Monday, March 28, 2011

We are Rugged Maniacs

I just love testing my limits. I love doing races that are different and festive and fun.

I love these new races that are popping up everywhere.

I love being a Rugged Maniac.

After winning the Jacksonville race last month I now I needed to try this race again. When I saw that the Charleston race was on the weekend that there was no trail run I had no excuse. I’ve got to go back and do this race again. I signed up and was committed.

At the last minute Teresa decided that she could go so on Friday evening we drove to north to go be rugged maniac.

This would be Teresa’s first race like this and only my second so we were both a little nervous.

We got to the course early and had plenty of time to check out the obstacles. We were able to see most of the obstacles before her race so we had a great idea of what was out there. Of course we didn’t see everything…

At high noon Teresa’s race went off. She worked hard on the early running section and ended up pretty tired by the time she got the first set of walls. She made it through just fine but had a little trouble on the first high wall. It took her three tries but she made it over the 8 foot high wall like a trooper.

The way over I yelled, “This is the Rugged Maniac; not flower class.” You can hear that on the video.

She got over the walls and headed out to run more.

Out the woods Teresa came and she headed into the final barriers. She did great except for the “lily pads” where I told her to just run across and not stop. She stopped and fell into the water. I bet she won’t do that again. I tried to tell her…

At the end she got to do what she was most excited for. Yeah, the low crawl through the mud and then the run through the finish line.

She finished in about 36:39 minutes happy and muddy. Or was it muddy and happy. Either way she had a great time and enjoyed herself so much. I think that 26th our of 142 in her age group was awesome!

OK, now it was my turn.

It took about 5 steps for me realize that this was going to be a race against the clock. I distanced myself from the field almost immediately. Into the corn fields I went….

In Jax almost all the obstacles came in the first 5 minutes then it was a long winding sandy run to finish with the mud pit; that suit me just fine. I’m not fast but I can run strong through the sand. I was really able to hurt the field with my strengths. In Charleston it was different. The first long section was running on solid surface. I ran very hard and gave a little too much. I would pay and pay dearly.

The first obstacle was a bunch of criss-crossed bamboo sticks. I’m not sure my jumping over them with 2 legs strategy was a good. Looking back now I would say that made me a little tired.

I soldiered on. Then it was another good long run to the 4 walls. Two walls to go under and scrape my back and two to go over (about 4 feet) and tire out my already exhausted legs.

Then a run; blah.

Up and over the cargo net, through the swinging tires…then the high walls.

In Jax I popped right over these things because they were 2 minutes into the race. Here it was a might bit harder. Over the second set of 4 walls and then onto the haunted trail.

I assume that the haunted trail was some sort of Halloween thing that they do here. It was pretty fun. Actually it was a little scary how tired I was and how much I had slowed down. Clearly I had gone out WAY to fast and now I was paying the price.

When I reached the first set of walls there was a guy there telling me that I was 5 seconds faster than the fastest guy that had come through so far. Great. Actually not so much…

The haunted trail seemed to go on forever. Finally, mercifully I popped into the field that I know meant all the water and mud obstacles and the glorious finish line.

Getting on my hands and knees to crawl through a sandy tunnel under bamboo leaves looked like a lot of fun before the race; now not so much.

I jumped over the lily pads with a little more success than Teresa then it was to the top of the slip and slide.
In the Jax the slip and slide and the water obstacle were separate. Here they were connected.

Head first into the cold, muddy water I went.  Yummy.

Then I had to go under/over a bunch of “logs” in the water. Holding your breathe to go under was very hard and going over was tiring so it was a very difficult barrier to cross. You’ll see Teresa go through these in the video.

One more muddy mound of dirt to climb over, across a narrow bridge and the run the mud to the finish.

Man what a tough race! So much harder than Jax.

I haven’t seen many results yet. My time was 22:47 which didn’t put me in 6th. I. Not really a good performance for me. I really struggled in the last mile. At least I won my age group.

I really don’t care though. It was so fun and I was proud to be there for Teresa.

After we got cleaned up we sat on a hay bale and I drank a beer. We listened to the band and saw all the happy and muddy people walking around. It got me to thinking about how happy I was to be there at that race. I truly was in my happy place. The post race euphoria, a good beer, a fantastic girl who’s willing to get muddy…

Really? Could life be any better? For me it clearly could not. So when is the next one…

Monday, March 7, 2011

Found Me

I set out yesterday at 8am from the City of Minneola Trailhead to find myself. I hate clich├ęs but the truth is that is what I was doing.

I needed to find out what I was doing and why.

