Sunday, February 21, 2016

Susitna 100: Prologue

Race start.
It’s 8:55 in the morning. The air is crisp, but not abrasively cold. Runners, skiers, bikers, and spectators are bustling around in front of Happy Trails Kennel, anxiously awaiting the sound that will signal the start  the day. Em and I are taking care of last minute things since we arrived only about fifteen minutes ago after deviating from the route a few times times, although we had completed it seamlessly yesterday afternoon. My nerves are spiking, which is unusual for me. I normally feel cool and collected at the start of a race; the heightened emotions that kept me awake for most of the night are unfamiliar. Puffs of white fog emit from the crowd with each person’s exhale, and as we all count down, the sled dogs chained to their houses behind the kennel begin to howl together in a crescendo. Five… four… three… two…

Our one snowy day this winter.
Emily and I had decided to make the February trip to Anchorage for Susitna in the fall. I moved to a rural community in Southeast Alaska as part of an AmeriCorps VISTA program at the beginning of September, and I had been poking around online trying to find some ultras in the state. Em and I had been chatting online, and I, somewhat jokingly, sent her a link to the website of the Little Su 50k and asked how she felt about meeting in Anchorage to go run the race for my birthday weekend. She told me later that I had caught her at just the right time, and I was pleasantly surprised when we were booking our flights a few weeks later. We would get to Anchorage on Thursday, spend the day relaxing on Friday, run the 50k on Saturday, spend Sunday (my birthday) and Monday enjoying the city post-race, and fly back to our respective homes on Tuesday. We sort of toyed with the idea of doing the 100 instead of the 50k, but it seemed incredibly daunting and ridiculous. We’ll try for the 50k this year, we decided, and then could scope out whether or not the 100 would be doable in the future.
I was traveling to Anchorage for a conference the week that the race opened. Travel from Prince of Wales Island, where I live, is no small feat, and I had a busy few days of flying and getting things underway for the conference. Emily signed up for Little Su, and when I got onto UltraSignup a few days after the race opened, my heart sunk to my stomach when I saw that the race was full. Every year, I learned later, the race fills up pretty quickly. I had looked at the results on UltraSignup and seen only 30-40 runners each year, so it hadn’t occurred to me that this would be an issue. Because UltraSignup until recently only displayed results from runners, I didn’t think about an entry cap that was filled by not just the runners, but the bikers and skiers. I felt like I had a rock in my gut for a few days as I turned this over, emailed with the RDs to ask about a waitlist (there is none) and how many people usually are able to register from forfeited entries (varies from year to year, and they usually go quickly). Do I wait and hope that I get into the 50k? Do I sign up for the 100? Do I just go and hang out in Anchorage while Emily does her race?

Emily's conclusion.
Em and I sort of mulled this over for a day or two. Finally, we reached a decision. Emily sent me a text that said, “It took me a while to come to my senses, but I see now that doing the 100 is the obvious thing to do.” We decided that we would both sign up for the 100 and would plan on doing the entire thing together, for the sake of being safe. After all, this race only has six aid stations for 100 miles and could possibly get down far into negative temperatures.

50k on New Year's Day on the icy roads around Coffman.
For the next three months, it was hard to think about hardly anything other than this race. I regularly put in 20-30 mile runs around the island where I live, desperately hoping for snow that never came. There was one snowy weekend in November where I was able to haul my friend’s child around in a sled, but I otherwise had no way to test my setup. In Boise, I never had to do long miles by myself, but in Coffman Cove, my long days were always alone, a different mental challenge. In the final month of training, I started dragging a tire around town with me when I walked back and forth to work, hoping that it would prepare me for hauling my gear on a sled.

Beyond just the physical and mental preparations, the months leading up to the race saw a lot of monetary expense related to Su. Most of this was dedicated to the -20 degree bag that is required for the race, which I bought used on ebay and still cost me as much as a month of rent. Additional considerations were the closed cell foam pad, insulated water bottles that would prevent frozen drinking water, microspikes, and other winter gear. I joked with Emily that I was going to add up all of my costs for the race and write it down on something that I could look at during the run if I was ever feeling like I wanted to quit. It’s probably due to willful ignorance that I didn’t follow through with this. After all, good gear is an investment.
Tire pulling.

