Embrace the Suffering

To call 2016 an ambitious year in terms of running will be seen by some as an understatement and by others as an overstatement – it likely depends on whether you run.  Reflecting on 2016 requires going right back to January 1 when I signed up for TransRockies Run, a 6 day trail running adventure in August in Colorado.  This decision was the result of peer pressure and excellent decision making skills fuelled by the NYE party the night before.  Joined by two good friends, Mike and George, with a total of 43 KM of trail running experience between us, we signed up for the 195 KM adventure.  The longest I had raced previously was the  half-marathon distance; TransRockies was going to require some serious training.  So the “logical” thing to do was to sign up for a 50 KM trail race in July as preparation.  Sure, I’d run on some trails one day the previous summer; it couldn’t be that hard.  And to get ready for the 50 KM trail race, I had best plan on running my first marathon in the spring as well.

And so it went.  One thing led to another.

Let’s speed through the spring.  I finally achieved my sub 1:40 half marathon goal.  It apparently required travelling to Australia to do it.  The
travel was for work and the race just fit into my overall training plan.  Then it was on to my first full marathon which I ran in Ottawa.  It is a fantastic course and I came close to reaching my goal, foiled a bit by the heat, humidity, and honestly the distance.  Marathons are hard!

Next up was the NorthFace Endurance Challenge in Ontario.  50 KM of great trails and nasty hills up at Blue Mountain ski resort.  We convinced 17 BlackToe runners and significant others that running or cheering for this event was a great idea.  And that we could all fit into a rental chalet.  BlackToe had some kick ass results that weekend (Bryan – amazing!, Mark, Doug – wow!).  Mike was unfortunately out with a knee injury. George and I – well we survived the experience.  We ran the first 20 KM together until George realized he was having an off day and sent me ahead.  He looked like death when I left him near an aid station, and in fact he looked even worse when I saw him at the finish 5 hours later.  Amazingly, he finished the whole 50 KM though, getting his second wind, some ice, and some nutrition at an aid station.  That was a gutsy performance George!


With a 50 KM trail race under our belts, a bunch of Saturday excursions to trails around Toronto, and some fairly long training runs George and I were feeling invincible when we flew down to Colorado for TransRockies.  Until Day 1.  Yep, the combination of altitude (between 8,000’ and 12,500’) and the huge hills, nay, real mountains, taught us a lesson that Toronto hills don’t count for training.TransRockies was an amazing experience.  Luxe camping in the middle of nowhere, meeting some fantastic people, running some amazing trails.

When I returned from TransRockies, I did two things.  First, I signed up for the NorthFace Endurance Challenge championship 50 mile race in December, and then I signed up for some online coaching with Ryan at Miles To Go Endurance.  With three months to get ready for the 50 miler, I sprinkled in two more 50 KM races which I did surprisingly well at.  I won my age group at the Frosty 50 KM in BC but failed to pick up my bottle of wine prize, and I had a respectable 10th place overall at the Mendon Park 50 KM in Rochester.

Finally, after some long training days in the fall, the big dance came around.  December 3rd I set out at 5am (photo at top left) for my longest race ever, 50 miles.  I was blessed with amazing scenery, sunrise over San Francisco, perfect temperatures, amazing volunteers, and great competitors all day long.  9 1/2 hours later I crossed the finish line (photo at top right).

Whatever fire got lit in 2016 was seriously stoked on December 3.  Perfect timing to look forward to 2017 and start planning the next adventures.  I choose brave.

 


I owe some significant thanks to many people for pushing me during the year.  Thanks to George and Char for sharing thousands of kilometres this year and for many special memories.  Thanks to Mike for building a terrific running community and lighting the fire.  Thanks to my BlackToe race team mates for all the encouragement.  And thanks to Ryan for encouraging me to be brave in 2017!

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