I have been a runner of some kind my whole life. I think we all are, considering its part of our DNA. We have all heard about human kinds evolution as hunters and gatherers running far and wide to feed the family! I remember running a lot as a kid and even before I understood the freedom of running I was thoroughly enjoying the freedom of running. As a middle schooler I ran hard and was constantly trying to be the fastest miler in my school, I ran a 5:30 mile as an 8th grader. My freshman year in high school I ran track but instead of going the endurance route I went into sprints because I played football and that's what you did. I ran and had a little success in the 400meter event and dabbled in the hurdles as well. After high school I ran in spurts, when I was feeling really out of shape I would always resort back to running to try and lose the beer weight but it never would be for more than a month. Running is funny in that most people either love it or hate it. Some people are really against it (usually because of injuries or "because it sucks") and others love it and plan their life around it.
For the last 11 years my sole focus athletically has been about paddling. Outrigger canoe paddling the first 5 years and a mix of outrigger, stand up, prone and surfski paddling the last 6 years. I really enjoy being on the water feeling the glide and working up a sweat. Running was never programed into my paddle training because I just always wanted to paddle. I started running a little this past Spring when I was training for an amazing event called, Paddle Run Paddle (you can read about it here, Paddle Run Paddle) where the "Run" portion was a marathon. I didn't run a lot leading into the marathon but the little I did felt great and brought back some good memories. During the marathon my group and I walked a lot of it but as we got closer to the finish I felt as though I was being pulled and had to just run hard and fast the last 8 miles. I continued to run after the PRP but as the summer crept in I stopped and then my friend Wendy reminded me that I had volunteered to help pace her in the Tahoe 200 trail run (run 200 miles on the single track around Lake Tahoe) in September. I started to put the shoes on a little more often after that but still nothing series. I ran with Wendy the last 15 miles of her epic 204 mile run around the lake and it sparked something inside me. There was a particular moment around 1:30 in the morning while we were running high on a ridge that sticks out. It was snowing and the wind was blowing hard, as our head lamp beams lit the way on a small single track I remember smiling and then laughing about how much fun I was having. Being pelted in the face with freezing rain/snow and feeling chilled to the bone by the wind all while being in the middle of the woods with nothing but some light clothing on our back and shoes on our feet felt euphoric and I wanted more. Three days after running with Wendy I was back in the woods running. I should have been out on the lake stand up paddle training for the last few races of the paddling season but I was being pulled into the woods and on to the single track by my vivid memories of that early morning. While enjoying getting lost in the woods (figuratively) I thought that I should look into a trail running race. Later I found myself in front of the computer signing up for a 50k ultra-marathon, the Mt. Tam 50k! Immediately I texted my friend Wendy and told her about it and the next thing I new she had texted me back and was signed up as well!
We were 12 weeks out from the race which is not an ideal training block for someone that has no run training under them but I was excited and pushed that aside. I actually didnt have 12 weeks because I still had some paddling events on the schedule that I had to prepare for. Knowing that I needed some help I contacted my friend Brian Mckenzie from Crossfit Endurance, CrossFit Endurance Brian has done ultra-marathons and coached many athletes and he has a different approach to run training. I am a certified CrossFit coach so I was excited to work with Brian on his approach to training through CrossFit Endurance.
I got through my paddle races and when finally got back to Tahoe I jumped into Brian's training. I had a lot of fun running on the trails around Lake Tahoe. I tried to never do the same trail twice. The Mt. Tam 50k trail run is brutal in that there is over 6500 feet of climbing across 50 kilometers or 31 miles. Knowing this drove me to find the steepest trails I could and not having the time to run 4,5 or 6 hours I attacked to steep trails and tried to get up and down them quickly. I have also been training in the gym on a run specific strength training program that Brian put together for me which I really enjoyed, Beyond the Whiteboard.
As I write this I am on my to San Francisco. My wife Anik is driving and my son Jaxsen is in the back with our dog Teeva. I find myself excited, nervous and in question. I am questioning whether this was a good idea or not. 50k, 31 miles with over 6500 feet of climbing and only a few weeks of training, what am I thinking? As I push the negative thoughts aside I bring myself back to 1:30 in the morning on that ridge, in that snow and that wind and remember that feeling and I smile again, Im ready!
Thanks and happy running!