I felt that my training was going well, even without any sled pulling. Emily and I both decided that it would be best to forgo our original plan to stick together for the whole race. As our training became more solid and we read more and more about the race, the Su100 got less and less scary. I was still unsure about whether or not I would be able to hack it for a hundred miles, but I was no longer worried about getting lost or freezing to death on the side of the trail. All that required gear is a pain, but it does help to quell the worries and the “what ifs.”

The ferry ride to Ketchikan.
February finally came, though still no snow in Coffman Cove. Though it hadn’t been snow-tested, I had created my sled with some u-bolts for bungee cords and some poles to connect to my waist belt, relying heavily on what Em said worked and didn't work for her when it came to the rest of the prep. I also was put in touch with Shawn McTaggart, who lives in the area and is well-versed in long-distance winter running. I packed up my gear for the trip to Anchorage and spend an excruciatingly long Wednesday ferrying and flying to Anchorage on “the Milk Run,” which is a flight that makes several stops on the way to Anchorage to make running the flights more cost-effective for the airline. A two hour drive to the ferry, a three hour ferry ride, and a jumping plane ride later, I was in Anchorage after a sixteen hour day of travel.
Checking my sled to Anchorage.

I spent the day on Thursday indulging in things that I had not been privy to for several months: cell service, lattes with soymilk, restaurants with a veggie menu. Emily’s flight arrived right before the pre-race meeting, and we greeted each other quickly before getting to gear check and standing in the queue with the other two hundred people shaking out their jitters.

We matched on accident.

Drive from Anchorage to Wasilla.

How many bags can two girls have?
Gear check was mostly quick and smooth. The wait in line was long, but it was enjoyable to chat with everyone else getting ready to depart on their own adventures. As with every ultra, you see a lot of people who you may not pick out of the crowd as an endurance athlete- one of my favorite things about the sport. The only difference was that in this crowd, the question was, “Are you going on bike, on skis, or by foot?” After making our way through the snaking line, Emily and I got to the front, where we each were called over to one of the many gear checkers to reveal our required gear: -20 degree bag, which was tagged by the checkers, insulated water bottles, bivy sack, closed cell foam sleeping pad, headlamp, red light, 3000 calories of food, and a minimum of 15 pounds of gear. Once everyone had their gear checked, they gathered in front of the big screen where one of the RDs presented on the usual pre-race info: watch out for moose on the way to the start, stay off the airplane runways on the course, and be sure to tell the aid station workers if you are planning on stopping to bivy up for a nap in between checkpoints.
Mandatory pre-race soak.
Scoping out the race start.
Emily and I left the meeting and indulged in another meal out, heading back to our hotel and to bed before too long. We enjoyed the hot tub in the hotel on Friday morning, did a bit of running around in town getting food and supplies, and headed out to Wasilla. We drove out to the start to ensure that we would know how to get there in the morning, and spent the rest of the night in the hotel, making the final decisions about what would be coming with us for the 100 mile journey. In an attempt to mitigate the blisters that had plagued me in my last few hundreds, Emily walked me through her foot taping method (here), for which I am eternally grateful. Around ten o’clock, we laid down for our final rest, which turned into a fitful night of sleep for me, and a wakeup that came much too soon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How Did I Get Here?

I am going to rewind a bit to a few months ago, when I was first making the decision to apply for AmeriCorps positions and then ultimately accepting the position here in Coffman Cove. I started looking at AmeriCorps postings in April, as graduation was looming nearer and I was finding myself unsure of what my next step would be. Unlike many people in my graduating class, I was not ready to settle down into long-term career mode just yet. I wanted some time to process, to get my feet back under me, and to get myself where I could feel that I had a bit more time to figure out my next steps with a bit more purpose. I also felt, I think, the need to slow myself down.
Coffman Bay- this shot was taken a two minute walk from my house.

