Friday, October 5, 2007

Ultra-Running: How I Got Into It


Now seems like a great time to speak about how I got into Ultra-Running. Everyone has their own idividualized stories and the following is mine. So, while I recover from the VT50 and start to get into the swing of things again, sit back and enjoy my story of how I became and Ultra-Runner (aka. Crazy).

It All Started With The Discovery Channel

It was the Fall of 2003. Sarah and I had just finished repainting my bedroom when we began watching a program on the Discovery Channel called, "Architechture and Design of Man and Woman." "Watch as men and women mature and push their bodies to athletic extremes to demonstrate how biological differences impact physical performance and even mental agility. However, our differences have evolved not to answer challenges in athletic contests, but to provide advantage in the game of life." Watch we did and we were absolutely facinated by the program.

In the program, female Montrail ultra running athlete Francis Conte is profiled while she runs in the Badwater 135. The program was inspirational to me and veen brought back memories of watching many Eco-Challenges with my father and step-mother a few years back. I remember telling Sarah that I wanted to be an adventure racer and I started to do a little research. A few months later I went out and bought a DVD at EMS on the Primal Quest - San Juan Islands. We sat down and watched the DVD in its entirety, including the part where an unfortunate accident occurs and an athlete dies which descending a technical section of loose rock. The idea of me becomming an Adventure Racer was immediately squashed.

So Sarah and I took up hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Every weekend we'd hike multiple peaks in my quest to complete the list of "48." On some of the tougher days, we'd reach a summit and Sarah, who at the time had no interest in completing the 48 herself, would sit and wait for me to bag an additional near by peak. I'd drop my pack and take off running to the next peak and return. I immediately began falling in love with trail running during our peak bagging activities.

I also happened to be making a movie at the time on hiking the 48. One day as we were driving to the trailhead to hike the Wildcats, I asked Sarah a question that would change my life forever, "Do you think anyone has ever run all of the 48 peaks?? You know... the fastest?" We both agreed that this notion was inconceivable to us and shrugged it off as a joke. Later that day, after traversing the Wildcat Ridge, we were convinced that there was indeed no way in hell anyone had run these peaks.

But my curiosity got the best of me. I went home and started searching the internet for any trace of a formal speed record in hiking New Hampshire's White Mountains. To my surprise, I discovered that not one... not two.. but a whole slew of crazy folks had done the feat before. I found the info on a hiking website operated by Mohammed Ellozy. Here I discovered that the current record holder was a Tim Seaver from Vermont. Tim had set the record in July 2003 by going to the top of each of the 48 peaks in 3 Days 15 Hours and 51 Minutes. My jaw simply dropped to the floor in absolute awe. I continued reading about Ted "Cave Dog" Keizer who held the record before Seaver by doing the feat in "ultra-marathon style" in 3 Days 17 Hours 21 Minutes. And the record was fromally set in the mid 1970's by 2 young men from Massachusetts, the Fitch Brothers, who did so unsupported in 6 Days 15 Hours and 30 minutes.

I had to know more as I wanted to profile these guys in my movie. So I contacted Ted "cave Dog" Keizer via e-mail and he gave me some great information and photos. Ted told me how I could possibly get in touch with the Fitch Brothers and I e-mailed them. I then contacted Tim Seaver through his website. Before I knew it, I had photos from Cave Dog, and a day planned in November 2004, during the editing of my film, to meet with George Fitch and Tim Seaver in the same day. I met with both men and interviewed them on camera about their achievements. However it was during my interview with Tim that I began to question him about this "Ultra-Marathon Style" that they spoke of. Tim told me a bit about ultra-running and what it takes, "being able to put up with a lot of pain, patience and training." Sarah and I elft Vermont that night in an ice storm, and on the slow drive home I told her... this is what I want to do.

I wanted to become one of these ultra marathon runners and I wanted to challenge Tim's record. I wanted to be one of those gifted few who find their names on Mohameds website as a "hiking" legend here in New Hampshire. I had been running for a few months all ready, mainly since we had finished hiking the 48. My love of running had me going at home. When I started, I couldn't run a mile without walking for rest. It was a sad sight but now in November of 2004, after having met with Tim and George.. I knew that running was about to become a huge part of my life and hiking was always going to be.

So... from here.. I started training and the road to becomming a young Ultra-Runner.