Monday, March 15, 2010

I decided to go for a little run

Like the new look of this blog? I decided to do some spring cleaning and freshening up.

On Saturday night, I found myself cold, wet and borderline hypothermic as I trudged along the roadways of the Chagrin River valley en route to my 30th mile of the day. But before I go any further, let's take a step back.

As far as running goes, these past few months have been incredibly aimless--and it's a miracle I've been able to keep my weekly mileage at 70-80+. In January, right about the time we decided to move to Denver, my Boston Marathon training was supposed to be cranking away. But Boston is now off as April 19--race day--falls smack-dab in the middle of our relocation to the Mile High City. For several weeks there I was doing hard tempo runs and intervals on my treadmill without even knowing what my next race would be.

But now I know when my next race will be. On May 1, I'll be lacing it up for the Greenland Trail 50K on the Colorado Front Range. Here's how its organizers describe the race:
The Greenland Trail 50K is a trail race located on the front range of Colorado. It was started with the intent to kick off the trail running season by offering a variety of distances to suit your running needs. Run in the Greenland Open Space of southern Douglas County, the Greenland Trail 50K strives to be the premier 50K in Colorado.
The race's maximum elevation is 7,400 feet--pretty manageable. If the trails permit, I may just wear my light-weight trainers.

If Greenland goes well and I can get in the training--about 100-110 miles per week unless my lungs explode from the dry, thin air--I plan to run the Leadville Trail 100-Mile on August 21. Among the ultimate mountain races, Leadville will close out in advance of race day so my decision will need to come soon. Whether or not by August I'll be able to handle elevations of 9,000+ feet only four months into life in Colorado is yet to be determined. When we get to Colorado, I plan to embark on a few very challenging training runs--starting first with elevations below 8,000 feet and eventually working up to over 10,000 feet. I'm going to first need to buy a hydration backpack--perhaps a Camelback or Nathan pack with 55-70 ounces of capacity--along with some trekking poles for the really rough mountain trails.


So on Saturday night, the stress level in our house was pretty high. It was early evening and Anne and I were stressing over the fact that our house hasn't yet sold. We haven't even gotten an offer on it (yet)--just a few nibbles but no bites. We're going to have to make some last-minute upgrades to the kitchen that are going to set us back a few thousand--but what other options do we have when our society is so obsessed with spectacular cabinets, granite countertops and--alas--stainless steel appliances? But that's not the point of this post. The point is that in a moment of great stress...I went for a little run--30 miles on Saturday.

It was 41 degrees, misting and dark as hell--not too bad, I thought, as I got dressed for my evening excursion. I wore my usual for this kind of weather--compression shorts, running shorts, a thin base layer, a long-sleeve technical tee, my Adidas running jacket, a hat and some thin mittens. Only a few miles into my run, as I was soaking wet and feeling a chilly breeze whipping in all directions, I knew I'd underdressed.

But I didn't care.

I didn't care that I was cold or that it was pitch-black dark on these country roads and my eyeglasses were fogging up (I'd taken my contacts out earlier), creating visibility problems especially from the blinding headlights of passing cars. I didn't care about the deep puddles that soaked my socks and shoes. I didn't care that the wind cut right through me. I didn't care that I was shivering. None of that mattered.

All I did was run, enjoy the sounds of nature--frogs, hisses, random buzzes, sticks breaking from running deer, etc.--and the many parts of the Chagrin River valley I'll so miss once we're gone. I ran a big part of Chagrin River Road, which I consider the best road in Northeast Ohio to run. In the early-morning or late-evening hours, there's not a better road to run or bike than Chagrin River Road. It is the penultimate river road with its curves, hills, distinguishing natural features, and tunnel-like tree cover from Chagrin Falls all the way to Willoughby Hills and beyond. Chagrin River Road is the first 9 miles of the Burning River 100, my first 100-miler.

Chagrin River Road

I thought about these past five years in Chagrin Falls. The memories swirled in my head. I remembered my first ultra--the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K in 2005--and the hard work I'd put in to get from that first ultra to my win at the Mohican Trail 100 Mile Run in 2009. I thought about all the folks I'd met along the way--many who would become cherished friends. Every so often, you meet people who permanently change your life. I would not be the dedicated runner I am today had I not met Jeff Ubersax, Tim Clement, Mark and Steve Godale, Frank Duchossois and Kam Lee. I thought about my 100s and the good and bad times I endured with my trusty, supportive pacers/crew, Kenny, Ted and Dan. I couldn't have done any of it without Anne, Noah and my entire family by my side.

I think on Saturday night, in the midst of that cold, wet run, I finally pulled myself together and looked ahead to the next chapter in my running life. It'll start at the Greenland Trail 50K and may just go through Leadville in late August. Maybe it'll even head through the San Juan Mountains next July (2011, that is) if I decide to line up at (and if I get into) the Hardrock Hundred. Who knows where life will take me. I'd love to see if I can be a decent mountain runner and maybe even use the elevation to my advantage in breaking 2:55 in the marathon. At this point, I don't know what to expect.

It was good to know on Saturday that I can still go the distance. After a few months of really struggling to train amid so many lingering questions, maybe I'm coming out of this fog and funk.

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