The last semester of grad school had been the most hectic, most of which was self-induced. In addition to my coursework, internship, and graduate assistantship, I put a lot of things onto my own plate. I helped do the awards and a bit of side work for the two races put on by Pickled Feet. I went to New Orleans for a long weekend to run a 126 mile race. The following weekend I went to San Francisco for a week for the Annual Meeting of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. I went to Portland for a wedding. I ran 100 miles at Pickled Feet. I paced a friend for her first 100 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I went to Riggins to visit friends. I took two weekend courses. I attended meetings for the Idaho Society of Clinical Social Workers. I ran a 50 at the Grand Canyon the weekend after graduation and flew to New Orleans a few days later. Do you think I had a free weekend anywhere in there?

I loved every single last thing that I did over the course of the semester, but I found myself trying to catch my breath the whole way through. I had lots of great opportunities come my way, and I couldn’t imagine turning down any of them. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have done it differently, but I know that I need to learn to tone it down a bit. To relax. To enjoy stillness. My final trip after graduation- my trip to New Orleans- was supposed to be this time for me. My aunt (who recently moved out of the country) invited me to come spend six weeks with her family after I finished school. This was a help to her with the two young ones, but was also meant to be a time for me to decompress. I slept in. I snuggled with babies a lot. I ate lots of delicious vegan food (my aunt, her husband, and her kids are vegan). And it was good. It felt good to reconnect with a less frenetic bit of myself. 

While I was in New Orleans, I got calls to interview for the AmeriCorps positions. I had nearly forgotten about them, but after I was reminded of my own interest a few months earlier, it sparked excitement again. I applied specifically for positions in Alaska. On my ever-changing list of ideas of Things That I Want to Do in My Life, living in Alaska has always had a place. I had never been to Alaska before, and I knew that my desire to see Alaska would not be satiated by a vacation. In particular, I was drawn to living in a rural area, partially fueled by my intrigue regarding social work practice in rural settings, which has many different complications. Partially, however, I think that I liked the idea of being in a place where I HAD to stop spreading myself so thin. As I said to my former supervisor before I left Idaho, it is funny and perhaps a bit troubling that I have to move to a tiny town on an island in rural Alaska in order to make myself slow down.

Kisses for Gracie after a long run.
I accepted the position in Coffman Cove shortly after interviewing, and I am blogging more specifically about the work aspect of my life here at On a personal level, so far, I would say that this year is already doing exactly what I needed it to do. Leaving Boise was more difficult than I anticipated, and the first few days on Prince of Wales Island were tough. I live in a town of less than 200 people. I have no internet, and there is no cell service within an hour of where I live. It takes over an hour to get to a grocery store. The first few days, I sat on the couch with my dogs after walking the half mile loop around town a few times and wondered what I had gotten myself into. I felt very alone, and I even talked myself through how the year might go if the discomfort of the loneliness and silence stayed with me through the whole year. It will be painful, I thought, but it will be a good learning experience. Fortunately, the fear and loneliness subsided after a few days as I began to adjust to not having any social connection outside of my immediate surroundings. If I am at the library, I can use the internet to stay in touch with friends, family, and the rest of the world. Outside of the library, though, I only have what is in front of me- my dogs, new friends, and myself.

I wake up in the mornings, do some yoga, and take a walk with my dogs. I have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast pretty much every day, and head to the library (a five minute walk) with lots of tea. I usually come home for lunch and another walk with the dogs again. After the work day is over, I come home and take them out again for either a walk or a run. I read books, I journal, I cook. I thought that being vegan would be tougher up here, but I think I am actually eating more healthfully than I ever have. If you want to be vegan in rural Alaska, you’ve gotta start from scratch. No vegan doughnuts, rice cream, or soy chick’n nuggets up here! I eat a lot of beans, rice, and veggies. I have upped my knitting game from scarves to little dolls. If I am tired at 7:30pm, I go to bed, though I only did that once! It feels good to slow down.

