Trail Runners Talk About Their 2009 Seasons!

The year is quickly coming to a close and we thought we’d take a look back. Originally, we intended to […]

By on December 30, 2009 | 12 comments

The year is quickly coming to a close and we thought we’d take a look back. Originally, we intended to review the year iRunFar had, but decided to skip recounting iRunFar’s recent history or best posts on the year. Instead, we wanted to hear how your year went. What 2009 running moments are your proudest of? What in your running life you are most thankful for? These aren’t rhetorical questions, we really want to know! Leave a comment telling us your version of This Year in Running.

Of course, it wouldn’t be iRunFar if we didn’t give you some content along with our question. That’s why we reached out to some folks you likely know… and some you don’t to ask them the very same questions. Read on to hear what each was proudest of, most thankful for, or most appreciative of from his or her running life in 2009.

Hans-Dieter Weisshaar (100 mile marvel):
I most appreciated meeting again all the friends and being part of the wonderful 100 mile community. And I was most happy, relaxed, thankful about running with my truest friend Capulin; just a dog, a Mexican mixed breed. He was a friend with a big heart and an even bigger soul. Always forgiving. He died in a car accident after the Cascade Crest 100. We are going to dedicate a 100 mile run in his town – Guanjuato, Mexico – in mid-January. CAPULIN 100 – running the trails he so often shared with me.

Michael Wardian (world class runner for The North Face):
I am very proud of all the races I was able to be a part of in 2009 and in particular the, 1st place at the 50K USATF National Championships, 8th place at Marathon Des Sables, 6th place at the 100K Worlds, 15th place at the Western States 100 Miler (I week after the 100K Worlds), 2nd place at the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championships, Breaking the World Record with my son Grant in Jog Stroller (even though someone ran faster that day, we still ran 2:34:37), bronze medal at the 50K Worlds and running 10 Marathons including a PR of 2:21:09, and a 5th place finish in The North Face Endurance Challenge with some of the best ultra runners in the country.

I am so blessed to have a supportive and accommodating family and to have been able to share my passion for running with them and to see them embrace running in their own way and to have my wife, Jennifer, and sons, Pierce and Grant, wanting to race with me is awesome. Also, to see my boss and his son compete in their first trail race and my brother and sister become bigger runners.

I am also so thankful for all the friends I have made and gotten to see this year and look forward to seeing everyone in 2010.

Craig Thornley (Team Sunsweet runner who publishes of the ultra blog Conduct the Juices):
I’m proud and appreciative of my training partner and friend Lewis Taylor. After earning a spot in WS in 2007 via winning Way Too Cool 50K and getting second at American River 50 miler, Lewis Taylor from Eugene had many expectations placed upon him and was even listed as a favorite in the WS program. Needless to say, the new ultrarunner who had learned about ultras after interviewing me for a story in the local newspaper after WS 2005, didn’t need this added attention. Whether it had anything to do with it or not, the nervous Lewis struggled to a 22-hour finish in his first trip to the Big Dance.

In 2009, he came back for his second attempt. Before the race I had told him that if we were together late in the race that I wanted and expected him to race me. I didn’t see Lewis after passing him in Duncan Canyon until just before Highway 49 crossing when I heard a voice, “Hey old man, wanna race to Auburn?” It was Lewis. I was so proud of him, and while I tried, I just couldn’t keep up with him the last 8 miles and he finished just under 20 hours for 18th place overall.

Forward to Dec 2009 WS lottery. We are both on Team Sunsweet, a WS sponsor, and thus entitled to one entry spot. Since Lewis had beaten me in 2009, the spot was his as neither of us got selected in the lottery. After the lottery he told me there was no way he could take the Sunsweet spot if I wasn’t in the race. That he wouldn’t be an ultrarunner or know anything about WS if it wasn’t for me. He gave his Sunsweet spot to me.

