[ from the archives ]
Last Saturday I had the opportunity to achieve a distance I never put much thought into until my endurance life began in Colorado. It was epic, challenging, and tested my mental fortitude, and that’s why I want more. But let’s back up a bit.
I saw a tweet from a friend regarding his 40th birthday, and in it, he announced he would run 40 miles on his 40th birthday to raise money and awareness for Clean Water. At first, I read it, and moved on to the rest of my twitter feed, as happens most days. But then it appeared again in an email to our Race Team. This is where I think the seed was planted. I quickly got in touch with my coach, Tim, to see what’s possible. No one knows my fitness or capabilities like he does right now. I put a lot of trust in his judgment, as you should do when you sign on and work with a coach. He said go 20-25, but truly, see how you feel that day. Then the caution note…BUT DON’T DO ANYTHING THAT WILL JEOPARDIZE YOUR TRAINING FOR IRONMAN LAKE PLACID. Of course not, but, we all know that ego gets warmed up and you just want to push, and push, and as most highly motivated athletes think, push more. I’ve got a cautious/reserved side to me when I’m training, racing or even at work. So I know what’s pushing and what’s safe…or at least for my body anyway. But I was into this, and more so for the experience to try something new. See how the body felt. Maybe I could do 40 miles??? Maybe I’ll need to stop at 20…or 10 even. Thing is, you can create the story in your mind, but reality happens when you take that first step.
After a light running week, and plenty of swimming and biking to keep the engine going, I was ready for what the day would bring. Fueled up on decaf coffee, and a light breakfast of toast with peanut butter, I headed up to Bristol to meet up with Patrick McCrann and a few members of the Fuel Belt Race Team. Perfect day too, finally sun shining and predicted temps in the 50s. Very different from what we have been experiencing all winter long here in New England. Vinu stopped in first thing to join us for the start, and although not an official race, I still had a few butterflies before the start. Snapped a few photos, then off to run the first of many 5-mile loops around Patrick’s neighborhood.
Started with just us three, we made it one loop around before some team members showed up to join, and it seemed they all came at once. Running in a group is something I miss. I used to enjoy meeting up with Tim’s Tuesday/Friday runs on Davidson Mesa or at the Lafayette Track in Colorado. Been mostly logging solo miles. This was a welcome surprise and I really did get a boost from it. Soon members of the team ran their own pace or had commitments on the day to race off to, but I was sticking by Patrick the best I could. Back to that email, Patrick did mention a pace he wanted to keep, 8′ish minute miles. Amazing what a number can do to your self-confidence or lack of. Immediately I thought I would just run a lap or two with him, then finish by myself. But soon I figured why not, why can’t I run that pace? Give it a try. It’s an opportunity to run with an accomplished triathlete and be side by side for a few miles. See how fit I am, or not. Flashback to 2007 I think. When I met Tim for a run, the first of many with him, and got my butt handed to me. He ran so comfortably for 10 miles, and I was maxed out in the effort as shown on my watch at the end. But you know what, I was able to run with him and finish the session. I pull upon that experience often because it shows me to not be afraid or taking a risk. Yes, Tim is a better runner. Yes, he was the top Age Grouper in Kona in 2002. Yes, he’s been running for years. But I only picked up the sport a few short years ago and had so much to learn. But I’m somewhat gritty and do manage at times to pull out some good efforts. You just need to try.
Back to running with Patrick, getting in some solid miles, at a good pace, with friendly conversation, the time was flying by. Didn’t run with any watch or anything really, until the later miles when I started to run with my Fuel Belt water bottle. After 4 laps, 20 miles, I remember talking with Maura (Patrick’s wife), that I had another one in me, and we’ll see how it goes. Surprised to see that after 25 miles, well actually 26, we were at 3:25. A marathon in 3:25 on a simple training run. This was my time at my first and only Boston Marathon in 2010. I knew now that I was venturing into high mileage, and the voice of Tim was a constant reminder. So I ventured out on loop 6 with Patrick, just him and me. I wanted to do this. Run side by side as long as I could, at that pace. But also the desire to stay with Patrick and help him along in getting to 40 miles. I felt compelled, obligated to dig deep and at least give him 30.
And that’s what I did. With feet starting to feel the pavement, the hip flexors tightening up, but my mind sharp and hungry, I was able to run with him to 30 miles. The most I’ve ever run in one single day. And the longest I’ve experienced since moving back to the east coast in 2010. And then it hit me on the ride home. Depleted, tired, and looking forward to relaxing, I want more. I want to run long. I want to push my athletic ability. Test my mind and see just how far I can go. That, of course, is for another day. Coming back to the present moment, I have Ironman to train for, and I’m all in. Focus on one thing right now, and endurance running will always be there. I continue to get more fit as I get older, and it seems the balance of life is falling into place.
I believe that this day was much more mental strength building than physical. I am going to save this experience for Placid, and hope to build upon it in the future. Did I want to run the full 40 miles? Hell YES! Did I feel a little bad about dropping out short of Patrick’s goal? Hell Yeah! But that’s now in the past, and moving forward I was able to set a new personal best while helping a friend run most of his epic journey.
My goal in pushing myself is not always selfish. I work hard each day in the hopes that someone out there will be inspired to do something they just never thought was possible. I myself thrive on inspiring moments…The Hoyts, the Ironman World Championship recaps, and movies like The Pursuit of Happiness. I’m a sucker for them, but they work and inspire me to give more of myself. I hope you all can feel just a little of what I experienced on this day.
Get out there and challenge yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
There can ONLY be one of two outcomes once you commit your life to realizing your goals: You’ll either succeed, or die trying.