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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why am I running Leadville 100? *Updated 12/4

Well, a year ago there was no way I thought I could run 100 miles let alone 50 or even 30 for that matter. I hadn’t even run a marathon yet. My longest races were half marathons, Mount Evans Ascent, Pikes Peak Ascent, which are hard races, and then the Colorado half. Pikes and Evans were not record breakers by far; I was happy just to finish. Now the Colorado half was a different story, I started running and didn’t stop even with some major knee pain - not very smart. Either way, I ran the course in 1:37:19, which was not that bad for my first flat half. During that race around mile 8 or so, I started feeling pain in my right knee and slowed down a bit. I ended up tearing my meniscus that day. I do not think it was the running because I didn’t fall or trip, I just think it was an older injury waiting to happen. But I was still proud of my race, there were 1448 finishers and I placed 10th for my age division and 70th over-all. Even though, I could not run for rest of the season, I felt like a runner, first time since high school.

After surgery, 6 months of rest, topping out at over 200 pounds (I am 5’8”), I started running again. How the heck did I gain that much weight? I don’t know; it was like 10 pounds a month. Well, the surgery slowed me down quite a bit and I gained sympathy weight, my wife was pregnant. But 10 pounds a month? The first 3 months back were not easy, but I eventually got down to 155 pounds and started to really feel good about myself and my running. After a few races under my belt and running my first marathon in Spain last August, I was hooked, really hooked. I could run for hours, some of my training runs were 5 – 6 hours long. Two of my longest runs were over 37 miles (8000 feet of vertical gain). It was like I was ‘born’ to do this. Ha!

Don’t know exactly when I decided to run it because it was never in my plans.  But this last year, it was lingering in the back of my mind for a while and then I said it, “I am running Leadville 100.” So I called up my buddy Brian and told him first because if he thought I was crazy, or at least crazier than I already am . . . I might have held off a year or two. He had run Leadville 100 thirteen years in a row, which is unbelievable; he is just amazing. I always thought he was some type mutant or something, how the hell could anyone run 100 miles? I even asked him if he had a bank account set up or special insurance for knee replacement, thinking running that much would have to trash one’s body. He told me that your body is amazing and in a way it heals itself. So when I told him my decision, I don’t think he believed it, but he was excited for me and told me I should go for it. Also, if I ran it, he would run it too. Each day, I was getting more and more excited, but in the back of my mind I questioned it. Can I really run 100 miles, in the mountains, with altitude? Honestly, I don’t know, but we will see what my limits are. It kind of scares me thinking about it though.

Once I said it out loud, I started sharing it with others. Each day felt like I further committed myself and the more I voiced it publicly; the more committed I became. And that is exactly what I wanted and needed.  For me, committing to something like Leadville, publicly was not easy because a lot can happen in a year, what if I can’t finish.  Everyone will know.  But putting it out that has inspired me to train even more.  When I was sixteen and getting ready for my driver’s license, my father told me not to tell anyone that I was taking the test. “What if you fail?” he said. “They will make fun of you.” Granted that was high school and they might have. That idea has always been in the back of my mind, ‘what if can’t finish?  What would everyone think?’.  But, I can’t fail, even if I don’t finish for some reason, I have accomplished so much already and I am in the best shape of my life.

Running is hard, running long distances is even harder, and everyone has that little voice in their head telling them they are running too fast or too far. And sometimes one listens, then what? This is where you need friends, supporters, and even a coach and why I created www.SKArunner.com.  I am going to do it, even though it is not going to be easy. I am running and finishing Leadville 100.

Well, I am a high school 3d animation teacher and require all my students to blog about their projects and processes. The other day, a student asked where was my blog. Now I maintain six blogs, one for each class and another for the entire program, but none refer to me or what I am working on. So on September 4th, during a 25 mile run, it came to me, create a site and document my Leadville adventure and really commit to the race. I was of course listening to SKA, I laughed and said, “I am a SKA Runner.” After my run, I jumped on the computer and registered www.SKArunner.com and then that night created the site.

Now publicly announcing your commitment to a race of this caliber, gives you that little extra needed push. It also makes it harder to back out and you have followers / supports to be there for you. My students talk to me daily about what I ran that week and every once in a while if I can really run 100 miles. It is not just about the race, it is the days leading up to it.

The Leadville 100 is so difficult that you can't just show up and wing it. You have to take it seriously, do your research, plan for it, and then put in the time. In a way, I say the same thing to my students, “You have to take responsibility for your education, if you wait for your teacher to tell you what to do, you are already behind.” Students tell me that they want to be film makers, animators, and game designers, very competitive industries, and I ask them “How bad do you want it? . . . Then what are you waiting for, start today.”

The cool part is that the students are following me from day one, my initial commitment, the website, my struggles, my training, my research, then the race, and some are actually showing up to run with me. How cool is that?


2 comments:

Stefan M. Burrell said...

Hi,

Just found your blog. I recently started listening to the UltraRunnerPodcast.com Podcasts. My experience so far is one Marathon (finished in five hours) in Kansas City, MO. I ran the marathon before I even ran my first half. I have done a ten miler in 1:35:07 and a couple of 5Ks. My plan is too currently train for and run a local Kansas race called The Brew to Brew (44.4 miles) as a solo runner. Looking forward to diving more into your blog as I train!

Stefan B.

SKA Runner said...

Stefan, sounds like you have been bitten by the ultra bug like I have. And let me tell you it only gets worse; I am getting in deeper everyday. Let me know if you have any questions, I am not an expert, but I have learned a lot over the year and a half I have been training for ultras. The main thing you should know is figure out your calories and hydration. I trained hard and long, but I just wasn't prepared or lacked the experience for my first 50; I bonked! But I every race I get better. ~SR

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