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!



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Terrapin 2014

Man I love it when the team gets together, especially at races. The night before races forces us to not just run together, so what happens? Stuff like crowding around learning star constellations and whipping out some camp games...

Video by Brett

Most everyone on the team slept under the stars right next to the start line and the pre-545am wakeup call came quickly. After a quick warmup and the gong-start, we were off up the first climb. I thought the ultraVT gang were all going to run as a group, but that didn't happen at all. That's another fun thing about races--they never go as planned and you adapt. Jordy Chang went off the front quickly and ended up having a very solid race (he's been due!), and I found myself running solo for a split second which was nice. I settled in quickly, not losing contact with everyone up front. Starting down the first decent Darren was 200 meters ahead of me; down the switchback I yelled "Darren slow down!" which he thankfully did a bit so I was able to catch up to him. I just wanted to run together. Work with, not against! We then ran the first 20 or so miles together in Mt. Cheaha fashion, except he was definitely setting the pace this time. Darren is a crazy good climber, so we worked together and really 95% of the big climbs. With most of the climbing over I started feeling ok and opened it up on the decent. The Hokies took 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th, along with great performances by everyone else who wasn't in top shape mainly due to injuries. Results can be found here.

Having fun with Darren round mi 15. Photos Kristen Chang



3rd, 7th, 2nd, 5th! 


I only rested Thursday and Friday for Terrapin, so my legs really didn't have much of that magic pop. That being said, I'm definitely happy with how the race unfolded. I'm fit in March and was able to fuel well enough to have a good race. High mileage really does work. It's a fine line between injury/burnout and being super fit, but if you can manage it (safely!) it works wonders. I'm solidified fan after this weekend.

After the race we laid our sleeping pads out next to the finish line to cheer in the rest of the finishers, always so happy seeing folks smiling across the finish line. Post-race and burrito, seven of us from the "adventure club" of UltraVT hiked up to an AT shelter where we happily accepted the two-beer buzz and snacked heavily before we ensconced together for a great sleep. A comical hike down in the morning with trashed quads preceded a rough recovery run to hit triple digits for the week which is a great mental boost. Time to take a liberal recovery week! Cheers.
Coming down in the AM. Photo: Dylan Hesse


Freshman ladies, pure happiness. One of all time fav pics. 


<3


Friday, March 21, 2014

Synchroblog: ultraVT!

Blogging, like ultrarunning, is inherently selfish. But blogging, like ultrarunning, can be a form of appreciation, friendship, and community. In true senioritis fashion I was brainstorming non-traditional-academic ideas, and I remembered reading a synchroblog once upon a time. What a sweet idea! A group of folks all respond to a topic or set of questions. Each person answers independently and gets to share their own views/ideas about the topic or questions. I quickly became stoked on the idea and posed a list of questions for the athletes on our team to answer. A little introduction before we get into more of the topic/controversy synchroblogging:

Promise Land with the team! April, 2013


How do you describe to a stranger ultraVT?
UltraVT is a special group of friends associated with Virginia Tech who simply love to run. We love to run on trails and mountains mostly, but we also love running just for the sake of running. Anything from 5k to 100miles, we're out there doing it, and we're doing it together. We train together, crew for each other, share advice, travel, and just hang out together. We're like-minded folks who like pushing our limits mentally and physically, and we like goofing around while we do it. Frequently we smell and are covered in a sweat-dirt combo (mmmmm). 

When did you get involved with ultraVT?
UltraVT started as a shoot-off from the VT Triathlon team. The older folks on the tri team my freshman year convinced (made) my roomates and I do an ultra. Soon enough  Guy Love (Glove), whom you've heard about many a time on my blog, and I met on campus one day when we walked into each other wearing the same Holiday Lake 50k t-shirt. We started to run together and eventually learned of a couple other Hokies who run ultras. By the end of my Sophomore year we realized we had enough people to make a club to have a little more of a formal support system. So Guy and I named ourselves co-presidents and formally created the "Trail & Ultrarunning Club at Virginia Tech" in 2012. The team has changed much since the early days, but it's still a team of a bunch of friends who like pushing themselves. 

How do you see yourself within ultraVT?
I find myself in an interesting role within our team. Glove enjoys taking care of the formal stuff about the club, the paperwork etc, so I worked on recruitment the first year of the team. Now as a senior I elected to take a step back and mainly just lead by example. I try to set a tone of discipline/determination with big miles and smart training while trying to race competitively. I'm very passionate about challenging ourselves, probably to the point of being too serious about most things in life, but I try to lead by example so we can achieve the most out of what we're given on earth. I like coming up with "really good bad ideas" and have a knack for convincing other people to join me. 

