Sam's Blog

Hi-ho! I am Sam. Sam I am. Sadly, I have not tried green eggs and ham. Welcome to 2017! I'm still figuring out what my racing year will look like but of course, as much trail as possible. I've been a runner for over 20 years - ever since 6th grade Cross Country!

December 31, 2016: 2016 WAS a good year!

When you end your racing year DNFing at a race that you spent all year working up towards, it puts a bit of a damper on things and make it tough to look back at your year in a positive way. Time to look back some of the positive running things that I accomplished this year!

April: Squeaked out a 50K PR (and set a decent sized course PR) at Chippewa, to continue my year and a half streak of running a PR every ultra:

June: Ran my fastest Grandma's ever despite some nasty heat and it not being my main goal so just a mini-taper. Sure, this was partially due to my streak of awful Grandma's that I've finally started to break but I was smart enough to stop and use my inhaler on the course and when the I hit my wall, I didn't crash and burn nearly as bad as I usually do at Grandma's. I finished with a rocking good last mile, too. 8 minutes off a BQ, but I was still quite happy.

July: So. Much. Adventure!! Our Montana trip brought some good solo runs along with a fabulous run with Leslie and Rudy that was the most beautiful run I've even been on and included a glacier overlook.

I ran two races while in Montana and while my 50 mile did not go at all how I wanted (took a wrong turn and had to drop down to the 50K but still had to redo a loop in order to do an extra out/back section so ended up with 42 miles total), it was still pretty and a good long run. The second was a brutal, brutal 20 miler - The Bridger Ridge Run. I had a blast and while my quads were toast by the end from the crazy steep descending, my legs held up great for a week after a 42 miler.

August: I legit outright won my first race ever and had to beat Jarrow to do it! A lovely little 7K local race mostly on the SHT to support my friend running for the House. A nice little boost of confidence and fun heading into Wasatch.

September: A couple weeks after Wasatch, I finally got down to the In Yan Teopa 10 miler and took third woman on tired legs. Mostly due to the part where I passed person after person once we hit the glorious technical single track in the last couple of miles.

And that's not even counting all the amazing runs I had with friends and Cedar the Trail Dog this year, just adventuring in our own back yard.

I also hired a coach this year and while he ended up being perhaps not the best fit for me, he still did a lot of great things for me throughout the year. I got back to lifting on a regular schedule and starting doing actual speed work for the first time in years. He definitely helped increase my base pace and reminded me how good intervals and thresholds feel.

This fall, I also finally bought a fat bike after drooling over them for a couple years. I severly sprained my ankle (was on crutches for four days after) and so discovered mountain biked and from there knew it was time for a fat bike. I've been having a lot of fun playing on the trails in a new way and it's making my legs stronger even as I've eased off of running for a couple months of break.

So this WAS a good year and that's what I've gotten better at remembering. I'm unsure of what my goals are for next year but look to be solidifying some of them ASAP (considering how one entry fee increases in less than two hours). Happy 2017 to you all - may the new year bring you Adventure!

June 14, 2016: Grandma's and a Coach!

Hi, guys! Long time no blog! I promise a Superior 100 run through is still coming but first, an update!

So here we are, four days out from Grandma's and guess what? I'm running it again! It's been four years since the last time I ran Grandma's and three years since my last road marathon. More importantly, though, and what made me decide to sign up again, it's been ten years since my first marathon! Ten! So I felt like I should commemorate by running it again, even though I made a face every time I mentioned it :) Originally, I figured I would just run it for fun however, here's what I've been up to this spring - I went and got a coach!

It feels a bit weird still telling that to people. Who am I to get a coach? It all happened kind of quickly, really, but I think mostly things just fell into place at the right time. I had already been pondering making the splurge of a coach if I got into Western States, to help make sure I could be completely ready for it. I didn't get into Western States (no surprise there, as a first time lottery entry, I would have been shocked if I DID get in) but I have a good friend who has a coach. We would run together during the beginning of the year and the more she talked about her workouts and coach, the more I felt ready to do this NOW. I clearly did an okay job training myself for Superior since I was strong throughout the race and finished happy. But maybe I actually didn't do a great job, since I tore my knee 80ish miles in. So goal number one and my main drive for getting a coach is making sure I am the best prepared for Wasatch that I can be. I don't want to hurt my knee again and want to make sure that if something like that happens, it won't be because I've got muscles that are weak or I did something stupid in training. Goal number two (right now anyway) is to see how fast I can run Voyageur in 2017 or really, just a generic goal of "let's see how fast I can be with some help." On top of everything, it was getting late into February and it was time for me to start upping my long runs again but I just didn't seem to be doing it on my own and so some extra motivation sounded good too. So I met with a guy and decided to give it a go and I've been an athlete of Superior Performance since mid-March and have been loving it! Mostly what he has me doing involves things I already knew how to do but had stopped doing on my own (weight lifting) or didn't know how to really incorporate what I knew into 100 mile training (thresholds, speed workouts, etc). It's been great to have a plan to follow again and paying someone helps hold you more accountable for getting your ass out the door when you're on a trip with family but still need your long runs in.

