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2017 Racer Profiles – Jonathan Culling

2017 Racer Profiles – Jonathan Culling

Jonathan Culling 

“Testing Myself”

 

Jonathon Culling of Austin, Texas describes himself as “not-necessarily-a-runner,” which is fine because TPU is not necessarily a running event.  For some, it’s mostly a hike, and since the cutoff times are very generous (12 hours to complete a marathon distance) and there’s nothing to do on the trail but enjoy existence, a leisurely pace is completely reasonable.

Jonathan has, in fact, completed a number of trail races, from 10K to 25K, so he’s not a complete newbie.  Road running never resonated with him, but adventure, trails and deserts do.  He’d been reading about the 4Desert series in China, Chile, Namibia and Antarctica, and found he could test himself in that environment a lot closer to home.  6 hours away, in fact, in Big Bend.

Testing his limits is Jonathan’s motivation for such endurance feats.  He wants to know what he has inside, to push against his mental limits and discover how far he can go.  As he has been preparing, he’s been catching up on running culture, feeling that he was at a slight disadvantage not having played in the ultrarunning space before.

Balancing out that perceived disadvantage, he’s had the benefit of a very seasoned TPU veteran, Coach Thomas Mullins.  Thomas has been an invaluable resource, especially for questions about pack weight, gear and nutrition. The advice has worked well, as Jonathon reports his final pack weight is 17 pounds before water… an efficient weight for this event.

Newborn Photography

At the peak of Jonathan’s TPU training run-up, his baby daughter was born, so one might say that he is already pushing his limits.  The weekend of Diana’s birth was supposed to have been a 50-mile training workout, which he missed while accomplishing the greater goal of shepherding a new member into his family.

Jonathan works in IT operations in Austin, and he and his wife have another daughter, Clare.  Since the birth of the new baby, they have been slightly out of sync with their normal schedule, so it’s been an interesting run-up to race week.

Just prior to leaving for Alpine, Jonathon said he anticipates his biggest challenge at TPU will be to rein in a naturally competitive nature, and be alright with a relaxed pace.  He intends to fully utilize the water stations for rest, and pay close attention to his recovery routine in camp at night.

“LIKE” us on Facebook to get race reports next week and find out how Jonathan is passing his test.

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2017 Racer Profiles – Scott Maddeaux

2017 Racer Profiles – Scott Maddeaux

Meet Scott Maddeaux 

“Difficult but Simple”

TPU was like a song Scott couldn’t get out of his head.  He saw a poster for the 2016 race in the downtown Austin REI last year as he was waiting in the checkout line.  He mentioned it to one of his running buddies, Jess Kolko, who knew the female winner of the 2015 race, Cheryl Tulkoff.  All three of them got together and talked TPU.  By this time, the magic of the event had lodged in his mind, and registration inevitably followed, for both of them.

Scott runs in Austin, Texas, where he supports educator resources for the Austin public schools.  His running history is mostly road marathons, and TPU is his first ultra distance.  Nothing like starting at the top.

That’s because Scott is a person who likes difficult, but simple things.  And often those two things go together.  If you attempt something hard enough, like a 167-mile stage race, for instance, all the smaller things in life seem to dissolve for a time.  The difficulty actually makes it simple.

“I love the thought of having nothing to do but run in the desert for a week. I always learn something about myself when I’m challenged, and there is going to be a lot of time for self-reflection,” says Scott.  He’s right about that; Big Bend Ranch is one of the most undeveloped, un-visited, unknown places in the great state of Texas.

In preparation, Scott has been doing back-to-back long runs, some with a weighted pack.  He had hoped for higher-mileage training, but the demands of fatherhood and professional work have limited him somewhat.  Nevertheless, he has been satisfied with the way his body has tolerated the increased mileage and carry weight.

Both Scott and his friend Jess snagged the early registration bonus of free coaching from TPU veterans. Coach Cheryl Tulkoff has been especially helpful with questions about gear and packing.  Like every other TPU racer, Scott is trying to shed weight from his pack while keeping enough calories to sustain a week of running.  Packing for TPU is a delicate balancing act, but it appears that Scott has nailed it.