I really only had that one goal for the Huracan 300 endurance mountain bike race. It wasn’t to complete the 300 miles or to win or anything like that. I needed to define who I was and why. I needed to clarify what I wanted from life and how I was going to get it.

You see, sometimes life gets away from you a little bit. You do too much. You are too much. You give too much. Sometimes it becomes too much and you need a reset button.

That’s what I needed.

In the darkness, in the middle of a beautiful Florida meadow, all by myself I indeed found myself.

I signed up for this race months ago. That sounds like fun. I thought it was a MTB stage race. I can do that. 

Then in a moment of stupidly and delusions of grandeur I committed myself to the “ITT”.

The individual time trial: Self supported, go till you finish and good luck with that sucker.

That may not have been the smartest choice.

Anyway it was it was and I was “ready”.

Then I developed a cyst on my lower butt check. Then it got worst. Then, it made me sick to the point that Tuesday and Wednesday night I had night sweet and chills. Wednesday I “called in sick to work” (Yeah, when the hell do I do THAT?) went to the ER and had the thing lanced and got antibiotics. I wonder if anyone else in the race was on antibiotics.

Yes, you read right. 48 hours before a 300 mile mountain bike race I had a cyst lanced that was right where my butt meets the seat. I didn’t think I could ride.

I showed up Friday morning anyway.

I hadn’t even tried to sit on a bike seat. At 7am I did and it hurt a lot.

Smart choice: go home.

My choice: tough it out.

I did.

For the first couple of hours I was alright. I stood a little. I used my right butt cheek. I tried to find comfort but could not. It was just plain difficult, to say the least. Two hours into the race we came upon a long section of “dirt” road. More sand than dirt actually. Without being able to sit down I had a lot of trouble. I pushed on and after 4 hours of riding I started to feel better. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the large dose of Tylenol.

For hours I rode on. 6 hours then 7, 8 and 9. The route took me into the Croom Preserve where I had never been before. Here I found an hour of cool single track and lots of good climbs. I crashed twice but was feeling good.

Out of Croom and onto a bike trail that lasted for ever.

At hour 10 I was tiring but positive. The pain I had gotten used to. My legs felt fine and I was pushing through.

Darkness set it. I put my lights on and rode into the woods by myself.

For no reason what so ever I stopped and put my bike down.

I got out some food and started eating.

Then, right in that moment, in that beautiful spot, on that night, lying in the grass next to my bike:  I found myself.

Right there four things jumping from my heart to my head. They were four priorities. Not my whole life. Not a blue print. It was like the four legs of a chair; four pillars.  

Everything in my life would be perfect if I were to focus my energy on those four things.
It became apparent that if I were to continue through the night I would hurt all four of the pillars. I thought long and hard as I mounted my bike and trekked on.

About 30 minutes after my moment in the meadow. I hit came to the start of 25 miles of single track. At this point the wheels came off.

Riding out of the saddle all day had wrecked me. I couldn’t put my butt on the seat and standing was hurting my knee. I pressed on for an hour like that then, just like I had in the meadow, I laid my bike down and stopped. This time I called Autumn and asked her to come pick me up.

I pushed on as best I could to get to the Landbridge Trailhead. I walked. I rode. I suffered. It took me 3 hours to go 5 miles. Eventually I found the limestone road and went off course to get to the pickup spot. When I got there I curled up in a ball in the grass and, even though I was shivering, went into a peaceful sleep.
I rode for 14 hours without a break longer than 5 minutes. I travel 150 miles from Minneola to the Landbridge Trail head.

I have no regrets. I HAVE NO REGRETS.

I’m sad for all the people that were tracking me and rooting for me. The reality is that it wasn’t about the race. I didn’t want to finish. I wanted to figure out which direction I needed to go. I wanted to know what I was going to do tomorrow and why.

Life is so busy. There is always so much to do. This was my time. My alone time

What my four priorities are isn’t important to you. This is only important to me. You see we are all different and we all do things for different reasons. The important thing is to be who YOU are and to fight for your right to be that person.

Yeah, I needed 14 hours on a bike to find me.

Likely you do not.

The world is full of people doing the wrong things; people that are where they are because they somehow think its right. People that don’t want to change because they are scared or comfortable.

That’s crazy.

What do you need to do to find yourself? What do you want from life? What can you do to be truly happy?

I know what I need to do. Hang on tight…

My resolve is like it never has been….

Monday, January 31, 2011

Overdo it weekend - again

I really enjoy going to races. I love the trip there. I love camping. I love the people. I love the competition. I love everything about race.

I don’t like when I suck eggs in the race.