So I've been running a lot of miles and running a lot of fast miles. I ran Chippewa Moraine 50K in April as a have fun race with no taper, figuring I'd be breaking my Ultra-PR streak from last year but hey, that couldn't last forever, right?

Except I ended up racing really well and getting an 11 minute PR and a 17 minute course PR (Chippewa can be a surprisingly hard course to run well on) with a 6:03!


And I came away knowing I could have broken six hours had I pushed harder from the turn around. Very awesome! While I had only been with my coach for just over a month at the time, so maybe it was too early to say that it helped a ton already, but at least having a coach was clearly not being detrimental to my running!

My main race of the year is Wasatch 100 (in September) but I decided in talking with Jason (my coach) to make Grandma's a B race and see how my speed is. So, here we are! It's weird going into Grandma's without stressing about it. I'd love to be fast but if things don't line up or my legs aren't good for short/fast again yet, that's fine too. I've been doing lots of speed work but none of it is marathon pace specific so I don't have a good feel for my pace, which makes me unsure of what my legs are going to think of things. It's looking like it'll be warm, but that's okay. It's not looking like 90s and high humidity so I've done worse, right? I'll be wearing shorts that will hold my inhaler, just in case. I'm excited to take my "new" (since my last road marathon) ultra toughness into roads and see what kind of difference that makes in the mental game in the second half.


January 18, 2016: She's Alive!! A quick 2015 recap

2015 was an amazing running year! Be forewarned - there are way too many exclamation points ahead.

I ran a PR in every ultra I ran (because finishing your first 100 counts as setting a PR, right?)! I ran two adventure races (ie, not in my own backyard)! I finished my first 100 mile! I was able to go on what was essentially a week long running and relaxing vacation out west with my husband!

100K - Miwok in April in California. An almost an hour and a half PR! An amazing fun travel race with friends and my first solo 100K (no pacer, no crew)! This race is super runnable and not at all technical with a finish cut-off that required an hour PR if I wanted to make it. My wheels came off HARD heading down a sixish mile downhill to the 49 mile aid station. Up next was turning around and heading right back up that six miles to an aid station with a cutoff. I'd have to move faster uphill than I did downhill in order to make it. There was no way I was coming even close to making that cutoff but after less than ten minutes of sitting/laying down and getting my legs and head back (and NOT eating soup despite the promise that that aid station would have some), I grabbed a long sleeve and extra gel for the slog up and headed out anyway, figuring it made for good time on feet for Superior. I made the cutoff by two minutes and found some amazing strength of mind and body that was definitely needed with Superior coming in the fall. I then made it to the finish with 23 minutes to spare and an hour and a half PR. This picture is from mile 59/60/somewhere in there when I was flying and feeling amazing again!! It's taken by Glenn Tachiyama and I found it very necessary to pay for this photo so I could have it!

50 Mile - Voyageur in July. An exactly 40 minute PR in nasty hot temperatures! I ran smart, took some risks, and didn't let the heat get to me. This awesome finish came complete with a gorgeous top ten mug (9th woman!)! I really need to get a better picture of it.

50K - Rampage the Roots in August in Montana. A few second PR! But - following an awesome, high mileage, mountain miles, training week. At some altitude and in some gross smoke at the beginning. And after about 20 minutes of sleep since I spent the night making a great spontaneous decision to help crew a friend doing the 100 mile, which resulted in laying on the side of the road with my eyes closed lots but with little actual sleep. As well as making an effort to NOT be racing hard until the last few miles. Here I am immediately post finish.

100 Mile - Superior 100 in September. This will get it's own post, I promise. Because it's too awesome to not relate - you'll be amazed at my lack of remembering of details, though. I guess when you're going for 36 hours, it's okay to not remember exactly when something happened, including if it happened to be light or dark out at the time of said thing happening :) Anyway, the only real goal was the finish. If pushed to name something, I had a fast sounding A goal based on my Voyageur and Wild Duluth times, a B goal based on simply beating the sun on day two, and a C goal of running any time under cutoff that didn't start with 37:something. So C goal accomplished (36:34) after tearing my left meniscus somewhere in the mile 75-80 range. Details to follow. In the meantime, enjoy what's probably my favorite picture from the race. Taken by Kelly Doyle at mile 90ish, while we're coming down from Carlton Peak.

So an amazing running year for me! I'm excited that I finally seem to be figuring out this ultra thing and have the years of base mileage to start running them faster. This year I already have a brutal sounding adventure 100K planned in July - just north of Rocky Mountain National Park. Apparently it's mostly not on any actual trail, with a bunch of creek crossings, and a 24 hour cutoff. Bonus that it's a qualifier for Western States, if I decide to keep putting in for that lottery. Happy trails to you! You'll be seeing more of my blogs this year.

