And so the story goes. This month every year is where I take a moment to reflect on my running career. It was after all the month of September in 2004 where I took my first steps towards internal freedom. I think back to when I decided that "I am going to be an ultra-marathon runner." I stepped out my front door that next day and couldn't run a mile without walking. Being as stubborn as I am, I placed one foot in front of the other... Left, Right, Repeat.. and started a journey with seemingly no end. Running has changed my life. Running has become my life. It defines me and it continues to help me evolve. I love what I do. I love the community I am a part of and I look forward to many more great times personally and with all those around me. Thank you friends!
From one mile to 100... to hopefully 124. And along the way I've had many adventures. From the mountains of Wyoming, to the rocky slopes of Virginia. From the Farms of Down-east Maine to the clay covered hills of Western Pennsylvania. From the historic Civil War paths of Maryland to the cobblestone streets of Downtown Disney. From The Green Mountains of Vermont to the sea-side of Rhode Island. From chilly trails in Ipswich Massachusetts to the daunting hills of New Hampshire. From the Northville-Placid trail of New York to the muddy slopes of McNaughton Park Illinois. Muddy slopes? You don't say. This has become a common theme for me... I've said it before and I'll say it again. I AM AN EXPERT MUD TECHNICIAN. Lets take a look.
I have run a total of 18 official Ultra-Marathons since my first in 2005. Of those 18 races, I have dodged rain drops or handled mud in all but 7. That means it has rained or its been terribly muddy in 61% of the ultra's I've ran. But lets take a closer look at this year. 5 Ultras and 5 ultras with rain and/or mud.
6.24.06: Rachel Carson Trails Challenge 35 Miles, Pittsburgh, PA
Steep and relentless hills in Western Pennsylvania just North of Pittsburgh. 2-3" of rain fell the day before the race leaving these clay covered hills with the likeness of an ice skating rink. I slid down every downhill and had a hell of a time on every up hill. This course was a quad buster to begin with, but the constant shifting of the earth under me as well as high humidity and inexperience caused severe cramping in my calves. I held on for deer life in my only top 10 finish.
7.22.06: Wakely Dam 50K - Piseco, NY
Four inches of rain in the last 4 hours of this race. As if no aid stations make it tough enough, thunder and lightning was what the higher power ordered. So soaked it was beyond ridiculous. At least I had some fun when I finally made it to the finish line with a PR on this course by almost a whole hour!
9.24.06: Vermont 50 Mile - Brownsville, VT
Warm and humid at race start with an eerie feel in the air. 33 miles in, a torrential thunderstorm unleashes hell on the course. The trails turn into slick mud as the runners catch up to and pass an unusual amount of mountain bikers who had to resort to carrying their bikes due to failure to ride in the slick mud. Amazing what a passing shower will do. Those who hung around to feel the chilly winds watched the course dry.. but not after the damage had been done.
4.14.07: McNaughton Park 100 Miler - Pekin, IL
and 4.11.08: McNaughton Park 150 Miler - Pekin, IL
The conditions the last two years at McNaughton Park have resulted in my greatest battles of mental and physical conditioning against mother earth. I've never seen this course in "good shape" and at this point I could give a crud. This last year was the worst. As the race went on the rain continued to fall even mixing with snow. Mud was all over the place as I slid all over the course even making a "mud angle" on one of the steeper downhills. Throw in the 2 creek crossings on each loop and you had me waving the white flag after 100 miles in my first 150 mile start. Words cannot describe the hell I went through at McNaughton Park. 2 years with ankle to shin deep mud the consistency of peanut butter. Experience is gained HERE.
5.17.08: Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 - Front Royal, VA
From being down and out after a cold front blows over Short Mountain while my pacer Paul Kearney and I negotiate horrendous rocks to a resurrection and a finish in the middle of a downpour. I survived my first Massanutten Mountain 100 during a year where the course was its wettest in history only to be made worse by 30mph winds and a driving rain on the courses most technical and tiring section in the middle of the night. After shaking the cob-webs out at Edinburgh Gap, I rose to my feet and walked it in to an amazing finish saying to Paul, "What would make it perfect is if it poured on my way into the finish." Ask and ye shall receive as the rain gods delivered!
7.19.08: Vermont 100 - Woodstock, VT
The night before the race, a brief downpour hits the Start/Finish area as a severe storm rumbles along in the distance. During the early miles of the race we realized how lucky we were to get away with just a downpour. A downburst wreaked havoc on the course in Taftsville laying tree after tree down across the roads we were to run down. Volunteers do their best to clear the way. And then... as I approach mile 55, another storm rolls in which kept local officials on their toes with a threat to close down the event as winds nearly topple the tent at the Start/Finish area. Rain and hail pound the course and we see every bit of it as the VT100 sees one of its lowest finishing rates in history. Me? Sub 24!
So as you can see there is some great history (I think) of rain and mud during these last few years and why stop what has become tradition now. As the Vermont 50 comes a little closer, I'll watch the weather a bit closer and hope to give you guys a quality pre-race look on Friday. Right now.. it looks like this:
"The Northeast has been put on alert for potential tropical trouble this weekend. The low churning over the Dominican Republic has the potential to trek northward, then curve into the Northeast early Saturday as a powerful hurricane."
Until Friday... I must continue training for whatever comes my way. But one thing is for sure... as is with every other race thus far: LEFT - RIGHT - REPEAT