I have been meaning to write up a summary of 2011 for some time now, but there always seemed to be something more urgent than blogging. Now that I am stuck at home, sick, without e-mail access or any desire to work, the time has finally come.
To really put things in perspective though, I need to start a little further back, in the summer of 2010, when I began a long streak of racing and completely changed the way I train (or did I just start training?) and think about running.
Highlands Sky 40M (June 19, 2010, 8h18, 32th OA)
This is one the best ultrarunning events I have seen (beautiful and very diverse course, super friendly and competent aid station volunteers, excellent organization orchestrated with deceptive ease by race director Dan Lehmann), but I had one of my roughest days of running ever. My training leading up to it was quite good, with a few memorable long runs at Coopers Rock, chasing Steve DiFazio on his mountainbike. But some stress at work right before the race, possibly combined with being rusty after not having raced an ultra for a good five years, resulted in not having my head in the right place on race day. So I missed a turn driving up to the race headquarters, nearly missing the busses to the start line, and then took the advice of fellow Morgantown runner (and eventual good training partner and friend) Phil Turk a bit too seriously by starting way too fast. But the real disaster started when I was running on the infamous stretch of trail covered by stinging nettle and took a tumble on a log that I didn’t see, severely smashing my right quadriceps. I knew my racing was over right then, but I really didn’t want to quit less than five miles into the race, or at any time. So the rest of this long day was all about managing the pain and trying to somehow motivate myself to finish, after all other goals had slipped away. Eventually, I somehow got off course, which is really ironic because Dan Lehmann takes course marking very, very seriously and does it extremely well, and I capitulated mentally, death-marching the remaining ~10 miles. Overall, a very disappointing and tough experience, but for reasons I can’t quite formulate, I am glad I didn’t take a DNF that day. The only amusing thing was my interaction with what I later realized was quite a stacked field by East Coast US standards. I specifically remember sitting in a chair next to Sean Andrish at the halfway-point aid station and commiserating with him (he had also fallen off the fast pace at the front), without having a clue who he was.
Starting way too fast (I am the left orange guy, sporting my favorite 2003
Waldo 100K finisher’s shirt). Photo by Joel Wolpert.
Waldo 100K finisher’s shirt). Photo by Joel Wolpert.
Finishing in a rather pathetic state of body and mind.
Not quite sure how I managed that smile. Photo by Dan Lehmann.
Morgantown Stumble and Tumble (S&T) Group (July 2010)
Once I had stopped limping after the Highlands Sky debacle, I decided to join JL Brown, Jim Fisher, and Jason Balko for one of their crazy Wednesday night runs at Coopers Rock, and I quickly became an S&T regular. More than six years after I had left Corvallis, OR, I had forgotten how much fun it can be to run with other people, and I learned a lot from these guys. Most importantly, their ambitious running schedules inspired me to finally try some proper high-volume training, with my weekly mileage quickly increasing from 20-30 to 60+. And their company (plus that of Dave Hopkinson, who joined later) made running as enjoyable as it’s ever been.
Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness (CMMM) 50M (August 27, 2010, 7h57, 3rd OA)
What a difference two months of focused training can make! Although I had come down with a sinus infection the week before the race and was still congested and taking antibiotics, I ran fairly well, especially the road sections. I think I even managed to give eventual winner Jeremy Ramsey a bit of a scare early on, but that only lasted until we hit the more technical terrain. This guy can run trails! With better race tactics, I think I could have placed second, but this did not upset me much at all. I was pleased with the way I ran and with the improvement in my fitness and confidence. Another perfectly organized WVMTR race, this time put together by Adam Casseday.
Waiting for the start of the race in characteristically diverse company.
West Virginia Trilogy 50K/50M/13.1M (October 8-10, 2010, 4h50, 1st OA/9h03, 2nd OA/1h45, 3rd OA; Cumulative 15h39, 1st OA)
Winning a race obviously feels good, but I don’ t think this was the only reason I enjoyed the Trilogy so much. This race is just special, and I would recommend it to anyone who has a chance to run it.
This is how it went for three days. Spectacular scenery, brutal climbs,
and John Logar right behind me. Photo by Joel Wolpert.
And here is Joel himself (middle), by far one of the most talented runners
I have met and raced. Photo by Dan Lehmann.
Mason-Dixon Madness 50K (December 11, 2010, 3h35, 2nd OA)
After a bit of a break to heal a hawthorn puncture of my right Achilles, I was back to racing. Running 50K on flat pavement/crushed limestone would have not been my first choice, but I had long given up on Hellgate and I wanted to support the efforts of race co-directors Phil Turk and Dannielle Ripper to put together a local ultra. This turned out to be another race that I ran while being sick. But this time I did not go to get antibiotics until after the race. My plan was pretty simple - to run this as hard as I could, from start to end. I did not bother adjusting my target splits even after realizing that more than half of the race was going to be run on snow. In the end, the logical thing happened. I blew up badly and got caught and passed by Dave Frazier with only about two miles to go. I was happy with the way I gave it all I had, without being afraid of crashing and burning, which I knew was likely to happen. But I knew I had some work to do on my pacing. Most importantly, the race was a big success – I hope they manage to keep it up after missing a year.
Still feeling strong and running fast at the halfway point.
But I saw the writing on the wall soon after. Photo by Phil Turk.
Bitter-sweet finish with my son Velko. Photo by Dannielle Ripper.