Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hellgate!

As I have written here before, there is nothing like the Hellgate 100K to cap off the year, and this year's race will be extra special as Hellgate 2012 will mark the final ultra of my 40's! The past ten years of ultrarunning have introduced me to the most amazing, talented, and generous people, and the video below is a tribute to my favorite race and the friends who, over the years, have made the event so special. I filmed it in 2008 at the pr-race dinner, asking friends to respond to the simple question, "What one word describes Hellgate?" I also filmed the sunrise and full moon over Headforemost Mountain (mile 26), a section of the Devil Trail (mile 36), the final climb from the last aid station (mile 60), and the aftermath at the lodge. There are also photos of runners whom you might recognize--runners from far and near who made the trek to learn about what makes the event so epic, some of whom we miss very much, as they have moved away or who are no longer running trails. Enjoy...hopefully you will get a sense of what all the fuss is about, and perhaps make a promise to join us in 2013! video

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Race Season Is Here!


Last Saturday, after seven months of recovery, short races, and a three month build-up, the Mountain Masochist 50 (aka MMTR or, if you are really Old School, "Masochists") was finally here! This was the 30th anniversary of the race, my sixth start, and the first with a new start location. I drove down Friday afternoon with VHTRC bud Rob Colenso and fellow CAT Mark Hampton. Both were running MMTR for the first time, and it was going to be Mark's first 50. We checked in, listened to Horton describe "4-8 inches of snow in the Loop," re-connected with old friends, and sat about tweeting about the course conditions and posting photos on Facebook to alleviate the nerves.

hanging with Meredith Terranova at the pre-race dinner

I was so happy to be able to catch up with longtime pal Meredith Terranova, who was running her fourth MMTR. Meredith and I met out on the course in 2007 and have been FB and blogging friends ever since. She came to MMTR this year to celebrate her 38th birthday and take in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a far cry from the desert trails near her home in Austin Texas. I admire Meredith so much---she is an amazing person, wife and support crew/pacer to hubby Paul, talented runner, and awesome swimmer--she swam something like a million miles in Austin's Town Lake this summer to raise money for charity, and she is also a very well-respected sports nutritionist in her free time. I loved that were both eyeing the award for the top-10 men and women (a sweet Patagonia Down Sweater) and appreciated that she is just as competitive as I am!

After dinner it was time to go to the hotel and get ready with bunkmates Prissy Nguyen and Martha Wright. The three of us were quite a sight---drops bags, gels, Bag Balm, Vaseline, Perpetuem, Clif Bloks were scattered about the hotel room as we chatted about race goals and got ready for the early wake up call. I didn't realize how much I missed racing until it was time to get organized!

Race morning came quickly and before we knew it we were at the start at Wildwood Campground under clear skies and 30 degree temps. Wildwood is a MUCH better start for MMTR---a lovely jaunt around the lake with 300+ headlamps bobbing was a cool sight to behold, and we were able to spread out nicely on about one mile of pavement before ducking into the woods for good. Mark, Rob, and I started together and made an easy jaunt of the first 5 miles of singletrack and fire roads. We saw a gorgeous sunrise along the ridgeline, something we never saw in the previous years, and chatted and laughed the early miles away. I was enjoying our easy pace and slowly we started to pass the middle of the pack, little by little.

Around mile 16 Mark and I parted ways and I saw two women ahead of me on the long downhill towards the Lynchburg Reservoir. David Horton drove by and reported that I was 13th woman. Hmmm...all I needed to do was pass the two in front of me and then I would be 11th and knocking on the top-10 door. Sweet! A few miles later I passed Bethany Patterson and was suddenly number 10, so I switched into race mode as we made the long climb up to Long Mountain Wayside, where I would see crew Harry Landers and Bob Clouston. But first I ran by Bill Gentry and his son Ben who were walking towards me on the road---how awesome it was to see them and feel Gentry's classic positive vibe! Thanks dude!

refueling at mile 26, Long Mountain Wayside
Harry and Bob got me in and out of the aid station lickety-split and soon I was hauling up Buck Mountain, feeling pretty good and running a lot of the uphills. I came upon Meredith at almost exactly the same place I had seen her in the last two MMTR's, and we had a good laugh about the fact that we were now number 9 and 10 female. She was moving really well so I just hung back and let her take me along. It was awesome to work together with such synergy and I loved focusing on the simple things of pace, fuel, breathing, and staying in the moment. Climbing Buck Mountain at MMTR brings back many mixed feelings so it was good to be able to just run mindlessly for once!

