Thursday, March 1, 2012

3rd Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge

At the 2011 Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge.
L to R: circa mile 45; coming in to the finish; with the family post-race.

Today is March 1. Spring is officially a scant three weeks away. My biggest/most difficult ultramarathon of the year—the Virgil Crest 50-miler—seems a long way off at the end of September, nearly seven months distant. Never the less, it's time to make the official announcement and unveil the 3rd Annual Gluten-Free Ultramarathon Challenge.

For those of you that weren't around the blog in 2010 and 2011, for the 1st and 2nd editions of the Challenge, here are the basic details: I punish myself against a brutally difficult 50-mile trail ultramarathon to fundraise for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Simple as that.

Here's the slightly longer version: The Virgil Crest 50-mile ultramarathon is a whopper...primarily singletrack trails, 50 miles, with 10,000 vertical feet of elevation gain. That's basically the equivalent of running back-to-back marathons, off-road, while climbing to the top of the Empire State Building 8 times. In the past two years, it has taken me 11 to 12+ hours to finish the race. In 2010, I had a Top Ten finish (I'm hoping to re-capture a Top Ten result this year).

As for the NFCA, if you're reading this blog, then hopefully you already know about the great work they do on behalf of the gluten-free community, not just those with celiac disease. They educate and train healthcare professionals. Ditto with the food service industry, including restaurants and chefs. They partner on research, such as the recent Gluten in Medications survey. They have great resources for kids and their parents, not to mention students headed off to college. And much more.

That's why I'm such an enthusiastic supporter for them as one of NFCA's Athletes for Awareness.

In the first two years of the Challenge, we raised more than $6,500 for the NFCA. This year, I want to blow those numbers out of the water. Ideally, I'd love to raise more than $5,000 this year, which equates to $100 per mile. At the very least, I'm aching for the 3-year total to surpass $10,000. Won't you help me—and us—reach that goal by visiting my fundraising page at FirstGiving and making a tax-deductible donation today?

Plus, this year I'm sweetening the pot. In addition to the tax write-off, the good karma, the personal gratitude you get from me, and the good work of the NFCA, there's more:

On the first of each month between now and the race, I'll take all the people who have donated in the previous month, pick a name at random, and that person will win a signed copy of your choice of one of three books:
  • The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life
  • Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, 2nd Edition
  • Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes 
Then, on October 1 following the race, I'll put everyone's name into a hat and pick a grand prize winner who will receive all three books. I'm funding these giveaways out of my own pocket as a way to incentivize you to give to NFCA.

Some basic rules: (a) To be eligible, you must donate at least $20 to NFCA. (Not that anyone would do this, but I don't want tons of people donating $1 each just to enter the book giveaways...) (b) As long as you meet the criteria in (a), feel free to donate in more than one month to increase your chances of winning! (Though do feel free to make a single, ideally large, lump-sum donation in support of the NFCA. =)).

Along the way, this blog will feature some periodic training updates so you can track my progress preparing for the big race, race reports from other ultras I'm running between now and then, profiles of other gluten-free athletes, and of course the monthly giveaway winner announcements.

Finally, I want to say a HUGE thank you to all of you have supported me and donated to NFCA in previous years. I deeply and sincerely appreciate it, and hope we can make 2012 the most successful Challenge yet!


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