Sunrise over Luck Point.
I was thinking earlier this week about my big drive through British Columbia as I was en route to Alaska. For the three days of that drive, I was on very limited cell service so that it wouldn’t be ridiculously expensive. It felt quite uncomfortable to me on that drive to know that I was out of range of contact for three days. The compulsive checking of my phone did me no good, and it was frustrating that I couldn’t immediately stream my podcasts. When I got to Coffman and realized that my phone would be stuck on “No Service”- not even “Searching”- I felt almost panicked. I didn’t even consider myself to be that dependent on my phone, compared to many people I know! Last week, I went for a drive to the southern part of the island with someone from town to a place where I WOULD have cell service. I realized after we got there that it hadn’t even occurred to me to bring my phone. It’s amazing what a month can do.  

I have still had plenty of good adventures and made some friends, even in the newfound quiet of my life. I went to a few cross country meets on other parts of the island, which are a big deal here because the communities are so small and it is a sport for all ages of children. I also had a big day of exploring around on the north part of the island, finding some big glacially carved rocks, petroglyphs, and boardwalk trails through karst. In the process, I learned what karst is! I have begun to learn a bit about mushroom hunting and am keeping that in mind as I poke around in the woods. I also have been continuing to run, and I took myself out for a 31 mile run on the roads around Coffman last weekend. Even that was a new experience, as I realized while I was out for the run that I have never done such a distance by myself, even in all my years of long-distance running. 

So, that is my update from Month One. I have continued to be busy in that I am not sitting at home wishing I had more things to do. But I have also had plenty of wonderful time to myself. I am finding my center again, though I didn’t realize until I got here that it needed to be found. I am looking forward to a year of continued growth, self-awareness, stillness, and adventure. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Where Have I Been?

Where have I been for the last year!? Buried under my last year of grad school, mostly. It has been a crazy last few semesters that have kept me running from place to place getting in work, internship, and school hours. I also had a lot of great adventures over the past year (probably seriously overbooking myself, but they were good adventures nonetheless).

One thing that I HAVEN'T been doing is updating my blog... obviously. So, here are the cliff notes of the last school year.


My trusty Saturn.
I road tripped back across the country from my summer back on the East Coast, new kayak in tow! My trip back home took about six days instead of the two weeks that I spent driving on my way there. The pups were good travelers, and we were glad to be home for a few weeks before the start of the semester.
Lynette and I tried to find trail on the back of Snowslide.

When I did get back to Boise, I had a few weeks of playing on trails before the semester began. I took some time to get settled in, but took the chance to head up to McCall with Lynette and get some mountain miles in up on the IMTUF course.


Mel, Jane, Jim, and me. (And Rosie, Jake, and Gracie.)

Yikes, September was a BUSY month. I had all the weekends of the month booked up, trying to squeeze the last bit of summer out of the year. Over Labor Day weekend, my friend Mel and I headed up to Riggins to spend some time with my friends Jim and Jane. We spent some time visiting at the house, but also drove up to the Seven Devils to get in some high country miles.
Grace and me with Hell's Canyon in the background.

All four of us went up and did a shorter hike to see some sights, and then on the second day, Jim and I went out for a 20 miler around some of the most beautiful country that I have ever seen. Thinking back on that day, it is one of the favorites that I have ever had. Jim was a great trail guide, and we had an amazing day. (It was also one of the only days that I have ever seen Gracie get tired!)

Lynette looking fabulous at the top of the big climb. 

The following weekend, I paced Lynette at the Wasatch 100. I picked her up at mile 75, and we went together for the last 25 miles. Lynette is a great runner to pace, and I really enjoyed being able to put in those miles with her. For some reason, Wasatch still scares me a bit, and I love seeing everybody out on this tough mountain run.

Mile 30ish? At IMTUF.

