I knew within a few miles that Scout Mountain was going to be one of those races that conjures a demon, though I didn’t know then what it was. Because of the snowier than normal winter, the course was long (54 miles in fact), and we were treated to an earlier than normal start at 5am for extra time to deal with the snow. I am still not sure if it was something I ate the night before, altitude, or just nerves contemplating my first real mountain ultra, but my stomach was not right even before we started. I tried to ignore it as I pounded my standard pre-race breakfast of banana bread and peanut butter.
If there ever was a race that could distract you with sheer beauty, though, Scout Mt is it. The 50 mile version traverses 30ish miles of foothills before doing a 20 mile loop up and over the top of Scout Mountain itself. The race unseats the Superior as the most scenic race I’ve ever run, a spot Superior has had since 2005.
20 isn’t really even that cold. That’s what I kept telling myself in the days leading up to the Tunnel Hill 100. The start temp was predicted to be around 20, with a high barely cracking freezing on Saturday, then back down to 20 Sunday morning. The reason I kept telling myself that 20 isn’t cold is that I was genuinely scared. By mid-winter, running in 20s weather would be pretty much the norm. But even the cold 50ks I’d run were just a few hours long. I had no idea how we’d deal with 24+ hours of frigid temps.
We decided to go to South Dakota literally 48 hours before leaving. We’d planned two other trips to celebrate Allison’s 45th birthday, and each successively had been thwarted by poor weather. Setting out at 2am on Friday morning, we drove ~950mi arriving in the Black Hills at dinner time to crystalline blue skies and the western landscape we were looking for.
Saturday morning we got on the trail relatively early with the goal being three or four summits. We managed two.
I am not sure why I haven’t been posting SOTA reports here, but I am going to start now. SOTA is a pursuit which involves taking a radio transceiver to the top of a mountain, setting up a station, and then talking to people (or beeping at them in morse code). If you make four contacts you’re awarded points and the contacts are awarded them as well. The number of points you get depends on the height and/or prominence of the mountain. It depends on some other stuff too, but that’s basically it. It’s sorta like Ingress (or Pokemon Go if that’s how you roll) but with mountains and ham radio.
It’s a really fantastic excuse to get to the mountains, and it’s spurred us to a whole bunch of roadtrips over the past six months. Anything that does that can’t be too bad right?
Race reports about races in which everything goes smoothly are hard to read. Who wants to spend 15 minutes having someone expand on “it went great”? That said, I have to tell you about this run because it didn’t just go “great,” it really is beginning to stand out as one of my favorite ultras ever.
It’s going to be tough writing a good race report about the Cry Me A River 50k. I tend to overuse superlatives anyway, and this was a race that encourages one to indulge in a wide variety of superlatives. So let’s get em all out there right now: hardest, steepest, most unrelenting, most barf inducing, bizarrely located in Illinois of all places, longest 50k ever. I have run a decent array of 50k races over the years and I cannot remember another which inspired actual tears from participants. I saw two people weeping on this race, both doing the 50k flavor. Cry me a river, indeed!
I ran the Kal-Haven trail run this weekend, my first “official” ultra in almost exactly 10 years. The run is a point-to-point from Kalamazoo to South Haven Michigan on the Kal-Haven trail, a converted railroad bed.There are conflicting reports on the exact length, but my Garmin said it was 34 miles. The easy grades and crushed limestone made for a kind reentry into the world of ultrarunning. I never entirely stopped running over those years, but when I started structured training in December, I’d only run more than five miles once in the previous several years.
I wish I knew the actual number of blogs I have begun over the years. If you added those to the Moleskin journals I have also begun writing in, I am sure I am up to a couple dozen or so. In fact, at some point I started also making it a tradition to start this kind of thing with a preamble like this. So consider that done, I suppose.
I started running a little more seriously a few months ago. I have never really stopped, but this was the first time in years that I followed a running plan. The goal was to get in shape for the 50k I ran this past weekend. The title of this blog is a (bad) joke made via the title of a Haruki Murakami book about running — he’s a marathoner and one of my favorite authors. In What I talk about when I talk about running he relates that he really doesn’t think about anything while running. I’ve always found this amazing. I think about everything when running, from what I am going to make that evening for dinner to what the characters my book need to do next. I think of running time being similar to how people describe lucid dreaming: my body is occupied and my mind is free to wander around solving problems or mulling ideas or thoughts over. I can kill a ten mile run thinking of nothing but various strategies for packing gear in the van. No joke.
So anyway, sometimes I think things while running that don’t fit into other writing projects, so that’s what this place will be for.