Whatever though. That doesn’t happen very much… and not this time!

This weekend I did two races again and I experienced joy and pleasure to levels that I don’t even think are allowed.

Is there a limit?

Saturday morning I woke up early to head over to the Tavares Nature Park for round 3 of the Winter Trail Running series. I really am enjoying running these races. I set time goals and I go out on the course with the intent of running hard for 20-ish minutes and seeing what the clock looks like in the end. No pressure just a workout with a few other people around to keep me honest.

18:24 for an off road 5k seems about right. Likely should be faster. This time is deceptive though. The course was a little short. Truth is I’m really struggling to get back my speed for these 5k’s. I should run well under 18 minutes. The time I bet would have been in the 19 minute race. Oh well. A good workout was had.

Then it was off to Santos for some mountain bike riding. I rode a lot harder then I wanted to but again, whatever. It was a workout. The flat tire at the end didn’t please me. I guess those things happen. A 10 minute ride in on the roads with a flat back tire and I was at my car.

No harm, no foul.

Now I could have driven home then headed to the morning’s race early. I really didn’t enjoy the prospects of the 4am wake up call. What the hell. I’ll drive to the race and camp.

The ideal, perfect work plan was to find a quite dirt road with a long dead end fire road or something. I’d park my car and lay out my sleeping bag for a night under the stars.

Crap. Couldn’t find anything like that. I did find a pull-out on a road with massive trucks driving 70 miles per hour and the sound of dogs in the distance. Sleeping in the car became a grand sounding idea.

I “slept” from 9pm till 7:15am. I did a bit of tossing and turning but truth be told I slept all right.
No, you are NEVER too old to sleep in your car the night before a race!

Now on to the race at Alafia State Park. Trail Half Marathon. Rock and roll, baby; my kind of party.
I pull up to the race course and get out of the car.

Holy crap my legs are tired…and I was sore from head to toe. Lol. Not the ideal feeling before a 13.1 miles race. Whatever.

Pay my fee, pin on my number…set and go.

Settled into a decent rhythm with a group of guys. We weren’t going super fast but that was the idea and the plan. Really steady so that I didn’t have to suffer and do the death march the last 5 miles.

After about 4 miles the fellas started to bore me.

I elbowed my way to the front and went hunting. I passed a few runners and found myself around top 10 last. 

I was running a good clip (about 7min per mile) and I felt good about my day. I wasn’t having a banner day but I was moving forward. THAT was goal number one.

The last 3 miles were stupid hard. 75% of it was on EXPERT mountain bike trails. Fantastic! I managed to reel a guy in late and slide into 9th place. 3 guys were right in front of me at the end.
Just didn’t have the stones to bring them back.

In the end I ran 1:32:06 for 9th place. Sounds like a results to me.

Even better is that I found 85 geocaches on the way home. NOW that is my kind of party!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Race

I was a junior on the Indoor Track team at the University of Massachusetts. I was having a really good season as the team’s top miler. I won most of the meets and ran some great times. Training was great and I was excited for the championship races.

Round one was the Eastern Conference meet. This was a race that I should have one. I did everything right leading up to the race. It was my race to lose. I was confident and ready.

The gun went off for the eight laps of the one mile race and I settled into the position that I should have been. I did everything right and I ran my race. As the laps went on everything was going to plan. I was going to be the champion. I was excited and ready to do what I needed to do.

With two laps to go I made my move. I moved from third to second to…wait, the leader held me off.

With a lap and half to go I had plenty of time. I was still confident and OK with the way things were going. I wasn’t going to be denied my spot as champion of the race. It was meant to me. I knew I was going to be the champion.

With three turns to go I again made my move for the front. Again the leader held me off. This wasn’t supposed to happen; he was doing the wrong thing. This was my race. This was my race to be crowned champion.

Plenty of time. Plenty of time. Plenty of time.

There was just one lap, just 200 meters and just 2 turns left. I made a stronger move this time. I still didn’t get by. Before the last turn I gave everything that I had to get by.

Still nothing. Second place still. I had one more shot. One more shot to win the race. For the first time doubt 
crept in.

Was it possible to lose this race?

Had I not prepared?

I didn’t know who this person was. I should have found out who this person was. With 30 meters left I realized that my plan had been wrong. My race was the wrong race. I was going to lose the race that I should have won. I was going to lose this important race because I messed up.

I can’t give up. I can never give up. I needed a miracle. There was still the sprint for the line. 30 meters…
20 meters. 15 meters. 10 meters….there is the line….

With one last despite attempt I dove head first for the finish line…….