The Barkley Crew finishing the Mountain Masochist
...This will be a rather short update....
The end of the year is quickly approaching and the ultra season is winding down. I may (or may not) still have an event or two on the schedule, but for all intents and purposes things are slowing down. The hex screws have made their way back into my old running shoes, the cold weather is here, and I am bracing myself for another long and cold winter. Needless to say I have seriously considered picking up a used treadmill for this winter as last year was really tough on me. If Craigslist has shown me anything, it's that college kids sell stuff extremely cheap...including treadmills.
I've been on a bit of a roller coaster since my last update here. I have had two incredibly fun ultra events that I was able to take part in, but on the academic side of the world, things have been a little more frustrating. It is looking with a high level of certainty that I will be postponing my graduation now until May to give myself a little more time to find a suitable post-doc or job. Official word on proposals have not come down yet either, so both my advisor and I agree that postponing is probably the best option. It is EXTREMELY upsetting to not be able to turn in my finished dissertation yet, but at least a May graduation would mean my family could come. Thankfully, my advisor does have enough funding to keep me on for 6 more months....something of which I'm enormously grateful. Looks like I'll have to wait a few more months before I can officially call myself Doctor.
A few weeks ago I had the incredible pleasure of running my first Mountain Masochist Trail Run. What made the event particularly exciting was that I was invited to run the event alongside 3 Barkley alums: Andrew Thompson, Jonathan Basham, and Travis Wildeboer. This event is a yearly tradition for these guys and they've been running it for 17 years. The MMTR is a David Horton event, so I actually had the great pleasure of sharing stories and coffee with 4 other Barkley finishers over the weekend. Talk about a humbling group to be included in!
The best part about this particular race, is that these guys run it completely for fun and put aside their competitive natures. In other words, they go out there and goof off around the course for nearly 12 hours, despite the very real possibility of crushing the course in easily under 9 hours for all three of them. This sounded perfect for me as I was more interested in having a fun day, rather than a hard race. The course, despite being mostly forest roads, still boasts and impressive 10,000 feet of gain. It's definitely not an "easy" course.
The plan was simple: go out at an easy jog pace, and trot along just under the the time cut-off for the entire day. We were purposely aiming for a 11:30-11:45 finish. This plan played out perfectly. We jogged easy and never stopped talking and laughing the entire day. It was honestly the most fun I've ever had during an ultra. We made our way around the 50 mile course and miles just flew by. I can't remember the last time a race seemed to move along so quickly. The bad weather held off (although we did get a little sleet), and the trip out on the "loop" and up to the high point peak was simply wonderful. We stopped for a few pictures on top of the foggy peak before continuing on to the finish. We hit the 42-mile aid station and were told we were 19 minutes ahead of the cutoff. Perfect. We continued at our pace and eased down the final few miles on the road towards the finish. We crossed the line to a smiling David Horton in 11:39 to finish off what was a simply perfect day. His exact words to us were, "It's about time you guys showed up!"
Just after finishing for the day!
The Barkley contingent in full force the day after with sore legs!
This past weekend I got talked into yet another ultra event. Despite my daily runs picking up again, I knew I'd be less-than-rested after the Masochist to even attempt any serious go at an ultra. Still, I couldn't resist the temptation to go out for loops with one of my favorite running groups out there: The NJ Trail Runners. Last year I participated in what was my first 24-hour event at the inaugural NJ One Day in November. I managed to complete a respectable 114 miles (3rd place) and hit the 100-mile mark under 20 hours (which was my primary goal). After getting talked into running again this year, I went with an entirely different attitude. 2014 has been all about having fun, and so I didn't stress about quantity, and instead focused on quality.
I took it easy all day running the 1-mile loops around the Augusta Fairgrounds (the same course at 3-Days at the Fair). I never really checked my pace, but just ran what felt fun. My legs were definitely still un-recovered from Masochist, but I had a blast catching up with many of my NJ running friends. Around me, some very incredible performances were unfolding....particularly with the women. Maggie Gutterl and Sky Canaves both were shooting for 135+ miles. It was simply incredible watching them both rack up the loops and in the end both achieving over 135 miles (Maggie with 142!!!!!). Both qualified for the Women's national team. On the men's side, Aaron Mulder won the event also passing 135 miles and qualifying for the Men's national team.
As for me, I was quite content to put out 108 fun miles, only 6 short of last year, and on much more tired and less trained legs. One thing I can say for sure, you will never be disappointed at a NJ Trail Series event. Even if it is running 1-mile loops around a paved course.
Maggie still smiling after her 142-mile record breaker
Smiling, laughing, and having fun early on in the loops.
Beautiful day for some miles for sure.
In other news, a very large group paper that I've been working on with my ice-core science collaborators has been officially published in the Journal of Glaciology. May long hours and field seasons went into this large study. You can browse through it if you'd like to see what my life is like outside the running, hiking, and various outdoor adventures...
Lastly, today is in fact that one day of the year that I get to feel selfish...although at 38, I am definitely starting to not feel as young as I used to. It's hard to believe in just 2 years I'll be a "Masters" runner.
To celebrate, I'm going to see Damien Rice live in concert tomorrow night up here in Montreal (where I've been partially living for the past week now). I've been waiting to see him perform for upwards of 10 years now. Should be fantastic.
happy trails and fun running everyone,