Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Run 100 Miles?

This morning after my daily run, I was enjoying a cup of yogurt and mentioning to Alaina that the Leadville 100 Mile Trail Run was still open for registration.  We tossed around the idea that they were probably just accepting lottery applications.  There's no way you could sign up for this iconic race in the heart of the Colorado Rockies just like that, on a whim.  I'm sure you have to qualify...or something.

Being a curious sort, I filled out the online application, answering medical questions, shoe preference questions and finally credit card information.  And there it was.  The big green* SUBMIT button.  I looked at Alaina and she was smiling like a crazy person.  What was I doing?  

'Wait a second' I said.  'Why am I doing this?'  
"Because you've been thinking about doing a 100 mile race for a while now"
'Right, and this fits everything I want in a race.  Mountains, trails, great time of year.  Will you pace me?  Be in my support crew?"
'Of course!'


And there you have it.  I'm registered for my first 100 mile race.  I feel like a kid on Halloween, all sugared up and spinsy.  The distance scares the crap out of me.  I watch videos on youtube of previous finishers and I get all teared up.  I want to tell everyone I see about this insane adventure, but I'm holding back, not wanting to seem braggy.  At this stage, I have nothing to brag about anyway, aside from being dumb enough to want to run that distance. 

Tomorrow I begin running with new purpose and a big kick in the keister for motivation.  I believe this is the most difficult endurance challenge I've ever taken up, but it's also the most passionate I've ever felt about an event.  It's going to be one helluva great ride.

*may not actually have been green

Mid-land Half Marathon Race Report

The Backstory:

Here’s where I’m at. All I wanna do is run.

I wake up to visions of quiet, dark roads and trails all to myself, watching the sun rise over a frosted ground, and hearing the first birds of the day sing me good morning.

At work I escape the drone life by planning out my next run route and dreaming of being out in the woods again. When I get home I have to resist lacing up my favorite shoes and going out for a second run. Sometimes my will breaks and I’m out in the dark running again.

On a training run, I was listening to Christopher Moore’s book, Lamb, and something stuck with me. Essentially, it’s the idea that you drill something every day over and over, so that the action will become natural, spontaneous, without being diluted by thought. Joshua, aka Jesus in the book, says compassion is this way. He goes on to say love is not something you think about, it’s a state in which you dwell. And running is starting to feel this way too.

But I do need race goals to keep me going. My first ultramarathon, the Huff 50k trail race, is in a month, so I’ve been building my running mileage up to ~70 MPW. And it’s time to litmus test my fitness. Plus, I’m a sucker for a great deal, so when I saw this half-marathon for only $25 bucks, which included pair of gloves, I couldn’t resist.

Event warmup:

The race is in Midland, a little postcard town in the thumb of Michigan. On my way into registration the morning of the race, I chatted with this guy in a Kenya hat for a minute. Nice fella with a beautiful accent who I’d later see passing mile 7 when I was at mile 5, on pace to a 1:08, 1st place finish. Huh? I thought this was a low key race! Amazingly fast. 


Back at the start, all these rail-thin, track star looking dudes crowded up to the front. My dreams of a high overall place were drifting away like smoke rings from Alice’s caterpillar. I must’ve eaten the wrong side of the ‘shrooms to think I could keep pace with the real runners, even at a race with only ~300 athletes.

Sure enough, a pack of 15 quarter horses burst off the line and never looked back. Knowing I had to run my own race and see what I had left at mile 9, I ran a steady 6:19-6:24/mi for the first 5 miles. This put me precisely into no man’s land. I was way behind the leaders and only able to pass a few early faders who weren’t running consistently enough to draft off. Thankfully, the rail to trail we were on was entirely forest lined, so it shielded from the 10 mph wind.

After the turn around at midpoint, I started feeling really smooth, like my legs were gliding under me without thought. I kicked it up to 6:15/mi and started hearing shouts of encouragement from the runners going the other way. I cheered them back and used the positivity to channel strength in moments of weakness.

The bigger mileage I’ve been investing paid dividends in miles 10-13 as I started reeling in three runners who’d had gaps on me since the start. I was hitting 6:10/mi with a strong effort, but not redlining, and as I saw their outlines grow closer, I knew that I if I could pass them I’d be in the top-10 OA. It was exactly the motivation I needed and felt great to pass them so late in the race.

Quickening my turnover and remembering those early morning sessions at the track gave me enough strength to run hard through to the finish line, which showed an impossible 1:21:31. I had no idea a 3 minute PR time was possible today and couldn’t have been happier. What a great day for a run.

Post race

Warm down:

I congratulated the top finishers, stretched out, grabbed a delicious gyro from a corner pizza shop, and then went for a 20 mile bike ride on the same trail system we ran on, after the last racers had finished. Love this trail system and it was a perfect-o day, so why not?