April 30, 2015: Miwok time!

It's almost Miwok time! I'm super excited - I feel well trained and ready to go! I'm not a crazy high mileage person and can remember not so long ago when I was excited to get mileage in the 40s. I had a step back week this training cycle that was in the 40s! I cranked out a minute plus PR in an 8K and everything feels strong and ready to go.

There was some last minute momentary excitement when it was announced that the Forest Service wanted us off the trails by 8 pm, leaving us with 15 hours but the race director was able to fight back and it's back to a 15:30 cutoff. This gives runners another 30ish second per mile and for me, it was a good mental boost, too. I had decided to not be worried about a 15 hour cutoff so how could I possibly be worried about a 15:30? I even got a last test of my breathing a couple of weeks ago. We had some suddenly hot weather (almost 80 degrees!) and it was my last good long run. Around mile 16 or 17, I started to feeling my breathing issues coming on and by mile 18, my breathing was ramping up pretty bad. For some reason, I decided to wait to use my inhaler until Ron and I reached our water drop. Of course, by that point, I had to sit for a bit and while my inhaler calmed things down, it didn't work completely and I had to walk another mile or more and the rest of the run, my breathing felt like it did at mile 16/17. However! Once I got home, I realized that the reason the inhaler only partially work was due to . . . operator error : ) So! Now I know to use the thing as soon as symptoms start (instead of waiting for it to get bad) and I know the right way to use the silly thing, too.

I'll be flying out to San Francisco and doing the race whirlwind style since I don't have a lot of vacation. Which means flying out Friday morning (and leaving Duluth ass early so I can take the shuttle and not worry about driving home Sunday night) and flying back Sunday! Since I'll be doing little but sleeping and running, I'm able to fit everything into a carry-on + "personal item."  Now, I was a bit concerned about this at first since I tend to pack my running clothes on the heavy side, one of everything style.. What if it suddenly decides to be 30 degrees and raining? What if it decides on 80 and sunny with no warning either way??? How do I pack for all contingencies AND fit my Nathan pack AND shoes AND potential drop bags in one backpack? No worries, though, I was able to pack one of everything with plenty of space.

I almost don't dare talk about the weather since that's sure to jinx things up, but it's looking lovely so far. The highs are in the mid to high 60s. That makes me super happy, but I know I'll be okay regardless of the weather. I'm hoping for not fog so we have the gorgeous views it looks like we'll have!

If you're interested in tracking me, it looks as though UltraLive will be doing tracking through the aid stations. So head to: (for some reason, I'm having issues making the link clickable). I'm number 66. Race starts at 5 am San Francisco time, so 7 am Minnesota time. Keep in mind that these won't be instant chip timing updates - updates will depend on volunteers having internet coverage and typing everything in.

February 3, 2015: Ramblings on my ultra family

The ultra running family is an amazing group of people. We just lost an incredible member of our family in Aaron Buffington this morning. I didn't know him super well but I felt like I did and I'm taking the news hard. He was part of the ultra family and something in that just bonds you together. A friend of his started a fundraising page for him, as he had been fighting cancer for over a year and you can imagine the medical bills can't be cheap. We smashed past the original goal in the first day. A week later, it's sailed past $10,000. Because trail runners are amazing, caring people. The last time I saw Aaron was at Sawtooth. His brother was running the 50 mile Saturday morning but Aaron was at the start of the 100 mile Friday morning and I saw him in the middle of the night sometime at Crosby-Manitou. He'd been feeling more tired lately but here he was, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere because his ultra family was here and he wanted to see them and cheer them on. I wouldn't have even seen him had my runner not decided he didn't need me to pace right away. We had a lovely chat and I left feeling like he was going to be okay. I sent him a card just last week and he responded with such a nice, selfless message back.

When I was interviewed for a "one year past the Boston bombing" article, the guy from the paper talked about how he heard from other runners that there had been this sense of increased belonging and togetherness in the time since. He was asking if I noticed and felt the same way. I didn't have a good answer for him and there wasn't a good way to express it at the time without sounding like a jerk (and I'm not sure it's coming out right now, either) but this belonging, this togetherness, that's just how it always is with my ultra family. And it doesn't depend on speed or distance or gender or social status or even if you happen to be injured or doubting your desire or ability to run ultras. Aaron was part of that and I wish we could have spent some hours together on the trail in the coming years.

He's left behind a wife and a two year old son. Here is Stephanie's message from this morning: "Aaron lost his 13-month fight with stage 4 kidney cancer at 4:50 this morning. The race is over; he sprinted to the finish line. Tomorrow is our 11-year "dating" anniversary. Aaron stopped letting me celebrate it after we got married, but today, I celebrate and honor him and our 11 years together."

Aaron, I'm glad you sprinted it in and are free of your pain and worry.

If you feel so inclined, Stephanie will still need help with medical expenses and you can donate here.