Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it." - Goethe 



[Note: I wrote this entry on January 1 but our 2007 web site wasn't ready for it until recently. In order to avoid total confusion, I'm dating it June 1 and including an addendum at the end with our current plans.]

I love the beginning of a brand new year! Not only is it Jim's and my anniversary and the anniversary of the day I began this thing called "running," it's also an optimistic, hopeful time for me.

I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions, at least not on paper. I make "resolutions" all year long. Most I carry through, others I revise when reality sets in.

Jim and I tend to make our running resolutions ("plans" would be more accurate) in the fall rather than in January. We usually take our annual rest break from running for a month or two in the late fall/early winter months. Our major races are history and we let our bodies recover. We tentatively choose the primary races on which we want to focus the next season, like 100-milers, and then fill in the blanks later with shorter ultras (is that an oxy-moron?) that will help us train for the longer ones.

It's amazing how optimistic we are at that point. No matter how well or how badly our previous race season went, we always know we can do better the next year! It's comical, really, and we laugh at ourselves. Anything seems possible in January (or November or December). We do the same thing every year. It's like avid gardeners who plan their most elaborate gardens ever in the dead of winter when they're drooling over gorgeous seed catalogues.

Hope springs eternal, regardless of the passions in which we humans indulge. At this point, our tentative plans go like this:


Jim would like to run at least two of his favorite 100-milers, Bighorn (BH) and Leadville (LT). He loves both courses and has unfinished business there. Although he was able to finish LT100 in 1999 - his very first 100-miler - he has DNF'd* several times since. And he hasn't been able to finish BH in his first three attempts. Note that he has finished other tough 100s like Wasatch Front, The Bear, and Western States, as well as Vermont and Kettle Moraine.

[ *DNF means "did not finish." Some ultra marathoners also use it as an acronym for "did nothing fatal."]

Jim, running on the right, during the 2006 LT100

In addition to Bighorn and Leadville, Jim is also entering the Massanutten Mountain Trail (MMT) 100-miler in northern Virginia and Wasatch Front (WF) 100 in Utah. He's never been interested in MMT before because it's notoriously rocky. In fact, the race motto is "Massanutten Rocks!" That's cute, but neither of us is fond of rocky trails, so I'm surprised he's even considering it. However, it's close and we can train on it this winter and spring with our Virginia Happy Trail Running Club (VHTRC) friends. Some popular ultras are filling up and closing out in record speed this year, so Jim wants to get into the race first and then decide if he'll withdraw later. This is one of the few races where most of the entry fee is refunded by a certain date. There will also be a waiting list, so if he gives enough notice, someone else can take his spot.

Wasatch has become so popular that it is instituting a lottery system for entry this year. Entries are limited to about 150 runners because of Forest Service regulations. The race committee decided a lottery similar to that used by Western States was the fairest way to fill the race. It's not a complicated system that favors past participants like Hardrock. The fact that Jim has finished this race previously doesn't increase his odds of getting in this year. It appears that anyone who enters has the same odds of getting picked. The drawing is February 3, so it will be another month before Jim knows if he's in Wasatch.

Jim's other current choices for races this year are one or more of David Horton's local ultras (Holiday Lake 50K++ in February, Promise Land 50K+++ in April) and Bull Run Run 50-miler in northern VA in April. Since we spend so much of our "play money" going out West for several months in the summer, we ration races the rest of the year and try to do ones closer to home that don't require overnight accommodations or dog boarding costs. There are tons of races within two or three hours of our home, one of the reasons we retired in the Roanoke area.


My own plans are light on races and heavy on journey/adventure runs. As I get slower and slower, I just don't have the drive to compete against the clock as much as I used to, let alone other runners. I'm having major difficulties this winter kick-starting my new training season (the subject of another entry) and I can't see wasting money on races I'm real likely to DNF. At this point, the only race I can get excited about is Bighorn. I plan to enter the 50K because the time limit is very generous and I can enjoy myself without worrying so much about cut-offs. If my training goes well this spring, I might try later to move up to the 52-miler. I've finished both races and know the challenges of each.