What's your favorite aspect of ultraVT?
Easy! The people. We have our own personal shaman or physical therapist, probably one of the best in the nation (I kid you not) in Jordan Chang. His wife Kristen is also a team dietitian of sorts, setting examples of how to eat well and be healthy. Both alumni of VT still in Blacksburg, they're such great examples not only of athletes but of well rounded people. I want to be the Changs when I grow up. Other than the Changs, I pull inspiration literally from every other person on the team. Mainly, everyone loves to explore and travel. Those are two characteristics I've developed from my time at Tech and ultraVT is a strong part of that lifestyle. 



What's your favorite trail run in the Blacksburg vicinity?
I'm going to go with a classic here, simply running up Old Farm in our nearby trail system, Pandapas. I've run that 1.6 mile, 1600' trail probably over 300 times in my life. It's by far the trail I've run most. It's a steady climb that's difficult yet still very doable. Getting to the top of Brush mountain and looking over to see Blacksburg all lit up at night is one of my favorite things. Before every semester I run solo up Old Farm and pause for an extended period of time to simply be at the top of Brushy and gaze upon the town. 

Any secrets you'd like to share?
I can't justify putting once-worn clothes into the dirty laundry bag. Unless they were worn to a party, of course. 

Favorite post-race meal?
As a college student I'm lazy post-race. Typically Chipotle tastes pretty good. I think if I had my mom always though, I'd go with her fish tacos followed by a hefty bowl of ice cream. 

Make up a question & answer it yourself.
Why do you run so much?
The blur of running two times a day most days, followed by long runs on the weekends, is such a crazy experience. It turns into a mental and physical blur. It's an incredible drug. 


There you have it. The ultraVT introductory synchroblog from yours truly! Hopefully there will be more to follow. Off to Terrapin 50k now. It'll be an interesting one; my past two weeks were 95 miles and this week should end up over 100, so I'm tired but still stoked. Last time I ran it was 2012 and surprised myself at how well I ran, not getting chicked. I was looking at pictures from that year and thought about how I didn't know a thing about racing or being competitive. All that mattered was finishing and the smiles were endless. Ultras were runs, not races. There wasn't any "oh I hope I'm going to beat this or that person." I hate that about competition. I love competing because it draws the best out of you, but I don't like spoken or unspoken animosity. Nobody likes that. Anywho, Terrapin in 2012 really sealed the deal on my addiction. Onward!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February and doses.

I'm four days early, but I don't want to study for my two tests tomorrow. February is over, thank God. The teases of spring make me pine for the sun against my skin. It'll be here soon enough. March sounds much better than February.

I'm proud to say my team, UltraVT, has been expanding and destroying everything--the local trails, the pavement, the track, and the early season races. We had a huge group at Holiday Lake 50k, just like the Hokie generation before me massed in Appomattox, VA. Alumni included, we took first, third, sixth, seventh, 11th, and 12th. In poor conditions, we toughed it out. This past Saturday Mike Jones took eighth at Mt. Mitchell 40mi. Darren and I took the first two spots on the podium at Mt. Cheaha 50k where we received some vitamin D running shirtless in Alabama. Henry Wakely took 13th. The girls are doing their thing too. We've had our first doses of long running for 2014 and we want more.

The places are almost top-notch, but they don't matter. Yeah, it's fun being up front where there's nobody at the finish line clapping for you besides a couple volunteers, but my thinking is changing from placing to pushing. Place goals are good to push yourself, sure. But I see so much talent in our team and in our bodies. I'm not talking world takeover (that'll follow); I'm talking refining our bodies to a level they've never been. I'm talking fast running, slow recovery running, team running. Pushing ourselves for wanting to be the best we can be and working together to achieve, because we don't have this chance to train together again. 

The initial taste of soreness after the first 50k of the year. Dose.
The initial mood swings of getting in shape. Dose.
The initial blur of bigger miles. Dose.
I want more.

You see, doctor, I have this foundation I've built
I'm still on the first floor, 
But I'm building a skyscraper.
Can you prescribe me something?
I want more. 
High mileage.

More of this.

More of this.

More of this.



Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Horizon

I'm stoked. I'm looking towards the horizon. January is over, a good month in itself, but let's be real, I hate winter. February promises a few random warm days and more of the cold. I'll take it. February also promises me to switch mindsets in terms of training. After Hellgate in December and January I thoroughly enjoyed hopping in on whatever physical activities my friends were doing; no structured training. In the past, I've taken two weeks COMPLETELY off of physical activity whenever my race season is over. When those two weeks are up and I decide to get back to training, I feel fat and sluggish and not happy with myself. So I decided to change it up this year and to keep active. I made sure the intensity was low (minus some really great workouts for fun). The result? I feel recovered mentally and phsyically AND fit.

