Back in the ultra game…

It’s been over 2 years since I ran my last ultra. I can officially say that I’m back, but here’s a little bit of where I’ve been:

Injury City

Back in 2010, I finished my first 100 miler (the Old Dominion 100, race report here) and got 2nd place. It felt awesome but left me with a bad case of IT Band Syndrome that took 5 months to heal, mostly because I wasn’t patient enough to allow for full recovery prior to getting back out on the trails. Once the IT Band Syndrome was finally gone, rather than slowly building back I jumped right back into the high mileage and 2 months later I found myself running the Hellgate 100k (race report here). Worked great, right? Nope. Stress fracture on the femur that took another 4 months to heal. *womp womp*

Once all was said in done, in April 2011 I was finally able to run again. I had spent 9 of the previous 12 months with zero running, and with a deep desire to make sure that this never happened again, I made the decision to take the rest of 2011 off. The plan was to train and slowly build back but without the pressure of performance… but in reality life got too busy to train with any regularity (my best friend nearly died in a skydiving accident so I spent a good deal of time by his side in the hospital, I moved at an inopportune time, and my efforts for Cupid’s Undie Run kept growing and growing). 2011 ended up being a wash for training (some crossfitting here and there), and come the beginning of 2012 I found myself wanting to run but totally out of the groove and lacking fitness.

So, in 2012 I resolved to get back in ultra shape. I had a long ways to go having been off my game for so long. The year started off with our national expansion of Cupid’s Undie Run into 5 new cities, so not a whole lot of training in those first two months. I ran on and off for most of the year, sometimes getting in long runs and other times wishing I was back out there doing 80-mile weeks like I used to. Either way, 2013 came and I had amassed a smidgeon of fitness built up, so my curious self wanted to see if “good enough” would work in the ultrarunning world compared the “gotta follow the training plan perfectly” mentality I had followed for years.

2013 – year of the comeback…

Birthday 50k

On January 12th (my birthday), my local lululemon Bethesda Run Club had a 9-mile trail run planned through Rock Creek Park (RCP). With RCP being my stomping grounds, this appeared to be the perfect opportunity to 1) run with friends, 2) introduce newbies to RCP, 3) attempt my 1st ultra in over 2 years, and to do so on my birthday. My fellow ambassador, Keith Moore, was leading the run so we marked the trail (or as I like to say: “threw gluten at trees”) for the first 9-mile lap, I did some announcements, ran another 9 with the group, enjoyed a few minutes of the typical post-run VHTRC parking lot party led by Gary Knipling (if you’re an ultrarunner, you know this part can’t be missed), then headed back out onto the trail for the remaining 13 miles solo.

Every aspect of this run was special to me – the trail marking for newbies, the running with friends, the parking lot party and the alone time during the most difficult part of the run. I’m somewhat of an introvert/extrovert, so I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift to myself. When all was said and done, I ran 31.0 miles exactly in 5:16. Not my fastest ever, but having been gone for 2+ years I was damn pleased with it. Suffice to say, it felt GREAT to be back at it and pushing my limits once again.

Hashawha Hills 50k

I said to race director and VHTRC club president Alan Gowen before the Hashawha Hills 50k on Feb 23rd, “I’m going to bandit run this, but don’t tell the race director”. He totally fell for it ;-)

The forecast called for low 30’s and freezing rain and that is exactly what we got. I nearly killed myself in the parking lot of the hotel that morning slipping on black ice, so it made for quite the adventure. The course called for two loops of the same 15.5-mile section of trail. Each loop presented a quite challenging set of conditions. The first loop greeted us with freezing rain and a rock solid under-footing, made even more difficult due to the fact that horses regularly travel on this trail and their hooves leave a very uneven terrain. In no time we were back to the start and halfway there.

“Ok, no biggie, we can handle some difficult footing. Let’s see what the 2nd loop has to offer.” The temps warmed up and the freezing rain stopped – sounds great, right? Nope, this meant that the frozen ground was now a sloppy mudslide, and for a good portion of the 2nd loop we were carefully walking so as not to slip and plop down into the river of mud that used to be a trail. Slowly but surely, we plodded our way through. Before you knew it we were making our way back into the Nature Center, just a few seconds over 7 hours. I got in a 2nd 50k for the year.  Not a bad start for 2 years off!

Wrapping it all up

…so there you have it. That’s where this former ultrarunner has been these last few years, and hopefully this post is the first of many more to come as I bring my out-of-shape ass back into the game. I also plan to post more about the intersection of my original passion (ultrarunning) with my more recent passion (ancestral nutrition) and hopefully help folks achieve what I like to call Evolved Endurance.  It’s about time this junk-food laden sport reevaluated its stance on the damaging “I run a ton, so I can eat whatever I want” mentality.