Amanda Stickel (breakout ultrarunner):
In my first competitive ultra season I ran three 50k’s which included a 3rd place at the USA 50k National Championships in New York, a 5th place at the World Trophy 50k Championships in Gibraltar, and a overall win in the Festivus [email protected]$$ 50k in Ohio. With my Dad as my coach I ran a personal best of 3:46:30 at Nationals. What I am really thankful and appreciative of is my friends from Facebook and my family who helped me financially make my dream come true and get to the Worlds in Gibraltar. Also, I am thankful to the runners who gave me support throughout the year to go out and reach my goals. Congratulations to everyone!

Sarah Stanley (inspirational speaker/ultrarunner):
In 2009, I am most proud of celebrating my 30th birthday by running Lean Horse 100 Mile. This race proved the point I am always trying to leave with people: if you put your mind to something, you can do it. My running this year proved to me once again that it’s not me, it’s about using my running as a platform to help others. And for that alone I am grateful.

Sophie Speidel (Team Inov-8 member and long time friend of iRunFar):
Retrospective post…2009 was a great year for me in terms of setting a few PRs, but I am most proud of my Hellgate 100K PR and breaking 15 hours after five attempts (14:58). I am 47, my kids are older and busier, and finding time to train between working full-time and spending time with my family is always a challenge, so I am very psyched that on my 47th birthday I was able to break that 15 hour mark in the last race of my 2009 season!

In that same vein, I am so thankful for my healthy body that allows me to keep pushing the boundaries, and my friends and family who support what I do. As everyone who reads iRunFar knows, we have the coolest group of people in our sport, and I have met some wonderful new friends this year through racing. I can’t wait for more in 2010.

Derrick Spafford
(a La Sportiva Mountain Runner from Canada):
A had a couple of things that I was pretty pleased with during the 2009 season.

  1. Haliburton 100. I won the race in 2008 in a time of 18:42. My plan for 2009 was hopefully break the old course record of 18:23, maybe dip under 18hrs and also repeat in winning. I was very happy to run 17:52, so met two out of my three goals, but was beaten by Glen Redpath who ran a smokin’ race. Still, I was very happy with the training leading up to it and how things went for me on race day.
  2. 20 Year Running Streak. December 25, 2009 marked my 20th year of running every single day without taking a day off. There have been some very difficult things to have run through over the years, but it’s fun to look back on it now.

Caitlin Smith (a La Sportiva Mountain Runner who’s gifted at a va
st range of distances) :
This year has blown me away. I never expected to be where I am at, but I just followed my love for running and some how it brought me here. This year has proven to me that when you love something and trust it, it can carry you a long ways. I thankful for every single up, down, hill, mountain, stride, and smile that I experienced in 2009.

Kami Semick (Do we need to explain who this runner from The North Face is?):
I am most thankful for the years that go “well.” These good years give me the patience to work through issues in the years that things don’t go as well.

Bryon Powell (iRunFar’s Runner-in-Chief):
I am most thankful for having the guts and faith to follow my passion and make iRunFar my full-time job. It’s that change that made allowed me to take in all the people, places, and experiences that I have over the past 8 months.

Allison Pattillo (iRunFar’s Non-Gear Girl):
Hmm, most memorable running experience of 2009 was actually being a spectator at the Leadville 100 and the GTTR. The sense of community, camaraderie and support makes you realize it isn’t just about winning. It’s about showing up for a challenge and giving it all you have and then some more. It’s about encouraging someone having a hard time and then that person turning around and doing the same for someone else. Not only was it amazing to watch the feats of the runners, but it was great spending time with the other spectators and experiencing the entire scene.

Anita Ortiz (La Sportiva’s Western States 100 champ):

  • I am very appreciative of my good friends Katie Mazzia, Mark Muehlethaler, and Mike Ortiz for getting me through Western States.
  • I am also very thankful for the friends (many of whom I don’t even know) who cheered, supported, and encouraged me through Western States.
  • Also my running group, EMR (stands for Eagle Mountain Runners), who just let me be me. And who log many miles with me to keep me on track.
  • Really, a special thanks go to Dave Mackey, Krissy Mohel, and Nikki Kimball who gave me the most useful prerace advice for Western States.

Monica Ochs (Monica does everything. Serious, just check out her blog):
What really stood out for me this year was the time I spent with friends sharing not only a common interest of running but building lifelong relationships with wonderful people. My greatest running memory from 2009 is the weekend I spent with Ellen, Devon, and Krissy laughing our way from rim to rim to rim of the Grand Canyon.

