Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Ultra Family part 2ish

Josh opens the Door…

I remember many years ago, maybe 2005, going for a five mile run in Fox Forest on Lower Ridge trail with Josh. Josh said some words that got the wheels turning in my head and gave me hopes and dreams of doing a trail ultra-marathon some day. He simply asked if I thought I could keep doing the run we were doing for another 7 to 10 hours and if I could, he thought, easily do an ultra in the fall. Those few little words opened the door to my future as a trail runner and eventual ultra runner.

Thanks to Josh I met Rik and the other origins of the ‘Ultra family’…

Josh’s Dad, Rik, has always been friendly and always has a story. He has never made me feel unwelcome or awkward. We have never been real close but I have always looked up to him and admire him for his accomplishments and way he pulled his son, Josh, into ultrarunning. Rik tends to be a bit of minimalist when running. Some times too much of one and Josh is usually there to help him out. Rik has him well trained on being over prepared now..

After finishing my first 50k at the VT50, Rik was at the finish line with a smile and hug. I will never forget that moment. I’m very grateful for him being there. (A side note, my parents were at the race next year waiting for me, in the rain, to finish, also very special.) My other big memory of Rik is pacing him at the VT100 threw the night. It was 19 miles of walking. The hardest part was keeping up a conversation all night, as most know I’m not a big talker! But we got through it and it’s another fond memory.

Over the years the normal group of guys that Rik and Josh would hang with at races were always positive about running. Dave Delibac, Mike Lacharite, John Izzo, and Dan Myers. They always encouraged me to go the distance. They never doubted that I could do it. I think they enjoyed the idea of someone else out suffering on the trails with them... ‘What’s the worst that could happen’, they would say, ‘there is plenty of time, just got to keep moving.’ Always friendly, helpful and they had their own stories to share. They always helped me feel at ease going into a race. They were all excited the days I decided to step up to the line of some 50k’s. They truly are an extended family to me.

Josh: Hero. Motivator. Friend. Coach. Protector. Guide. Teacher. Leader. Courageous. Happy. Devoted. Friendly. Caring. Encouraging. Selfless. Proud(of his ‘family’). Competitive. Inspirational.

“Loni said to me on the way to the race “You have addicting passions.” She was right.”

Josh’s view on ultra-running has always been inviting one. You can’t help but be intrigued when he passionately tells his running adventures. It is infectious. But the passion seems to have a positive effect and influence on any one who is exposed to it. It is not all about winning to him; it is about self accomplishment and the fun. He talks about the feeling the accomplishment from going the distance. And the simple joys of having a race shirt with a story. The sense of self you feel by completing that first 31.2 miles when your fellow friends stutter at the thought of running that long. About going out and trying it, having the courage to start. But he puts it best by saying “The trick is to NOT wrap your head around it. Just go out and do it. You'd be amazed how far your legs can take you if you simply let them”

Because of his views he has motivated many to run. Many of us were non-runners, my self included, when we met Josh. Chris, Rachel, Leah, Grant, Greg, Mandiee, Sara the list goes on and on.

If you agree to go to a race with Josh you are almost guaranteed to be running with him at some point. If he is not running the whole race with you he will come back after he has finished to encourage you to the finish line. He has done this countless times for me and it always puts a smile on my face. More so because I’m near the back of the pack of runners and I’m usually getting lonely by that point. It’s just in his nature. He has always looked after his friends like they were his family, his pack. Like the classic quote “friends are family you choose”-Edna Buchanan. It is not only in races. During hikes, regular runs and bike rides he is often the one that hangs back and checks on the poor soul left all alone behind the main group. On Mont. Katahdin years ago Josh was going to spilt from the group and take a different route down to avoid the infamous Knife Edge. Not more then a hundred feet down the trail we heard scrambling on the rocks behind us as Josh caught up to us. He said something along the lines of his wolf instinct kicked in and he couldn't leave his pack behind. That and thought of sitting and waiting for us come down off the mountain would have killed him with worry.

Josh will often ‘give up’ his own race to run with a friend or help someone new out. He will throw encourage words at you and at any runners that are passed along the way. His endless words encouragement to others has kept me smiling threw races before. Simple words of ‘you are looking good, running strong’ can help so much during the race no matter the distance. And some times just hearing ‘let’s run to the next tree before you walk’ is all that is needed to keep going, simple little goals and good company.

“SJ - “So we gonna sub 10 at Vermont in a couple of weeks”

JR - “well I gotta see where loni is in the 50k, if I can catch her I’ll probably just run it in with her in”

SJ – “you’re just so god damn selfless aren’t you.” (Jokingly)

It’s very true, my father got me into ultras 8 years ago. Since then, I’ve gotten 3 of my friends who had never run anything in their life to run ultras with me. Everyone I touch I seem to get into a race of some kind. From local 5k and 10ks, sprint triathalons, to as long to the Vermont 100. I think that’s really my calling. I’m a motivator, a guide of some sort, my addictive passions are hard to NOT share with the ones I hold so close. It’s something I can say I’m really proud of.”

