Wednesday, November 27, 2013

5 Running Things I Am Thankful For

1. I am not injured: This one is at the top of the list for me and probably is for most runners who have ever been injured. So many of my friends are in various stages of injury recovery right now, and through their postings on Facebook, I am constantly reminded of how much it sucks to be injured and not able to run. At least for now, I am thankful that I am not injured and promise to remind myself of that every time I am mentally complaining about a run. I may be out of shape, and I may have to start that long and painful climb back into fitness, but thankfully, I am healthy enough to do that. Never take it for granted!

2. My running friends: This is one of the areas that has grown in importance in my life. I am kind of a loner. It may not seem like it to look at me now, but it is true. Until I started running, I could almost count on one hand the number of friends that I had. When I started running in CA over a decade ago, I was welcomed into the running community there via of the Loma Linda Lopers and later the Redlands Runegades.

I met some really special people who have become very important in my life. I am thankful for their influence on a beginning runner and for their continued friendship and support. So many great connections were made, and so many tough life issues were shared and worked through on those many runs. I miss them more often than they might imagine. Thank goodness for Facebook which allows me to sometimes feel that I am not so far away and that I am right there with them again.

When I moved to MI, I had no idea that I would meet another great group of running friends. The Playmakers community there was very welcoming, as was the ultrarunning community I was able to connect with through Running Fit. Although these are competitors in the MI running store business, they are both wonderful resources for the MI running community.  Team Playmakers is wonderfully supportive, and without the connections I made through that group, I probably would never have made it through three years in the cold north. I will never forget the first winter running up there with Corey, Paul, Mike, Jessica, and Dee.

As time progressed, I met more and more wonderful people from that group, Kate, Geoff, Lynn, Janet, Anna … there are too many to list. Then I joined the Playmaker’s Master’s Women’s Racing Team and met whole new group of wonderful people. My dear friend, Ruth, who is the leader of our crazy group is one I am most thankful for. I am also thankful that I had the opportunity to become friends with Sharon Dolan before she was taken from us.

Ruth and me being mud dogs!

What is impressive and another thing I am thankful for is the diversity of people I have become friends with through running.  I am thankful that my running friends are made up of people from a variety of ages, backgrounds, races, occupations, religions, and interests. Each one of you has enriched my life and my running in different ways.  That is definitely something to be thankful for.

3. The running experiences:  Running has given me so many moments I am thankful for. Some of these were moments where I learned things about myself, such as in the middle of my first 50 miler or when I twisted my knee and was one of the last finishers at Green Swamp.

Others were moments with friends.  Nothing will ever replace those early morning runs down San Timeteo Canyon, first with Bill Wall and the Lopers, and later with Kimball, Frannie, and the Runegades.

Kimball, Frannie, and me flying down San Timeteo Canyon

The roadtrip to Leading Ladies Marathon, despite its problems, was one of my favorite running experiences ever.

The Leading Ladies

And, I am especially thankful for my equally crazy running/walking/biking friend Leslie who has been my companion and tent-mate on so many excellent adventures.

Leslie and me on a biking adventure!

Still others were the time spent in beautiful places: running through the Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias on the Shadow of the Giants trail, running along the beach in Carpinteria then up through the avocado grove, the view from the top of Mt. Baden Powell (or countless other views from the Pacific Crest Trail), the view from the top of the trail at Dances With Dirt Devil’s Lake, and the simple beauty I found on any number of other trail runs.

Nelder Grove at Shadow of the Giants
There are also the experiences meeting so many of my running heroes and inspirations: Lorraine Moller, Scott Jurek, Lynn Jennings, BartYasso, Dick Beardsley. Each one of them was so gracious and had so much insight to share about running and life. In how many sports can the average runner have the chance to interact with his or her heroes? How many of them would actually let you hold their Olympic medal!!??

With Lynn Jennings

4. My coaching clients: I have to give a shout-out here for one of the newest things I am thankful for this year: my three new coaching clients. Earlier this year, I got certified as a Road Runner Club of America coach and opened a coaching business here on the blog. I have been a teacher my entire life, but because of one bad decision 30 years ago, I have been teaching English (which I do also love) instead of in my true area of passion, which is physical education/kinesiology/exercise science.  Opening the coaching business finally allowed me to follow that dream in a small way.

However, you can’t be a coach if you don’t have athletes. Thankfully my dear friend Kate was willing to take a chance on me and turn her training over to me as my first client. She has been an amazing athlete to work with! She is such a hard worker, so intelligent and coachable, and her results have been amazing. It is so rewarding to be able to be a partner in her success.

Me and Kate just after she scored her marathon PR! 

Since then, I have picked up two more clients who have become very special to me, Angela and Missy. Like Kate, these two ladies have been amazing to work with.  It has been so exciting to see them progress and improve. They have such great attitudes and, like Kate, are so eager to work hard and learn. I love watching how supportive they are with each other and what a little “team” has been created. I am thankful for their trust and enthusiasm.  

