Monday, June 21, 2010

This is what ultrarunning is all about

My misadventure at Pikes Peak really changed me--I think forever. Although I successfully summitted the peak, it was a very hard journey (thanks to the snow) that left me pretty humbled and hobbled from a badly sprained ankle (that is improving). Unless you've been all by yourself above treeline on a huge mountain with snow more than waist-deep in areas, it's hard to describe what the experience of summitting a 14,000-foot peak is like. That high up in the air--well above the clouds--you come to learn a lot about yourself and what's really important in life. I now know what's important and I'm trying to walk the walk.

This past week (6/14-6/20) was one of my better weeks in a long, long time. I logged 105 miles, covering 64 miles from Friday to Sunday. That included 26 miles on Friday on part of the Leadville 100 course with Jason R. and Matt C., both of whom are doing Leadville. Matt is a childhood friend--we've known each other for nearly 30 years and our parents are very close.

As far as the Leadville course, all I can really say is that it's very challenging, as the sign above would indicate. We ran from Twin Lakes to the Fish Hatchery, basically staying above 10,000 feet the whole time. In a few weeks I intend to do the Hope Pass and Sugarloaf Pass sections, which constitute the course's four mountain crossings. There was a point on Friday where I was cruising along at 11,000 feet and it hit me--I'm running strong at over two miles in the sky, not really breathing hard up the hills. I'm getting into good shape and, while Leadville will be the ultimate challenge to date, I feel like I'm doing what I need to do to be in shape. This was especially apparent on Sunday as I was in the midst of a ferociously intense 17-mile tempo run in the Parker hills (elevation 6,000+ feet).

Jason, Matt and me at Twin Lakes. Matt and I have known each other for literally 30 years--since we were kids.

I've seen enough of the Leadville 100 course to know it commands your full attention and focus. As I look at what I'm doing runningwise for the next 6 weeks, all roads lead to Leadville. Both races I have coming up--the Leadville Marathon on 7/3 and the Barr Trail Mountain Race up Pikes Peak on 7/18--are about getting ready for Leadville.

I think one of the most important components of successful training for a 100-miler is knowing who you are as a runner and person. As a runner, I know that while I have decent speed, I'm not a super-fast guy with optimal efficiency of stride. At 6'2", 168 lbs., I'm a big, strong runner with a powerful stride and maybe not lightening fast turnover. I'm going to use my strength and power at Leadville, just as I did for my Mohican win. This is not a course where you let it rip. This is a course requiring strength, fortitude, gobs and gobs of endurance, and courage. Courage is who you are as a person, and it's what carries you to the finish line of a 100.


I want to recognize a very good friend of mine, Ted Friedman, who is doing something amazing. I've known Ted for a long time. We met through our wives in 2005, shortly after Anne and I moved to Cleveland. When I first met Ted, he'd done a few races and enjoyed running. I sensed a distance runner in him and over time we became better and better friends. I learned a lot about Ted, including the fact that in high school he and a friend biked across Ohio. He was a good friend throughout the very painful process of moving from Ohio to Colorado.

Ted paced me at the 2007 Burning River 100 (my first 100) and the 2008 Mohican 100, where he helped me get through severe knee and GI problems to finish 4th in a race I was winning when disaster struck. He finished the Mohican 50-Mile in 2009, when I won the Mohican 100, but he and his wife, Tami, were of course there with Anne, Noah and me to share in the moment when I collected my winner's plaque. Ted has been a big part of my running life and a good friend for five years and counting. I really miss running with him, Tim and the others at South Chagrin Reservation on Saturday mornings.

Over time, I have seen Ted undergo an incredible transformation as a runner that reminds me a lot of the transformation I underwent in the spring of 2007. Like me way back when, he was a guy who ran 40-50 miles a week. And then, with a few marathons and 50Ks and a 50-miler under his belt, he set his sights on the ultimate test of one's strength and endurance--the 100-mile race. Ted is running in the 2010 Burning River 100 on 7/31-8/1. He has been bitten by the ultrarunning bug.