Then there is the over coaching. ‘Come on lets pick up the pace” or ‘lets kick it to the end now’. The problem is that I have already picked up the pace or already started to kick it?!… ugh. The ones closest to Josh often feel his frustration at not doing their best.

But there is a good reason. He knows people have a lot more potential then they think they have. He knows when you can do better. He wants nothing more then to see you improve, to train harder, to reach and exceed your goals.

That aside Josh does have very strong competitive edge and it is a joy to watch. Whether it be in pursuit of catching up to Sherpa John, pushing the pace to set a Personal Record or an all out sprint at end of race to catch his fellow runners. It is always inspiring to watch. He’s never really disappointed at loosing and is a very good sport when it comes to running. He will explain it is not about winning, its more about getting out there, doing your best, and having fun.

I like to whine a lot during a run. I always have an excuse for something. Then there is Josh. When he is running with others he hardly ever complains about his own aches, pains or woes. When he does it’s a problem that needs to be addressed, ie muscle cramps, chaffing. I admire his modesty about his discomforts and something I need to really aim for. But who doesn’t like ‘wine’? But then again to much wine leads to headaches and so does whining…

But please do raise you glasses and mugs to Josh. Who has given so many of us inspiration to run and has lead us into his Ultra Family.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snow shoe race?!

What was I thinking!?

Last year at the Peaks Snowshoe Marathon I was excited for many different reasons. One was that I no longer had to try to train for a snowshoe race again. I was tired of trying to run with snow shoes. It was hard for me to keep up a good ‘race’ pace, I didn’t have ideal racing snowshoes and I often got blisters when wearing them. I was done with it all. I was eager to longer wear snowshoes and excited to feel the freedom of just running in plain old shoes again

But the race went well and after eight and half hours I was happy to stop as 19miles. I was very proud that I surpassed the half marathon mark. I was sore in so many new places on my legs for the next week. But still, most of all, I was just happy to be free of snowshoes!

Then fall came, and race amnesia set in. I think that running a race with snow shoes sounds like a good idea. Sigh… here I go again.

Though this year, I’m trying my best to keep my stress level about the race down. With last year experience and some good miles logged on snow shoes under my belt I feel quite content. I have the happy realistic goal of finishing the half again. I would be really excited to get to 19 miles. I would be ecstatic if I could do the whole 26.2. But I know me and my strength and my training. I am not really ready for the full marathon and I am ok with that.

There is one other big difference this year. There will be many people that are part of my ultra family there. That fact has turned it into more of fun event then just a race to me. There will be first-timers and veterans and those of us in the middle. As I think of the race, faces and images float threw my mind and make me smile. There are many faces of people I have met there over the years and have affected me, all in a good way. Delibac, Amy Lane, Mike Lacharite and his parents Don and Betty Lacharite, Steven Latour, Izzo, Ray Zirblis, Sherpa John, Josh and his dad Rik, Race Director Andy, Jason Hyaden(land owner, biker and trail creator), Joe(Land owner and Race Host), Adam Wilcox, Dan Myers and many others. It makes me smile and lightens my heart to think of seeing them all again.

This year is also very special as I look forward to seeing Leah, Grant and maybe Mandiee and Greg join the race. I feel pride and joy for them stepping up to the starting line. It doesn’t matter the distance they do or if this is there first race or not just. To me it is about getting out and doing it, having the courage to start, taking on a new challenge and having fun.

The images I see of past years make long to go back to see all again. The bon fire at the start finish with stone soup in a big pot next to the fire that most shied away from. The lead runners kicking up snow breaking trail threw an open field. The steel snowmobile bridge that meant the end of the lap was near. The ever green tree labyrinth near the top that was always mysterious and twisting. Joes cabin at the top of the course with a bonfire. The image of me taking face dives into the snow when I would trip on my snowshoes. The stream very near the end where you could either walk along tree log over it or hop over. The odd trail names. The random quotes of the seven deadly sins on trees along the course. The farm animals curiously watching us run by. People every where smiling. Its all good memories.

I look forward to feeling the whole race atmosphere at Peak this year, despite straping the shoes onto my feet. The thought of seeing my ultra family and being part Team Robert’s first big official race of the year makes the discomfort of wearing snowshoes almost non-existent.

Josh enjoying the Peak Snow Shoe trails on a training run. The Cabin on top of Joe's Mountain in the back ground. Gorgeous.