Monday, June 17, 2013

The Big 5

" No matter how many goals you have achieved, you must set your sights on a higher one." -Jessica Savitch

While I was running my 30 mile route on Saturday, I started to put together a list of my top 5 must do races.  The list I came up with contains most of the top ultras in the world in terms of popularity and in toughness.  If you're an ultra runner, you are most likely familiar with all of these races. If you're not, below is a short description of each one.

I plan to run each of these races before I retire from ultra running.  To enter most of these races, you either have to qualify or hope you get picked through their lottery system.  Beginning in 2014 and every year after until I get accepted, I will put my name in for all of the races below that have a lottery system.

This list is not in any particular order:

1) Western States 100 - I think this is on everyones list of must do races simply because there is so much history involved with this race.  The race starts in Squaw Valley, CA and runs 100 miles of trail to Auburn, CA. 

2) Hardrock 100 - This is regarded as the toughest ultra in the U.S.  It takes place in Silverton, CO and has 34,000 ft of climbing and 34,000 ft of descending.  The average elevation is 11,186 ft with a high point at 14,048 ft.

3) Badwater 135 - Most people shy away from this race because of the extreme heat. The temperatures can reach a very hot 130F.  The race starts 282 ft below sea level in Death Valley and runs to Mt. Whitney at 8360 ft above sea level.

4) Spartathlon - This is an extremely popular race over seas but not many Americans know about it.  This race starts in Athens and goes 153 miles to Sparta.  You have a whopping 36 hrs to cover this distance.  This race is rich in history, and I have heard from runners who have completed this race that finishing will become the greatest moment in your ultra running career.

5) Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc -  Regarded as the hardest race in the world not only because of the number of mountain passes but also because of the extreme weather.  This race is often shortened due to the unpredictable weather as you traverse around Mont Blanc over many mountain passes and through 3 countries.  The principle of the race is semi self-sufficiency so there are only 10 aid stations.  Everything else must be provided by you. 

All 5 of these races require a lot of hard word and luck to get into them, much less complete them.  Hopefully in the coming years I will be able to start checking them off of my list. 

So there you have it, my top 5 dream races.  What's on your bucket list?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Charleston Update

"Life (and running) is not all about time but about our experiences along the way." - Jennifer Rhines, Olympic Runner

My wife and I moved to Charleston, SC three weeks ago, and we have loved every minute of it so far.  The weather has been nearly perfect so we have spent a lot of time at the beach and a lot of time exploring the city.  It only took me a couple of days to get into a running routine, and I have started to build my mileage in order to get ready for the Cremator 50

My first two runs were vastly different from each other but both of them provided me with a little insight as to what running in Charleston is going to be like.  My first run was an unplanned 6 miles the first day we were here in order to stretch my legs from the 8+ hour drive.  What started out as an easy run quickly turned into a run that ended up averaging a pace of 6:39 per mile.  It was relatively easy to run that pace because of Charleston's lack of hills. Two days later I set out on a 20 mile adventure run so that I could explore the city.  I decided to run over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge since it is the only resemblance of a hill that Charleston has to offer (I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time on this bridge).  About 9 miles into this run I came to my other realization - it's even hotter and more humid than I was expecting as I had already gone through two full bottles of water without even realizing it.  Normally two bottles will last 20-25 miles but in this part of the country it is hard to drink enough while running because of the heat and humidity.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge at sunset
Running and biking path along the bridge
I started running with a great group of runners the first Sunday morning I was here. I have continued running with them each Sunday since, and we run 10+ miles at a fairly quick pace.  They have welcomed me into their group with open arms and have been telling me about several other group runs throughout the week of which I plan to join.  I plan to add in fast tempo runs and track workouts in order to get my leg speed faster - all that will happen soon enough. 

Running in Charleston is different than what I am use to - it is flat and fast here. Currently I am averaging 80 mpw. If I can build my mileage to the low 100s and acclimate to the heat, I hope to run a sub 6:40 at the Cremator 50 in late July.  

My wife and I are settling in easily in here. This is one of the most charming city's I've visited, and I'm excited to now call it home. It's great to run long and hard, and then spend the rest of the day recuperating in front of the ocean. Not too shabby if you ask me.

Enjoying a stroll on the beach after running 25 miles that morning