5. Sense of hope and possibility: The final running thing I am thankful for is the sense of hope and possibility that has always surrounded the sport for me. Have you ever stood at the start of a marathon? If so, you know how much hope and possibility the event represents. It is the hope for growth and change. The possibility of doing things one never thought they could (What? Run 100 miles? Me? I don’t think so? …. Well maybe …. Okay, I will give it a try!). 

Is there anything more hopeful than a runner sitting down in the winter to plan their racing calendar for the next year?  Each race considered brings the possibility of new experiences, new challenges, new triumphs, and new friends. Once the events have been chosen, the training plan is laid out – again so much hope and possibility. That is one of the most addictive parts for me, one of the most important aspects of running.

I am also thankful that running has taught me to keep a hopeful attitude in the face of despair. A bad race? Oh well. It happens. There is always another one on the horizon. Jump back in there and start preparing. This little bit of perspective I learned from running has served me well in other areas of life.  

As Thanksgiving approaches, I invite you to head out on a run and contemplate what running things you are thankful for. If you get a chance post a comment here or over on the Facebook page to share what you are thankful for in your running life. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Changes to the Western States 100 Qualifying Standards: The Best Laid Plans...

In an earlier post (“Do What You Love… Love What You Do”),  I had discussed my decision to recommit to trail running and to my desire to pursue my number one bucket list item, running the Western States 100.  In the aftermath of that choice, a barrage of other choices followed, which ultimately led to us leaving for a year on the road for me to pursue my ultrarunning dreams.

I had carefully laid out a year’s worth of plans that involved qualifying for Western States early in the year in March in Kentucky at the Land Between the Lakes 50 mile race, on a course I was familiar with and comfortable with. The attempt early in the year was so that if I did not qualify on the first try that I would be able to follow that up later in the year with another attempt. If I did qualify, I was planning on a 100k, 100 miler or 24 hr race later in the year (still to be determined) to help get me ready in case I was lucky enough to get in.

Then, in late October, some news came out on the WesternStates 100 site that changed everything: their qualifying standards were changing! They subtitled the article with the statement “Keep it fair. Keep it Simple. Raise the Bar.”  Starting with the 2015 race (the earliest one I would be able to qualify for), 50 mile races were no longer accepted as qualifiers for the Western States 100. Entrants for the lottery now must qualify by running one of the approved 100k or 100 mile races.

They gave some pretty good justifications for the changes.  Because of the growing popularity of ultras and the draw of the Western States, the number of applicants has been steadily increasing. Because of their agreement with the Forest Service, however, the number of applicants must stay the same. Thus, the chances of getting selected in the lottery have been plummeting. Here is what the site has to say about this:

The chances of being one of the lucky 270 drawn last year, with only a single ticket in the bucket, was a scant 7.9%. With the likelihood of continued increase in demand – which parallels the growth of the sport worldwide – if we continue with our current standards and races, the chances of getting selected in the lottery will soon be below 5%. We don’t believe that is good for the race or the runners who get a qualifying time, enter the lottery, and then get rejected in the lottery, some year after year after year.

I do see what they are saying. By requiring the 100k or 100 miler, the number of entrants will probably drop, and that should help with the long wait times for entry. The site does not say what percent of the qualifiers each year come to the lottery through the 50 mile races, but it is probably quite a few. 

There is a lot of discussion of the changes on the ultrarunning discussion boards and blogs. It appears that most ultrarunners support the changes and feel that it is very reasonable to ask runners to have qualified at a 100 mile race of comparable difficulty before entering.  Most ultrarunners are very much against the “bumper sticker” approach to ultrarunning, where people rush to run distances to collect the sticker for the back of their cars. Many feel that to participate in a race like Western States runners should have shown at least enough dedication to the sport to be willing to run a 100 miler to prepare. In addition, most ultrarunners know at least one person who worked for years to be ready to make a serious attempt at Western States, qualified, and then waited another few years to get through the lottery process (or are still waiting) while others they know of, who are new to ultrarunning, possibly only having run one or two 50ks and the qualifying 50 miler, were lucky enough to get in on a first try. There really is something about that which just seems wrong.

I also support the change, although it does throw a monkey wrench of sorts into my plans since I will now have to prepare for and run a 100 miler this year to qualify (almost all of the 100ks are international events). However, I will take that over the possibility of qualifying and waiting years to actually get in.

There are 63 races on the qualifier list for 2015. I will need additional time to prepare and feel a race before August would be totally out of the question.  So now I am agonizing over choices…

I am leaning toward the Hallucination 100 at Woodstock. It has a lot of advantages for me: I am familiar with the trails there; I have a good support system in MI; and I really like the evening start so that I am running at night while I am fresh.  

Once I decide, which will probably be sometime in the next few weeks, I will backtrack to try to figure out my racing schedule to prepare.  Anyone want to join me at Woodstock?

P.S. While I wait, I am getting in some awesome trail running at Ross Prairie State Park in FL. Read about it on the Roaming, Running, Writing blog.