North Face

A new adventure

TRT 50 mile, 2007. Photo by Scott Dunlap

The photo above was taken in my first year of ultrarunning, it was pre-sponsor days. In fact it was my very first 50 miler. Now looking at this picture, I see an immensely amount of foreshadowing about the course of my running and, more over, being sponsored. What you can't see in this picture is that I am wearing one of my beloved pair of Salomon running shoes. I wore the heck out of those shoes and finally in 2009 became a member of the Salomon running team. At that point in my running career, I was becoming very ultra focused and had my eyes on the 100 milers for 2010. Yes, I was still doing some road stuff, but it was secondary. I loved my time on the Salomon running team. They were amazing generous sponsors and I really loved my teammates.

Last year, I found myself as a runner. Deciding to try and run the Olympic Trials in the marathon was a turning point in my running career. I got back to the root of who I was as a runner and the way that I train best. No, I am not going to say that I found a road runner. Instead, I found an adventurer. And I found someone who can seek adventure within as much as I can seek adventure on a mountain or curving the line of some single track. I found balance, challenge and started to redefine myself. I am a hybrid runner. I love road, trail, combos, uphills, downhills, short and long distance. I just love to run, unabashedly and unbiased. My contract was up with Salomon at the end of last year and I decided not to renew it. I didn't have any other offers on the table at the time, but I could see that where I was going with my running, was not the proper fit for the Salomon team anymore. I am very thankful for my time at Salomon and the opportunities they gave me. 

After the Olympic Trials, I was feeling incredibly inspired in my running. I was choosing races according to my hearts desire alone. Dreaming big and setting some huge goals. I feel like I am exploring the possibilities of who I can be as a runner and as an adventurer. It is a really cool feeling.

When I started exploring the possibilities of potential other sponsors, I spent a good amount of time considering whether I would find a sponsor that would accept me for who I am as a runner. I made a firm decision that I would run for no one if it mean compromising the things I had learned about myself. 

I said the photo above was foreshadowing and looking at it now, I see it was. When I was unsponsored and new to the sport, I simply wore what I liked/loved, what felt comfortable, what made me feel like I could run like the wind. What was I rocking?

I am excited, humbled and absolutely overjoyed to announce that I am joining the North Face team. I am super stoked to be a part of such an amazing group of athletes and represent for a company that embodies the same spirit of adventure that I do. I have some great races lined up for the year and I can't wait to get started!

Perspective and progress

I have not been posting frequently in recent times because I have been too busy doing nothing. That is not completely true, I have in fact been busy training as hard as I ever have as well as working hard on top of that, you know, work work. For the last three weeks, I have challenged myself to "run like it is my job". I have tried very hard to make my life centered around the pursuit of my goals at the trials. For me, that also means working very diligently to maintain my own balance, listen to my body and not get overzealous. Yes, I go out there and push myself as hard as I can when I am suppose to, but I am also remembering to not worry about the pace that comes up on my watch, if I am even wearing one at all. I don't go out and just hammer, hammer, hammer every day until I am dead. I am not trying to pound nails in here, I am trying to sharpen the edge of a blade.

Heading up Dipsea during TNF 50 with Nathan
Photo by Peter Duyan

Part of keeping my perspective means staying connected to my community and the trails. Just because I am pursuing a road marathon goal, doesn't mean I have forsaken the trails or ultras in general. In fact, the more I road run, the deadlier I become on the trails. The balance of roads speed and trail time that I find, increasingly, is making me stronger on the hills and more confident in my speed on any surface. I love the trails and I love the ultra community.

Leaving Muir Beach
Photo by Peter Duyan

This weekend was a great opportunity to bring this home once again with pacing Nathan at TNF 50. It was a crazy competitive race and it was incredibly fun to watch it unfold. It was also an opportunity to get to witness a fantastic performance by Nathan. He is an incredible closer and I felt more than once in the last 22 miles that I paced him that it was legitimate that he might drop me, and not because I wasn't running my ass off, he is just that fast. We passed at least 15 guys in those waning miles, even going off course at one point. He was charging and I am so proud of his effort in such an amazing talented field of runners. After the race, I got to catch up with so many friends and fellow runners. It was great to spend three hours hashing out the happenings of the day and catching up. We talked ourselves silly for three hours before we left the finish line. But when it comes down to it, that is what I love about trail running and ultras- the community. We are a community and even when we duke it out on trail, we come together at the end, as friends, and enjoy our accomplishments together. That is not something that is part of the road running world, at least not that I have found. Instead of feeling like I was lost in a sea of (proud) finishers and strangers, I felt like I was hanging out at an extended family barbecue. Everyone there is at least a bit familiar and probably related. I love it. I am so glad that that is part of the way I train, live and see the world. I can't imagine pursuing such a specific goal such as the trials without that to balance it out.

Crushing it
Photo by Peter Duyan

The other side of that coin is the hard specific work I have been doing in preparation for the trials. While the trail/ultra side keeps me balance, I know I will only progress if I attack my specific workouts with intensity and drive. And I have. I have up'd my intensity and specificity and I can feel the changes in my body. Paces that once felt hard are easy. I am more limber and flexible than I ever have been (yes, I have been focusing on stretching!). I feel like my body is working like a well oiled machine. 

There are tests in training. Key workouts you go through that the mind assigns more significance to than any other. For me that has been the mile repeat workouts. Earlier this year, before LA, I did an 8x1 mile workout that gave me a huge confidence boost in my upper end speed. I averaged just over 5:50 a mile for that workout, which was suppose to be race pace -5 seconds & -10 seconds. A week ago, I was up against the same workout. I was nervous because I knew if I was only able to hit 5:50s again then I would  question whether my planned race pace in Houston is too ambitious. But, I also knew that I just had to do the work and let the pieces fall where they could. One workout, one set of mile repeats, does not make or break the race. Suffice it to say, I nailed the workout. I average 5:29 pace for 8 miles, with a 400 meter rest. I was stoked. I felt pleasantly surprised at my progress. I walked away from that workout intensely satisfied.

Over the next 39 days, I will continue to work hard, progress and try and keep perspective. It is a fun experiment, an unusual journey and a unique opportunity to try and see what I can make myself into. I for one, am going to continue to enjoy the ride.