Author Amy Clark
Last weekend, I literally stepped beyond the screen I had watched so intently while following the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run online. I’ve never missed a live feed of the finish line as the winner makes his way around the Placer High track, and I streamed the race again this year. Only this time, it was in an Auburn hotel during a brief break from crewing and pacing.
After years of training for long distances, I have become savvy to the ways of the pre-dawn runner. While mornings have always been my favorite time of day, getting up at 4:30 a.m. isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. Being a mom of two young kids requires me to maximize my hours of daylight.
Little voices can pop up in the back of our head before the start of a race. They ask questions like, “Am I ready? Do I have what it takes?” And sometimes pipe in with, “What if I come in last?” Many might fear the thought of finishing last – vivid nightmares of a finish line being taken down upon those final steps can be daunting.
When you get a text message from a friend who ended up in the emergency room due to chafing, it’s never good. The consequences of fabric rubbing away at flesh can be devastating. Fold that into the mix of ultrarunning, and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.
It’s not hard to remember those pivotal moments as a runner. Personal records, third place finishes, and wins, if we were really lucky. Starting young, my most potent memories of running are those that happened throughout each stage of growth. An evolution that occurred from youth into adolescence, teenager to young adult, and college graduate into middle age. These vivid moments transformed my running, and my life.
Injuries have always been for other people. Until now. My cautious sensibilities have always kept me from pushing too hard when it comes to anything. In my mind, that even included running. Which is why I didn’t think anything of the niggling little stitch in my glute during my taper last week. Then it promptly screamed at me, and stopped me dead in my tracks.
Ryan Bak won Chuckanut 50K last weekend with the second fastest time in the race’s history, propelling him into next month’s Lake Sonoma 50. While he seems to be finding a career as a professional runner once again (he previously ran for Oregon Track Club and Team USA Monterey Bay), this time he’s in Bend, OR. Surrounded by a like-minded community of professional athletes, most have professional careers and young families, and for Ryan, this balance has made all the difference.
In the beginning, someone likely sparked your enthusiasm for running. Maybe your dad was a runner, or a favorite teacher encouraged you to join the cross country team. I’ve written countless times about how my father inspired my love of running, as I grew up watching him run marathons. But I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of a running community that embraced me as a young runner.
Think back to your first ultra. For most of us, there was a lot of pain and struggle to continue those last few miles before crossing the finish line. Now, imagine carrying a video camera throughout the entire race and filming yourself during that raw, emotional journey. Jesse Weber did it and became an overnight YouTube sensation
The team at Ultra Adventures (UA) puts on seven races each year, all located within the Grand Circle – an area encompassing seven National Parks in the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Race Director and UA founder, Matt Gunn, gravitated back to the Grand Circle after traveling the world.
Stop for a minute, and think: can you recall the best night of sleep you’ve ever had? Maybe your top five nights of nocturnal bliss? One in particular stands out for me, and it happened 20 years ago. But I never considered the importance of hitting the hay until I became a mother of twins.
Married for 46 years, Dan and Kathy Harshburger knew that if they didn’t take the opportunity to visit Patagonia now, there was a good possibility they would never get the chance again. With 14 days of mountain running through Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares, and Tierra del Fuego National Parks across Southern Chile and Argentina, they had their work cut out for them.
Dan started running with his wife Kathy in 1980. After a brief four years running road races, they were introduced to the trails in Southern California by a group from a local running store. Not long after, Dan was invited by ultrarunning legend, Walt Johnson, to run the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim – his first ultra marathon in 1984. He finished in 12 hours and 2 minutes. Dan was hooked.
Looking back on my first two years of training for ultra marathons, a lot has changed. Relationships with training partners have waxed and waned, and my running dramatically improved due to warmer than average winter months. But now I realize that change is inevitable, and it’s why I can’t wait for the year ahead.
The start of a new year means ambitious resolutions and often, reflection of the year gone by. Motivation to improve ourselves is at its peak, and planning commences to get our bodies moving faster and more efficiently. While eating healthier and implementing strength training are common goals, it’s a routine we’ve become all too familiar with.
Professional travel writer, Tim Neville, has visited over 50 countries. He’s skied in North Korea, sea kayaked around the Galapagos Islands and climbed pyramids in Egypt – all while researching stories for The New York Times, Outside Magazine, and Skiing Magazine, just to name a few. Needless to say, Tim has always been an adventurer at heart.
Talking with my grandmother isn’t easy these days. Her brain repeats the same conversation three or more times in the same sitting. So when she looked at my shirt and casually said, “Vern used to spend a lot of time in McDonald Forest,” I was a little shocked. I was wearing a shirt from the McDonald Forest 50K – my first ultra.
When we aren’t training for a race, we’re making big plans for the year ahead. Excitement turns into anticipation as the lotteries decide our fates. And when all the names have been drawn, it’s time to move forward by creating a race schedule around the race we did or didn’t get into. But why? And is it healthy?
As Old Man Winter makes his callous return, those of us who’d rather forgo an alternative winter sport must make the transition into cold-weather running. And it’s not always easy. Harsh climates can make it tough to get motivated for long hours of ultra training, but with the proper planning, gear and mindset, running in snow and icy conditions can actually be pretty amazing.
Could it be that our strong hearts keep us filled with gratitude? A recent study by U.C. Davis showed that ultrarunners on average, are a healthy bunch of folks. With the median age in the study being just above 40, there were very low occurring instances of high blood pressure, stroke and cancer. Those statistics translate to fewer hours of sick time used at work and lower medical bills, but also mean we have less ailments than most. Something to be grateful for, no doubt.
While shoppers begin to plan which big ticket items they’ll purchase on Black Friday, ultrarunners are also busy. Having thrown their names into some big lottery hats for next year’s races, many are waiting with the anticipation of a seven year-old on Christmas Eve.