Scott’s 5-year old daughter Stella has been packing a toy backpack with toy food for her stuffed animals who are on their way to a “big race.”  She has instructed Scott to “try really hard,” and has let him know how lucky he is to be doing something that allows him to bring chocolate and cookies.

Scott is hoping to have some great stories to tell of his adventure at TPU.  A week in the desert with no distractions, among other people who are drawn off the beaten path to this very remote and very rugged adventure??  There will be stories.

 

 

“LIKE” us on Facebook to see race reports next week and hear how Scott’s “big race” progresses.

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2017 Racer Profiles – Rachael Kadell

2017 Racer Profiles – Rachael Kadell

Meet Rachael Kadell

“Inspired by Dad”

 

When her running buddy told her about the enchantment of this crazy stage race in Texas, Rachael was intrigued.  With her husband’s encouragement, she signed up.  Only afterwards did she read the TPU website in detail… and she realized she was in for a Texas-sized challenge.  Carrying all her own supplies over 165 miles in the high Chihuahuan desert is definitely a milestone event.

Together with her 10-year running partner, Rachael will soon add TPU to a hearty running resumé that includes R2R2R, San Diego 100 and Javelina Jundred.  She and Shelli belong to the SoCal TrailHeadz running club and have the kind of friendship that has been cemented by sweat, fatigue and long hours on the trail when all the easy topics of conversation have run out.

Rachael ran her first marathon in 2006 with Team in Training, and has been at it ever since.  After noticing that she vastly improved as a wife, mother and co-worker when she spent happy time on trails, she shifted from roads to dirt.

She takes her family very seriously and is deeply involved with her kids, in addition to professional work in investor relations for a hedge fund.  All those duties make training time precious, and Rachael has arrived at TPU week a bit nervous.  She had a DNF at a race in August, and has been bothered by doubts since then.

Having a friend with a long history of running through challenges together will get the two of them to the finish line.  Rachael and Shelli have nurtured each other through many a race, and they expect to complete the 167 miles together.

Shelli and Rachael

Rachael and Shelli took advantage of the early registration bonus, snagging the expert coaching of Thomas Karlick, the 2016 TPU overall winner.  Rachael reports that Coach Thomas pushed the two friends pretty hard, recommending higher mileage than for any of their previous ultras.  It was a struggle to find the right work-family-training balance, and still have fun.

Some of the challenges Rachael has faced in her prep for TPU are finding tasty, gluten-free foods that are lightweight; running with poles; changes in posture required by the weight of the pack; and the logistical puzzle of loading a 20-liter pack with enough to sustain the body through a week of running.

Through it all, though, Rachael holds in her heart the image of her dad, who has lived with a rare form of leukemia, and all its attendant complications, for over 30 years.  His willingness to get up each day and deal with his physical challenges inspires Rachael to work hard with a smile on her face.

TPU will challenge her, and push her way out of her comfort zone, which is precisely what she is seeking.

 

“Like” us on Facebook for updates as Rachael rolls over the trails of Big Bend Ranch next week!

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2017 Racer Profiles – Shelli Sexton

2017 Racer Profiles – Shelli Sexton

Meet Shelli Sexton 

Nervous Excitement

 

Hailing from southern California, Shelli Sexton is one half of the Shelli/Rachael machine, a pair of friends who’ve been running together for 10 years.  They plan to complete TPU together, as they have many other races.

The two have spent that certain kind of earthy, uninhibited time together that happens when you run ultras with another person.  They’ve shared R2R2R Grand Canyon, the San Diego 100 and the Coastal Challenge, considered to be one of the sport’s most difficult stage races.

Rachael and Shelli

Shelli is a commercial broker in Riverside, California.  She first heard about TPU in UltraRunning magazine.  It captured her imagination and she couldn’t stop thinking about it… and talking about it to her running buddy, Rachael. They decided to make the leap, and both signed up for TPU 2017.