I fought many injuries this year and I was busy with school but these issues made me appreciate running all the more.

Sara Montgomery (La Sportiva runner/freelance writer/snowshoer):
My best racing memory of 2009 was the BHP Billiton Rock and Ice Ultra in Yellowknife in northern Canada, where I did the three-day race. I trained very specifically for this race, running and snowshoe running a lot of mileage, and was happy to win the women’s division. The camaraderie in a stage race is special, and the setting in the pristine subarctic wilderness made it all the more memorable.

Karl Meltzer (100 mile runner of the decade):
Thankful for not being injured through the whole season. With the exception of Cool where I had a minor issue that slowed me down. I was psyched that after the AT that I came back even stronger. It was risky with the AT because I may have come back tired and old, but now I’m older and faster….we’ll see how long that lasts! :-)

Sean Meissner (Montrail runner/friend of iRunFar/all around good dood):
Running memory of 09 I’m most appreciative of: that’s easy, Powell, and YOU were there – R2R2R! The best adventure run EVER! Incredible location, gnarly trail, unbelievable views, the sweetest Snickers ever, sharing with a best friend…epic journey!

Ed Martinell (publisher of Trail Running Soul):
Like a virus spreading rapidly, in this past year trail running has grown to cover many aspects of my life: training, racing, friendship, attitude, knowledge… I can just be thankful for this and for all the miles I’ve been able to put on the trails throughout the year.

Aric Manning (team director for Team Pearl Izumi-Smith):
When I look back at 2009 instead of focusing on the yearlong injury, I tend to shift the focus to all the amazing people I shared the trails with. From daily training partners to new friends. Running has given me many friendships I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Aliza Lapierre (a great New England runner on Team Inov-8)
During the 2009 season I became more cognizant and amazed by the bonds that were created, developed and nurtured on the trails. It is amazing that while competing I have meet so many genuinely good people who are willing to share their stories and knowledge. So many of my competitors have turned into friends who I see both on and off the trails. I am truly thankful that ultra running creates such an atmosphere that promotes this camaraderie while allowing me to challenge myself.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (best laugh on Team Patagonia):
The highlight of 2009 for me was the 17 day period from the beginning of WS to the end of HRH. During that time I was able to run two of the great 100 milers in the country, spend time with great friends, and enjoy two weeks of camping and exploring the mountains with my family. To be honest, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Meghan Hicks (second woman at Marathon des Sables 2009):

  • I’m thankful that I finally, after a decade and a half of running, learned to listen to my body, both it’s physical and mental elements, when it came to training, racing, and injury.
  • I’m thankful for wild places where we play, from the big, robust wilderness areas to the urban green spaces, and the foresight that wise ones before us used to create them.

Brian Hall (shoe designer at Vasque who’s first 100 was Leadville 2009):
There is no other feeling like being completely new at something, totally open to experience and a little naïve. You drink from the fire hose and throw yourself at things that are bigger than you can imagine. That was me this past year and it came to a beautiful, life changing crescendo at Leadville. I look back at the week I spent there as the best week of my life so far.

Garett Graubins (contributing editor at Trail Runner Magazine and Boa lacing enthusiast):

  • I’m proud that I was able to meet a lifetime goal of cracking 20 hours at the Leadville Trail 100 this year while juggling many other “real life” responsibilities.
  • I’m also proud of the fact that I was able to help my good friend, Ryan Welch, train toward his first-ever ultramarathon: the Big Horn 50K. Al
    ong the way, our friendship has grown and I’m very thankful for that fact.
  • I’m thankful to my family and friends who are so supportive, understanding, and encouraging: especially my wife Holly who met me midway during numerous long training runs throughout the summer.
  • Finally, I’m thankful that my son is growing up being exposed to the outdoors, trails, and such a healthy, welcoming community of runners.

