Going the distance is the very essence of ultrarunning. My dear friend Lesley is celebrating her 50th year by running her first 50 miler. She is apprehensive and asked me how she will get through those last miles. Indeed, those miles from your previous longest distance to your new longest distance are the mystery. That mystery is part of the adventure.
It’s not as much fun to write a race report when the day didn’t go as well as you hoped. The Gold Rush skate ski race is 3 laps of a hilly course, each lap starting with a ripping downhill and ending with a climb back to Summit Station at Royal Gorge.
I was enjoying seeing friends before the start and I felt fine in the start coral, so I didn’t see the train wreck coming. They changed the direction of the loop this year, going down the steeper side of the loop and coming back up the more gradual climb.
Let me be clear: this race report is about my Coach, Peter Fain, of Run on Dirt Coaching, because my MUC 25k story has a lot do to with him.
Several Run on Dirt athletes toed the line at MUC this morning. At the finish, we compared Coach Peter’s individualized pre-race instructions. Dan ran a 50k PR and proudly finished with not much left in the tank. Chaz, who is training for Western States, had specific orders on how to approach each section of the course and finished first in his age group.
The fresh, uneven snow on the long descent to Truckee made it more challenging than usual. Actually, it’s challenging in a different way every time, and I thought to myself, “That’s what makes it Great. That’s why it’s called The Great Ski Race.” And it had been a Great adventure even before the race start.
The 50k trail race is also known as the “gateway drug” to ultras. Runners looking to move from road marathons or perhaps trail half marathons to their first ultra frequently ask me for 50k race recommendations.
Here are five 50k ultramarathons that I recommend for Tahoe trail runners. Not all are in the Tahoe Basin, but close enough to drive race morning and train on course. They are listed in calendar order.
Five minutes in and my lungs are tapped. I have to stop to catch my breath. I’m so focused on the snow a few feet ahead on the trail that I can scarcely enjoy the amazing views. That was me learning to skate ski almost ten years ago, before I was even a runner.
Skate skiing is a form of cross-country skiing that utilizes a skating motion rather than a parallel striding motion (think: ice skating on 6-foot long skinny skis). It generally requires groomed trails, and is therefore best practiced within a cross-country ski center. The skating motion allows you to climb up hills and fly on flats all while giving your balance, core and glute muscles a major workout. And, yeah, you get to ski down those hills, too.
We have winter in Tahoe after a long, long dry spell. The options for snow sports activities are dizzying. I spent the last bluebird morning in decision paralysis because my body needed a rest day but I felt obligated to “enjoy” some downhill powder skiing. I went for a massage, instead – lucky me!
This brings me to a few habits (mine and others) that have been nagging at me this winter. And I pledge to change on my part.
I started using Strava at the request of my running Coach (Peter Fain, Run on Dirt) – it is one of our primary communication tools. I was instantly hooked by the ease of viewing my activities and overall statistics.
Strava is fundamentally a social competition tool. Step 3 in their own How it Works guide reads: “Analyze and compare your data against yourself, friends, and pros.” That being said, it also offers a host of FREE tools that are excellent for tracking and analyzing your runs, and that’s just the beginning.
Our running club, the Donner Party Mountain Runners (DPMR), is approaching its second birthday. Last year my fellow board member Gretchen Brugman reflected on her favorite moments from our first year. I recently found myself wanting an excuse to write about my very favorite DPMR experience, the Hilloween Hill Climb. Since that was over two holidays ago, it seemed a bit dated.
In the context of reflection and gratitude, I’m happy for the opportunity to share my favorite running club experiences of 2015. In chronological order: