Oh 2014, you have been something.
Some mostly running-related tidbits at the front of my weird brain ...
I found amazing joy.
I found my 13th Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run finish line in April, and I did so almost stride for stride with my dear friend and training buddy Jack Broaddus, who found his first 100-mile finish line after several previous attempts. We had our lows. We had our highs — especially that 7th loop when the incomparable Amy Surrette was kind enough to pace us — and we crossed the line together in 28:23. Jack was heroic out there. I know I'll remember this one forever.
I found my way beyond the 200-mile mark at Three Days at the Fair 72-hour in May.
After other years of 183 miles, 189 miles and 167 miles, I looked at this Sisyphean task in a new way. Thanks to a suggestion from my buddy Bob Ring, I marked each 400-meter chunk of the 1.00-mile loop and then walked one, ran one, walked one and ran one. The plan was 8 miles every 2 hours, then take a 15-minute, feet-propped-up break, repeat ad nauseam and take a continuous 4-hour sleep break each night. Bob said this would get me 72 miles each day. That Day 1 15-minute break almost broke my brain. Until the end of the first day when I got 72 miles and about 100 extra yards. Oh. wow. Day 2 I totaled 60 miles because I needed 6 hours thanks to abysmal rain-soaked misery and a significant loss of desire. For Day 3, I tweaked the plan to take only 10-minute sit breaks. And I also stopped trying to do the math, opting to Think Small — doing what was right in front of me and ignoring all else — and damned if I didn't manage to knock out 73 miles for the final 24 hours. 205 miles. A dream come true.
I lost my brother.
Joe Gentry breathed his final breath in late-November. He had cancer for 11 years and, thankfully, that was only a small part of his amazing story. He was a remarkable teacher and coach who — as is always the case — had a unique way of caring and focusing on solutions. He touched so many. His reach lives on in all of us who were fortunate enough to feel his magic. My brother lived this secret: You can move mountains and achieve unprecedented results when you focus on The Now.
I found a finish line before everybody else.
In mid-May, I won the ColorBlast 5K in 19:42. A bit of a cherry-pick in that there weren't but 30-some runners in the competitive division of the 200-person field, but I still got to the end before everybody else did. The last W I recall came when in a 5-miler when I was 29 years old. Note: a W at age 53 is far sweeter now than I ever remember when they came more often.
I lost my will.
Epic fail during my August try at four loops and 104 miles of the famed Wild Oak Trail. I had my boys Jack Broaddus, Dave Frazier and Quatro Hubbard lined up as pacers. I had my boy Vince Bowman out there crewing for me. I had some pretty peachy early-August weather. I was in some of the best physical condition I've been in. I had a sweet set-up. And then I made a huge tactical mistake — leaf garbage bags do not critter-proof containers make!! — that resulted in doing a tough 11-mile, mid-day stretch sans fluid. The ultimate result: I dehydrated so badly that my lower back locked up and it took me 4 hours to "hike” the final 6 miles. Thank God for Dave's patience with me and for being my dear friend as I did what seemed like 5 million repeats of walk-100-rocky-ass-yards, sit-down, cry, stand up." Also, thank God for Vince, who stayed out all night driving around and crewing for us, cooking amazing soup, making us hot drinks and being a fresh, happy face that gave me profound hope and joy. Also for Jack, who paced me that first loop and who pushed himself well, well beyond the brink after my drop-bag blunder cost both of us. My friends, man.
I found my gold.
Yes, gold. As in way more significant than a distance or a time or an amount. Way, way more. Several times — a handful at various races and a whole buncha times in training sessions — I came face to face with that daunting specter I think of as The Big Quit. And at least for these times that I'm thinking of here …
• In the dark and pouring rain after 40 hours into 3 Days 72;
• multiple times doing the TRX 40-40 Challenge;
• the final 200 meters of a recent 1.5-mile time trial that I pushed myself so hard through that I puked afterward;
• going back out twice during the frigid night at Crooked Road 24-Hour when it woulda been so easy to just drive away …
… I stared The Big Quit right in the eyes, took a deep, deep breath and then kicked its ass.
I found. And found. And found.