Ted has taken the challenge of the Burning River 100 very seriously, gradually building up to weeks of 80, 90 and 100 miles. He just completed his first 100-mile week and is holding up very well. He is not content to just finish the BR100. If he were, he'd just do 60 or 70 miles per week. Ted wants more than a finish and a buckle. That's why he's training like a crazed man. In fact, his commitment has inspired me to train even harder for the Leadville 100. This past week he completed 101 miles. I, too, was at 101 miles when he shared the news of his first triple-digit week. Inspired, I went out and ran 4 more miles to end the week with 105. That's not rivalry; it's friendly inspiration.

Ted's drive to train hard may appear to be about a man taking a challenge as seriously as could be and putting his whole heart and soul into it. But it's about more than that. Ted lost his dad, Howard, to cancer in May 2000. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of his dad's passing. By all accounts, Mr. Friedman was a very good man and a devoted husband, father and member of the community who taught for a living. Ted is honoring his dad's legacy by raising money for The Gathering Place, a renowned cancer-support community, through the Burning River 100. You can learn more about Ted's "100 Miles for Life" and contribute to The Gathering Place by clicking here. The last I heard, he's close to $5,000! Anne and I have committed to a gift and I hope you will, too.

Ted has taken what is often a selfish endeavor--training for a foot race--and turned it into a vehicle for helping a lot of people in the community. I admire Ted and believe he represents what is so good about ultrarunning. Good job, Ted!


As a final note, I have been thinking a lot about my next writing project. You may remember that my last publication was an article about my experience at the 2007 Burning River 100 that ran in Marathon & Beyond magazine back in 2008. It's time to start work on another story--maybe about the Leadville 100 and my experience in acclimating to elevation here in Colorado. I'm giving it some thought.

I think people are fascinated with long-distance running--even people who aren't runners themselves. Our society admires runners because running is about dedication, never giving up and laying it on the line. There is a reason books like "Born to Run" and the Karnazes tales are national best sellers. It's because so many people today feel empty inside and long for adventure that will help them feel alive again. You can't experience adventure on the TV. You have to live adventure, and this takes effort and time. There are many people out there who are sitting on the sofa and don't even own a pair of running shoes, much less realize they are runners deep within. If I can make even a small contribution in turning people into this great sport, then I feel like I've done at least a little good in this world.

If you're a hardcore ultrarunner, here's a video to leave you inspired (as it's inspired me many, many times since Yiannis is one of the ultrarunning heroes):


  1. Wow! That story in Marathon &Beyond got me hooked on ultrarunning, a big race close to home. I just had to grab and see your name! I can be a dummy sometimes! You missed a fun weekend at Mohican! That's great what Ted's doing I will check it out!

  2. Wyatt,

    As always, your writing is incredible! I am so glad that you are so active on FB and that you keep up with your amazing blog! It makes the fact that you live so far away now, a little easier to deal with :(

    I want to thank you for the beautiful words you wrote about Ted and what he is doing. It is because he is so inspired by you, Tim and all the other great guys he has met through running with you (until you had the nerve to move away ;), that he even thought to attempt a 100 miler.

    Please know that this has never been about him. He hopes you and all those great guys know that he knows he is just following in some awesome footsteps! He wanted to attempt the BR100 and it has helped him to stay motivated by making it about his dad and The Gathering Place.

    As of yesterday, has raised just under $4700! We know your blog has many followers, so thank you so much for helping to spread the word!

    Always cheering you on, Tami

  3. Brian: Very nice to hear that you liked my M&B story.

    Tami: Ted is an inspiration. He has come SO far as a runner. Part of me thinks he should bag having a pacer and register for the USATF and participate in the national championship. He has done such a great job of preparing himself for this race. You and the boys deserve a lot of credit because it takes a family's love and support to run like Ted is running right now. He is going to do very well and make all of you and his mom proud.