February 28, 2019
2. Laura (Chaides) Sohaskey
I met Laura at an AREC run around 20 years ago. At that time, AREC was a handful of runners who met once or twice a week around Long Beach simply because they liked to run and liked each other’s company. The club had been big in the early 90s but participation had fallen off to just the loyal few. Laura ran races occasionally and had run LA Marathon a number of times with a best time of just under 6 hours.
Laura and I ended up doing a number of long training runs in Huntington Beach and we got her time down to 4:48, and then in November 1999, she ran an astonishing 3:51 at Long Beach Marathon (her Boston qualifier at the time was 3:50).
By 2002, Laura had gotten more consistent, did 3 or 4 marathons a year, and had run her Boston qualifier at LA Marathon. After I ran my first ultramarathon, she was interested in trying one and so joined me at my second ultra, the Skyline 50K in August 2002. Besides flying up together and staying with my folks in Piedmont, we never see each other in the race until she shoots by me at Mile 30 (and beats me by a minute).
Like me, the experience is transformative. We decide on a “rematch” at Bulldog 50K one month later, again, don’t really run together, and I finish 15 minutes ahead. It must be my months of extra ultra experience that does it.
At her third ultra, Bulldog once again, Laura cements her status as an ultra runner: It was a hot day and all of us struggled on the second half of the course. As I am returning from the turnaround on the Backbone Trail, I encounter Laura. She tells me she puked multiple times heading up the hill. We discuss briefly and agree she should stop at the next aid station, because her health is more important. After I finish, we are waiting around for the drops to be delivered to the finish, but Laura is not with those folks. The aid station captain says that while she was waiting to get a ride back, she was drinking cupfuls of Coca-Cola, and after a bunch, she suddenly had a burst of energy and bounded off… and finished with a few minutes to spare. This is the ultra mindset. Keep going no matter what.
Over the next few years, Laura and I ran several ultras together, and over this time, I decided I would try 50M (and 100K). Laura was not particularly interested in the longer distances, plus she was running 10-15 marathons a year besides the occasional ultra.
When she finally did have a (slight) 50M bug, we targeted the North Face Challenge in San Francisco as our goal race, but she got cold feet on race eve and dropped down to the 50K. (She would have been the oldest female in the at 51, and thus have won her age group.) She cited “inadequate training.” But what is adequate training anyway?
About a year later, I conspire to have Laura complete her first 50 mile race. The requirements are that it be 50M only, so it is either finish, or DNF. As usual, we do not really run together, but do finish within about 10 minutes of each other.
In 2011, we finally did get to run together for almost an entire race, at the Santa Barbara Endurance Challenge. I convinced Laura to come up for this race mostly because I had finagled a complimentary entry for her (by assisting the race with the web content and other stuff). Laura would do the 50M and I would do the 100K. The courses pretty much did not overlap except the first and last 10 miles, but, due to high winds, they re-routed the 100K course, and it basically followed the same course (except I would do an extra 12 mile loop). The result of that was that I ran around 42 miles with Laura and 20 by myself. In such a small race (about 20 50M finishers and 7 100K finishers), it was wonderful to have someone you know well with you all day.
In 2012 and 2013, Laura and I conspired to do Avalon 50M and Ridgecrest 50K, the latter being a return to a race that I first ran in 2002 and 2004. Avalon had been something I wanted to try for several years, but never followed through. Laura was the impetus for going and my goodness, I love these courses.
In 2013, we drove together to San Diego for our friend’s 12 hour event, Rohring Around the Clock (in Rohr Park). It is 5K loops, mostly dirt, changing direction every three hours and seeing how far you can go in the time allotted. Laura was super consistent, whereas I went out too fast and got bored. After 25K, I pulled out my book and read and walked, and said I would stop when I finished my book, which ended up being 60K. I said, “Laura, ready to go?” And she replied, “Just let me finish one more loop for 50 miles.” And she did.
Laura also turned me on to the Dirty Feet Productions races, particularly Harding Hustle and Twin Peaks, where I have 7 finishes and probably 5 times volunteering.
In the present day, Laura and I do not run together as much as we used to, but we still have adventures on some weekend mornings when she and Chuck call and say, “Can you be ready in an hour to go check out some trail?” And I’m off with them for whatever.
In terms of ultras, Laura and I are pretty close on the number of completions (though she has done maybe twice as many marathons as ultras). She has also shepherded a number of friends through their ultras, selflessly pacing them and comforting them through emotional lows. Like me, she is (criminally?) responsible for a number of friends trying out new trail distances, particularly ultra-wise.
Who knew that 20 years ago our occasional runs with AREC would blossom into around 400 ultras and marathons combined? I am so glad that I met Laura and continue to be good friends on the long road of ultras and of life.