Bruce Grant (a kind Canadian):
I think my most memorable event this year was pacing my friend Janet at the Cascade Crest 100 in August. She has done a few ultras, but this was her first 100. She wanted me to pace her because she felt that I had the experience to guide her through it and let achieve her own success. I was pretty flattered that she viewed me that way, and took on the role quite seriously so as to not let her down. I focused my training for a few weeks to peak for the race and make sure she wasn’t going to drop me! In the end, I needn’t have worried, since Janet had prepared well and was very strong; she ran with consistency and smart pacing that belied her inexperience at the distance. All I had to do was remind her once in a while to eat a gel or take a salt tab. We had a wonderful run together, and I will always remember her huge smile as she ran towards her first 100-mile finish. There is nothing I like better than seeing a runner discover something new.

Bobby Gill (Brooks and Drymax runner we know from our DC days):
With 2009 being my first full year in ultrarunning, I was constantly impressed by the availability of quality Fat Ass races, the camaraderie between veterans, newbies and volunteers at events, and the down-to-earth nature of the so-called “big names”. I have learned a ton about training, gear, and nutrition through all of these avenues and I look forward to applying these lessons to many more successful races in 2010.

Scott Dunlap
(Inov-8 runner who publishes A Trail Runner’s Blog):
I am most appreciative for a sport that continues to teach life lessons in unexpected ways. My 27+ hour Western States was my slowest time yet, but easily the most spiritually fulfilling day of my life.

Greg Crowther (Seattle Running Company runner/scientist/Phil’s dad):
My 2009 season can be thought of as a sequel to my disastrous 2008 campaign, which included two embarrassing road 100K performances (Mad City and the World Cup). I needed to get away from road ultras for a while, stop putting so much pressure on myself, and have a bit more fun, so I entered races like the Chuckanut 50K (in Bellingham, WA) and the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 (also in Bellingham), which I’d normally avoid because their technical sections put me at a competitive disadvantage. After a few months of increased enjoyment and satisfactory trail race results, I felt ready to tackle another road-type ultra: the JFK 50. JFK was very satisfying not only because I eked out a victory but also because I had spent the entire year rebuilding myself for that kind of effort. When I finally passed Michael Arnstein at about mile 48.5, I felt absolutely unstoppable, as though I had spent the previous months simply gathering momentum for that one final surge. Yes, I had delusions of grandeur — and they were awesome!

Devon Crosby-Helms (Salomon speedster/foodie):
I am most proud of my run at JFK 50 miler. I ran happy and blissed out the whole time and it is reflected in my performance. I am most thankful for my awesome new training partners in San Francisco, it is amazing to find a group of people who challenge and support one another on the run and in life.

Buzz Burrell (adventure runner extraordinaire):
I am blessed with great partners. I hiked the South Coast Track of Tasmania with my son, climbed 50 pitches In A Day in Eldorado Canyon with Bill Wright, descended In A Day the three biggest canyons in Zion NP with Jared Campbell and Ryan McDermott, finished with Bill Briggs his “every summit in Boulder County self-propelled” project, then in August, my long-time partner Peter Bakwin helped get me down to the car after I took a fall and broke my heel bone in half.

Elyse Braner (iRunFar columnist/Lululemon ambassador):
There is so much to be thankful and appreciative of in my running life the past year. In 2009, running became my life literally… training competitively, working in running, as well as my social life with all of my run friends. Out of everything that I have worked on, I am most appreciative for my Monday night run group at Lululemon in Logan Circle [in Washington, DC]. Together that Monday night crew has built a community that is based on far more than running. I have made some of my best friends through that group. All I did was simply facilitate the group, but it was the unique mix of runners that created the community, and it is the evening that I look forward to most each week. So much more than simply a six mile run, Monday night run club has become an all evening event, with a run, intense ab work (that the runners love to hate), and happy hour at Churchkey! Thanks Logan Circle Run Club!

Susannah Beck (former USATF 50 mile national champion):
I’m proudest of getting my act together enough to train for a fast road marathon again (after 5 years away). Ye gods, roadie discipline is tough- all the work, but few of the joys of trail running.

Most thankful for? Discovering the Trail Monsters running club on a long visit home to Maine. These ultra and trail junkies made me miss western trails a little less.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.