The Ultra-Running Year in Review: 2015
Well, my year of running had nothing notable enough that I want to toot my own horn and rehash anything in some kind of long winded year in review. In a nutshell: I was mediocre or worse at every race this year until I finally got so frustrated with poor workouts, that I dropped off of the 100km National Team because I didn’t feel I could live up to my own expectations.
But there is a silver lining: less time training and racing gave me a lot more time to be a fan (and a cynic!) of the sport. I’ll leave the assessment of individual athletes up to the Ultrarunning Magazine panel and instead, let me tell you what you where I think ultrarunning went in 2015.
1) You NEED a coach. If you haven't run an ultra yet, well, then you can't possibly know anything about the sport and you will most definitely need a coach to guide you through such complex activities like putting one foot in front of the other, eating gels and drinking water. And if you have run a few ultras, well then you are ready to get better and you will definitely need a coach to show you how to improve. And don't think you will out grow the need for a coach even when you have run a whole pile of ultras with success. Because then you are probably on the brink of burnout and you desperately need a coach to keep you from overtraining. In 2015, you absolutely cannot train for an ultra without a coach.
1a) After you hire a coach, you must fall madly in love with that coach. Or at least it will seem that way on social media when you talk about your coach more than your loved ones. Despite the fact that you may be paying said coach upwards of $400 a month, you feel compelled to do a bunch a free advertising for your coach, babbling on and on about how wonderful they are, as if they had invented the very sport itself. This is perfectly logical, because we both know there is no possible way you ever could have made it through your last ultra without a coach. You gave them a quarter of your take home salary, but they gave you your worth as a runner. Surely, that is worth a whole lot of social media love.
2) Become a coach. If you have finished at least one ultra, then you are ready to become a coach! Do you know how fast this sport is exploding?! Think of all the wanna-be ultra runners who have yet to run their first 50k; after one race, you will know light years more then they do, so why not make a little money on the side by coaching those poor, ignorant saps who are so desperately in need of guidance if they are ever going to survive the harsh world that exists beyond 26.2 miles. Just remember, no matter how good you are as a coach, you are never, ever, ever, qualified to coach yourself. See #1 above. Sure you can coach other people, but you my friend, are still utterly incapable of writing your own training plan.
2a) Once you become a coach, make sure you let everyone know that any time any one of your clients has a good race, it is really you who deserves all the credit for their success. I mean, we have already gone over how most people could barely even complete an ultra if left to their own devices, let alone be successful. Of course, if you do this by congratulating your athlete on social media, I am sure no one will figure out that you are just using your client to pat yourself on the back. And if one of your athletes has a bad day?? Well, you better fucking ghost that client, at least in your social media relationship, because you would not want that associated with your reputation. Obviously, that athlete was uncoachable.
3) The Ultra Beard loses its hipster status. I am not exactly sure what the origins of the ultra beard are, but I am assuming a lot of it has to do with Rob Krar. Ultra running had some inklings of facial fuzz before Rob Krar, and certainly the Boston Red Sox brought the bushy beard into sports way before it caught on in ultra-running, but in 2013, Rob Krar exploded onto the ultra scene and he did it all while wearing a marmot on his face! In fact, his facial hair has so much personality, it even has its own Twitter account! Soon after, it seems like beards became an ultra-running fashion trend. But these days if you head to any ultra in the Pacific Northwest, you would think a big beard and a flannel shirt were required gear for men. Indeed, even my husband Mac has been sporting a beard since March and my husband does not go out of the box. In fact, he doesn’t even like to go near the walls of said box but rather likes to keep his feet planted firmly in the center. This makes him very dependable and agreeable, but I assure you, it does not make him a hipster. In similar fashion, I have two friends that had barely crossed the finish lines of their first 50k’s when they started growing ultra-beards. The ultra-beard may not be going out of style, but it has definitely lost its hipster, cutting edge status. Now it seems everybody and their mother, er, I mean, father has a beard.
4) Finish Line Celebrations need to start carding. This past year there were a lot of big performances by underaged runners. Ford Smith took the title at Black Canyon, Andrew Miller set the Bighorn course record and won the Georgia Death Race, Jared Hanzen raced Lake Sonoma and Western States like a grizzled vet and Ashley Erba had a stellar run at Lake Sonoma. When I was their age, I spent most of my free time shopping and making mix tapes. I guess Amazon and MP3s have freed up a lot of time for ultra training. As more and more “kids” get into ultra-running, race directors may have to monitor the distribution of finish line beverages a bit more closely. But that should be easy least for the men: just look for the few runners without beards!
5) On the flip side, 50 doesn’t even count as old. You are doing ultras in your 50’s?? Big whoop-de-do! 50 year olds are still tearing it up. Anita Ortiz, Connie Gardner, Joe Fejes, Jean Pommier, Meghan Arbogast, and Bev Anderson-Abs are just a few examples of quinquagenarians still kicking butt. How about 60 year old Mark Richtman throwing down 3:34 50k at Desert Solstice; the extremely emotional and inspirational finish of 71 year old Gunhild Swanson at Western States; or 80 year old Bill Dodson crawling across the finish line at Caumsett 50k? To those guys, 50 year olds are still young whipper-snappers. iRunFar estimates 20% of ultra runners are now over age 50, meaning it is hardly an anomaly any more. In fact, it makes 50 seem like it isn't so old at all - which sounds really good, as it is getting ever closer for me!
6) The more things change the more things stay the same. Ultra running has exploded in popularity, there’s more money in the sport, and races are getting more coverage and more hype. Yes, there are growing pains - like what to do about drug testing and convicted cheats - but at the core, ultrarunning still remains a group of likeminded people out to enjoy the beauty of nature and to test their limits in endurance.
Ok, so what other trends were there for 2015?
Hope you had a great year and have lots of great adventures planned for 2016!