Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ultra Running - It's Like That.

The Ultra running world is an amazing place.  I haven't competed in a race in quite some time and I had forgotten just how special the ultra community is. So, let me tell you the story of my race. It's a story which I'm hoping will illustrate just how small a world it is and what makes the Ultra running community so damn fantastic.  Bear with me if this is to long, drawn out or  "name-droppy".

Keith and I decided to take a road trip to Oregon and the Peterson Ridge Rumble was just the excuse we needed.  We were stoked to see some new trails and visit with our friend Sean Meissner in Sisters. A couple of years back, we met Sean at the Trans Rockies Run and we've had an open invite to come visit him in Sister's ever since. He's also the Race Director for The Rumble and a great guy.  I was looking forward to seeing him.

When we arrived in Sisters, we hit the important places like the Bakery, the Deli and eventually to Sean's place for a visit. I met Sean's buddy Chris Askew, who was helping him with race stuff.  You need the help of friends if you're going to put on a kick-ass race like the Rumble! Ultra folks are like that.  They help each other.

It didn't take long for the discussion to change to all things Geeky in Ultra world.  Soon, we were discussing the American River race that was being run that day and we were all curious about race results.  We consulted the computer to find that there had been an epic battle between legendary Bend, Oregon local Kami Semick and Ellie Greenwood, of Banff.  I've met Kami briefly at Trans Rockies and Ellie is a friend.  On this day, Ellie had come out on top and posted an amazing finishing time.  So, we phoned her on her cell phone to congratulate her.  She was still sitting at the finish line enjoying the post-race festivities when we called.  Ultra world is like that.  We encourage and support each other.

A few hours later, we arrive at Sean's house and I'm thrilled to see James Varner sitting on the sofa.  I only met him once at the Orcas Island 50k in Washington, but I liked him immediately.  James is a great guy. Next, my friend Gary Robbins walks in who I originally met through blogging.  He's his usual animated, entertaining, self-deprecating wonderful self.  I finally connected with him at Trans Rockies as well. He's also a big fan of the Ellie Greenwood Fan Club.  He rants and raves about Ellie, but he's preaching to the converted: we're members of the fan-club, too. Then, I meet a beautiful girl in the kitchen who introduces herself as Amy. "Fast Amy!" I declare with a big smile, recognizing Amy Sproston from her blog.  Ultra world is like that.  It's a very, very small world. 

The next day, is the race.  I take the early start, knowing I am a Tourist in this place and that I'm going to be moving slow and enjoying myself.  Or I'm hopeful that I'm going to be enjoying myself, but I'm sadly under-trained.  I spend the first hour at the back of the pack chatting with a lady, who just like me - is under trained but thought she would come out and try to run 40 Miles.  I forget her name, but she was awesome. I also realized, some what belatedly - that the race course is really flat and it was going to be really hard for this Mountain Girl.  I continue to cruise, albeit slowly - and take in the scenery of the forest trails.  I was happy to be running, happy to be on dry trails and happy to be at a race again.  It's been too long and I'm rusty.  For awhile, I find myself in last place with my new friend.  But, it's all good.  We're running around in the woods and chatting, without a care.  Ultra Runners sure are Good People.

About 4 hours in to my race, I rock into an Aid Station and am surprised and thrilled to see Kami Semick, with her kids working at the station.  I can't conceal my surprise and how impressed I am that she's there.  "OMG!  Kami Semick.  My names' Leslie.  We met.  At Trans Rockies.  I'm from Banff.  You just raced.  With my friend Ellie.  And now your here. With your kids.  You're amazing. You must be tired.  Thanks.  For being here.  I can't believe you're here.You raced less than 24 hours ago!"  I said all of this in the form of one giant-excited-breathy-exhaled-run-on-sentence.  She laughed and said, "I'm so sore!  I just got on the plane and came straight home. It was not the best way to recover. Ellie's great. The best part of the race was sharing some miles with her."  Wow.  Small world.  Again.  In what other sport do elite athletes enjoy racing and chatting and socializing in competition?  Ultra-running.  Then, follow up your kick-ass race with some volunteer duty.  Ultra Runners - they're like that.  We're regular folks, who do amazing things.

So, I've been suffering through my race, but still having fun.  I've been caught and passed by all of the fast people that started earlier and the 20 Milers are now mixed in with the rest of us.  I'm hoping that Olga, Ronda or Cheri are running fast, so that they will catch me and we'll get a chance to visit.  These gals I've only met briefly at other races and loosely keep track of - but I'm hoping to say Hi.  I'm also enjoying seeing all of the dogs and people running in this event.  It's Mayhem on the trail.  It's a dog-friendly event and I'm a dog-friendly person.  The dogs are loving it.  Clearly, these dogs run lots of miles with their owners - all of the dogs are incredibly well behaved, tongues hanging out and are sticking close to their owners.  Fun stuff.  It turns out Gary wins the Doggy division with his dog Roxy.  She gets a bag of Pigs Ears for her efforts and passes out in a Coma-like-doggy sleep.  Ultra doggies are like that.

