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.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dog Days...

Our Aussie Jack, who hasn't had much trail time because of the heat...and mom being a slacker.

I don't know if it's the heat we've been having, or just the fact that I am out of my routine of going to work, coaching, and kid schlepping...but I have been feeling flat and not very motivated to train lately. After my heat-induced implosion at Highland Sky, I took a few easy weeks in the hopes of getting my mojo back. Reading other blog posts about over training and burnout, especially Gary Robbins and his subsequent redemption run at WS100, have been really inspiring and given me some food for thought about training, rest, and recovery.

It has been 8 years since my first ultra, and after looking up my ultra results on, I saw that I have finished 40+ ultras since 2002, averaging 4-5 ultras per year (and that doesn't count the fat ass 50Ks I do each year). The fall of 2009 was one of my better training cycles as I had course PRs for 5k, 50K and 100K in the span of 2 months, all after running Grindstone 100! I really didn't take an extended break from running over the winter (despite my best intentions---but I just LOVE running in snow)---so, it makes sense that my fitness has been on a plateau for the last six months. After talking with inov-8 teammate Sean Andrish last week, we both concluded that despite having strong racing seasons in 2009, we find ourselves in a bit of a fitness lull in the midst of 2010. I think this is the body's way of re-setting after a stressful training and racing cycle and the best thing to do is rest, recover, and rejuvenate.

Four months from now I will toe the line at my fourth Mountain Masochist 50...but today and for the rest of the month I am starting a new training plan that will incorporate easy miles, lots of rest and recovery, healthy eating, and plenty of family time. We are going to the beach at the end of the month and after that I plan to dive into my MMTR training with a full heart and much eagerness to find another level of my fitness. Since this "re-setting" of my training is new to me---I am used to being able to run, recover, repeat with no issues--I plan to report more often on the blog just in case my experience can be helpful to someone else. And, I would love to hear from folks who have gone through their own training "lulls", "plateaus", "funks" or whatever you want to call it...please comment away!

Finally, a big shout out to my Hardrock 100 friends, running in the San Juans for the next 48 hours...Bur, Dobies, Kurisky, Deb, just to name a few...and to Alisa "Make Mine Extra HOT" Springman who is starting her third Badwater 135 on Monday. Wooo-hooo peeps! Have great adventures out there!