Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December rituals

I love December. The cold weather means great running weather for me, and the anticipation and preparation that comes with Christmas, and spending time with my family, make me feel at peace regardless of how tough a year it has been. My favorite day, other than Christmas, is the second Saturday in December, when I join my good friends for 66.6 miles in the Jefferson National Forest...otherwise known as Hellgate 100K. It is a race that has gotten under my skin, and one that I have written about for the past five years. This year, I chose to watch from the sidelines and crew and support my friend Stephanie as she went for her first Hellgate finish.

I love Stephanie's sharp wit, sense of humor, and the fact that she is a devoted mom to two boys, trying to balance the ultra life with everything else. She is also a very talented ultrarunner, and it was a privilege to watch her hammer the last three miles of the 66.6 mile course, attempting to break 17 hours, only to miss it by 41 seconds...all with her trademark smile on her face. Thanks, Steph, for letting me tag along on your Hellgate journey!

Here are two excellent and entertaining reports from the women's winner, Helen Lavin and fourth place female, and 8-time Hellgate finisher, Rebekah Trittipoe.

Another December ritual is the Winter Solstice Trail Run, now in its fifth year. It is held on the third Saturday of December, and when it was canceled last year due to blizzard conditions, I really missed it. The Solstice Run, as Bill and I call it, started with as just a few friends running the trails around UVA and has grown into a 45+ person trail run on the Rivanna Trail. Most of the runners are road aficionados, and the Solstice Run is the only time all year when they run on the trail; but for others, the Solstice Run is on their running bucket list, as they attempt (trail conditions and course closures depending) to run the entire 21-mile Rivanna Trail loop that encircles our city.

This year we had perfect Winter Solstice conditions: 2 inches of fluffy snow, cold temps, and 12 runners who finished the loop! It was a wonderful celebration of our local running community. Jen Nichols came all the way from Abingdon to join us, and she wrote a great review of the run here. Thanks, Jen! Q's photos of the run are here.

Finally, it wouldn't be December without my first run in the snow with Jack. Being a smart Aussie, he knows that Mom loves to run in the snow, so when he sees those first flakes start to fall, he gets very excited. We ran in the gorgeous snow of December 17 and loved every minute. The clear skies, cold air, bright snow...bliss.

Simple rituals tell our story...what are yours?


Johann said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful rituals! My bucket list just became a bit longer. My December is different as it is summer here in South Africa. It is summer holidays here and I usually use my extra time to put in high miles, but there are not many races to run in December. This year I've been pushing extra high miles as I'm running a 90km trail ultra following the coastline on 8 January. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Dizzy said...

I'm enjoying your blog. I'm a newbie to trail running but enjoying it so much more than road running. I'm considering Holiday Lake this February. Thanks for your inspirational blogs. (P.S. I just turned 50, live near Cville)

And Miles 2 Go said...

My running-related rituals that come to mind right now: Umstead 100. A TWOT loop two or three times a year. Weekday pre-work 2-hr. runwalks w/ the Hburg Posse. The Solstice. Any other time I am fortunate enough to spend on the trail w/ you and Potts.

(Great post, btw. :)

Rick Gray said...

It is funny as we look back there are wonderful experiences that stick out in our minds. Not only do we reflect back on them with wonderful memories, but we look forward to them coming around again. Hellgate is also one of those things for me too. Despite the tough run, I always look forward to the race getting here and I even look forward to the next year. You stayed on the sidelines this year to help us out and to help Stephanie with her first Hellgate. I know Stephanie was so appreciative, but I too thank you for your volunteer services to us runners. Everything I have read just gives stark reviews of your annual adventure around Charlottesville. I wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas.

Sophie Speidel said...

Thanks for sharing your running rituals, all! It is cool to learn what others rely and depend on, day to day and year to year.

Johann, best to you at your 90K---sounds beautiful!

Dizzy, you should jump into Holiday lake---it was my first ultra and is perfect for a first time ultra! Come run with us sometime here in C'Ville!

Gentry, you are the master of rituals. And a legend, as I always say.

Rick, please come join us at the Soltice Run next year. Tammy can run and you can shop as you (and I!) will be recovering from Hellgate! Yeah!

Rooster said...

Merry Christmas Sophie! I love reading about your holiday running rituals and the changes of season. The snow looks beautiful and the blue sky and snow is bonus! Your camaraderie is relentless and thank you for sharing it.