Shelli has banked some impressive mileage and races, but then battled injuries that kept her off the trails for the better part of six years.  She saw TPU as the gateway to a renewed life of running, an exciting goal that would get her climbing once again up the training ladder.

Unfortunately she was plagued by illness for several months, and unable to complete all the training she’d planned.  Colds, flu, infection… you name it, she’s had it.  Now, close to the starting line of TPU, Shelli reports being quite nervous, even with her long running career.

It’s like that scary dream many of us have, in which we have a big test, and have been skipping class all semester.  But accompanied by friend Rachael, a hefty load of ultra experience, and the courage to take on the unknown, Shelli will arrive in just a few days to begin TPU.

She will be welcomed by an enthusiastic and helpful TPU tribe of staff, volunteers and well-wishers.  We predict that the extreme beauty of the Big Bend Ranch landscape, the starry, starry nights in camp, and the companionship of other passionate runners, will give Shelli the experience of a lifetime and a re-ignition of her running fire, bigger and brighter than ever.

Be sure to “Like” us on Facebook to get race updates as Shelli burns up the trails of Big Bend Ranch next week.

 

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2017 Racer Profiles – Julie Burges

2017 Racer Profiles – Julie Burges

Meet Julie Burges 

“More Stress, Please”

 

Julie Burges had been looking online at stage races from her home in Auburn, California, when coincidentally, REI announced a community program featuring TPU Race Director Chris Herrera.  She went to hear his pitch, and that very night, signed up for TPU 2017. It was the perfect fit.

Julie holds a fairly high-stress job at the University of California Davis Veterinary School.  She has found that stress actually helps motivate her to do great things.  So she’s trading the stress of hospital administration for the much friendlier stress of running a marathon-a-day (crowned by a 56-miler at the end of the week) in the wild, high desert of west Texas.

“I hope a week in the wilderness, with great people who share the same passion for adventure and running, will help me find a Zen moment.  Even if it’s just for a moment.” says Julie.

Julie lives with a physical condition that makes it essential to minimize stress to her body.  When she first began running, her doctor recommended runs of no more than 3 miles.  She found that though the short runs kept the physical stress down, they did nothing for her mental stress.  And so an ultra runner was born.

Since then, Julie has become an experienced trail runner in Auburn, a town popularly known as the “endurance capital of the world.” Julie has been working on the challenge of back-to-back long runs in preparation for TPU.

To accustom herself to running with a week’s worth of supplies on her back, she’s been training with a weighted vest.  Weighted vests are widely used in CrossFit, resistance training and cardiovascular programs, but in preparation for TPU, they have the primary purpose of getting the runner accustomed to carrying a self-supporting pack.

At TPU, racers carry everything they need for the week, including food and sleeping bag.  Nothing is schlepped for them except water, and that is all part of ethic of self-sufficiency on the trail.  One of the jigsaw puzzles inherent in such a race is planning how to carry the most of what you need at the least weight.  Past runners have gotten their packs down to approximately 18 pounds, which is an engineering marvel.

Smart packing necessarily involves dehydrated meals, a feature Julie is not particularly looking forward to.  However, each afternoon, the TPU camp manager has the kettle boiling for runners as they complete the day’s miles, and the camaraderie over reconstituted lasagna and beef stroganoff can be surprisingly satisfying.

Julie has developed her mental toughness in past relay-format races that extend through the nights and for several consecutive days.  She’s been training with back-to-back long runs, some in the gorgeous environs of the back country Sierras.

It’s hard to beat the conditions of California’s Sierras for running, but Big Bend Ranch may just do it.  The high desert affords just those silent, solitary, existential Ground Zero, I-can-hear-my-heart-beating types of moments that may give Julie the Zen experience she’s looking for.

Best of luck, California Girl!

 

“Like” us on Facebook to keep up with Julie as she pounds down the trails of Big Bend Ranch next week. And watch for her flag patches.  She’ll be running with insignia her military buddies have given her from all over the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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