Monday, March 28, 2016

When A Race Becomes More Than A Race

When a race becomes more than a race, it’s a special day. Most often it’s a breakthrough in your abilities, maybe a new personal best at a distance or just a simply well executed plan that got you your goal. The Buffalo Run 50 miler on Antelope Island was one of those days for me. But in a much more unique way than I’d ever thought would happen.

The race started off with one goal in mind; get that sub 7-hour time I’ve been eyeing for a couple years. To me, that time on the island is a marker of a strong run and fit body. After two separate attempts, however, I’ve fallen further and further behind my goal. Both times admittedly because I’ve neglected my body and ran for a time rather than anything else. The sub 7-hour race on the island had become the white whale that my pride hunted into its own self-destruction.
I've always been self-conscious of how my calves are as wide as my quads
That morning didn’t start off any different than previous years. The moment Jim Skaggs called us to the line, I went into instant race mode with my mind only set on one thing. I knew that tenacity, I’ve argued with it before. But she’s completely unreasonable. She is a respecter of none and destroys anything to get her way, even if it means sinking her own ship.

A countdown sent us off and she took hold. Running by moonlight, as I usually don’t carry a headlamp if I can avoid it, helped keep my pace honest for the first few miles of climbing. I did notice, however, that I had become consumed with my watch and pace. Constantly checking every minute where I was at. It was mile 2 and I was already distracted and consumed with the end result.

Smooth running through the trails
Knowing I haven't run more than 50 miles a week only a couple times this year, my fear of chasing an unrealistic goal made me concerned enough to allow reality to sink in. It was in this moment that I had my first clear thought during the frantic opening miles of any race… just shut it off!

That tenacity has a weakness, her heart. Take away the life-blood of timing and pace and there’s nothing she can do. Like a ship without compass, she’s dead in the water… only guessing at where to set course.

"BODY GLIDE, next aid station!" 
I haven't let myself just RUN in a long time. I turned off my watch notifications to show just mileage. No pace, no time... just miles to keep track of aid stations. And then something magical happened. I started run with a smile. I wasn’t concerned anymore with anything more than just running comfortably hard for the day. I ran my race the whole day and never once hit the broken down lows of pushing to the max but also never felt like I was giving up effort or time taking it too easy.

It was fun again. There were a lot of friends on the out and back sections and I drew a lot of energy from their positivity and well wishes as we passed. I stepped out in the lead from the gun and maintained it all day. The smile off the start line had only disappeared a couple times. A wonderful crew of my father, Caitlin and Roo kept me moving quick all day with fast aid station turns.

Into the Ranch (mile 33)
The only downfall of the day was heading into Bridger Bay around mile 44. Having marked that particular section the day before, I’m embarrassed to say that I pulled my head off the terrain to instinctively find a course marker and I found a hole with my left ankle instead. It took about 10 minutes of limping around until it was finally numb and inflammation tightened things back up.

Knowing I had a sizeable lead, I didn’t let it affect me mentally. Just waited it out until I was able to move well again. My speed reappeared as I made my way around the last 4 (and the most fun) miles of the course. I hit the final mile stretch with the win in hand and kept moving forward until I landed the plane in finishing chute.   

I was shocked to see the clock at 7:02 when I crossed the finish. It was confidence building to see that my running at a moderately concerted effort all day was enough fitness to reach within 2 minutes of my goal. I’ve gained a new respect for my current training structure and have been pleased with the results. More focus on a running a structured plan instead amassing large amounts of miles. Specificity in my workouts is paying dividends. And now, I know I just need to trust in the system I have and make sure I’m having fun

Mile 42 and one of the few times I wasn't smiling all day... but no one smiles up the fence line
I've talked a lot about my goal for a sub 7-hour finish there. And it's ultimately still a goal that I’ll accomplish. But I needed that feeling after the race more than the bragging rights of a sub 7 on the course. I’m happy to be in the W column again and excited where my fitness is this early in the season.

Today was about more than just the race. The race itself was a proving ground and an opportunity to surprise myself with a solid run. It instilled the confidence I need going into the next couple months of goals and races. It was a break-through back into a fitness that I’m blessed to have and mindset to make it a weapon. The season is starting to look a lot more exciting right now… adventures are waiting!

Couldn't be happier coming into the finish!
The Getup
Threads: Gore Apparel Mythos splits and Magnitude tee
Kicks: Altra Footwear Torin 2.0
Socks: Injinji SoCal trail weight
Pack: Ultraspire Spry 2.0
Nutrition: Trail Butter (Ozark’s Original) and Vfuel powders (Lemon Lime)

Brian Beckstead, Leslie Howlett and myself... all podium finishers for Altra's Endurance team that day!

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