Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Belly Flops

"A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. 
The real mistake is to stop trying."
B.F. Skinner

Zoe Summits Hope Pass

     I'm dubbing 2014 the "Year of the Belly Flop" for me.  Not only was 2014 filled with injuries, I DNF'ed every distance except the 50K.  (Potawatomi 150, Bear/Sawtooth 100, San Juan Solstice 50 mile and Las Vegas Marathon (though this is a long story).  I did more crying and quitting than usual. Poor Dovi had his mileage cut by almost 1/2 (from 1250 in 2013 to around 800 in 2014).  I also parted ways with several good friends and my former running group New Leaf.  

How bad did I want to quit?

     I didn't re-qualify for Hardrock.  I didn't finish a 100 mile race.  My pants grew tighter.  My hip hurt.  I became more bald and more grey.  2014 didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.

     That being said, it wasn't a total loss.  My friends often prevailed where I didn't:

     We also set up a small running group called Flatlanders.  It's growth hasn't shocked me.  It was built on a few very simple principles.  No money, no bitching, keep running and help one another.  I'm proud to be part of that group.

Trail Work

Lakefront 50/50 Aid Station

     OK, I know, I did some stuff too.  I ran the Comrades, Sean O Brien 50, 100 at Potawatomi, a PR marathon, the Gnome 50K, to name a few.  I climbed some mountains

Mt. Elbert

I made some new friends.  I volunteered.  I paced.  I crewed.  We laughed and cried.  We ran from Milwaukee to Chicago.  We put on some great fatasses (re-taste, krispy kreme, salichia) and we helped a few people reach their goals.  

Vicki - first 50 mile!

     Also, Dovi completed his first Ultra at McNotAgain 30.  He even beat me (by a nose).

     I'm convinced that you learn a hell of a lot more from failure than success.  I learned how to be OK with being injured.  I made some good decisions.  I learned how to cheer for the success of others while experiencing failure.  In short, I learned to make the best of it.

     2015 will be very different.  

     My main running and training partner Alfredo has been diagnosed with ALS.  This year I will think about him often.  My wife has laminated pictures of him to take with me on all of my races so we can continue to run together.  I will remember that he is suffering more than I.  and that my suffering has been self-inflicted by choice, for sport.  I won't take another run for granted.  When times are tough I will draw on him for strength.  

     Don't get me wrong.  I know for CERTAIN that there will be more belly flops.  I don't think Alfredo would have it any other way.  With that being said, I am off to tackle the next thing....Tuscobia 150.  This will be a long run n the snow carrying my gear on a sled (named Alfredo) which I drag.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  Things are about to get interesting.

    Please keep Alfredo and his family in your thoughts and prayers and have a great holiday!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

World's Longest Turkey Trot II - a/k/a the "Bonkfest"

It was 3 a.m. and after 3 hours of no food or water, running into a headwind at about 25 degrees.  Katerina Claiborne, Tony Cesario and I found ourselves eating on the floor of the first gas station we passed in what seemed like an eternity.  Katerina was shoveling munchos into her mouth like her life depended on it. I reasoned with them: "Listen, I'll support you guys in whatever you decide, but I've done this before, I'm bonked and miserable and we were re-routed so we can't really do what we set out to do.  A bed sounds real good.  It's getting colder, we're moving slower, we're all dehydrated and this isn't any fun.  We have about 15 hours to go.  Then again, it'd be nice to finish.  You decide."  I tried to lay out our options as diplomatically as I could.  I would have bet you every dollar to my name that we were done for the night.  I was done.

The second annual World's Longest Turkey Trot took a reverse route this year - Milwaukee to Chicago.  The distance was approximately 95 miles.  Three basically insane people decided to take part this year (up a full person from last year).  The event was self-supported.  (Last year we had a dedicated crew person for the last 60 miles - this year we weren't so lucky).  We ran mostly on roads, jumping from inattentive cars to the shoulder of country roads.  We almost got hit by a car on a bridge (this was before the whole "please run me over" sentiment kicked in so it left us breathless).   At one point the police instructed us to get into the car and bypass a section of the route due to two (2) shootings taking place along the route while we were running.   

We did have some pacers in the night (Susan and Brian Smock) who entertained us with their stories and shenanigans...

but for the most part, it was a cold suffer-fest on rock hard concrete.  Leading up to the bottom at the gas station I would say we had fun about 20% of the time, and suffered for 30% of the time. Oh, the other 50% of the time (13 hours total over the event) was spent in restaurants eating, with wet clothes hanging everywhere and electronics charging wherever we could find space.

No.  We're finishing.  Katerina said.  It broke my heart.  I was so ready for bed.  But she had a point.  You see, we aren't particularly fast (most of the time) but we have a reputation for doing really hard things, and often times finishing them.  The Turkey Trot isn't about the running.  No one really cares how long it takes.  There's no medal or buckle at the end.  The only reward you get (other than the bizarre look on people's faces when you explain what you are doing) takes place when you look back and say "Did that really happen?"  

Once we had no choice but to finish we made the best of it.  We even had a few more pacers along the way (Jen DeSalvo and Julie Bane).

In all, we finished in 34 hours.  We ran roughly 85 miles.  We ate three breakfasts, a pizza, a fancy burger, some amazing soup and almost 30 peanut butter cups.  We mostly carried all of our own gear.

My Strava data, with many, many fails, can be found here:

Now that I've done this trot in both directions I'm prepared to crew it next year.  So watch my FB/Twitter if you are interested.  Trust me, it is MUCH easier when crewed.

Things I learned: concrete sucks.  Hydration is trickier in the cold.  Aid stations and crews are worth their weight in gold.  I have the best friends in the world.

There is something uniquely difficult about goals without rewards.  They really make you dig deep.  Without the possibility of an award, a PR or a crowd at the finish you find yourself with only one reason to continue.  Because you said it out loud.