Then it was my 100! I ran the IMTUF 100 for the third year, finishing with basically exactly the same time that I have had the last two times. It's a tough race, but has a special, special place in my heart.

Tent city at Idaho Mountain Festival.

THEN the next weekend, I headed to the Idaho Mountain Festival, which is a trail running/rock climbing event that takes place at the City of Rocks over a weekend. The idea is fabulous, but the weather was not pleasant, which took a toll on me after having so many weekends running in circles. I had planned on it being a weekend of relaxing, camping, and reading books, but it wound up being a soggy weekend of wishing I was reading in my bed.  It was a good lesson in winding down, taking it easy, and giving myself a mental break as well as a physical one.


Finish line fun times. 

I ran the Foothills 50k Frenzy- which was my first ever ultra and one of my all time favorites. I love running this race just as much every year, and it always marks a nice wrap-up of the running season for me. (An especially nice factor is that it is in my own backyard and I can be from my apartment to the race start in 5-10 minutes.)


What did I do in November? Hmm. Well, like I mentioned, this is the beginning of my off-season. :)
Vegan Thanksgiving feast.


As the fall semester wrapped up, I was able to get back out more and have some relaxing fun-time miles.

Mel conquers her first race with a 10k at
the YMCA Christmas run. 
Evan on his first trail adventure- up Cervidae!
The family (sans one, who wanted to sleep in).

I did have the great gift of being able to go home for Christmas, where I was able to spend some time with my parents and extended family. It was the first time that I was home for Christmas since... 2010? It was so nice to be home.


Another good adventure with the Updegroves.

I flew back from Massachusetts at the end of December. For New Year's, I took the pups out for a nice snowy morning run and spent the rest of the day relaxing. As winter break came to an end, I spent another weekend up in Riggins with Jim and Jane and got the chance to see the Rapid River Trail for the first time.

Wilson Creek!

School started again, and I ran the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k the weekend after classes began. This is another race that is an absolute favorite- 30 miles in the Owyhee Mountains in January.

Trail marking for Wilson Creek.

Running in the finish with my peeps.

Ohhhh, February. Another CRAZY month (and also my birthday month, which I celebrate well). I had a weekend class the first weekend, followed by a trip down to New Orleans to visit with family and try my legs against the Rouge Orleans 126.2 miler. This race was... not my favorite. I However, with the essential support of my amazing friends Lindsay and Sean- who made the trip all the way from DC just to crew my race, I was able to make it to the finish.

I came back from New Orleans for a hot second, then I jetted out to San Francisco for the Annual Meeting of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, which was amaaaazing. I detoured to San Jose for a few days to visit with my friend John, and he took me adventuring in the redwoods for the first time. It was a place that stuck to my soul- a place that I felt like I had known all my life. It is something wonderful to be in the presence of something so huge. We got in a nice long hike, even only a week after Rouge-Orleans.
John dropped me off in San Francisco, where I spent a week at the conference and got in a lot of miles on the Embarcadero and around the city. I tried to get out early in the mornings to see the sun rise, and then I spent the days in the conference. It was my first time in San Francisco, and it was another wonderful place where I felt at home. Then, like that, I headed back to Boise, and February was over.



March, I kept with the craziness. Weekend class at the beginning of the month, and the following weekend, Evan and I headed to Portland for his brother's wedding. We took off on the trip a day early and slept in the car by Multnomah Falls so that we could head out for a run. We had a nice little adventure to the top of the falls, and then ran the first several miles of the Gorge Waterfalls 50k that I did in 2012.

Strolling across the finish.

We came back to Boise with one weekend to rest at the beginning of spring break, and then it was Pickled Feet all week! Pickled Feet is another race that I have run a few years straight now, and I was looking forward to tackling the 48 hour run again this year. My original goal was to attempt to get closer to 150 miles after finishing 123 last year. However, as the race got closer, I reevaluated based on how crazy the previous months were and the fact that I had come down with yet another cold. Evan decided that he was going to attempt 100 miles, and we wound up doing most of the race together. I finished with him and capped off an extra 4 miles to make my lifetime miles on the Pickled Feet course an even 400.


