Thursday, August 4, 2016

Change on the Horizon

Over the last few years, my writing on this blog has become more and more sporadic for the following reasons

Initially in 2012-2013, it was due to major health issues and the resulting surgery & recovery.

After that hiatus, the frequency of posting  reduced because of me not having the time or desire to get back to the competitive fitness level I possessed from 2010 to early 2012. It's incredibly difficult to start from scratch after several consecutive months with no exercise, and that's what I had to do after I had surgery in late 2013.

2014 saw my return to long-distance running with a couple of marathon finishes and a 50 miler. The goal was to simply finish each, and doing so was rewarding in its own right.

2015 challenged me with the sickness and resulting death of my mom. This rightfully changed my priorities and again took me away from training for several months. After she passed, my motivation to finish the Silverheels 100 was unbreakable, and I did so, despite poor fitness and the slowest 100 miler of my running career to date. As my last post mentioned, this was an emotional race for me and was the first 100 miler I'd finished since February of 2012.

Insert 2016...

This year, there is again a major shift in my priorities... but for an exciting reason this time!

Holly and I are preparing for the upcoming birth of our first child! We will be welcoming our son into the world the first week of October! The excitement and nervousness are unbearable at times. Coupled with a hectic work schedule since early Spring, and I'm again not getting the miles I'd hope to in.

However, with our son's birth only 2 months away, I recently realized that if I didn't act quickly, I wouldn't be able to bring my streak of running at least one marathon or longer each calendar year to 10 consecutive! I wasn't about to let impending fatherhood affect that, so I decided to enter the Pikes Peak Ultra 50 miler on a whim last week.

SO.... last Saturday I toed the line fresh and healthy, but as unfit as ever. The PP Ultra course is run on some of the most beautiful and challenging trails the Colorado Spring area has to offer and consists of 11,000'+ of elevation gain and the same amount of loss.

While not a JV race, I figured still I had a decent chance of finishing due to my familiarity with the trails, my vast past experiences in the pain cave, my ability to pace myself decently, and the fact that I'm no longer running just for myself and my own health, but for my mom, for Holly, and soon, for my son.

My biggest motivator to get back to old form is so I can have him at my races and make him proud of my accomplishments. I know it's a ways out, but really look forward to the day he's old enough to idolize his dad. That window should exist until he's at least 11 or 12 and I want to take advantage of it!

So on Saturday, I went out slow, and got through the first 10 miles with minimal effort. It was mostly uphill, so I alternated hiking/running early. After that, the next 9 miles were hell. Not only did the steepness increase as we climbed up to over 10,000' elevation, but my legs decided they'd had enough. My quads and calves were on the verge of cramping, and I wasn't even nearing the halfway point yet.

At the Deer Park aid station - which I would hit 3 times that day - JT was crewing, and that meant beer. Beer = distraction from the pain and burning lungs, so I grabbed a coozy and a PBR and headed out for the 3.5 mile out & back section up Almagre. The beer did the trick and kept me distracted and before I new it I was back at Deer Park for round 2. Grabbed PBR and repeated on the next 6.5 mile section to Elk Park. After I reached Deer Park for the final time, I realized I wouldn't have a free hand for a 3rd beer, so I did a couple of shots of Fireball with JT for the road and headed out.

At this point I knew I was over the hump distance wise, and that there would be more descending than climbing from there on out. I'd already gotten to the point where my legs hit their pain threshold and the hurting wasn't getting any worse. With the exception of a gnarly 2 mile climb to the summit of Rosa (11,499'), the course was noticeably easier and runnable from mile 29 to the finish. Mother nature also was kind and the weather cooled, even bringing some rain to cool us runners off. While it still hurt, I new that all I had to do was grind out a few more hours, so that's what I did.

In the end, I finished 9th out of approximately 100 starters, in a time of 11:06.

By no means my best form, but as rewarding as almost any past finish.

PS: I need to throw out a shameless plug for a shoe company I'm receiving nothing from...

Mizuno recently stopped making the model of shoes I'd loved for the last 6-7 years. This forced me to buy something new for the first time in a while. Insert Altra.

This was the first ultra I've ever run with no blisters and barely even any hot spots. I can't say enough good things about these shoes since I first tried them in June. If you're a distance runner (especially trail) and are in the market for a new pair of shoes, I would suggest that you at least give them a test run to see what you think. They intentionally have an extra wide toe box which reduces friction and allows your toes to expand naturally when they strike the ground. Less friction = fewer blisters. Seems so simple, yet took so long for me to figure out. Also, they are zero drop and have a nice amount of cushioning. Slightly more than a standard road shoe but less than the clunky Hokas.

Thanks all! Next time I write I'll be a dad!!!!

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