With Thanksgiving upon us this week, I figured it to be an appropriate time to look back at my races this year and give Thanks. While I'm obviously indebted to all volunteers and crew who work every race, I've picked one moment from each race that particularly made a difference for me that day. As we all know, sometimes it's the little things that help put a smile on your face and a spring back in your step during an ultra!
April 18 - Bull Run Run 50 Miler: I went into this race under-trained w/ my shin injury and had every intention of taking it slow and easy all day. Stupidly enough, I caught the racing bug a few miles in and decided to push a little harder than planned. Naturally, this led me to feeling pretty run down way before the finish, and w/ about 5 miles to go I was starting to wilt in the heat. This is where I met Tammy Massie working at the Marina aid station. She was super-friendly and mentioned that she had ice for my camelback if I wanted it (YES!!). Definitely a life-saver for me at that point....and as luck would have it, I ended up being in VT a few months later to return the favor by helping to pace Tammy to a triumphant VT100 finish. I'm so thankful to be part of a small (if not somewhat crazy) community of people who have the opportunity and desire to help each other out like this!
August 8 - Viaduct Trail 100 Miler: Naturally I have to thank everyone involved in organizing/volunteering for a Fat Ass race like this one, but a special thanks goes out to fellow runner Gary Ferguson who I first met while chatting at the camping area the night before the race. We passed each other during the race a few times (it was an out-and-back course), and at one point he was within ear-shot to hear me use one of my "motivational techniques" I employ when feeling tired: Basically I just let out a primal scream to snap out of whatever funk I'm in and generate a little adrenaline flow to help get my legs moving. After hearing it the first time (and apparently getting a kick out of it), the next couple times he saw me coming toward him in the night he would say "Alright Dan, let me hear another scream!!!". Since I was wildly under-trained for this 100 miler, my wiped-out legs really benefited from the boost I got each time I saw Gary and he made his request. I definitely finished an hour or two faster because of him...Thanks, Gary!!
August 30 - Cheat Mountain 50 Miler: If you've read my race report for this one, you know I ran in the dark for a bunch of miles because my headlamp died about 13 miles into this run. The only reason I was able to finish the race is because of the Aid Station Angels at mile 23 (Bill Potts and another great guy whose name I didn't get) digging through their cars for AA batteries for me. I can't possibly thank these guys enough. But another just-as-important note of thanks goes out to a fellow runner (also didn't get his name) who was among the many who passed me on the trail when my light was fading fast. Here's the amazing thing about this guy: For a couple miles after he passed me, he would stop after running a particularly nasty section of trail and wait for me to catch up while shining his light back on the trail behind him so I could see. This great guy saved me from more than a couple falls and helped me get across a couple slippery river crossings unscathed. Once we were on safer terrain he went on with his race knowing I was OK. Talk about a great guy, Thank You!!!
September 5 - The Ring: Again, another Fat Ass where I couldn't possibly thank all the VHTRC volunteers enough for all they did organizing this run. With my shoe ripping up my heel early on, I never would have made it passed mile 25 without the volunteers driving my drop bag to the aid stations w/ my change of shoes. After nearly passing out in the next section, the only reason I was able to continue past mile 35 was because the volunteers at Crisman Hollow had a tent to get me out of the hot sun and a chair for me to collapse in while I recovered. After 45 minutes there, I was a new man and finished the run in style. Without everyone helping out in this race, I would not have been able to get in all these great training miles for the NorthCoast 24, and I can't possibly thank everyone there enough for helping me get in proper shape for that race!!
October 3 - NorthCoast 24/National Championship: Obviously a million thanks go out to everyone who helped me in this race, but I remember one moment in particular giving me a big boost in the wee hours of the night when things were slowing down. Somewhere around 4am my iPod started playing Shakira's "She Wolf" as I made my way around the loop. It's a silly song w/ a good beat to run to (if you've heard it, you know what I'm talking about). When I passed Elizabeth the next time I sang out the line "There's a She Wolf in the closet", and without missing a beat she howled back "Ah-ooooh!!!". Not only did it give me a smile as I ran by, it also reminded me that even though some runners were feeling the pressure and yelling out demands to their crew as the race went on, the reason I enjoy running these things is to have fun. ...and the more I smile and enjoy myself during races, the better I run. So a big Thanks goes out to my beautiful wife, not only for her hard work in crewing, but for being just as silly as me even in "serious" race moments!
November 7 - Horse-Shoe Trail: Again, a huge thanks to Malia her family for making the last 15 miles so much fun. Also, a tip of the cap to my friends over at the Prezel Hut for their generous hospitality. The special moment I'm thankful for in this run, however, needs a little back-story first: My nightly running route here in DC includes a loop around Hains Point (a peninsula that sticks out into the Potomac). It is typically very quiet out there at night as I make my way around the 3+ mile peripheral road. The one bit of company I can usually count on comes from a family of foxes who live on the golf course in the middle of the peninsula. For the first couple years I would only see the same fox (I named her "Foxy Fox") just about every night as she made her way through hole in the golf course fence to search for dinner by the riverside. In the past year or so I've met "Mr. Fox" and a couple cubs as well. At this point Foxy Fox is pretty much bored with seeing me run by and occasionally doesn't even bother to sneak under the fence for "safety" as I pass...She'll just jog a across the road and give me a "Oh, it's you again" look before continuing her hunt for mice. Mr. Fox, on the other hand, is still pretty afraid of me and bolts into the golf-course whenever he sees me coming. One night this summer I had the pleasure of running past the cubs while they were playing on the other side of the fence. They were chasing each other around in circles and barking up a storm...I didn't even know foxes could bark (yes, it was adorable). Anyway, the point of this back-story is I like foxes and associate them closely w/ my running since they're out there every night with me during training.
Getting back to the Horse-Shoe Trail run, somewhere around midnight the trail brought me into a power-line clearing. I had a tough time finding the next blaze (didn't know if it went up the powerline trail or crossed over somewhere). After struggling for about 20 minutes to find the correct route, I yelled out a frustrated "C'mon!" as I was fresh out of ideas on where to go. Just as I yelled out, I heard some scurrying through the leaves on the opposite side of the power lines. I shined my light over just in time to see a pair of foxes disappear into the woods. As luck would have it, when I looked up from the spot where they entered the woods, I saw the next yellow blaze on the tree directly above where they ran! I guess I have some fox friends in PA too...Thanks for showing me the way, Foxes!!!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!