There has been lots of good advice offered to me over the years, but there are a couple of pieces that really stick out to me right now. I don't think they apply to just ultra running, but to life in general. They both come from dear friends, that have put friendship ahead of advice. I guess that's why I've listened to them so much. The first is that you have to make the pleasure more than the pain. This has been timely advice, but it was missing something. I discovered that something even before I raced. That something was commitment.
I've tried running 3 ultras this year. First was the River Valley Revenge Ultra 100K in June. I got to 55km and decided I hated running. It had been working up for hours previous to that. In spite of the fact that I was making good time, I headed back to the start line, and threw in the towel. I regretted it later. At that point, I figured that I was in no shape to finish Sinister 7, which was by then only 3 weeks away. The mental game was already starting. I was non-committal to the race with my comments of "I'll do my best", and "I'll run until I stop having fun... there is no point in running past that." At Sinister, I made it to the end of leg 4, and then copped out. 55 miles this time.
I tried to keep things positive, and pitch things that I was happy with my race, but truth be told... I wasn't. I knew I could do better, and I had just allowed myself to do less. This became apparent when I woke up the morning of the race, and wandered up the stairs comfortably. I should not be able to do that!!!
So, with this frame of mind, and with another month of training under my belt, I set off to run the Iron Legs 50 miler in beautiful Kananaskis country west of Calgary. This race was different than the others, because it was set in a protected area, and on mostly single track trails. I don't know what it is about single track, but nothing says mountain run quite like a winding single track trail. I absolutely love it.
|Winding single track trail through the mountain. It's just plain magical!|
|Start to Aid station 1|
Start to Aid station 1 was easy. So was aid station 1 to 2, but at the end, just before I arrived at aid station 2, I hit a technical downhill section that I just got all caught up in. My quads were burning, my lungs were gulping in air as I flew past other runners. My feet felt nimble as they ever have, and so I felt confident in ripping down the section without a second thought.
|Aid station 1 to 2|
|Aid station 2 to 3 elevation|
I time, I could see a blue tent between the trees in the distance. Aid station 3!
|Aid station 3 to 4 elevation|
|On the top of Powderface ridge (the first time)|
It's something I've been really working on the last couple of months. Positive self talk. I'll finish an interval, and I'll tell myself "Good for you Stephen, that was a tough interval, and you gave it everything you've got, and that's good enough! Well done!!!" You would not believe how far that type of thing goes. One interval after another, I felt my strength increasing.
|Iron Legs 2014 - Course Map|
The words were inspired. I've said it a lot in this blog post already, but I refused to give an inch to doubt and worry. I ended up walking all the way to aid station 5. There waiting for me was my wonderful family. They had hiked into the aid station without complaint, and even had my favorite. Veggie Delight from Subway waiting for me. I munched it down with some water, massaged my legs and re-made my commitment to continue on.
|Aid station 5 to 6 - Elevation change|
|On the summit of Moose Mountain|
|6 to finish - Elevation change|
Signs of "What are your legs made of?" and "Iron Legs", as well as cheers greeted us as we rounded the last corner and crossed the finish line. Because I had people to share it with, it was better than it could have ever been had I crossed on my own. Thanks to Florin, and especially Josette. One of the things that brings the most joy in life in my opinion is service to others. At church yesterday I learned that true service is something that you do for someone, that they cannot do for themselves. I want Josette to know that you did a true service for me. You helped to provide an atmosphere that I could recover, and prosper in. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.
Final official time? 15:35:04
So, the moral of the story? Never give up. Never give up on your hopes and your dreams. You will get them, but they may be harder than you ever thought. I cramped for 50 km on those mountain trails, and even went into shock after I had a chance to sleep for a bit. I broke out into a fit of nausea, and a cold sweat. Virginie got me some smoothie, and after sipping for a bit, I felt better. Times will get rough, but they always get better, better perhaps because we have had a chance to sink so low. How can we gauge our progress, if we have no low point to start from?
My race season is not done yet. Iron Horse 100km, October 4th. I was thinking of the 100 mile, but honestly, I'm going to be humble and work my way up. Till then, happy training!
When we love someone, anything is possible.