approaching Wiggins Spring AS, mile 32 with Meredith
When Meredith and I started the climb towards the Loop (and the snow), I gave her a fist bump and said, "let's get it." The climb on dry fire road came and went quickly and soon we were running in packed snow with drifts of 5-10 inches on either side in the Loop. At first it was easy and fun. The sun was shining, we were talking about all sorts of random things, and the trail was a net downhill. Meredith was running really well, considering it was her second race ever in the snow, but soon it started to get tedious and slippery and became work. The new section of the Loop to the Mt. Pleasant overlook was really tough. The frontrunners were flying down towards us looking stressed and I learned why: the snow was easily 6-12 inches in places if you didn't land right, and it was sucking valuable energy. I started to think about the folks who would be running close to the cut-offs on a "normal" race day, and hoped that Clark had extended the absolute cut-off given the conditions (he did, by 30 minutes).

At the top of Mt. Pleasant we had a glorious, 360-degree view of the The Priest and Three Ridges to the north and Apple Orchard Mountain to the south. But we couldn't stay long because women # 11, 12, 13, and 14 arrived in succession within minutes. The race was on! Meredith and I plugged into our iPods and started HAMMERING the downhills. The snow certainly helped and made it fun, but it was also stressful and hard work. Soon there was a train of women in 8th-14th place within yards of one another, and it was clear that someone was going to put hammer down as soon as we left the Loop and the snow.

And that's exactly happened. Lee Conner dropped into 8th and I followed with Beth Minnick right behind me.We hauled down the road sections and climbed hard up the long roads. It was a beautiful day, bright blue sky, cold, and a bit nippy, and I was really enjoying the racing vibe. Lee started to pull away and Beth came upon me as we entered Forest Valley, which had equally deep snow and more brutal climbs. I put my head down and stayed focused on my pace, which seemed to work as I made some distance from Beth and closed the gap on Lee. The snow was a blast in the final downhill section--no roots or rocks to worry about, just puffy snow to bomb through. WOOP!

Finished at last!
Approaching Montebello, I glimpsed Lee crossing the finish line about 45 seconds ahead of me, and was so happy to come in ninth female in such a strong women's field. I had told my hubby before the race that on paper there was no way I could finish in the top-10, but in those snow conditions in a 50 mile race, anything can happen, and it did. As soon as I was finished, my ultra idol Krissy Moehl  approached and congratulated me---wow! Krissy is a humble but fiercely competitive and talented ultrarunner, and she herself had a close race to the MMTR finish line. Her race report included a few thoughts about the art and science of racing and competing. I love and admire her spirit and attitude!

with Krissy at the finish, star struck.

The MMTR finish line was a blur of cheers, hugs, photo shoots, more cheers. Patagonia sponsored a post-run tent with soup and quesadillas, and the Montebello store had their yummy chili. As always, it was fun to watch the day's stories unfold on the road to Montebello. Here are more pics from the finish...

with hubby Rusty...



with MMTR founder and friend David Horton...

with Meredith after her 11th place finish...so close...but she is all smiles as always...


and with Mark after his awesome 10:28 finish, and super crew Harry Landers.
30 years of Masochism! The iconic race that David Horton created is alive and well, and doing better than ever with the new changes to the course. It is always a wonderful reunion of friends, a worthy challenge, and a great way to kick off my race season. Next up: Hellgate 100K, my absolute favorite race. But first, a little rest and recovery.

Happy Trails!

MMTR results are here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pacing Jenny

Grindstone 100 course landmarks: Elliott's Knob and Little North Mountain
 After a six month break from ultra racing and blogging, I am back! It has been six months filled with much needed family time, rest, low-key training runs, and shorter races. It was also a necessary break from the routine of training, racing, recovery, repeat (and reporting). After ten years of running ultras, I *think* I have figured out how to train and how to rest-- having run a bunch of PRs last year despite creeping closer to 50, I am convinced it is because I am racing November-March and taking the rest of the year to rest, recover, and just run for fun and camaraderie.

Camaraderie is one of the most enjoyable things about being part of the ultra community, along with the culture of helping other runners achieve their goals. Whether it be through coaching for free (or beer), crewing, pacing, or training together, nothing beats the feeling of helping a friend accomplish something really hard. This week our local newspaper, C'Ville Weekly, ran a cover story on three local ultrarunners and yours truly was one of the featured runners. The reporter interviewed me a few days before I was off to pace Jenny Nichols at Grindstone 100, so she asked me a ton of questions about pacing, and this is what I told her. In essence, we are a sport of "paying it forward"-- everyone, from the top 100 mile runner in the country to the newbie-- has shared something important and valuable that has helped me later in a race or during an adventure. We may be a selfish sport (yes, admit it, we are) when it comes to time commitment and time away from home...but when it comes to reaching out to include and help one another, without expectation of payback or publicity, we are second to none.