I've never felt both fit and recovered before a training block--hence why I'm stoked. The goal for the first half of 2014 is Bighorn 100. It's foolish for me to try and race my first hundo, but I believe that I can put in a good performance once June 20th comes. My butt would get kicked right now, but I have an ambitious schedule planned to get up to 120 mile weeks and believe in myself that I can execute if its meant to pan out.

What does getting into my training mindset mean? It means every workout has a purpose. In the past I've just run a lot; not this time. Recovery runs are deliberately SLOW and I will be off the back if it's a group run and its too fast. Workouts will be hard. Trying to minimize the moderate stuff in there besides a few overdistance runs. It also means lifestyle changes. I'm excited to check facebook only once a day. I instilled this plan during this past summer, just checking facebook at night. I'm a social media addict and don't like it--so less facebook! No over-drinking save for a few special occasions. No mindless snacking on junk food or take out pizza. More vegetables and fruits. More water. More popcorn and greek yogurt. Same large amounts of Franks Red Hot (dude, sponsor me please, you have no idea how much I eat of that stuff).

I don't think I've ever woken up on a Saturday morning, had a really great long run, and thought, "well that was OK but I wish I was hungover and mad that that didn't work out with that girl." I'm over college in the conventional social and academic sense. No more aimless messing around! I'm 22 and feel like an adult. I have better things to do, like work on the Virginia Big Tree Program, run well, be healthy, learn applicable things for my future job out in California, and savor the time I have with my good friends. I like being spontaneous and fun but I'm also a focused and determined person. I'm just excited for the horizon.
The Horizon. Photo: Wyatt Lowdermilk



Friday, January 24, 2014

Keeping the Dream Alive

I hope I don't ever eat my own words. I hope I never become complacent with my life, although I do believe that a certain level of contentedness is necessary or else you'll never be satisfied and live an empty life. Humans need to feel pride and confidence just as much as they need a fiery hate and longing for improvement. I hope I don't ever eat my own words.

I had a buddy of mine, an incredible athlete himself, competing in NCAA swimming at Ohio State, tell me that I'm actually doing cool things. He said most people just talk about doing things, going places, getting out of Cincinnati, but I actually did it. My instant response was that he can "get out" too, and anybody can if they actually want it. Not to say Cincinnati is bad--it's a great place to grow up--I just think exploration should also be a part of life and geography plays into that for me.

So how do you "get out?" How do you do "cool" things? Alastair Humphreys, adventure writer, just posted a blog titled What's Preventing You From Having an Adventure? He concludes that excuses are what hold people back. He's a huge proponent for microadventures locally. Example: the weather feels like -9 outside right now. That's really cold. I could stay in bed all day long. A pretty valid excuse, -9 degrees can be legitimately dangerous. But fellow go-getter Wyatt Lowdermilk and I are going to run up Butt Mountain this afternoon. It's going to be cold, but hey, just put on more clothes. That's an adventure in itself.

Wyatt crushing downhill in Boulder, CO


The hardest part of many things in life is getting started. Procrastinating job applications, working out, talking to someone you like, whatever. But once you start, the proverbial snowball keeps rolling. I think it's exactly the same with adventuring. Fake passion until it becomes real. Get outside in -9 degree weather. It'll be miserable I promise, but two days later you'll think about it again and want to go back out. Take the job offer in the unknown. Talk to someone new. Get out of your comfort zone. Fake passion until it becomes real.

Inspiration isn't hard to find. Youtube can take care of that. My friends take care of that for me. Wyatt, Glove, the Changs, Henry Wakley they are DOers. They're structured but whimsical. They're smart but are relaxed. Another buddy of mine, Tom Saxton, isn't made for the classroom. He spends his summers working temporary jobs in national parks and then travels. He went on his own roadtrip with his girlfriend this winter break along southern Texas, NM, and AZ, with a little CO in there. Tom's a short, strong, quiet man with a bushy beard. He's not too happy in a classroom. Speak to him of a mountain and his eyes light up, "Dude. Yes." He took a week off of school, literally in the middle of last semester, to go hang out in Florida on the beach for a week. Now how he pulled that one off I dunno, but he works hard cutting down trees for forestry research during the week, then he takes adventures. He's everywhere but incredibly present when you talk to him. He doesn't have a smart phone. Tom's a DOer, a go-getter, never complacent, always forward and positive looking.

Tom, somewhere, probably in New Zealand


Inspirational people are all over the place. You can be one yourself. Heck, you are one already. Go do.


Inspiring people.

PS. Kristen Chang has an awesome blog about sports AND nutrition (with some dope recipies). She and I did a fun interview that she just posted here!