Often times, as adults, we struggle between real life, grown up things and holding on to our youth. As a runner, it is sometimes difficult to balance life, work, kids, bills, health and our hobbies. Over the past year or two I have found it increasingly difficult to find time for myself to continue chasing PR’s or collecting more 100 mile buckles. This is not a complaint- I have a very good life. I've been married to a wonderful and beautiful woman for 18 years, have 3 kids that I love more than anything in this world, hold a decent job, own a home in a wonderful community and am able to enjoy great moments with those who are most important to me. I am lucky and happy in those regards.
As with all things in life, there are areas that could be better. I love to run. I love to run long. I love running down a challenge and testing myself against the trail. Lately I haven't made enough time for those things. The list of reasons seem long but as I scan through them I see they are merely excuses. I coach one football team or another year round. I go to every basketball game that my boys play. I help coach little league baseball. I have a daughter that is one year old. I work a lot of hours in my “real job” and spend many hours each day going over data, workout logs and messages from the runners that I coach. I spend way too much time building and finding ways to make the Idiots Running Club a better environment and worthwhile community for runners of all abilities and backgrounds.
Each one of these things really have no bearing on why I am not training like I should. So… It brings me back around to motivation. In order to run 100 miles, or any distance, well it takes the motivation to accomplish the goal. Without the motivation to seriously challenge myself I am left with an attitude of nonchalance towards getting in the daily miles. I don't run for fitness. I don't preach a healthy, active lifestyle to those I meet. That stuff is just a byproduct of going the distance. I run to challenge myself, to feel good about myself, to push myself to a higher standard of me and to cash in on accomplishments that mean nothing to everybody else but give me a sense of inner pride.
Often times, we find ourselves in situations that seem to have no impact on us at the time but are later revealed as a turning point or ah-ha moment. I recently had one of those encounters and the fire to push myself to a new level has never been brighter. The character and motivation witnessed at the 2016 Rocky Raccoon 100 miler over the past weekend has served as a great reminder of personal goals that I have yet to achieve.
Over the period of 24 hours I witnessed a display of super human strength and endurance from normal people. People with a real life, jobs, kids, bills, families and all the extra stuff that accompanies. What I did not witness was any excuses to fail or quit. They came into the day prepared for the long journey ahead and the motivated ability to make it happen. Nobody said they didn't train because they were too busy, nobody complained about the bad weather during the training cycle and nobody thought they would not finish.
I don't advertise or discuss the fact that I coach ultra runners much in public or on social media despite having a decent audience to pimp this stuff. Not because I don't enjoy it or am somehow embarrassed by it but because I don't see a need. Coaching is very rewarding and enjoyable to me but it's not something that is for everybody. Most runners start out reading books, magazines or blogs and, in my opinion, need to figure out the basics that work for them before finding a coach. I am not certified, don't claim to be and don't have any plans at this time to hang anything on my wall. I don't say this as a slight against anybody that has any certifications, just making it clear that I don't as I know there are many for whom that is important. The athletes I coach all know this and are very much okay hiring me based on my running history and are okay with this fact.
I do coach Derek. He is a good friend and we worked together for his first 100 miler back in 2014 and he did very well. For Rocky Raccoon he wanted to do better and we put a plan together with the goal of finishing around 18 hours. He worked hard, didn't skip any workouts and never complained. Watching, crewing and eventually pacing him for the final 20 miles is a highlight in my running life. His splits were near perfect for where I had hoped and his resolve to hit the goal never wavered. At the end of a grueling day he crossed the line in 17:44:44, 11th overall and 7th in the USATF 100 Mile National Trail Championships. I was beyond excited and happy for him. He did the work and made it happen. This was his “victory” and a great finish that really and very little to do with me but… It kicked up the fires for me.
I also coach Indika. She is an amazing person and solid runner. She has been beat up by this same course before and was looking for redemption. Her training cycle was excellent. The long runs were spot on and recovery was fast. Going in, we both had zero doubts about her finishing and collecting the coveted belt buckle. Her splits through the day were spot on and she remained strong passing through each aid station. As she ticked the miles down it was clear to me that her hard work was going to pay off in a big way. Of course, nothing is ever guaranteed on these things and she encountered some trouble deep into the race. The course is notorious for its root covered trails and Indika stepped on one wrong causing severe pain and swelling in her foot. She pushed through for another 20 miles before it became evident that this was not just a simple bruise and had to pull the plug. Obviously she was very disappointed but I remain extremely proud of her and the resolve she showed. The disappointment she feels is not shared by others, we feel sympathy and an understanding that an unfortunate misstep ended her day at mile 72.5. There are many things we can't control and the only way to deal with them is to continue looking forward. Calling this attempt a failure would be stupid. Failure is an internal thing that occurs when we quit. Indika does not know how to quit.
Jeff is a dick. Not really. He is great dude and good friend. I don't coach him. (Though there is an open ended offer if he ever chooses that path) Jeff is one of those ultra runners that has more talent than most but, for some reason, never really capitalizes on his ability. We talked about this before the race, during the race and after the race. The conversation evolved from me asking him why he didn't ever just go for broke and smash a sub 20 hour finish to me telling him to keep it steady and eventually ended with me screaming and congratulating him on a great 19:30 finish. He ran very smart and focused that day. He did everything right. Derek and I passed Jeff and his pacer, Justin, on a short out and back late in the race. Jeff was at mile 85 and told me he was shooting for a 19:30 finish. I loved seeing him looking so strong and hearing him declare, out loud, that he was taking a shot. It was about freaking time. His 19:30 finish beat my own course PR by 7 minutes and, despite our never ending friendly competition, I was ecstatic for him. It also kicked the fires a little brighter.
Crewing, pacing and just being around these three amazing people over the weekend was a blast. If you ever wonder if you could run a 100 miler then sign up and make it happen. If you want to know what a 100 miler is really all about then go crew some friends and the real story will be revealed. Character, perseverance, happiness, pain, mental strength and courage are all on display throughout the day and night.
Watching from the sidelines of a 100 is a lot like watching a Rocky movie for the first time. Or the twentieth time. You come out full of adrenaline and are ready to conquer the world. Being a small part of these three runners extraordinary weekend has me thinking that just maybe there are a few goals left to chase…..