Wednesday, December 31, 2014

...and I would run 500 more...

1000 miles. A year ago this wasn't a goal. I'm not even sure it became a goal until a couple of months ago. How I got there is the story, and it's not really a running story.

In January I targeted a 50k race. It was to be my first ultra distance effort. And then work intervened and I couldn't get to the race. I didn't run again until early March sometime, maybe the 8th. I was unmotivated, and so it was work. At the very end of March, after a somewhat symbolic run (symbolic in that I survived it without breaking anything) I knew I needed a goal of any sort. And there it was...Ragnar Cape Cod. Team leaders had two days tp make changes without a penalty. It was a total impulse decision; I posted a message offering my services to any team needing a runner. It wasn't about being fast. It wasn't about being some "stud" runner. It was all about breaking the routine. There were a number of offers made, and I messaged a few of them and the first response was from Jenn McLaughlin. A second response came in shortly after, but I went with Jenn for no reason other than some gut instinct to do it. That decision altered the course of my year because on Cape Cod something truly amazing happened. The "Ah ha" moment was alone in Dylan's tent sometime in the middle of the night. I was truly enjoying this, the whole thing. I loved running. I loved being with people who loved just running. No heart rate monitors. No zone targets. No plans. No 'A' races. Nothing but raw, primal, instinctual movement, the most basic of all animal sport. I had lost the love a few years back, at Coeur D'Alene, Idaho actually. Not because of my housemates. They're mates for life. But the race itself seemed a perversion of what I experienced in 2003. And I never got the love back. The over-structure of the coaching culture only amplified the negative for me. I was never faster, but I had been much happier.

Ultra running is not speed oriented. Even the fastest runners aren't running speeds that would impress anyone but another ultra runner. But as you slow down you notice things. The first thing you notice is you get hurt a whole lot less. It's even okay, in fact encouraged, to walk once in a while. And I started taking pictures when I ran, making more lasting memories. And I noticed the birds of prey and the coyote tracks in the snow. A veil had been lifted. Don't get me wrong, speed is nice, but once in a while. But truly fulfilling running, for me anyway, is distance regardless of speed.

Anyway I began to run more regularly and after some encouragement from a friend, actually a friend I met in Coeur D'Alene, entered the Vermont 50. I also impulse registered for a 50k in August because I knew enough to know I had no idea what I was doing! The closest I had come to an ultra was seeing posts for my friend Deano on Facebook, and following Anna Frost.

And still 1000 miles was not the goal.

After Vermont I took a couple of weeks off completely and then started running a little bit again. I wanted a goal but there weren't any races which fit with my work and family schedule for the remainder of the year. And then I noticed my year to date total on Strava. It was up there, as high a total as I remembered having in a year. I would need to get focused but maybe I could get to 1000 miles. November went by pretty quickly without huge mileage gains. And then I took Thanksgiving week off. I didn't rack up big miles but I did finally resolve to get it done. I'd need to string together 32+ mile weeks the rest of the year. And I did.

So here we are. I have a new lifetime achievement and some great new friends. And I've rediscovered joy.