When I first heard about the Southeastern Trail Series (STS) in early 2013, I wondered who would want to run 7 trail races in 7 months, especially those hot days of summer races including one called “Hotter ‘N Hell Trail Race”. Little that I knew, not only I would be running most of those trail races, but also win male division of the long series for 3 years in a row. The series has helped me to be the trail runner that I am now, and has connected me with some of the best trail running friends and mentors. You can read more about the concept and detail about the series on its website (southeasterntrailruns.com). I will briefly talk of my journey of being a trail runner via the series.
By early 2013, I ran only 4 ultras and very few trail races. At that time, I was mostly a seasonal trail runner. My trail running season started around November and lasted until March or so. I did not want to deal with hot/humid trail running, snakes, and ticks. I also had a love and hate relationship with trail running due to continuously my rolling ankles while running trails. At one point in early 2013, I thought about giving up trail running and stay with road running only. David Tosch, the race director of STS, suggested me that before I completely give up on the trail running, I should try some of the STS races. At that time, I was not completely sold on the whole idea, so I passed on the first ever series race. Still, I went out and took photos for MRuns.com and just had a little fun. I liked what I saw that day. I also had an opportunity to meet with a lot of new trail runners. I knew then that I will be back to run some of the races.
In May 2013, I decided to run the “Run for Kids Challenge – 50k” – my first ever STS race. I loved the race and how the event was organized and support it had. Since then, I have completed most of the STS races. There are many benefits of running the series including training year around for trail races. The best part of this event is that we have an excuse to be out in the woods, share our experiences, run some miles, and of course drink some beers with other likeminded trail running buddies.
Every year, I look forward for the 3 days/3 mountains 53 miles Birmingham stage race. During the hot summer months, I train for the stage race. Training for the stage race includes many back to back runs that are not long distance, but enough to keep running and logging those trail miles in hot days of summer. In the last few years, I felt that the end of September stage race helped me to stay strong for road races that follow in the month of October. In addition to running a lot of miles, we also started “Birmingham Stage jump photo contest” where the runners jump at the finish line all 3 days. I post those jump photos in MarathonRuns Facebook page for runners to vote on it.
Finally, I feel that STS has helped me to continue to be a trail runner that I am now with a completion of more than 40 trail races including many ultra-races as well as four 100 milers. It has given me as well as many other runners an exposure to trail running and racing experience. Directly or indirectly, it also has encourages us to continue train around the year and reach bigger trail/ultra goal in fall and winter months. If you are still not sold on idea of STS races, I recommend you should try few of the STS races. Use it as an excuse to train around the year and hang out with other running buddies. If you are not already a trail running, see how running 7 races in 7 months can turn you into a trail runner as well.
Hope to see you somewhere on the trail running some of the STS races in 2016 season! #HappyTrails
2016 Series Schedule: http://www.southeasterntrailruns.com/STR-Events-Schedule.html
2016 Series 5% Discount code: http://www.mruns.com/?p=15931
Start of 2015 Series photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.885668708159938.1073742002.824172860976190&type=3
More photos can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/marathonRuns/
High Resolution Photos from race located at: http://www.werunhuntsville.com/MRuns/2016-Races/2016-Statue-2-Statue-15K/
Here are links to photos on Facebook:
Statue 2 Statue 2 Statue:
10% Discount Code: MRUNS10
Race Day: Mar 19, 2016 Saturday 7:00 AM
Race Website: http://runningtheshoals.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=1703
Blog Post on 2014 LM100: http://www.mruns.com/?p=14182
Before I Boston Qualified(BQ) on 2013 at the 7 Bridges Marathon, I made a lot of life styles and training changes including going vegan. During that training cycle, I lost a lot of weight and was able to go faster. My training included track workout, faster pace training runs, etc. which is a standard path to BQ.
Since qualifying for Boston in 2013, I took on more ultra-distance running. One of the biggest tradeoffs of going Ultra distance running is the speed: the further the distance the slower the speed needs to be for many reasons including avoiding injuries. I had no issue with going slower. I knew there is a payoff for such a trade off. Also around that time, I developed planter falsities (PT). To continue my running distance races and runs, slowing down was the only option for me. In 2014 and spring of 2015, I tried a couple of races to hit BQ. I failed even to get close to my BQ time.
Finally, in April 2015, I ran my first Boston. I enjoyed the magic of running Boston. I knew then that I wanted to come back to Boston (Photos from Boston 2015 click here)
As I added more ultra-distance races like Lake Martin 100 as well as other life priorities that took over, I did not have time to train for Boston. Most of my marathon distance were 4 hrs or so. I knew my next Boston dream is slipping away from me.
So, I decided do what I do best during the Summer: I ran as much as possible even if it is slower. One of my favorite Summer runs that I call H3 run – Hot/Humid/Hill. I knew from my past experience that “hot Summer run = fall PR”. Despite Alabama’s Summer weather, I ran trail, road, and anything in between. As my schedule opened up in July 2015, I started to add more miles.
Even though my training runs are mostly slower than normal, I try to race faster. Since I was running 7 Southeastern trail series race over the Spring/Summer/Fall, I decided to put my best fast training pace during those races as well as any other races that I will participate. As the year progressed, I start racing faster and faster. In September 2015, I came third overall on three days stage race and 2nd overall on a 50k.
As October 2015 rolled around – my road running month, I was not sure about my readiness to BQ. I felt my Boston dream is out of reach now. I had 3 back to back marathon weekends with pacing Chicago, racing 7 bridges, and running Marine Corp Marathon. I was going to let the month play it out and see what happens.
When I lined for the 7 Bridges marathon, it was perfect 45 degree race weather. I asked people around me if anyone is trying a 3 hrs 20 minutes finishing time. I found few runners trying for it including local Birmingham runner, Keith. Mostly, I do not run races with others unless I am pacing; this time it was different. I did not want to commit more than I had to. So I decided to go with an unofficial pace group lead by Kevin from Colorado. As miles started to come together, we were moving at a great pace. At mile 11, the lead pacer had to stop for bathroom break. Suddenly, I saw my pace dropping. As, I pushed my pace, I try to put things together myself. By mile 18, the lead pacer caught up with me and asked to hang on with him. By then, I already started to fade away. I kept pushing my pace, but it was difficult. Then something happened to me, I knew I had training and log these kind of miles in slow pace, but I start to push faster. I wanted that BQ. I knew I was close. I did not want to give up. When I was crossing 7th bridge, I saw one of my trail running buddy, Greg, who was there to support his family. I asked him to pace me. Greg was not wearing running attire, but asked me to follow him. I ran my fastest last miles of any marathon around 6 min 30 sec pace. It was amazing!! I finished not only I BQ by 4 min 36 sec, but also I was able to PR’ed the marathon.
As I looked back, I am happy to hit my BQ on my first marathon race of 2015 for 2017 Boston. I do not have to chase my BQ dream for almost a year now. I would like to contribute BQ to my hot Summer road and trail races. As I head to year 2016, I feel that I will continue to train like I trained in 2015.
In conclusion, I would like to say to those of us who are chasing the Boston dream, do not discount the importance of Summer training, hill training, and speed training. Yes, speed is important for BQ training, but slower long runs are also important. Everyone trains differently and achieves the same goal; this is what worked for me this time around. I hope you look at your training and make adjustments to your training to achieve the goal of running Boston one day!!
#HappyRunning #HappyTrails #Boston2017