Aldape Summit at Robie Creek, happy to see Dennis.
Okay, April! At this point, I really wasn't sure if I was going to survive the last month of school, but I somehow did manage to make it through. I didn't run much in my day-to-day life, but I was able to get out for some good weekend miles. I ran Robie Creek for the third time, and I hated it much less than I usually do! I wound up feeling WAY more sore than I usually am- even after running a hundred. It was a good reminder for me to push myself in training sometimes so I can move a bit quicker on race day.

Running Bertha into her first 100 mile finish. 

The next weekend, I drove down to the Salt Flats 100 to pace my friend Bertha for her first 100 mile attempt (and finish!). This weekend was one of the highlights of the year, and I feel so lucky that I got to be a part of this big achievement. Bertha crewed for me for IMTUF in 2012 and 2014, so I was overdue to come help her out for a race. This woman has real guts, and while we rode some normal hundred mile highs and lows, I never had a doubt that she would grit it out to the end.


Up on the mountain!
And then, FINALLY, May was here. I made another cleansing trip to Riggins after the last week of classes was over. I got some fresh air, slept under the stars, and enjoyed time with some of my favorite people. It was a great way to decompress after the last year.

Hotel Updegrove.

And then.... GRADUATION! It came quick, and I'm happy that it's over. Two of my good gal pals from the program and I hiked up a hill to watch the sunrise, and then I biked down to graduation in the rain. Soggy wet, I put on my cap and gown, and put a close to the chapter of the last two years.

I don't know what is coming next in life, but there are certainly lots of adventures ahead.

FIN (for now)

Happy Trails!

I'm looking forward to getting back on my trails, and back into a routine. I've got the Grand Canyon 50 miler coming up in a week, then I'm scooting down to Louisiana for the month of June, where I will run my first stage race at the 777 Inferno. I'll be back at it on here with some greater frequency, so keep posted for some musings and adventures.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Respect the Race! Nine Things to Keep in Mind on Race Day

Races are fun. Even for those of us that are more "running tourists" than racers lookin' for a fast time, there is something about showing up at a planned race and participating with the community that just can't be beat. As I have become more involved with the local running scene and have gotten to know a lot of the race directors, I have come to develop a deep respect and appreciation for all of the hard work and time that goes into creating a successful event. (Heck, even an "unsuccessful" event likely has hours upon hours of work put into it.) I've been able to be a part of the Pickled Feet Ultra Running Team over the past couple years and do my part in lending a hand in a very small part of the work in a few events, and these intimate look into all the details has given me an even greater love for our RDs and all the work that they do. 

As someone who runs events, I also have that insider view of what happens around the race- both on and off the trail. The outstanding majority of it is good, but there is sometimes the bad and the ugly as well. Here are some thoughts to bear in mind as you are approaching your next event that can help ensure that we enjoy the trails and races appropriately so that our RDs will keep on lovin' us enough to put on these events. 

1. Do your research. Most races that you sign up for have ample information posted for you to read on their website. This will often tell you what course conditions have been like in the past, what the weather has been, and what items will be helpful for you to bring. You can usually find a map and an elevation chart somewhere- study them. Don't show up on race day with questions about the course that you could have found online. Race morning (and the night before the race, and the week before the race) is very busy for RDs. While it is not unfair for runners to be able to approach the RD and ask questions, do your part to know what is going on.

2. Follow the rules. Does the race ask that you don't wear headphones? Are trekking poles prohibited? Are you required to have a light at a certain point in the day? Are you required to check in and out of aid stations? Do you need to leave the dogs at home? Rules are not put in place for fun or to torment runners; they are for safety concerns. While it may be true that your dog is well behaved (and I am a dog lover, myself) and that you can aptly pay attention with headphones, try to avoid thinking that you are the exception to the rule.

