Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Slow Burn

I tend to go off half-cocked.  That is a complete sentence.
I become obsessed right out of the gate.  Again, complete thought.
It should be no surprise to you then, Dear Readers, that I might have jumped headfirst into trail running believing myself to be an “expert” and “experienced” before I had put in the requisite miles to legitimately make those claims.  I know you got to pay your dues.  You can’t fake endurance.
Back in the early summer I made the assertion that I would win the Rugged Red this year.  Of course after a few good Strava runs I saw where I stood in the local trail running crowd at least and it became quickly apparent that I have a long way to go to be competitive at that level.  But I also see that possibility in the future.  I’m a firm believer in a good fluke too.
Long term I want to run ultras.  I say this when the farthest I’ve ever run in a single push is thirteen miles.  Heck, I’ve not even run a marathon right now.  And I want to do some seriously long distances.  I want to challenge Matt Hoyes thru-run of the Sheltowee both supported and unsupported.  I want to establish and defend a Swift Camp Creek/Rough Trail traverse record.
Right now I am not at a place fitness-wise to do those things.  No matter how good the fluke I’m not going to be breaking or setting any records anytime soon.  I think after all of this time (since 2009) I’ve finally started to connect fitness, diet, and motivation in my mind.  I’ve had a hard time feeling that connection and being able to maintain those three independent threads throughout.  If I can weave them together then I think I can really start to see some improvements in my performance.
I maintain that good performance in endurance efforts is a chemical equation.  I don’t have it figured out yet.  But that’s what I’m working on.  Strategy and tactics play a big role.  Being able to maintain a vision is a big part of success too. 
The reality is that the things I’m learning now aren’t going to translate to this year’s Rugged Red.  I don’t have enough time to tweak things and make vast improvements.  That’s not to say I can’t maximize my performance this year by incorporating the things I’m finding out, but I think the real gains are going to come next year, or the year after, or the year after that.
My pipe dream goal is to someday do the Cloudsplitter 100 and perhaps even the Leadville 100.  Neither of those will happen next year.  All flukes aside, I need time to prepare.  So I’ll prepare.
It’s about putting in the miles and paying your dues.  Success in any endeavor follows that principle.  Along the way you solve the equation and learn the right tactics and strategy to carry you over whatever finish line you seek.
The Leadville 100 was a failed effort for me because I didn’t really put in the right kind of miles.  I resisted some fundamental truths I should not have ignored.  I didn’t focus on the broad spectrum tools and training I could have.
I still insist that success in these kinds of activities should not be rooted in financial prowess.  If I can only overcome adversity through more expensive gear then I’m not truly rising to the challenge with my own talents and resources.  You could argue that by earning more money I would be doing exactly that, but I would counter that to find balance in life I have to prioritize my resources to benefit my family first and this hobby of suffering somewhere second to last.  That means no matter how much money I make I should be able to succeed as a wanna-be endurance athlete.
I have a little over a year to prepare for next year’s Rugged Red.  This year’s race will be the dress rehearsal for me.  I’m not giving up before I even put toe to start, but I am conceding that short of some miracle I won’t be podiuming this time.
The other side of that coin is that for the first time in all of these events I consider one to be a race.  I’m finally looking at an event as a competitive endeavor that I might have a chance of winning.  It’s going to take some refined work and effort to get there from here, but I am confident I have the tools within me to make it so.
In a little less than two weeks I’m going to go out and give it everything I’ve got and hope for the best.  I have some significant advantages over a lot of the other participants and I mean to use every one of them.  Efficiency has as much to do with winning endurance events as anything else.  I have the benefit of a subtle efficiency of familiarity and intimacy with this route that no one else out there will have.  I’ve spent literally decades hiking those trails and climbing out of those creeks.  There is nothing alien to me in that place, neither creature, rock, tree or condition that I haven’t suffered through many times over in my lifetime of explorations in the Red River Gorge.
I’ve gone purposefully into those woods and have shied away from no experience or place it had to offer. 
A final thought on the upcoming race (not really, no): I’m new at this trailrunning thing, but I’ve got a bit of endurance racing experience.  While I was never competitive as a mountain biker, I find that in my age group at least I potentially have the capabilities to do well.  I also realize that those capabilities need to be developed and nurtured.  I’m not there yet, but there aren’t too many turns in the trail ahead before I’ll see my true potential.

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