As for pacing Jenny...when Jenny Nichols announced on Facebook that she had entered Grindstone 100 (her second 100, and first mountain 100), I immediately bombed her inbox with, "Pick me!" Pick me!" pacing offers. Of course, Selfish Sophie wanted to participate in this fantastic 100-miler without the pain and suffering of actually running the thing again. But I also wanted to help Jenny in the same way others had stepped up for me. Mike Broderick, Mike Mason, Michele Harmon, and Gretchen Garnett have been my fabulous 100- miler pacers, and I wanted to be there for Jenny in the same way they had been there for me--as a fellow 100-miler comrade, offering unconditional support, friendship, guidance, and help towards achieving her huge goal of finishing a really tough 100.

Rob Colenso, Jenny and me on Friday, a few hours before the Grindstone start
 Jenny, as is her nature, was incredibly gracious and immediately accepted my offer as well as Rob Colenso's, so now she had a pacer from mile 50-68 (Rob) and another from 68-102 (me). I am not sure how Rob ended up drawing the short straw (hehehe) but in fairly short order Team Jenny was assembled and included me, Rob (whom I paced at Grindstone last year), Jenny's hubby Brock, her brother Brian, and sister-in-law Tammy. Logistics were dealt with, pacing plans were made, training runs and races came and went, and before we knew it, Grindstone race week had arrived! With it came daily reminders from me to Jenny for race mantras such as "I will finish this race even if I have to walk it in," and video clips of Karl Meltzer sharing his 100-miler secrets, including this nugget: "You don't have to run fast to run 100 miles, you just have to run all day." At my urging, Jenny planned to follow Karl's gold standard 100 mile pace strategy: to take it easy at the start, stay within herself to the turn-around at mile 50, and then let the race come to her.

AJW, me, Neal and Horton at Grindstone start
 Grindstone starts at 6:00pm on Friday, which allows everyone a chance to gather, pitch tents, socialize, strategize, panic a bit, and then run all night in the dark. For pacers like me, it is a perfect setting. I drove 55 minutes from my house to the race start at Camp Shenandoah and was able to check in with Jenny and Rob, eat and drink a few with Gary and Q, eavesdrop on a nervous Neal Gorman and pacer Andrew Krueger as they plotted Neal's race plan, hang out with AJW and Horton, and generally enjoy the scene without the stress of racing. Because I needed to take care of family stuff, I drove home after the start and Team Jenny took over crewing and pacing until I would meet them at mile 68 the next morning.

The live stats were behind schedule all night, so when I arrived at the mile 68, North River Gap parking lot (aka TWOT lot) at 7:45 and was informed that Jenny had a 45-minute lead on the women's field at mile 50, I was alternatively psyched and concerned. Rob was pacing her down the mountain and hopefully had slowed her down enough to prevent trashing her quads on Little Bald, and I knew that the next 50K section had two 2500 feet climbs as well as a few brutal descents. Horton and I agreed that if she could just keep moving at this pace, she would be tough to beat. At 9:40, an hour ahead of the next woman, Jenny arrived at North River looking happy and relaxed, so we filled her pack and got the heck out of there!

Jenny at mile 77 with Elliott's Knob (mile 90) in the distance

The next 12 hours and 32 miles were a blast! We laughed, took photos, cheered on girl scout hikers, greeted mountain bikers and horseback riders, and moved at a great pace. I had Kerry Owen's 28:45 splits with me from 2011 and Jenny was a good thirty minutes ahead at Dowells Draft, despite sore knees. The plan was to go in and out of the aid stations with a smile (despite feeling a bit ginger on the downhills), grab a bottle of Perp, and get the heck out. We may have spent :45 at each AS, which was a testament to her fabulous, efficient crew and her focus.

After leaving Dowells at mile 80, Jenny plugged into her Ipod and we ran a good 50 minutes across Rte 250 and along Chimney Hollow. The sun was starting to get low in the sky and the woods were magically quiet and serene. I was LOVING it! It was nice to be quiet for awhile and then other times busy solving all the world's problems. Jen was climbing like a champ and making some good time before we made the nasty descent down Crawford Mountain when the wheels (aka her knees) started to fall off a bit. I could tell from the look on her face (and my own memory of this race) that it was just brutally painful to descend. But she hung in there and before long we were at Dry Branch Gap (mile 85). WOOP!

