An ultra finish

A few months ago, as I crossed the finish line at a 25K desert trail race, an unexpected thought entered my mind: there’s no reason to not run an ultra.

That led me to the start line of the Pemberton Trail 50K at the McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Fountain Hills, Ariz., where I planned to embark on my first ultramarathon.

Arriving at the park early Saturday morning, it wasn’t clear how the race would play out. Even with 15 marathons to my name, it had been 16 months since I ran one. And I had no notions that racing a marathon and running an ultra were similar endeavors.

With a morning temperature of 46, and a slight breeze, the desert morning was setting up to be ideal for a trail race. The race reached its cap of 150 runners, and the course briefing proved to be memorable as the director thanked volunteers, including his mom, and asked for a moment of silence for his dog Oliver, who died 2 months earlier.

The event itself was notable for its amazing, scenic course – relatively flat and excellent footing using some of the same trail as the legendary Javalina Jundred – and another day of weather under the winter desert sky.

My personal experience was near perfect, too. My strategy to run the flats and push the downhills, and walk the uphill portions at times when it proved difficult keep an efficient pace. The course offers very few uphills, so the double loop course proved to be an attempt to maintain a consistent pace.

With no cramping, blistering or other significant issues, my in-race plan switched to running from aid station to aid station, about 5 miles apart. At the stations, I stopped to fill up a water bottle and eat some treats, mostly sliced oranges and bananas. But I also discovered a new addiction: boiled potatoes dipped in salt.

Without question, I will be running this event again. It proved to be a perfect event for a first ultramarathon. The ultra finish goes down as one of my most memorable races. It bolsters my confidence for other goals this year and has me looking for other ultra races to add to the calendar. In the upcoming days, I’ll add some more thoughts, but photos may be the best way to recap the race.


First bold step

“Sometimes, you just have to take the risk. You have to do that thing you’ve been so afraid to do… And sometimes, that’s when you find that you can fly.” – Sue Krebs

A couple months ago, I began developing goals for 2014 and committing myself to a bold action plan.

It was about the time I signed up for the New York City Marathon that I began thinking about other goals to challenge myself while on the journey to running in the Big Apple. For a few weeks, I let one of the goals simmer and then I decided to commit by signing up for something I’ve never done before.

Mostly, I’ve been quiet on the first bold step – the next big challenge – for 2014. But if all goes well, mainly if an ankle injury doesn’t become too severe, I’ll be celebrating the accomplishment and sharing details. To date, I’ve withheld details in the chance I didn’t make it to the start line.

The remainder of the year continues to be a plan in motion: as spring arrives and summer approaches, I hope to add marathons and triathlons to the mix of races and challenges. The exact races, though, yet to be determined as winter winds down.

A few tweaks

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but her own wings. Always believe in yourself.” – Author unknown

These days, I don’t spend much time on Facebook. When I do navigate to it, I find myself doing one of three things: wishing happy birthday to friends, sharing a link to recently infrequent blog posts and trying to catch the daily inspirational message passed along by the Minneapolis Marathon, which has a terrific Facebook page here.

One day, not so long ago, the above quote resonated with me as I sipped some coffee and prepared to head to the gym for a weekend long run. It’s interesting how a daily quote or affirmation can set the tone for the day. In the hectic, crazy busy lives we all seem to live, inspiration can come in many forms, even a quote posted in a Facebook feed.

Lately, I have struggled to find time to write blog posts. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s worth taking the time to share thoughts gathered on the run. But we all draw inspiration from somewhere, and it can be the most unlikely of places.

One of those moments happened while I was tuned into the Super Bowl. Bored with the game, I picked up my phone and began reading Twitter. And on Sunday nights, a family of runners across the world participate in a conversation hosted by #runchat. Until this past Sunday, I had never jumped into the weekly Q&A, but it proved to be a terrific source of motivation and a fun way to connect with other runners.

In the previous 2 weeks, I struggled to run. Part of it was motivation, another part was a sore ankle that proved to be quite bothersome. Injuries have a way of sucking our enthusiasm out of the very thing we love doing.

Still, it was a healthy process: I struggled through an 8-mile run on Saturday, and overnight I writhed in pain, unable to sleep half the night. On Sunday morning, I pulled a foam roller out of the closet. Within seconds, tense muscles relaxed and I grimaced. But it felt great. A few hours later, I breezed through a 7-mile run.

Soon I’ll be heading to the chiropractor for an adjustment. Too often I go too long without visiting the chiropractor. Then things get really bad: limping along on a run, out of alignment, after weeks and weeks of higher mileage training.

Those are a few tweaks I’m making, but there are more. For months I’ve mostly put in miles by circling the track at the gym at night, after a day of work. This week I’ve made an effort to get back to running those miles in the morning. Now I’m just looking forward to warmer days when I’m logging those miles outside with Coby.