ago). I'm appreciating time with friends and family more, really (trying) to focus on what we're doing. Running helps with presence in all aspects of life. They say life's priorities should be something like God, family, friends, work, hobbies. For me, running encompasses all of those and therefore pervades my life. Identity is the main aspect of life--how do you identify yourself? Of course for me, I'm a runner.


When did you start running and why?

Running, rather sprinting, was always a part of lacrosse, which I played from 6th through 11th grade. I loved it because I could breathe, literally. I was mainly a swimmer throughout my life, and after spending years of my life under water, I cherished the ability to breathe whenever I wanted. With school sports running is typically a punishment, so that wasn't cool and I didn't enjoy the running we did because I suffered with shin splints basically every season after getting out of the pool. I suppose I actually started running after my senior year in high school. I was on a nature kick from backpacking, and being fit helps enjoy nature. I'd seen a triathlon flyer when I visited Tech and decided that was what I was gonna do. I started running to and from my lifeguarding job perhaps once a week and enjoyed the challenge of something new.


If you could only run one last run, where and with whom would it be and why?

I'd run as fast as I could for as long as I could, somewhere new, with all of my friends. Everyone would get dropped. It'd be a proper man run, but an ultra version.


Which is better, trail running or road running? Why?

Road running, what? I haven't ran on the road since 1988! Just kidding. I almost despise those folks to say that. I can be super biased, but biased runners irk me who rip on any kind of road. Trail running is better, ONLY for the sake of getting to see cooler places. I'm not a road running hater because I like RUNNING. I don't particularly love hiking when I could be running. Slogging is stupid in my opinion. The movement of running, particularly running fast, is enthralling. Your body doesn't break down as much on trails, and there's that connection with nature. That's the main part of trail running, you get to be in nature, and that is every-so healing. The BAD thing about trail running is that it's slower. The terrain usually doesn't allow full blown open-up running. It's easy to get stuck in shuffle pace on a trail. I'm over that (two years of only that BS) and enjoy heart-bursting spit-flying sweat-dripping I'm-going-to-die screw-this I-want-to-quit type running. It's easy to do that kind of running on roads.


Groups or solo? Pick a side (for both) and defend it, or rather, advocate for it!

Ah tough. I'm an introvert who can be an extrovert. I enjoy running with folks, but I can typically push myself harder when running solo (besides race situations). Theme of this post and my life: push yourself. I guided kids two summers on hiking trips and ended up decided that job wasn't for me because kids don't like pushing themselves. Life is pointless if you're not striving. There's only one way to coast--downhill. Get better. That's my intense side. I digress. Running with groups passes the time more quickly, a plus. The more the merrier with groups as conversation is ample and changes. I'll pick groups for this question, but groups who are near or above my speed. Not a fan of waiting for folks truthfully.

....I graduate in a month. Bottoms up. Good vibes.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Excitement & Why Ultrarunning is Amazing

Many words come to mind when I think of ultrarunning. Many are opposites. Fast, slow. Hard, easy. Selfishness, selflessness. Some are adventurous, some are intense. All in all though, I think ultrarunning simply comes down to inspiration. The sport is so cool because inspiration, at least in the four year's I've been ultrarunning, has never been hard to find. The beauty of where we run, the opportunities and possibilities the future holds, that the present holds, numbers...seeing people achieve their goals...you can see how inspiration isn't difficult to find. 

You see, I'm excited because I'm currently amped on all of the above. The mountains are forever beautiful. UltraVT is doing amazing things right now, every day, collectively and individually. This summer brings long runs and big mountains and full days of running and exploring. I'm hitting 100+ mile weeks. I'm running fast. Brett Sherfy DESTROYED UMSTEAD 100. Things are clicking in the running world for UltraVT, and we're thankful. Thankful for only a few injuries on the team, for the support system we have, for our non-running friends still being friends even though we never see them anymore, for living in the crazy luxurious location of Blacksburg. 

I felt compelled to write this post because, well I have two tests and a quiz tomorrow (senioritis), but because I learned a valuable lesson this past weekend while crewing Brett at Umstead. A lesson in thankfulness. He executed the race literally perfectly. He exceeded his expectations and ours. Glove, Jordy, and I were thinking he'd run around 21 hours and that he definitely could sneak in under 20. Brett ran 18:47. Brett never complained. In fact, instead of complaining, he shifted all thoughts to his support system. I was thanked by him and his fiance probably over 30 times in my 24 hour stint at Umstead. Read his race report. None of his favorite moments had anything to do with him. Selfless! 

Caught up in the front of races, I try to say thanks to aid station volunteers and crew, but honestly I'm very inwardly focused. Inward focus is indeed required to race, yet Brett showed that you can smack down a really fantastic run without being me-me-me. So yo Brett, thanks for the lesson. 

ps. Brett is a teacher. Very fitting. I'm excited to follow his and Michelle's lives post-graduation. 

In it. Mile 70ish

30 mile day for the Doc

The buckle!

Obligatory camping pic


The finish line kiss!