30 Days of Writing: Day 4

Chasing Records

This picture drives me. It wakes me up in the morning. It keeps me up at night. It’s in my head every time I put on my running shoes and head out the door. This is my failure.

I’ve been a runner since 8th grade. A distance runner to be exact. I was pretty average in high school and turned down running in college to focus on my metal band (we were going places man).

Fast forward to the months after college graduation. I was feeling stuck in a rut and unchallenged in life. So I began running again. Training actually.

I ran local road races and trained hours every week. After a couple of years of training, I ran a personal best and won a half marathon. My time was nothing special: 1:29:19. However, to me, it was a big achievement.

Fast forward a few months later and I was burned out. I tried training for a marathon but got bored. I tried bettering my 5k time but got bored with that as well. Nothing was motivating me.

To top it all off, I had just started a job as a teacher and coach. I was working 40 hours a week as a teacher, 20–30 hours a week coaching distance runners, and taking 6 hours of college classes a week. It did not leave me much time to run.

So for the past couple of years I’ve been running sporadically. A few miles here and there when I had the chance but not really training for anything. That all changed this fall.

Right around Thanksgiving I found a website.

Everything changed.

In the running world there are runs known as “fastest known times” or “FKTs”. These are runs, generally on trails, that a person completes and then posts their time. Anyone can then try to beat the posted time.

There are some big runs too. Rim-to-Rim times for the Grand Canyon. Runs up mountains. Popular trails in America. Almost every state has a couple of courses on the website.

It was here that I found motivation again.

There is a trail in Arkansas called Eagle Rock Loop. It’s the longest loop trail in Arkansas at 26.8 miles. I’ve hiked it 3 times. Twice we spent 3 days and 2 nights hiking the loop. Once, in foul weather, we managed it in 2 days and 1 night.

To set the record. I would have to make it around in 5 hours and 12 minutes.

Elevation Profle

Piece of cake.

I trained for 3 months. I ran trails. I put in 20–24 miles in 2 days on the weekend to get my body ready for the run. I felt like I was ready to tackle the record.

I figured the splits I would need to run. I set a goal of 5 hours. I had my time to every trail head mapped out. A friend drove up and camped out with me. He planned to meet me at the trail heads and check how I was doing.

Around 9AM one Saturday in late February I set off. The rocky terrain was a little different from what I was used to but I made good time. For the first 2 hours, I ran almost completely uphill. As I met my buddy at the trail head just before the mountain ranges, I was on pace and feeling confident.

Then the wheels fell off.

Over the next hour, I crossed 4 mountain ranges and my pace slowed to a crawl. My urine was the color of coffee and my hip flexors were so sore, I was having trouble lifting my legs. I found my friend waiting for me at the last trail head I would see him before the end.

I had to make a choice. Continue on for 10 more miles over 2 more mountain ranges with no chance of being picked up, or throw in the towel. In the name of safety, I called it. I had made it 17 miles.

After a few weeks off, I got back at it. I haven’t felt the drive to complete something like this for a long time.

I adjusted my training and I’m giving myself several months to prepare for the second attempt. This time I’ll be better prepared and better trained.

I look at that picture all the time and it reminds me of the failure. I see the gap between the start and the finish and know those two should be connected. That gets me out the door on the days I’m tired or don’t feel like training.

It keeps me motivated. I keeps me chasing records.

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