Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ode to training partners...and dear friends

Yesterday at 5:00 am it was dark, cold, and pouring rain. There was thunder and lightning in the area and I had only three hours of sleep. I wanted desperately to sleep in and blow off my easy 8-mile recovery run, but I didn't dare.

The reason?

My longtime training partner, Bill Potts, would have given me the silent treatment for the next six months. So I dragged myself out of bed, into the car and out into the rain. One cold, wet, lightning-adrenaline-surged hour later, we were safely back at the car and thankful to be done. Thank goodness for loyal training partners!

What I enjoy most about being an ultrarunner---more than the trails, the race experiences, and the adventures-- are the people. Ultrarunners, it seems, are refugees from other parts of the endurance world, folks who have battle scars from Ironman and road marathons...and inner scars from real life. They are a fascinating, quirky bunch. All are drawn to the sport by the welcoming, "all-comers" vibe and the warm embrace that old timers give newbies. I look forward to every race because I know I will come home not only with a wonderful race memory, but also with a deepened connection to someone I will have encountered along the trail that day.

Lately I have been thinking about how important these connections, and these people, have become in my life. When I need company on the trail, one is usually able to join me. When I need someone to listen to me, they listen and support. When I need to escape the stress of the work day, they meet me at O'dark thirty on an AT trail head. When I need a friend with no questions asked, I have one...or many. When I melt down, they comfort me. And when I need a kick in the pants, they oblige. Here are a just a few training pals who have made a difference in my ultra life...

Bill Potts: West Virginia Mountain Trail Runner and UVA Hospital Social Worker, he kicks my butt each week on our famous "Bread and Butter" tempo run. Bill and I have been running together since 2004, and we have been training for Masochist during this training cycle. He loves hanging out at Greenberry's after a run almost as much as I do, and when he is not running or helping others deal with crises, he is usually in West Virginia at Dan Lehmann's house.

Bill recovers after Highland Sky 40, 2007

Bill Gentry: Another West Virginia Good Ole Boy, Gentry is a legend in the ultra world. We met at Masochist in 2003, which was my first 50 miler. I was struck by his friendly, low-key attitude and by race's end, we were tight. Gentry works at JMU and is a phenomenal writer.

Gentry celebrates his 100th ultra at Catherine's Fat Ass 50K, 2010

Eliza O'Connell: Because she is a mom of three young girls and a world-class duathlete, our schedules rarely mesh...but when they do, I know I will get my money's worth of a run. In fact, I have to taper before I run with Eliza. She runs UP everything (she almost beat the field at the Terrapin Half-M last March) and I can always count on needing a huge nap after we run together. She wrote the cute note (at the top of post) and left it on my car after she left me in the dust last weekend. One day she'll run an ultra and chick all the men. Count on it.

Eliza and me at Blackrock on the AT, 2010

Hallie Hegemeier: Hallie is also a mom of three and has a fierce passion for ultras. She finished her first "official" ultra at Terrapin Mountain 50K last March, and has been coming back from a foot injury all summer...but she is low-key, tough, and willing to try any trail. Once she is healthy we will be exploring some nifty trails and I am willing to bet that she will be at Highland Sky next June...

Hallie rocking down the Heartstone Ridge trail at MMB, 2009

Quatro Hubbard: What more can I say about Q-Dog? He is a loyal member of the VHTRC and has been a steady training partner to many, including me, for the past 8 years. Q will gladly offer to crew, pace, or run with you if you ask, to the detriment of his own training schedule. He loves being in the mountains and he loves helping other runners have fun adventures. Q convinced me to run MMT as my first 100, and while I rarely take him seriously, I am glad I did back then.

Q celebrating his second MMT 100 finish, 2009

Marlin Yoder: Marlin has been a steady training buddy this summer and fall, and since he is faster than me, I always get an excellent workout in. If I PR at Masochist this year, I will have Marlin to thank! I had a blast pacing him at MMT in 2009, and he returned the favor by being my most excellent crew chief at Grindstone 100 in 2009.

Marlin and me at the MMT 100 finish line, 2009

Mike Broderick: Mike and I met on the Wild Oak Trail in 2004 when he was training for Wasatch. We clicked immediately after realizing we shared a love for great music and The University of Virginia. Mike agreed to coach and pace me for my first 100 at MMT in 2005, where he endured one of the greatest Sophie meltdowns in history with grace and humor. Right now Mike is enduring his greatest challenge in his fight against cancer, one that he assured me "will not result in a DNF". I have no doubt that this strong, optimistic, and courageous man will come out on top.

(Dave Quivey, me, Mike, and Jill Quivey: 'Team Sophie" at MMT 100, 2005)

Thank you, dear friends, for your loyal support and unwavering cheerleading throughout the miles...and I pray our trails and paths cross many times in the years ahead.