Jenny and Brock at Dry Branch, mile 85. 

Dry Branch was the first (and last time) where Jen sat for more than a minute. Here we iced her knees, grabbed more Perp and gels, and Rob and I conferred on where Megan Stegemiller, the second-place female, was in terms of time. It was decided (by bossy pants moi) that Rob would stay until Megan arrived and then we would hopefully get a text up on the ridge with intel on her time of arrival and departure. This was important because I needed to know how much to push Jenny up and down Elliott's. Rob's comment "you need to push her regardless" was spot-on, but I knew she was hurting and wanted to know if we had a cushion. Being in the lead was a trip---fun as hell but also very stressful!

Not many Grindstone finishers EVER get to run down Elliott's in the DAYLIGHT!

The caption above was our mantra the entire climb up to Elliott's Knob (mile 90). We were moving well, chatting about family, kids, ultras, and how beautiful the night was, interspersed with changing clothes, adding gloves, and kicking rocks. When we reached the descent on the Elliott's Knob fire road, we started to get passed by a few men (including Jenny's buddy Rick Gray). This was disheartening for Jen. She got weepy because of the hurt and the cold, and mumbled something about the stress she was feeling, but I loved her attitude too--she was fighting to keep that lead, regardless of who was passing by. Underneath that sweet demeanor and those super strong hugs lies a fiercely competitive and passionate woman, and I totally get that! I told her when she started to get weepy that she could cry for 5 minutes, and then had to stop to save her energy :-)

We arrived at the last aid station at mile 95, Falls Hollow, having lost a few more minutes, so the next 6 miles were going to be gut check time. These six miles are the worst six miles in ultrarunning for the Grindstone finisher. In the 2009 race, I made a vow to NEVER run in the woods again except as pacer, and here I was, running and walking on tedious ascents and descents, railroad tracks, baby head rocks, technical stream beds, and roots. Not to mention the mental challenge of running past the Camp Shenandoah showers with a bit more than a mile to go! A few more guys passed us but we were not concerned---we knew after the showers she had the win in the bag. It was at the "1 Mile To Go" sign that I made a huge WOOP and turned to Jen and extended my hand: "Congratulations, you are going to win the Grindstone 100!" There were tears of joy, of pain, but mostly...relief.

Across the earthen dam we ran (!), along the road, and into camp. It was very dark now, with a crystal clear sky full of stars. It was about 9:45pm and I wooped it up so Clark and the gang knew it was us. "What's your number?" we heard them call out from the finish line.

"105!!!" we yelled.

Big cheers erupted as Clark announced "First Woman, Jenny Nichols! 2012 Grindstone Women's Champion!"

Big hugs all around from Clark, Rob, Brock, Brian, Tammy, Rick, Tammy Gray, Q, Gary, Jim Daniels, Neal Gorman, Kerry Owens...

Big fun.

Rob, Jenny and me at the Grindstone finish line, 27:46
2012 Grindstone 100 Champs, Karl Meltzer and Jenny Nichols


Grindstone results







Monday, March 5, 2012

The Run That Shall Not Be Named

People often ask me where and when my blog title photo was taken (above). It was in 2010, after a "real" winter of heavy snow, and a group of friends and I were running on trails in southwest Virginia. A bluebird sky, fresh 6 '' of powder, and temps in the 40s made this run beautiful yet very challenging. My friend Hallie took the photo as I posed atop the most photographed place on the AT. To me, this photo symbolizes everything I love about ultrarunning: a celebration of freedom, health, and nature while moving swiftly and light on trails with good friends in beautiful places.

2012 was the tenth year of friends gathering to celebrate on these trails with a run that we do not name and is not advertised. In fact, I hesitate to blog about the run at all...but given the fact that ten years have come and gone for this iconic, old school trail run, I thought a little homage was required. The reason for the secrecy? To keep the run pure and under the radar, so that it can continue as long as the runners want it to continue. And I bet there are runs just like this one across the country in Cali, Oregon, Colorado, and other places where "events" are not permitted. Ours is certainly not an "event," but rather a gathering of friends who enjoy nature and one another's company.

