Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy Trails :)

I was just looking at my racing plans for the next couple of months and got to smiling when I realized that it was three years ago this month (September 29, 2009) that I ran my first actual race of any sort in over three decades (since Grade 9 X-Country) - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I had only "jogged" a few times (5km) in the months leading up to the race, and signed up on a whim to see if I could do it. I finished, in a very unremarkable 5:21, and from that everything else developed.

2010 brought a Spartan Race and the same marathon again.

2011 was the Spartan Death Race (finished in approximately 45 hours, defying a 90% drop-out rate), the SWTM (4:36) and my first 100 mile ultramarathon (Haliburton) - which I did not finish (dropping out around 40 miles in with horrible foot pain from 5th metatarsal breaks that had not healed fully from SDR). I also ran some 5kms (PR of 22:23 in great CaniRunning Series) and 10kms.

So far in 2012, I've run a winter series of  5 & 10km races , finished 5th overall in the 34 hour Winter Death Race, completed a Go Ruck Challenge in Des Moines, Iowa, failed to complete the 2012 Spartan Death Race (dropping out after 35 hours and 50+ miles of brutal terrain and crazy loads - again from foot pain, plus lack of nutrition), then finished the Tough Mudder in the top 5% - qualifying for The World's Toughest Mudder (which I am not entering, as it conflicts with other running plans about to be described).

But it is in the next 8 weeks that things get very interesting :)

This weekend I am returning to Haliburton to tackle the 50 mile option. I know, I know, I am wimping out! But that is because ...

Two weeks later I am headed to Killington, Vermont. Originally I was registered for the Ultra Beast - a 26.2 mile obstacle race up and down the slopes of the biggest ski resort in the East. Then, Joe and Andy announced a 24 Hr Team Death Race the same weekend, for which I have enlisted with my good friends Don Devaney and Ray Morvan (CLICK AND READ THIS!). The timing of these two races is still uncertain, but my plan is to do both - likely back to back. (Thus, I am NOT running the full 100 miles so soon before this epic challenge).

Jump forward 3 weeks to October 14th for my 4th straight Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. In my head I have a goal of 3:59, but I am not exactly following a recommended training/tapering plan - haha! I figure I may just apply the "Paul Ryan Formula" and claim to have whatever finishing time I think would sound good - how about 2:27? Perfect!

But the "piece de resistance" is the first weekend in November - when I will be running the Grand Canyon "Rim to Rim to Rim". We start at the top of the South Rim, run down the trails to the very bottom, cross the Colorado River, climb all the way to the top of the North Rim ... then turn around and reverse our route, all the way to the bottom, across the river, and back to where we started. This is an awesome all-day journey, starting at 3am, running into the sunrise and finishing sometime the following night, having run back into the setting sun. I am encouraging everyone I am running with to wear a point-of-view camera (Go Pro, Contour, etc) so we will have tons of footage from which to make a highlight reel! Watch for that before Christmas :)

There may be a December 100 Miler too (waiting on details), but even if that doesn't pan out this will have been a ridiculously EPIC year!! I have read many inspiring stories of people doing seemingly impossible things, and it is fun to be on the other side of such tales. It does my heart so much good when someone tells me of a challenge they have taken on after reading about some of my adventures. And, at 44 years old, I truly feel like I am just getting started with my best, strongest, fastest years well ahead of me.

And 2013? Who knows! I will certainly be doing another STWM (the plan is 40 straight, taking me through my 80th birthday). I have already registered for the next Death Race (which will likely outdo this year's 60+ hour suffer-fest) and will probably be sucked into the Winter one again. And I plan to get much more serious about ultramarathons, so I can start considering some of the marquis events (Badwater, Leadville, Western States, etc).

In addition to the joy of competing and the thrill of accomplishment, there have been two other enormous benefits that have come along with these events (OK, I guess THREE if you include my being in the best shape of my life).

First, my coaching business has expanded significantly, probably commensurately with my own confidence. I have also been hired many times to speak about The Death Race, extrapolating and sharing life lessons from the experience - to students, police officers, baseball umpires, major corporations, service clubs, colleges and universities. The feedback has been very positive, appreciative and encouraging. Alongside several other upcoming engagements, I am a keynote speaker at this Fall's Queen's University "QLEAD" leadership conference, with the theme of "Aspire to Inspire".

Finally, and probably most importantly, I have made so many incredible friends from all over the world. With the magic of Facebook and Skype, a weekend's racing can develop into a lasting, close friendship very quickly. The Grand Canyon R2R2R run is with a group of Death Race friends, mostly from California. I can hardly wait to get to Haliburton this Friday night to reconnect with "ultra" friends on the eve of the race. Last October I drove down to Pittsfield, VT to pitch in rebuilding the town after Hurricane Irene. And my April drive to Go Ruck in Iowa was to meet up with Carrie Adams from Nebraska and Mark Webb from New Hampshire. I described it to someone recently as having "found my tribe".

That is why I say that I have "Happy Trails" ahead. Love your life and live it fully!

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