Me, I'm 30 miles in to the race and still doggin' it at a much slower-than-Roxy pace.  But, a small miracle happens.  I hit the "10 Miles to go Aid Station" visit the nice boys at the aid station, chat, have some food and all of a sudden I'm feeling good.  Actually, I'm feeling like I've got a little "race" in me.  I head out and tell myself - Only 10 miles to Go. If you move your butt you can be at the finish line in 2 hours.  So, I start running like I haven't all day - and it's fast for me.  I'm feeling amazing, my body is moving great and next thing you know, I'm blazing down the trail and I'm passing people and picking up momentum.  Most of all, I'm having the most fun I've had all day.  I rock into the last Aid Station and get a high-five from Fast Amy and cheers from Chris and Darla Askew.  Some fast-guy blazes through the aid station and I take off in pursuit.  It was so awesome.  I was racing.  I latched onto the heels of this guy and pushed.  It was so much fun to be charging through the woods like that!  We hit the track in Sister's and run our lap around the track to the finish line.  When I checked my watch, I was a little surprised to find that I had just run the last 10 Miles of my 40 Mile race an 1 hour and 20 minutes.  That's fast for me!  I have no idea where that came from, but it sure felt good to finish so strong. I love running these things.  Ultra races are FUN!

Over dinner, I meet Josh and Ashley Nordell. Josh won the 20 Miler earlier that day and the beautiful, pregnant Ashley, I had met briefly in Wyoming at the Bighorn Ultra. Ashley has kicked-ass at the Bighorn 100 Miler the last two years, winning both times.  There seems to be a ridiculous amount of talented runners in Oregon and a strong running culture.  I've reached the conclusion that Ultra running is and always will be a great Equalizer.  We all run the same route, go through the struggles and the mental and physical hurdles and hopefully, we reach the finish line. At the end of the day we are all just people, who take pleasure from running silly long distances on winding scenic trails.

Ultra Running - It's Like That.


Dan said...

Very nice report! I didn't mind the name dropping at all. You were really moving the last 10 miles. I guess it just takes you a long time to warm up. ;-)

Danni said...

Um, I TOLD YOU IT'S FLAT. I know you heard me. Maybe it just floated out as fast as it went in? I am super impressed by your 80 minute 10 miles. Sounds like a great trip!!!

Olga said...

Hello? Out there? Why didn't we shake hands? Anybody?
Rockin' world, indeed!!!
I am still loving your top picture the most:)

Leslie said...

Hi Dan! Long time, no hear! You jest, but it totally takes me a long time to warm up. I always start super slow, it works well for me. Especially in Ultras! Hope you are well.

Hi Danni! I have amnesia. I vaguely remember this - I think I was too traumatized when you told me I had signed up for a flat race, that I put it in the back of my mind. But the race was awesome and I got to see Meissner on his home turf - the Sisters track.

Olga! I saw you cross the finish line and when I finally got my face out of my burrito, you had vanished. I went looking, though! Being the social butterfly that you are, you were probably heavy in conversation with long lost PNW friends. :) Bummer, but next time, O.K??

Sara Montgomery said...

There is an ultrarunner named Leslie, who always sees the best in people and shares her good vibes with the world. She's like that, and we like that she is. :)

Leslie said...

Love you Sarah! You made my day!

Olga said...

It's a deal! Yell to me loud!

Anonymous said...

glad to hear from you again. glad to hear you are still having wonderful's the snow melting up there?

Ellie Greenwood said...

10 miles in 80 mins - that's a nice time in a 10 mile race let alone a 40mile race - way to go Miss Leslie! Anyway, why am I reading your blog - however entertaining it is - it's sunny in banff now so I'm gonna go run :) PS - made my day to get the leslie/ Keith/ Sean phone call post -AR :)

Leslie said...

Hi Naomi! Snow's still here! Those who come to play on the May Long Weekend are going to be a wee bit surprised - there's currently more snow on Sulphur Mountain than I've EVER seen. Crazy. Could be worse...
We could be like Waterton - currently sitting with 350% more snow than the norm.

Why thank-you, Ms. Ellie. It was a nice way to finish up a very leisurely day! Glad you appreciated the love, ultra Peeps are like that!

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