Friday, July 29, 2011

SIX

It was July 25, 2005 when I toed the line of my first Ultra-Marathon. It's sometimes hard to comprehend that I've been at this thing called "ultras" ever since. I often times look back at how it all began, and the progression I endured working my way up to that first ultra. I also think about the road I've taken since, the amazing places I've been, the things I've accomplished. There's no better time then the present to take time to reflect on the journey.


Beginnings
I started running September 2004. I couldn't run a mile without walking. I was a sorry excuse for a runner and certainly no athlete. I was a hiker. A young kid at the age of 22, who thought I was in great shape. Thankfully, "Round" is a shape. However, the more I read and learned about the sport of Ultra-Running, the more I was intrigued and inspired to continue. No... I'm not one of those folks who joined this sport after reading the book Ultramarathon Man. I've been running ultras since that book ever even came out. I didn't join after reading the book Born To Run either. I like to consider myself an ultra-veteran, one of the remaining few who knew the roots of this sport, the importance of community, the family it really was before the huge influx of "Book Reading Runners."

I started running in 2004 and kept at it. Working my way up to that mile, followed it up with 2 miles, a 5K, a 10K.. and then soon a 16 mile race through Derry New Hampshire's rolling hills. By May of 2005 I had run my first marathon, and a few short weeks later I ran my first 50K run ever. That's right.. I ran a 50K journey run before ever even running my first official ultra-race. In 2006, I continued to run and research. I learned about nutrition and proper training. I hired a personal trainer and started traveling further from him to run in races. I had started hearing about and reading about longer races, and by the fall of 2006, I had signed up for and finish three 50 milers in three months.

The Journey Since
It was 2007 when I ran my first 100 miler. I had been running and training for that one race/distance for over 2.5 years before I toed the starting line of my first 100. It amazes me these days, how many runners decide they want to skip from the marathon to the 100 without progressing through the other distances. Most times, these same runners travel through our sport without ever truly learning it's origins and how important community and family once was. I'd like to think that I've never forgotten this myself.

Since I've started playing this game (2005) I've managed to finish over 30 ultra marathons. I've finished 14 runs of 100 miles or more, two of which were completed journeys runs across the widest part of New Hampshire, both times totaling more then 120 miles each.

The Last Year
I timed out at the Leadville 100 Miler in August 2010 after running 61 miles in the race, my third race in the 2010 Grand Slam of Ultra-Running. I finished the Vermont 50 Miler for the fifth year in a row, helping an ultra-virgin to her first ultra finish. I made it 62 miles in the 2010 Run Across New Hampshire after once again losing the trail for the millionth time in 25 hours of running. I bailed 30 miles into the Pittsfield Peaks Snowshoe 100.. and finally reached the Finish line again during this months Silver Rush 50. It has been the worst year of ultra-running since I started. The most DNF's, the most disappointment. But then again... life is all about picking yourself back up after falling down so hard.

Where To?
It's hard to say where I'd like my running to take me in the future. Some days I love it like I'm in my hay day. Other days.. I wish I'd never started. I'm training these days more then I ever have before and it hurts. If the hard work doesn't pay off this time, I'll be crushed. It's also hard to determine what you want to accomplish after you've run 100 miles in one day a few times, you finished the Western States 100, you finished a loop at the Barkley... and so on. I know a few things.. I want to return to the Vermont 100 in 2012 to finish for the fifth time. I want to work towards my 10,000th mile. I want to run the Hardrock 100. I want to run from Rim to Rim to Rim at the Grand Canyon. Beyond that... my aspirations have run stale while I start thinking about finally starting a family of my own and in turn, giving up some of this selfishness. We'll see....

Below is a picture from each of the last 6 years I've been ultra running. Enjoy.
2005 - Damn Wakely Dam Ultra 
2006 - JFK 50 Miler
2007 - 1st Buckle - McNaughton Park 100
2008 - Run Across New Hampshire
2009 - Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 - Stonewall Jackson Division 
2010 - Western States 100