3. Don't bandit. I am not sure if this needs to be said; I don't know that I have ever seen a bandit runner in an ultra. However, I know it can be a bigger deal in road running, so to prevent the trend from migrating to ultras, I think it should be addressed. Someone has taken the time to find a nice course, mark it, stick some food and water out there, have rescue on standby, pay for permits to use the land.. I could go on and on. Of course, it is public land usually and anyone can be there, but running a trail race without registering adds additional concerns outside of the normal road race bandit stuff. In addition to putting more bodies on the trail and running the issue of not signing the waiver for participating for race liability, there is a really great difference in the amount of resources that could be used. Runners are usually methodically recorded running in and out of aid stations so that search and rescue can be called in if someone is suspected to have gone missing. The chance of this being done unnecessarily increases dramatically if participants are unaccounted for- either by not checking in or not having a number. I (vaguely) understand in large profit-driven road races the desire to skimp on the cost, but you're not fighting the industry by not paying for ultras. Somebody put in the work; if you're there, be a registered runner.

4. Consider where your money goes. This is something that I don't think I truly understood until I became more involved with race planning. Several hundred dollars for permits, several hundred dollars for portapotties, enough food for x amount of runners at each aid station and at the finish line, tent rental, fuel, your race swag- it all adds up. Some folks are making careers of putting on races, but the vast majority are just trying to do a bit more than break even so there is money to put towards next year's event. 

5. Show the love to your volunteers! Give high-fives, tell them thanks, try not to be a grump, even if you're feelin' grumpy. If a volunteer shows up and doesn't enjoy their time, they are not likely to come back, and these events would not run without volunteers. Volunteers are often on the course before you and off the course after you, so even though you've got a long day of miles, they've got a long day of standing in the cold/sun/rain/wind/snow/sleet to make sure that you have a good day. If you have some time, volunteer at a race yourself so that you can give back and see what it feels like on the other side.

6. Don't forget to mention the good stuff. You'd better believe that an RD hears it every time a runner goes off course- whether it is the fault of the marking or an inattentive runner. I always make a point to mention it to the RD if I found the course to be particularly well-marked, if the aid stations had just the right snack, if the volunteers were great, if I loved the finisher swag, etc. If you are an unhappy runner, mention your concerns with care if you can. If you are a happy runner, make it known! It's nice for folks to hear what went well, especially if they just got an earful from someone who went a quarter mile off course. 

7. Be nice to the trail. This is another one that should go without saying. We are trail runners because we love to play in the dirt, see the forests, and experience nature. Don't wreck it by throwing your gel wrapper on the ground. I have noticed in several races over the last year that garbage is a common occurrence during a race. It's easy when you know there is a sweep to assume that things will be picked up if dropped, but take care in putting your trash in a zipped pocket or someplace where it is not likely to find its way onto the ground. If you see somebody else's garbage, take the extra second to pick it up. In addition to being kinder to the environment, this will help ensure that permits are issued so that the race can be held again. 

8. Take care of other runners. I was at a race last year where I met a man who dropped from his 100 because he had stopped to walk with another runner who was terribly sick and wound up not having enough time to make the cutoff. I was rather astounded by this gesture, but he said to me that "people are more important." For this man, who had run his share of 100s, the finish was not that important. Now, I'm not saying that you should ditch your race for someone else, but be ready to help if the need should arise. This may mean taking a second to ask someone if they are okay, it might mean offering a band-aid or an extra snack, or it might mean running ahead to the aid station to send someone back to help. 

9. Have fun. Have so much fun. It's cheesy, but really, just have fun. You worked hard, you paid the money, you spent your time getting everything just right. Enjoy it. Don't get uptight. Be gracious, be patient, be responsible, and be a badass. Remember that this is not just a race, this is a community of really, really amazing people. Take the time to get to know some of them. Some of the best friends, the best stories, and the best wisdom I have encountered have come from ultrarunners. Don't be so busy that you miss out on that part of it.