Sunday, August 26, 2012

Home, Bittersweet Home

Immediately after Leadville, I found myself on crutches, figuring out how to drive a manual transmisison car 1800 miles back to Michigan. My summer of living the dream was wrapped up with the an adventure that would have to last for a bit. Going back home to try again sort of hurts, but my crutches are currently leaning up against a Leadville 100 poster. When life gets tough, boring, arduous, or painful, I'll remember this.

The details of pace, how I was feeling, when I was feeling it, and other such information just seem a bit inconsequential. I'm writing a race report, but it has more to do with my own search for a level head than any runner jargon. So far, it reads more like a disjointed Jack Kerouac novel than a retelling of an ultramarathon. I don't write in this thing to stay relevant in the running scene or attract sponsors, so I'll just publish it whenever it gets done or when I'm sick of writing it.
broken after Leadville, wondering when I'll be able to run again. Turns out, not too long.

It wasn't until Wednesday that I was putting weight on my ankle. Must be time to jog it out, right?

6-7 miles of cruising around Grand Haven with Jason. Mostly roads and sidewalks, but we found some sand hills and singletrack as well. Kept up a pretty good pace and nothing hurt too badly, so we celebrated with beers. Nice little shakeout from Leadville(me) and Transrockies(Jason). Beers to follow.

2 miles - shin/ankle was burining a little, so I experimented with shaking it out with a little run. Flat roads are okay, downhills, not so much. Better keep an eye on that.

3ish mile shakeout with Joe and Alex. Two guys I haven't run with in about a year. Going for a run with them reminded me of why I used to be fast: I used to run every day, twice a day. Sore or not. It wasn't that enjoyable all the time, but two years ago to the day, I tied for 1st in my first 50 miler. I know the competition has gotten steeper, but I haven't risen to the challenge. It felt great to run a few miles of sandy trails with old friends.

26.2 miles + 13 miles.
I ended up running the North Country Trail Marathon last minute. I never bothered to check the rules about bib transfers, so I hope the trail racing gods take pitty on this broken trail hobo.
Mile 17ish of the marathon. Considering I was mid 100mler 7 days prior, I'm happy to have been upright.

The marathon started out great, since I decided that a sub 4 would be a reachable goal. My intention was to stick with Kelsey, but my legs had other ideas. The IT band started hollering at about mile 4. Stopping at aid stations and stretching it out/doing some skips kept the pain at arm's length. On the hillier section of the course, I stopped to stretch(it had to be done with increasing frequency at this point), and could no longer muster up the leg speed to catch back up to Kelsey. At this point I ceased giving a shit and started run/walking. I stumbled across a dude going the wrong way on the trail, only to realize that it was the one and only Evan. We run/jogged/dicked around for the remaining miles of the course and recited various rap lyrics. Finished the race in a totally uninspiring time, had a veggie burger, and cheered friends on for about an hour.

I've been using videos too much lately. What am I, one of those dickbag morning radio hosts?

Turns out, it was good enough for a 2nd place age group award. Cool beans.

After recovering a little, I hopped in my car to do what I was actually supposed to be doing. I met up with Jeff's family at the mile 14 AS to run the last 12-13 miles of the race with him. This was one of the best experiences I've ever had. I've been doing online coaching with Jeff since November. Since then, he's gone from a very casual runner to a machine. I barely recognized him when I saw him the night before the race. He by no means an "out of shape" looking guy when we met, but he looked fit and ready to kick ass. This guy had turned himself into a true endurance athlete in 9 months. It was obvious to me already, but I was excited for him to prove it to himself.

He didn't disappoint. Not once did I have to prompt Jeff to get moving. He ran every flat spot and downhill on the last miles of the course, and powered up every uphill so fast that I had to jog behind him to keep up. I'm sure he could tell his story better than I could, but the strength he showed on race day was one of the most impressive things I've ever seen. His beautful family was there to support him, he had his coach(me) by his side that last few miles, but there's only one person who brought Jeff from mile 0 to mile 50, and it was Jeff himself. He showed true grit and finished his first 50 mile race in 9hours, 28minutes, and 21 seconds. 3rd in his AG and 20th overall.

Some hard-earned hardware for Jeff Vander Kooi. I believe this was his third race...ever.

Success stories were all around this weekend. Alex Poulsen ground out his first 50, showing balls of steel and commiting to a run that wasn't quite going perfectly. He's a true champion for the resolve he showed on the course. Rick Robbins and Mark Robillard ran the 50 for the first time at NCT, after years of doing the marathon. They braved the afternoon heat, dug deep, and showed what they're made of. Ryan Hansard, despite being whacked out of his gourd on allergy meds, gutted out another impressive marathon. He's humble and affable, but he's got gumption most people only wish they had. Kelsey Gray kicked ass on a tough marathon course and won her age group. Monkey Mike Jensen knuckled his way to his first 50 after a night of drinking, as did his cousin Russ. Jon Burton, who I met on his way to kicking royal ass at Tahoe a month ago, placed third overall back here in his home state. I'm forgetting so many people. As you can see, inspiration is aplenty for me.

With so many people to draw inspiration from, it's amazing that I can be in such a funk myself. I'll have to let it ride and search for my own passion to light a fire under my ass once again. All these people taught me one thing this weekend: I need to think less. I need to feel more. Even as I wrap up this post, I feel different. I've been trying to find that balance between my intinsic drive to do my best and my ego's drive to be competitive. Instead of worrying about one being too dominant, perhaps I should let one hand simply wash the other, and go with the flow.

Jog on, Joggas.

Weekly total
50 miles total, and a marathon the same week as a hundo. Who would have thought?

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