Clickety Click Click Click

One of the most interesting things about getting older is that I’ve had the chance to experience firsthand the way things “used to be.” The nature of many running events has certainly changed a lot, but the act of registering for races seems to have changed at least as much as the races themselves.

In the 1980’s and early 90’s, in order to sign up for a race I’d go to a running store, find the stacks of race flyers and xeroxed pages, fill out the form, write a check, send it all in, then show up on race day (all the while trying to manage the fear that was always in the back of my mind that my entry got lost in the mail and they wouldn’t have me on their registration list). Races in other parts of the country required a person to take the extra step of writing to the Race Director to request an entry form — adding more days (or even weeks) to the signup process.

Fast forward to today, where all of that takes place in seconds. Forget about signing up on a whim for the popular races (which, increasingly, seems to include just about every well-established ultra event). If you haven’t planned your entry ahead of time, and you’re not ready to commit at just the right moment, and you don’t have luck on your side…. then better luck next year (or perhaps the year after).

Today, for example, I spent the 15 minutes leading up to the opening of on-line registration for the Umstead 100 (noon EDT) on my computer, clicking “refresh” what seems like many hundreds of times, trying to catch the precise minute (well, given what I’ve read about the number of people who were trying to register this year, the precise second) that the registration link became available. And I’m constantly trying to fend off the fear that I get so overzealous in my refreshy-clickiness that I accidentally refresh the page when the registration link is first available, only to find that it’s no longer there upon the next refresh, and I’ve lost my one chance to sign up. Perhaps that’s one of the digital analogues to the old-timey fear that my registration check gets lost in the mail.

On one of my refreshes I saw the link (AWESOME!), and began working my way through the registration form within the allotted 12 minutes (Oh God…. don’t let my computer crash right now and please let me not kick out the power cord…..). And the knots in my stomach went away when I saw this:

FireShot Screen Capture #088 - 'You're going to 21st Annual Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run' - www_eventbrite_com_orderconfirmation_12445969229_337958657_AA6ItQPuCMBlIBweB6FKHzzugr2tJ0QDVA

Well, to be honest, the knots in my stomach aren’t gone. They’ve just been replaced with a different set of knots.

Now I’m going to the 21st Annual Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run!




Inspiring or Reckless? Two Sides of the Same Coin.

Trail runners attempting technical mountaineering routes with minimal gear—inspiring or reckless?

On its face, the term “trail running” is just the act of running on trails. But in practice there are a lot of different ways that we choose to get out there and run.

For example, some of us head out to run trail 10ks or marathons, or ultras, or team relays, or vertical mile/kilometer challenges. And some of us will never race at all. Others put their efforts into fastest known times (FKTs) or personal bests in the Grand Canyon or the Colorado Trail or some other noteworthy stretch of dirt and rock. Still others choose to take their trail running onto routes that most of us wouldn’t even call trails; these folks attempt technical mountaineering routes with minimal gear, and the practice seems to be growing (or at least becoming more publicized).

This is a natural outgrowth of the desire to test oneself… Soon after we start running on trails, most of us will get anxious to try to go longer, to go faster, to go steeper, or to throw other variables (like obstacles or team elements) into the mix.

Testing oneself is the 5k recreational runner stepping up to his first trail 10k or half marathon.

It’s the marathon roadster deciding to challenge herself with a 50k trail race.

And it’s the trail runner who decides to focus on the vertical and use more than just their feet to carry themselves forward and upward.

Our first exposure to any other type of trail running that’s different from what we do ourselves is often met with one of two seemingly opposite reactions; being inspired, or feeling that what the others are doing is reckless.

“Reckless” can mean a lot of different things. To some it might be some other person doing something they’re not entirely prepared for. In fact, there’s certainly a lot of that in just about every trail running pursuit mentioned above. For example, pay attention to some of the other participants at your next trail race, for example, and see if you don’t say to yourself at least once or twice; “that person probably isn’t ready to be running in this event.”

Are they being reckless? Maybe a bit, setting a high bar is what we do as trail runners.We challenge ourselves, and sometimes we push things a little too far. Now take another look at those same in-over-their-heads runners again, isn’t their audacity also kind of inspiring?

Inspiration and recklessness are really just two sides of the same coin. They’re both present in the person who perhaps isn’t well enough prepared for her first 50k but still decides to give it a go and see what she can do, and they’re both present for the runner who decides to attempt mountaineering routes with a “fast and light” approach.

The thing that really matters is what I do with that coin. Do I allow myself to be inspired, or do I choose to make bad running decisions?

If I use someone else’s performance on the trails (or in the mountains) as a catalyst for reexamining my own training and my own goals, and doing so motivates me to set my sights a little higher, and train a little harder, then that’s inspiration.

On the other side of the coin, if I simply try to mimic or duplicate someone’s accomplishment because I think they’re cool or awesome (based on what I’ve read about them online or in the magazines), and I want to be like them or feel cool or awesome about myself, then that’s reckless. But let’s be absolutely clear – it would be recklessness on my part.

However a trail runner chooses to enjoy the hills and mountains is their choice, even if it’s getting on technical mountaineering routes, and that choice alone is neither inspiring nor reckless. It’s the way I choose to use that other person’s adventure to influence my behavior that makes their actions inspiring or reckless.



2014 Breck Crest Marathon Race Report

My third time running this race wasn’t exactly a charm, but I still had a great experience and look forward to the next time I participate.

The Weather.

This was probably the biggest story of the day. My wife said she heard someone affiliated with the race say it was the most challenging the weather conditions had been since 2005. (I tried to find some online accounts of that 2005 race to learn more, but couldn’t come up with anything. If any readers happened to run the race in 2005, please share!)

There was precipitation all day, with that precip sometimes being heavy snow up high. And the winds were sometimes gusting strong along the ridge. At a couple points I got to experience blizzard conditions, with horizontal snow blowing right at my face. The trails were wet, and occasionally slick, but never particularly.

This is the first time I can remember thinking that a particular gear choice was a “make or break” for the race. In getting dressed to run, I struggled between wearing a long sleeve shirt coupled with a wind vest, or a short sleeve  shirt plus homemade arm warmers (ski sock liners cut for finger holes) plus a full-on rain jacket with a hood.

Thankfully, I choose the rain jacket combination. There were a few unpleasant moments above treeline, and I remember thinking that if I had chosen the vest I probably would have had to switch down to the half-marathon at the second aid station in order to come out of the storm. Given the chatter of other middle- and back-of-the-packers around me, I think a lot of people weren’t able to stay warm enough (or simply disliked the weather enough) to make that switch.

The Pace.

I signed up for the Breck Crest at the last minute, with an eye toward using it as my last long run before the Bear Chase 50 Mile at the end of September. My effort level was fairly even throughout, and I was able to make up for the colder temps by taking in more calories than I normally would. Probably all of which is good prep for the 50.

I’ll admit that I’m kind of curious what it’s like to run the other Breck Crest races (10k and half marathon), but I figure that if I’m making the drive up to the high country I want to get the biggest bang for my buck.