Monday, July 26, 2010

100 Ultras

Bill Gentry (above) finished his 100th ultra on Saturday at Catherine's Fat Ass 50K, and we celebrated in a big way. Bill is a local ultra legend, having finished the Umstead 100 ten times, the Mountain Masochist 50 twelve times, and assorted other ultras that have long since ceased to exist. Every time I go for a run with Gentry, he tells me story about "the old days" of ultrarunning in Virginia, back when the Wild Oak 50, the Del Passatore 100K, and the Massanutten Massacre 50 were still around. He talks about running with people who were dominant ultra runners in their day like Dennis Herr, Ben Clark, and Courtney Campbell. He has seen it all, and then some. So it was really cool to be able to celebrate his 100th ultra finish by running a few miles with the legend.

Because the temperatures soared into the 100s on Saturday, RD Jeff Reed wisely created a "shorter, 30 mile ultra" option as well as a 21 mile option. I ran with a group that included Bill, Amy (Flame) Brown, Scott Crabb, Gary Knipling, Bethany Patterson, Marc Griffin, Greg Zaruba, and John Cassilly. Bill was true to form as he yacked and yammered on without taking a breath, talking about his greatest hits of ultrarunning, and we all followed along like he was Forrest Gump. At the turn around-- four hours into the run with only 15 miles run--they all decided to run the ultra option while I opted for the "Sophie's Fat Ass 25.9" option. Since I knew the course from previous Catherine's 50Ks, I knew that taking the gravel road back to Catherine's Furnace would spare me a gradual uphill in the heat of the day and allow me to run 2+ miles in the shade, all downhill.

Gentry leading Flame Brown and Scott Crabb down the infamous Purple Train in the southern Massanuttens

100 ultra finishes is a huge deal. What I admire about Bill's 100 finishes is that he didn't count races that he started but DNF'd, or training runs, like others I have read about. I also admire his longevity in the sport. Along with other bloggers and runners I know, I have been dealing with a bit of burnout and staleness this summer. As I was congratulating myself on my wise decision to take the road back to the furnace on Saturday, I realized that in order for me to sustain my love for the sport, avoid burnout, and stay healthy, I needed to make more decisions like that one: to run my own course when I needed to, on my own terms, even when the "group" goes another direction. I have watched Bill transition into 24- and 48- hour track runs after a career of trail ultrarunning, and I can tell he is rejuvenated by these new challenges. I have also observed men and women who were elite runners in their 30s and 40s transition towards adventure running, stage racing, and fast packing on long trails with much success and enjoyment. I think this is where I am headed as well.

Cooling off in Cub Run, near Catherine's Furnace. I sat there for ten minutes and didn't want to leave.

In the short term, I am looking forward to running few races this fall that I haven't done in a few years. I will be testing my speed at the VHTRC Women's Trail Half Marathon as well as running in my fourth Mountain Masochist 50 in November. Both require that I mix up my training and get some good speed work in. On the recommendation of a few trusted friends, I have asked Howard Nippert to help me train for Masochist. As I was dealing with the training doldrums a few months ago, I realized that I needed a new program and focus, something different from what I had been doing. Howard, in addition to being a world class ultrarunner, has run Masochist and knows the course well, and so far I have been having a lot of fun following his base building plan. After we come back from the beach in a week, things start to ramp up, and I am getting excited to get back into hardcore training...and that is always a good sign!

Presenting Gentry with his "award" for finishing his 100th ultra: the prized VHTRC white shirt

Another good sign that the summer blahs are lifting? The famous Catherine's FA post-run blow out once again lived up to its reputation. Here are the pics from Bobby Gill, who also took the photos on this page. As you can see, the event "looked" like a race from the first 100 photos, but then it deteriorated quickly when Jim Beam and Little Red Riding Hood showed up. Absolutely hilarious, and exactly why I run these things in the first place: for the friends and for the laughs.


And Miles 2 Go said...

Kind, kind words about me, Soph. But "legend?" I give that up to Dennis Herr, Horton, the late Regis Shivers Sr. and other serious tough ones. Lotsa others too who I can't think of at the moment.

Sophie Speidel said...

You are a legend. Believe me!

Rick Gray said...

I agree Sophie. Bill is certainly a legend. What a great run to celebrate a 100th ultra. A great run with great people. Thanks for the great recap of all of the fun!

ultrarunnergirl said...

Concur on Bill G's legend status. Fantastic, fun writeup!

Thomas Bussiere said...

Great point on burnout. I just took 7 weeks off from running because I was feeling a little flat and lacking momentum. Now, I'm hungry and back on the trails with a new fresh attitude. You need to do what's best for you.