Over the weekend I did a thing.
In the grand scheme of things, all I did was go and run a few miles. But in my little world, this thing was pretty big. Those few miles were actually 31 and change. And this run kicked off my 2017 season.
24 Hours of Palmer Lake is really not what I would consider my “style” of race. Until I did it. The course is about as flat as you will find in Colorado. I usually prefer the mountains and their long, steep climbs, and fast technical descents. The course is a 0.80-ish mile loop. I don’t do real well with loops. The mental aspect doesn’t work real well for me. Because this race is not what I like and not what I consider myself “good at,” I decided I should do it. Because there’s no way to get better at it until you do it, right?
Plan A was to get there at the start, and see if maybe I can crank out a 50k broken into three 10-mile sections… Perhaps I should back up.
The last 18 months of my life have been an absolute roller coaster. Saying my training hasn’t been consistent or demonstrating the mileage I “should” be producing is an understatement. The month of April produced only a couple runs before the race, both with distances that can be counted (in miles) on one hand. March wasn’t a whole lot better. My last long run was in November, and that was about 15 miles. There are two ways to look at this: 1) I’m under trained. 2) I have no reason to be tired. To be completely transparent, I was scared. Under trained can mean bad things. That’s how people get injured. Often injured badly. I know this. I probably should have just cancelled the whole thing. But a huge part of me wanted to know what I could do based on where I was at. So I signed up and showed up. Back to the plan…
We talked about plan A. Well, Plan A didn’t take into account kids activities. So I didn’t get to the starting line until the event was about seven hours old. On the drive down I realized I had forgotten lunch, and forgotten water so I could hydrate on the drive, and any sort of substantial snacks for the event. So lunch was a grocery store pre-wrapped sandwich. Sure. Why not? It had worked on so many training runs two long years ago.
So Plan B starts to unfold. I still have the stretch goal of 50k. The number is rather arbitrary, but based on my goals for the year, something in that area is where I need to be training wise. I haven’t ramped up to there, so it’s a stretch goal. My primary goal is to show up, do 10 miles, take a break to let the muscles get sore and stiff, and then go out for a few more laps. If I can turn that second outing into another 10 miles, that’d be great. Then I’ll rest again, and repeat. Plan B is born.
Based on my facebook feed, I knew there would be a lot of people at the race that I knew. There would be very few strangers. What I didn’t expect was the feeling of coming home to a family reunion. If there’s one single thing that I love most about the ultra community, it’s the sense of community. And here it was on display. Many of these people knew something about my struggles over the last year. And many more hadn’t seen me since 2015. There were smiles, hugs, and handshakes. I was home. I was where I belonged. And I hadn’t even gotten to the registration table yet.
The registration table is where my doubts and fears were laid to rest. I had shown up to the race with questions. Many deep and troubling questions about myself, my goals, my capabilities, and the world I find myself living in. And the race director hands me my bib. Number 42.
Let me take a moment to explain. There’s a great book (series of books really) called the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. (Hey, spoiler alert!) Part of the plot of the book is people trying to find the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. At the risk of ruining it, the answer is 42. Now if we could just figure out the question…
I take this as a sign. I smile. I breathe. It’s simply time to start running. I am meant to be here today. I will find answers, possibly to questions I didn’t know I needed to ask.
In the past I’ve written out long race reports. This won’t be like that. (Well, OK. It’s wordy enough to be called long as it is. But it won’t be a race report.) I started at about 2:00 PM. I followed my plan. I finished the 50k about 11:00PM with two good breaks, a bit of goofing off, and a whole lot of great conversation.
My highlights for the event all include other people. I’m not going to name everyone, because I’m sure to forget a few. But I did laps with several old friends, several new friends, some real ultra running bad asses (many pushing for 100+ miles over 24 hours), and some new people to the sport. If you will forgive the phrase, I “got chicked” by an 11 year old girl who put down something like 60Km for the day. There were trains, the smell of burgers rolling out of a bar, hints of live music, and just so many incredible people the loops melted away. I got tired. I got a little chilly. I earned one small blister. And I loved being back home with “my family.”
One conversation sticks in my mind. It was a talk about the mental aspect of the sport of ultra running. It was getting late (relatively speaking. I mean, I didn’t push too deep into the night compared to many). I was doing a run/walk lap with a friend and I was expressing my concern about my lack of training. And it hit me: The strongest part of my game is still my headspace. I can do this this because I know I can do this. I know how to “Find the Magic in the Misery.”
Now to get my training back on track so I can head out and crush some goals for 2017.