Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Fare Thee Well, East Coast

As I was driving to the airport at 4am last week, working on less than 4 hours of sick-kiddo-interrupted sleep, I found myself tearing up. Why? Because I had some dirt in my eye, duh. No. It was because the events of the next few weeks were suddenly sinking in. And just like with my emotionally compromised state at Mile 80 of nearly every 100 Miler, slightly salty water for some reason began to form at the corners of my eyes.

In two weeks, I'll be moving from DC, a region that I've called home for the past decade, to St. Louis, in order to raise my children closer to family. I sat there, in my car on I-95, with quick-fire images of my favorite trails popping into my head. And then, more importantly, thoughts of all the folks I've met over the past 4 years of ultrarunning, and all of the friendships I've found along the way.

After many years of hardly running, I finally got off the couch and committed myself to the sport 5 years ago. By early 2015 I had finally run my first ultra, and not long after that my first hundo. I started out knowing nothing about the sport. I knew nothing about Happy Trails. I knew no other runners. My initial ignorance is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that, for my very first ultra, I chose the North Face DC 50 Miler over BRR.

Right from the beginning I knew I wanted to run longer, harder races. Starting out, though, I just thought that I'd be doing it all by myself, in my own little introverted bubble. In that first year, I finally learned about VHTRC, and I started to find "my people". Now, nearly every race I go to turns into something more akin to a family reunion. In the years to come, as I struggle to seek out the most rigorous 100 foot "climbs" that St. Louis has to offer, I will no doubt longingly yearn for the comforts of Rock Creek Park's endless miles of single track mere minutes from my front door, and for the killer climbs and descents of Shenandoah. More than that though, I'll miss the Virginia ultrarunning community -- the training runs, the volunteering, hanging out at a race every couple of months. Sure, St. Louis has its own ultra club, but it won't be the same.

I've met too many people to call out individually, but I'd like to take a moment to call out some of the Beast Coast folks that have had a particularly strong impact on me these past 5 years.

First of all, I'd like to thank my favorite race directors: David Horton, Alex Papadopoulos, and Clark Zealand. It's not by accident that over half my races have been ones you've put on. Every runner is indebted to the race directors and volunteers who make our favorite races happen, but the atmospheres that you've developed and nurtured, each different in their own ways, are second to none. Your races are clearly labors of love, and each of those races has strengthened my love for this sport -- excluding Holiday Lake and MMTR because, well, nevermind, I won't get into that here! Someday down the road I hope to give back to the ultrarunning community and direct a race of my own, in no small part because of the impact Horton, Clark, and Alex have had upon me.

You don't have to look too far in this sport to find admirable runners and personal heroes. You can have your Walmsleys and Dauwalters, but for me, two runners I look up to most are VHTRCers. Though I'd never say it to their faces for fear of turning bright red right there on the spot, you'd be hard-pressed to find more admirable people than Sophie Speidel and Jack Kurisky. I look up to the two of you more than anyone else in this sport. You are genuinely kind people who strengthen this community of oddball athletes with your dedication to the sport itself and to your fellow runners. And it doesn't hurt that you guys are straight-up studs! You keep putting in the work, showing up, and killing it on race day. It's clear that you guys love "the process" that gets you to the starting line year after year after year. I wanna be like you when I grow up!

And finally, I'd like to give a huge shout-out to all of the CRUT and C-ville runners out there that I've bonded with at races, of whom there are too many to call out individually. Right from the start I seemed to gravitate to y'all; and not unlike an awkward new kid at school, you were kind enough to invite me over to the lunch table where the cool kids sat. Half the fun of racing has been to see you all, swap stories, and suffer together. Sadly, I was unable to convince my wife that we should relocate to Crozet so that I could live out my days blissfully running up and down Jarmans.

And though I may be moving, many might not even notice. I still plan to take the 700 mile drive down I-64 a few times a year for races and such. I have to return to Grindstone this year to snag my 5X buckle, after which I'll likely keep coming back to volunteer and to help many of you finish my favorite 100 mile race. And the only way I'll ever miss Hellgate is if the Race Committee bars me from entering. I'll probably be at Promise Land most Aprils, and I hear the first Saturday in August is a lovely time to visit Crozet.

If anyone finds themselves in St. Louis, don't hesitate to reach out. And for anyone that makes the trek west for the big mountain races, St. Louis makes for a great pit-stop and I'll have spare beds ready to go! I'll also be that much closer to those races, and with extra hands around to help with the kids, it's all the more likely I'll be available for some crewing and pacing duties -- so when you make it into Hardrock, please take me with you! Oh, and if anyone is interested in a meet-in-the-middle group run, just know that my closest publicly accessible 1000' climb is in Frozen Head State Park … it's 7 hours away from St. Louis, but whatever.

It has been an absolute pleasure to be a part of this community of runners, and I'm counting down the days until I get to share miles and stories with many of you again.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck in St Louis, Chris! My brother John lives there, and he just recently joint the SLUGs (St Louis Ultrarunners Group). I don't know anything about the group but maybe it will be an acceptable substitute for the VHTRC in Missouri. I will let you know whenever I am in St Louis visiting my family there.