What says “relentless forward progress” more than the dog days of August? How about running my first official “Ultra Marathon” in the form of a 50k trail run at the East End Trail Race on August 4? I was slated to undertake this effort back in May, but a little back surgery required me to do no running in May and since then I’ve been steadily ramping back to the fitness levels necessary to undertake a different kind of run. I’ve eased back on pace while getting a little more work on the trickier footing which will challenge us along the trails. Vastly more uneven, roots and rocks are regular enough that both my guide and I will have to be more attentive throughout the run. Still more challenging, the longer miles and slower paces involved mean we’ll be having to sustain this enhanced focus for a considerably longer time and this will be an excellent testament to our teamwork.
Tom Cassetty has a handful of years’ experience guiding me and plenty of those have been spent on trails such as Mine Falls here in Nashua. We’ve run Pinelands, Ghost-train, and even the challenging “gorilla trail” as we built up comfort in managing parallel roots, tight single track sections, taller rocks, and all the communication necessary to manage it. A parallel root can easily roll my ankle unless I angle my foot to enable me to roll forward or backward off it with a bit less risk. Tom calls out “P” to warn me of these obstacles and in a crowded root-strewn area it has been suggested he almost sounds like someone showcasing Tourrette’s as he calls out “P – P messy messy P!”
Normally the communication is a steady blend of tactile motions on the rigid tether augmented with his vocal warnings as we work harder in some sections and celebrate the smoother running of easier stretches as well. The key is the friendship and trust we’ve built–he has learned to discern what is worthy of warning and how to keep his focus forward on the next obstacle while trusting I will hear and appropriately react to his warnings so that our teamwork leads to successful navigation. If he were to look back to see if I reacted correctly, he might miss the next obstacle to evade or warn me about and if I run hesitant or too tight without trusting him, the wear and tear will have us break down long before our 50 kilometers is complete.
Why am I undertaking a race longer than a marathon when that distance can challenge me more than enough? It really is a different style of running in which I step down the pace and ramp up the endurance another level. It is even more of a mental challenge and more time to share the experience with a good friend. We will walk some sections that have potential to be particularly tricky or to shift the muscle groups a bit before resuming our running. It’s part of the plan at longer distances for many folk.
I’m also supporting Tom who has taken his Ultra running to the 100-mile distance previously and is on his way to do it again this October. As we’ve been training together, he asked if he might use his plan to run the 2019 Ghost Train Ultra Marathon and support our 2020 Vision Quest Charity as well. After a little talking, I was quickly enthused at his plans for the run and the fundraising. I’ll be trying to run plenty of training miles with him and on the big day as he nears 100 and possibly 120 miles in under 30 hours of fairly steady running, I hope to be by his side helping those miles pile up.
If you are interested in learning more, we’ve created a separate page for Tom’s Fund Raising Efforts and we’ll update some progress reports there as we go forward. As we trot out the 50 kilometers on August 4, I’ll be trying to fathom how anyone manages the 193 kilometers that Tom is likely to undertake on our behalf and I’ll be joining the list of those who support him.