This run was my first mountain "adventure" run. The year was 2004, and I was a lurker on the VHTRC website. Someone posted photos and a link to a "non" website. Hmmm...this looks cool, I thought. I was a newbie ulturarunner then, having only run Holiday Lake 50K and Mountain Masochist 50. But I was itching for something more, something really hard but not life-threatening or stupid. My friend Quatro mentioned that he was going to run it and so I asked if I could tag along. And over the course of the run (which is about 35 miles but runs like a 50), I found myself getting exactly what I had come for: really tough climbs, never-ending PUDs, quad trashing downhills and endless views of where we had run and where we were headed. It took me 9:25 to run the 35 miles, and when it was over, I knew I had turned a corner in my ultra career.

This year brought together some of my closest friends from all over the Mid-Atlantic: runners from the VHTRC, WVMTR, CAT, IMTR, and Lynchburg. The group naturally split into thirds, with the fast boys and girl kicking butt and taking names. Neal Gorman ran the Fastest Known Time on this course in 6:25 and Eva Pastalkova was the first woman to break 8 hours. The group I was with took lots of pics at overlooks, and goofed off with our friend Knob Creek:

Just goofing off with the usual suspects
We ran easy and caught up on eachother's lives. We talked about recent races, 100 milers looming in the distance, and plans to crew and pace at upcoming events...and about our children, our jobs, our career decisions, and the losses of our loved ones. In short, we solved all our problems over 35 miles...the best kind of therapy!

The entrants list from past years lists everyone from Grand Slam record holders, Team USA members and Western States winners to back-of-the pack tough guys and dirt chicks. We come for the trail, the views, and the fellowship, but mostly, I think, for the chance to try something really hard. I know I am among the many who are grateful for the chance to explore this beautiful and wild place each spring. Here's to ten-plus more years of adventure!



Happy Trails!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Spreading the Gospel of Trail

Last night I was invited to lead a discussion for a group of interesting, fun women who had just read Born To Run as their monthly book club assignment. I knew only a handful of these smart ladies, most of whom are not runners, but who all enjoy being active in some way. It was a great evening, as I basically got to talk about what I love to do most: run dirt trails in the woods and mountains, something I could talk about for hours (and do, when I am running with my gang). In addition to talking about the book, they wanted to know how I got interested in running, specifically ultrarunning, and asked all of the classic questions:

"How many days do you run? Do you take any days off?" A: 5 days max per week, with at least one day off, sometimes two, with swimming and pool running in there as well.

"What do you eat? Do you have a special diet?" A: Everything, especially fruits and veggies, and Supremo Decaf Skim Mochas. No fad diets for me.

"Do you ever fall asleep when you are running 100 miles?" A: Yes. That's why I don't run them anymore.


"What do your kids think about their mom doing this stuff?" A: They *pretend* to not care, but I have caught them bragging on me a few times to their friends--"My mom can run 100 miles!"

"Do you wear Vibram 5 Fingers?" A: Heck no. If it's not broke, don't fix it. I do wear my beloved inov-8 268s, though.

"Why do you love running trails for long distances?" A: I love the community of the ultra world and the people, first and foremost. And running ultra distance has taught me to be flexible, to persevere, to adjust, and to be in the moment. Very valuable skills for this Type A mom. (there were lots of heads nodding at this point).

I brought along the buckle I earned for finishing MMT 100 in 2005, and we passed it around. I told them about how Western States 100 started, about Gordy and the Tevis Cup, and that Virginia is second behind California in the number of ultras, which seemed to surprise them. We talked about cool local trails that they could run or walk on, and I encouraged them to consider running with the CATS one day!

Mostly, though, I tried to convince them that it is never too late to find a passion that will change their life for the better. Thank you, ladies, for inviting me to your book group and allowing me to share my passion with you! Happy trails.





Monday, January 2, 2012

A look back

My husband and I have a New Years Eve tradition where we go to our favorite restaurant, sit at the bar, and while eating delicious tapas and drinking sangria, share our hopes and dreams for the upcoming year as well as reflect back on the one we are leaving behind.

The hubz and me at our fave post-hike joint, Blue Mountain Brewery
 Rusty, a mountain biker, wants "to do something epic. This is the year to do something big and not be a chicken." I want to build on my 2011 ultra season, and the lessons learned off the trail as well. Last year at this time, I decided that my mantra for 2011 was, "Welcome change, seek out adventure, take a risk at failure." As the months went by, I found myself going back to that mantra many times---as a wife, mother, daughter, and sister, as a teacher and coach, and as a runner. There were many changes to adjust to: the death of my father, a new boss, work stressors, and the fact that my children were growing more independent and relying less on me. I sought out new adventures---the 111 mile journey through Shenandoah National Park and the Lynchburg Ultra Series were the big ones--and accepted that failure was an important part of growth and something not to fear.

