Let’s talk about dirt.
I ran along trails last Sunday that allowed me to sink into sand, fly over rocks, and scamper up and down hills which was exactly what I needed as my first longish run after the marathon in Boulder. I love running on trails, but I am more careful than confident when trouncing across earth’s naked landscape. When I ran my first 50K a few years ago, we ran down this never-ending downhill switchback section that I know would have been much more pleasant if I was light on my feet, rather than freaked out with every step that I was going to topple over, roll an ankle, or roll down the hill altogether. I did fall during that race, but ironically it was on a flat section of the course. Regardless, I enjoy running on any surface, and the word to best describe trail running is “fun,” but for now I am aware that I excel on pavement.
My sister Sarah is an excellent trail runner. In fact, about four years ago while on a family vacation in Kauai we ran the same ten mile route every day that included some marginally technical terrain which she bounced along like a gazelle, while I stomped through it like the Jolly Green Giant. I loved every second of those runs, but I was out of my comfort zone.
Nevertheless, I have finished four trail marathons. They were all gorgeous and hard, but I don’t think I ran them well, because I was never truly spent after any of them. I know how to pace a road marathon, but cracking the code to pacing a trail marathon is still a mystery.
I look forward to exploring and figuring out how to race them correctlyin the not-so-distant future.
This past weekend was the running of the famed Western States 100 mile ultra-marathon, which takes place in Northern California. The starting line is in Squaw Valley and finish line is in Auburn. It is the most prestigious Ultra-marathon in the US, which makes receiving a race number hard to come by; slots are only allotted through qualification or lottery. Plus, I don’t believe anyone lined up in Squaw Valley was a first-time 100 mile runner; it is a safe assumption that every runner who races Western States is an accomplished runner.
One of the most accomplished ultra-runners of all-time is Nikki Kimball.
Nikki won numerous titles during her career, including three Western States titles, but what really caught my attention was watching her record setting attempt of the Vermont long trail, (273 miles that runs from the Vermont/Massachusetts border up to Canada), in the documentary, Finding Traction. I saw the film in the summer of 2015, when I was living in Albuquerque, NM and deep into training for my first ultra-marathon. I was transfixed by her unrelenting effort to conquer the thick, rich terrain of Vermont that appeared completely foreign to this SoCal native. Nikki wanted to beat the overall record, 4d12h46m, which she did not achieve, but she did snag the women’s record, 5d7h42m, a fantastic accomplishment, but that record set in in the summer of 2012 may fall in the summer of 2018.
For nearly the first five months of the year, I have been keeping a challenge known to only a select few under wraps. My Team HPB teammate and professional triathlete, Alyssa Godesky shared with me during a training ride at camp last January that she was planning to go after the women’s fastest known time, (FKT), of the Vermont Long trail this summer. I was instantly impressed and bursting with questions, because not only was this a huge task for anyone to take on, but from the POV of a fairly novice trail runner, something I simply could not wrap my head around.
Alyssa is veteran professional triathlete, but her roots are in trail Ultra running, so her pursuit of this goal is not completely out of left field. She has raced forty-five ultra-marathons, three 100 mile races, one of which was Western States. Plus, she has completed over forty Iron-distance triathlons. Therefore, if there was one woman on the planet who I believe could fumble Nikki’s FKT of the Vermont long trail, it is Alyssa.
Alyssa announced late last month her epic Summertime plans in a blog post featured on the Smashfest Diaries here.
I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I found out the cat was out of the bag. I have not held a secret that long since Eva Mendes’ first pregnancy years ago. (Hannah’s mom is her longtime personal trainer. Yes, Hannah has met Ryan. No, I have not.)
I have long been enamored with Ultra runners like Pam Reed, Dean Karnazes, Lisa Tamati, Kilian Jornet, Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Rory Bosio, Hal Koerner, Nikki Kimball of course, and even my college buddy turned stellar ultra-runner, Ryan Kaiser. I can relate to their condition of crazy, but I am still a couple years off from diving head first into ultra-running. There are triathlon and road marathon goals I plan to pursue before I slide into my mid-forties, but I am looking forward to the day when I can really sink my teeth into the ultra-running lifestyle, and maybe indulge in my dream training day, a 3-a-day run, (three run workouts in one day).
Meanwhile, I will be in the virtual front row cheering for Alyssa along on her FKT attempt later this summer.
I will follow up with links on how you can follow along on Alyssa’s FKT, but in the meantime, you can stay up to date on her journey by visiting her website here, and following her on instagram @alyssagodesky.
Finally, if any of you are intrigued by ultra-running, I recommend reading the following books written by a few of my heroes mentioned earlier:
The Extra Mile, by Pam Reed
Ultramarathon Man, by Dean Karnazes
Running To Extremes, by Lisa Tamati,
Run Or Die, by Kilian Jornet
Hal Koerner’s Field Guide To Ultra-Running, by Hal Koerner
Eat And Run AND North, both books by Scott Jurek
Also, The Pursuit of Endurance is a book worth reading to get familiar with the FKT culture because it was written by renowned hiker, and former all-time assisted FKT holder of the Appalachian Trail, Jennifer Pharr Davis.
These stories are a celebration of taking on enormous challenges. Something we should all try to do every single day. I am in awe and inspired by each of them, and I hope you will be, too.
Following is a classic Christina Aguilera tune that I think fits in with the theme of this post nicely. Enjoy.:)