Wednesday, January 12, 2011



This is not the usual race report so beware.

A Blustery and Snowy Day in VT

As I sit here looking out the window all I can see are the snowflakes being carried sideways by the howling winds and snowdrifts getting bigger as each minute passes. The temperature is 15 degrees but with the wind chill it’s more like 0. It makes it hard to get motivated to go out and run but it has to be done. I know that once I’m out the door it will be another epic adventure. But In trying to find the motivation to get out the door, I look ahead to some of this year’s races that I’m trying to get into figuring that would make my training run today have a purpose. A purpose, yes I heard that word just recently and it had to do with karma, or so I was told.

I was with an acquaintance over the weekend having a fabulous time in Stowe skiing in the morning and running all afternoon in the fresh snow on the back roads, seeing wild turkeys in the fields and a coyote running through the deep snow.  While finishing the day with dinner at Gracies I noticed she had on a shirt from a local health spa that said What goes around comes around.  I asked what that meant and she replied it was about karma and that to her it meant something had served a purpose and it was time to move on. I didn’t question it but somehow that didn’t seem right, especially coming from a health spa. That sounded more like quitting and failure.  Failure is another thing I have a hard time with which is probably why I can keep going in many of these endurance races.  But as long as you try, it is not failure. The only real failure in life is the failure to try. Even dropping in a race is acceptable and noble as long as you gave it your best effort. So how could all this be good karma?

The Happy Budha
(If you rub his belly it's supposed to bring you good luck, good karma.  Yes I have one of these and rub his belly every day)

So I did a little research and found a much different answer. The word karma literally means deed, but implies the entire cycle of cause and its effects. The decisions you make and the way you treat people will someday come back to stare you in the face. If you are good and kind to people they will treat you kind. If you are cruel to people and make bad decisions then life will not be so kind to you. Now that makes sense. Now how does that relate to running? In running the longer distances, it becomes more and more of a mental challenge the farther and longer we go. So having good karma can helps you get through the low points of the race. Think of how we rely on a lot of different folks during our races throughout the season, many of them volunteers being there out of the goodness of their hearts only to hear us complain at times. How many times have you come into an aid station and they just didn’t have the snack you were looking for or not the right drink? Or you were dehydrated and a bit cranky and may not have been the nicest person on the planet. Did you still thank the volunteers for their help and for standing out there for hours and hours? Well if you didn’t, you should have. For now on make an extra effort to say “Thank You”. Some day you may really need one of those volunteers in a life threatening situation and having good karma will only help in the end as the total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person's existence, may determining the person's destiny.

So as you prepare for your races this year and are asking people to crew and pace for you in your quest to succeed, make sure you treat them kindly not only at the race but all the time. Better yet, always show your appreciation to those folks who care most about you and who will be there for you. And be good and kind to all the volunteers and make sure you let them know and thank them often. Another thing you might consider is to give back to the racing community. Talk to the race directors and find out how you can volunteer at a race to see how it is on the other end. Crew and pace for someone, it’s a great experience and a lot of fun. In many cases it’s harder than running the race itself.  Do some trail work. It’s a requirement for many of the 100 mile races but do it anyway, even when it’s not required. And remember, every human action--in thought, word, or deed-- inevitably leads to results or consequences, positive or negative, depending upon the quality of the action. Scary thought!

And what is success: To fail is a natural consequence of trying. To succeed takes time and prolonged effort in the face of unfriendly odds. To think it will be any other way, no matter what you do, is to invite yourself to be hurt and to limit your enthusiasm for trying.

Enough karma for the day, time to go run!


Wearing xc ski gaiters in deep snow helps keep your feet warmer and drier. Many of today’s trail running shoes are made of mesh which doesn’t help. Or wear a Gore-Tex running shoe.

Using studded sneakers can help on hard pack surfaces but you might try something like the Kahtoola Micro Spikes for better traction in deeper snow or even running snow shoes.

Technical clothing is essential in wicking away moisture and keeping you as dry as possible. Wear layers in case you need to regulate the core temperature.

A balaclava under your hat that you can pull up helps protect the face from frostbite and yes of course, wear a winter hat.

Wind proof outer layers are a necessity (and wind briefs for the guys to keep the family jewels from freezing).

I prefer winter mitts on the really cold days but this in an individual thing.  My hands tend to freeze easily.

On longer runs, you may consider having some clothing to change into along the way. Have your car or home be a stop in the middle of the run where you can do a quick change and keep going. Being warm and dry is critical beyond a couple of hours or the sweat may turn to ice. Having something for hydration at that time would be good too as often it will freeze if you are carrying it while you are running.

If running at night wear a reflective clothing/vest, a headlamp and a rear blinker. It’s real hard to see a runner in a snowstorm. The snow plow trucks will appreciate it and so will you when they don’t run you over with the wing plow.

Goggles or sunglasses with light colored lenses, not a bad idea if you want to see where you are going.

Try to plan your route around the wind or down low when going into the wind. Running cross wind is certainly better than having the snow blast you head on.

And remember:

"If you are good and kind to people they will treat you kind"

The only real failure in life is the failure to try"

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