At the risk of sounding like a total self-aggrandizing idiot, let's just say that 2011 was my best year as an ultrarunner, as far as race results go. Not bad for an old lady. I set three personal best (PR) times at three distances: the 50K, 50 mile, and 100K++. I was really stoked about doing this because I was coaching myself and weaving together everything I have learned in ten years of running ultras. This gives me a lot of confidence as I stare down my 2012 race and adventure plans.

OK, enough about me. Let's talk about...me. Here are a few lessons from 2011 that I want to carry into 2012's big challenges, and that might also prove helpful to others who are seeking their own new adventures:

1. Less mileage is More (at least for me). I am 49 years old and this year proved to me that I could run fast and go long with an average of 55-60 miles per week. Granted, I am working on ten years of an ultra base, but it is nice to know that I don't have to crank out huge miles to run faster.

2. Hill repeats are the bread and butter. I ran a lot of 1:00-4:00 hill repeats on a runnable slope at least once every two weeks. These workouts gave me a ton of confidence and strength without spending a lot of time in the weight room.

3. The weight room is my friend. That said, I did go to the weight room at least twice a week for about 25 minutes. There I did classic core  and balancing workouts with the Bosu ball, Swiss ball, kettlebells and planks. I know a lot of friends swear by Crossfit, Pilates, Yoga...but this works for me, and is all I really have time for.

4. Swimming and pool running keep me sane and healthy. I am not a running streaker, nor can I ever envision myself running more than 4 days in a row. I would get terribly bored and burnt out. To break things up, I spend my 25 minutes in the weight room, then I go to the pool (in the same building, very convenient), swim about 1,000 yards easy, then pool run with a flotation belt. I don't do this for long (about 15 minutes is all I can handle) but I can solve many of my problems of the day by running up and down the lap lanes in the pool. Plus, it's very relaxing and stretches out my hips.

5. I don't need a track to run faster. For years I have been doing speed work on the UVA track. This year the track has been closed for a multi-million dollar upgrade, so instead I relied on tempo runs on hilly gravel roads, fartleks such as 1:00 hard, 1:00 easy x 10, and the aforementioned hill repeats on trails and dirt roads.

6. Inov-8 shoes make me run faster. Call it a coincidence, but ever since I started running in my inov-8 Roclite 268s, my turnover has been quicker and I have been running faster times. I really think they help me run more efficiently with a mid-foot strike. Plus they are comfortable as heck.

7. Running with a group a friends also makes me faster---and it is way fun. In 2011 the Charlottesville Area Trail Runners (CATs) became an organized, inclusive group that trained together and supported one another at races by crewing and pacing. One of my key workouts for Hellgate was a "Skinny B" workout with the fastest guys in the club. We ran in the dark for 1.5 hours at my tempo pace on rooty, muddy trails and then did a bunch of tough 2:00 hill repeats. It kicked my butt but delivered two weeks later with a Hellgate PR. Thanks, boys.

CATs at Mountain Masochist 50
8. Rest and recovery are the most essential part of the training cycle. This is a really hard concept for many ultrarunners to accept, but it is so true. In 2011, I took at least one and sometimes two full days off per week---that means no running, hiking, swimming or lifting. Nada. As a result I was able to train harder on my hard days without feeling tired or dead (except at the end of the workout).

9. Less racing is more--for me. My 2011 racing season was split into two: a spring season with the three  LUS 50Ks, each a month apart; and a fall season starting with the SNP run over Labor Day (not a race, but a hugely beneficial training weekend), and including Mountain Masochist in November and Hellgate in December. I did not race from the end of April until the beginning of November, but instead rested a ton, ran for fun, trained with friends, and spent time with my family. Racing from November through March seems to suit me best, and will be my routine for the next few years.

10. Remember always: Being able to run is a privilege. This is the greatest lesson. Thank you, David Horton, for reminding us all at the start of the Grindstone 100 this year, and every time we see you ride your mountain bike. Thank you, my wonderful family, for accepting my passion and supporting it. Thank you, dear friends, for your companionship on the trail and roads. Thank you for reminding me to never take running for granted.

The epitome of privilege: on the WS100 course above Lake Tahoe with good friends, 2006
What does 2012 hold in store? Stay tuned.

Happy New Year!