Everybody knows what they CAN do. The only way to discover what we can't do is to try. There are limitations, as much as I hate the thought, on how far I can go. I know that somewhere in this journey of new challenges I will fail. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It has been said that we can learn a lot about ourselves through triumphs and success but we will learn more through failure. I believe this is a true statement.
As I reflect on the triumphs of my past accomplishments it strikes me that after each one I have questioned if I would have been able to go any further. The answer has almost always been a resounding NO. But each time I have moved on and upped the ante a little. Starting with a 5k and then a 10k it seemed that was as far as I could go. But then came a half marathon, which was the hardest thing I had ever physically done, after which I KNEW that was it.
As time passed and my running improved and the miles began to add up it just made sense to at least attempt a full marathon. I vividly recall how horrible I felt during that 1st one. I had no doubt that nothing would ever match the misery I felt from miles 18 through 26. After crossing the finish line and stumbling around like a wounded drunk, I was 100% certain this was it, no more, never again. I had completed all of my goals, finished and pulled off a Boston Qualifying time, I was DONE.
Sitting in the beer garden 30 minutes later with Charley, my training partner and good friend, we were contemplating the idea of signing up for the Little Rock Marathon. 30 minutes is all it took to remove the pain and misery of the most gruelling test of endurance in my life. 30 minutes. We ran Little Rock and then another two that year. It soon became apparent that the marathon distance was one that I could do and the VOICES started asking, “How far can you go? You know this is not it. You CAN'T stop here. Don't you want to find out?”
This led to a last minute sign up for a 50k. By last minute I mean a split decision on a Friday afternoon for a Saturday morning 50k that I was in no way, shape or form ready for. My training was more appropriate for a half marathon but I decided to give it a shot anyway. The race was held on a “Rails to Trails” course which was fairly flat with long straight stretches and way too fast for a first timer. I struggled through the last 10 miles or so but DID manage to finish in 4 hours and 20 minutes. I remember thinking, “Okay, stupid, there you go. No more- this is far enough. Now you know.” Guess what? It took less than 30 minutes this time. I was ready for more.
A few back to back marathons and a few very tough and technical trail 50k's later the VOICES have started in again. The same old nagging questions......How far can you go and don't you want to find out? The only truthful answers I have are that I KNOW 31 miles is something I CAN do and hell yes I want to find out. In a couple of weeks I will attempt my first 50 MILE trail race in Little Rock, Arkansas. It looks tough and there are a few reservations but I really feel a NEED to give it a try. Knowing that my training is less than ideal, I am still optimistic because of my past experiences. I have been on top of the world at times and humbled by the difficulty of the trail at others but these only reinforce my belief that this is the right place and the right time.
I look forward to this new challenge and expect to be learn a lot about myself along the way. To me, it would be more of failure to not attempt this than to try and fall short on the course. So it looks like me and the VOICES Running Club are going to be lacing them up for the Ouatchita Trail 50 Miler on April 17th. Should be interesting.
This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........