I'll crew and/or volunteer at the other races Jim does this spring, and we'd like to attend one or more races just to volunteer. We have as much fun - maybe more! - volunteering at races as we do running them, and race directors can always use more help. Jim will probably volunteer again to captain an aid station at Hardrock like we did last year. By default, I'll be "assistant captain."

What I'm most looking forward to this year is completing the remaining seven segments of the Colorado Trail (CT) that I didn't have time to run in 2006, and going back to some of my favorite segments again in the San Juan Mountains and around Leadville. I'd also like to tackle some new sections of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in Colorado. I've already done about 100 miles of the CDT where it coincides with the CT. I have only about 3,000 miles of it left!  <grin>

Crossing the Rio Grande below Stony Pass

Like last year, I'll do those CT and CDT segments with Jim's crewing assistance and work them in around our other activities - his races and altitude training, races where we're volunteering, and family visits.

CAVEAT: Those are our current plans, subject to revision as always. We're both like kids in a candy store this time of year, considering all the wonderful possibilities and being optimistic about the adventures ahead of us.


I plan to cover our training runs and races more thoroughly in an upcoming entry, but I'll mention here how the grand plan has changed over the last five months.

  • Jim is entered in just two 100-milers this year, Bighorn (June 15) in Wyoming and Leadville (August 18) in Colorado. He withdrew from Massanutten after our first group training run on part of the course in mid-January. (See photos of part of the course at the "More Photos" link, left.) He was one of about a third of the entrants to Wasatch who did not make the lottery this year. As compensation, he'll have double the odds of getting in next year.
  • Jim ended up running five races in preparation for Bighorn: Holiday Lake 50K in February, Umstead 50-miler in late March, Bull Run Run 50-miler in mid-April, Capon Valley 50K in mid-May, and Old Dominion Memorial 50-miler in late May.
  • Jim has volunteered to be the aid station captain again for the Cunningham AS (photo below) at the Hardrock Hundred in mid-July in Silverton, CO. This is the station we worked for 24 hours last year when it was the last one during the race. Since HRH switches directions each year, Cunningham will be the first AS during the race this time. (Read: fast and furious catering to the runners, then we're done and can go enjoy the race at another location.)

  • My plans are essentially the same - to run the Bighorn 50K as fast as I can while still taking photos and enjoying myself, to finish the CT and do more of my favorite segments, and to try to find some new CDT segments.
  • I volunteered all day at Holiday Lake and Umstead while Jim ran those races (as well as overnight at Umstead), and will assist Jim with his HRH aid station duties again. We also volunteer lots of hours every time we go to Leadville.
  • The only race I've run this season is Capon Valley 50K, which I finished despite a recurrence of leg cramps (my bugaboo last year). Other than Bighorn, I have no other definite plans now to race this year, but I'll probably want to race in the fall after we return home.

We're actually on the road right now, on our way to Kenosha Pass so I can run Segments 3 and 4 of the Colorado Trail a bit west of Denver. Then we'll head to Dayton, WY to acclimate and train on the Bighorn course. After that, it's back to do five unfinished sections of the CT between Marshall Pass and Eddiesville. We'll go to Silverton, CO before the July 4 crowd arrives (in an attempt to get our favorite free campsite on S. Mineral Creek Road again!) and stay until after the race. Then it's off to Leadville for several weeks of fun. I hope to run some CDT segments in and around those planned activities, as time and Jim's crewing patience allows (tough to get to some of these trailheads).

And once again I plan to regale you with stories of our adventures on and off the trails and overload your senses with photos of gorgeous mountain scenery. We look forward to seeing some of you at the various races, and hope the rest of our readers have a chance some day to explore these scenic trails on foot, bike, or horse.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil