The Big Goal That Might Do Me In

What did I get myself into?

What did I get myself into?

Three years ago I set a goal for myself that would alter every aspect of my life: Run a 5k by the end of the year (this was 2012).  This goal eventually grew to the bigger goal of completing a triathlon, which morphed into the completion of enough events to be officially ranked.  Unlike previous failed weight loss and fitness attempts I put in place smaller goals and a solid plan of action to achieve those goals.  I set terms for success and I began the adventure leading me to who I am now: a strong willed, positive goal setter who sets challenging yet achievable goals and then implements realistic  plans to achieve those goals.  That has made all the difference in my life and had changed the way I view all aspects of my life.

As I finished my first 5k in the fall of 2012 I began the process of preparing for my first triathlon and further a season of triathlons.  As I neared my first triathlon I realized that I needed to plan my goals for the later part of the year.  While I was still new to running at the time, I had been working on building my mileage and while slow, I grew stronger mentally and physically as a runner.  In the early days of 2013 I came across the Atlanta Half Marathon  which was ran on Thanksgiving.  I had no clue if I could run thirteen miles then but I set it as a silent goal, one I told nobody but set myself in the direction to possible complete.  By October I had gotten my long runs into the double digits and the week before the Atlanta Half I ran my first eleven mile run.  I was uncertain about this race, but I knew I was as ready as I was going to be.  I ran my first half marathon in 3:15 and loved every emotional minute of it.  I finished 2013 with a total of 3-7 miles of running, three successful triathlons and numerous 5ks, 10ks and a few 15k running road races.  Thus 2013 was a success in multiple facets of my life.

Now and Then.  The left picture was from my last 5k race and the one on the right is from my first 5k race in October.

Now and Then. The left picture was from my last 5k race and the one on the right is from my first 5k race in October.

When I started this year I was uncertain what the big goal for the year was.  I set myself a goal of completing at least three Olympic distance triathlons, but running wise I did not know if I was ready for the next level of race.  I figured early on that I would focus on the half marathon distance race and continue to work to improve as a runner.  I started to work to increase my weekly running into the twenties and I focused on pushing my  weekly long run into the mid teens.  Goal wise I figured I would start to prepare myself for a 2015 marathon and I would focus on running 800 to 860 miles for the year, a large jump from 307 miles the previous year).  In the first couple of months of 2014 I ran three half marathons (two were ran 6 days apart), seeing my time decrease from 3:15 to 3:07 finish times.  Additionally I ran my first trail race at my brothers insistence and found I loved trail running.

As a cold spring gave way to summer I had ran at least one 20 mile run and I had ran a few more trail races.  My weekly running routine often mixed trail and road running.  I felt stronger as an athlete and I could push myself to limits I was unable the year before. I had grown smarter in listening and interpreting my body’s signals, allowing me to push myself to new levels and avoid timely injuries.  While I had not dropped weight, I lost inches from my waist and gained inches in my legs.   I knew running wise that I was slow, but I could push myself  on long distances for long periods of time, given enough time I could endure any distance.  At this point I realized that I wanted to push for a marathon by the end of the year.

I surprised myself and finished my first half marathon on Thanksgiving day.

I surprised myself and finished my first half marathon on Thanksgiving day.

I looked at a few marathons in surrounding states and decided I would have little available vacation time to go too far from home, which left Atlanta.  But Atlanta is hilly and I was unsure if I wanted to run in the city and its hills.  This led me to consider a trail marathon, but trail running rarely ends nicely with a 26.2 mile distance.  At this point I reflected back on a race postcard I had in one of my earlier half marathon packets.  At the time it drew my attention but the distance just seemed too much… it was a 50k hilly (some would argue semi-mountainous) trail run in North Georgia.  I needed a big challenge and maybe that would be a good way to finish the year.

With the 50k race goal fresh in my mind I started to figure what training I would need to prepare me for the race. I also continued to research marathons, as I was uncertain skipping to a 50k was a great idea.  Early in the summer I began to push my weekly running mileage into the thirties and I began taking a series of fastpacking rips on the Appalachian Trail (basically multiple days of running and camping with everything needed in a minimal weight pack with the goal of going far and stacking multiple long runs back to back).  The biggest issue I ran into was finding a practical 50k training plan. Some places recommended distance, others time. One expert sweared by back to back long runs while others said they were unnecessary, some experts pushed for a maximum distance of twenty five to twenty six miles while others said it was pointless to go above twenty.  Unlike marathons there were no clear cut paths or answers that seemed to really give a step by step guide.  I read everything I could and discovered that experienced marathon runners attempting the 50k distance found the extra couple of miles and rugged trails changed everything they knew about distance running, often most said a 50k shared little resemblance to the marathon distance.  I realized that most marathon runners hit a wall around mile twenty, which they must push past to complete six more miles.  This race would involve a mile twenty wall with a half marathon of miles remaining.   Last month I finally decided that if I was going to do this it was time commit and prepare… time to take the plunge.

I had just one small hurdle to pass… one last bail out possibility, the wife.  My wife is supportive, but she gets worried about how much I push myself.  She was the last possible push back point, a beacon of reason, as to why I should not take this challenge.  Last month when we discussed my fall race schedule November came up and I told her about the race. She asked the distance and I told her 50k, at this point she has learned to convert metric and she looked at me and basically looked floored.  The rest of the conversation went like this:

Wife: You know that is 30 miles right?

Me: 31.1 actually and sometimes a bit more depending on the trails.

Wife: I don’t think you will be ready for that, you will need to train.

Me: I have been training with this as a goal since the beginning of the year (NOTE: this was a mistake, never indicate that you have been planning something big for a while without letting the significant other know), I mean I have been fastpacking and I am running thirty miles a week.

Wife: Are you certain you want to try this?

Me: Yes.

(This is where things go unexpected, I figured she would talk me out of it and consider it stupid and dangerous to my health, my last chance to back out due to wife’s insistence)

Wife: Well you have insurance and your work covers you with a good life insurance policy, so if anything happens at least I am taken care of….. have fun.

So on November 15th I will be attempting my first race longer than a half marathon , and it will be longer than a marathon by six miles, running on trails up and down the foot hills of the Appalachian Mountains. The format of the race is unique though and is based on the concept of the Tortoise and Hare.  This race is setup so every runner enters a predicted time limit for finishing the race by three in the afternoon, starting as early as six in the morning.  Each hour a series of runners will start the race with the first couple of hours being the tortoises and the later starters being the hares.  Unlike other races where being slow means the festivities are over by the time you finish, this race will have slow and fast runners all finishing approximately at the same time.  The race directors setup their blog where they interview participants of the half marathon in September and the 50k in November with the goal of familiarizing all runners. I love this as it gives me a chance to share and get to know others I will be sharing nine hours of my day with. ( Mine can be found here).

Logo2-e1369582232944I know at this point this will be difficult and now that I am committed I am super excited and scared and nervous.  Luckily I found a good book on distance running that has a solid plan for me to follow that is open in format, which I work well with .  I had planned four Olympic distance triathlons for this year but I have decided to cancel August’s to allow an extra weekend of long runs.  As I did last year, I have a plan now.  For the next couple of months I will be on very new and uncertain territory as I prepare for this monstrous challenge. Unlike the marathon, experiences from ultra runners and first time 50k runners leave no consistency to what to expect on race day, so I have to prepare for everything and truly find what works for me.  I am excited and eager to share this next big adventure in future posts and see how I grow and change with this monstrous challenge. Til next time.

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16 comments

  1. Happy training! I like your wife’s attitude 🙂 bless.

    1. Thanks, I was so expecting that conversation to go a totally different direction. Will be a fun ride.

  2. Wow!! I cannot wait to read along your journey. :-). Thank goodness for insurance! Your wife cracks me up.

    1. She cracks me up also. I was so not expecting her reply. I love her and we have grown where she trusts my judgement. Now I just have to run 31 miles in nine hours and I will be good to go! Thanks for following along, this will be fun.

  3. Ha ha! I love your wife’s response! 😀
    Seriously though, once you’ve got it into your head that you’re going to do this, there’s no turning back. I’m so excited for you and look forward to reading more about your epic running adventure. 🙂

    1. Honestly, I pulled out the race post card really early in the year and sat it on my billboard at work. Every day I stared at it thinking one day, and then I realized why not this year. It will be a fun ride between now and November, but I feel so alive having such a large goal to work towards. It will certantly be an epic journey and thank you for following along.

  4. Go big or go home! I love it brother, kick some a$$! Way to swing for the fences.

    1. I make it sound like this decision was made from the space between the ears and it was somewhat. It took quite a bit off lower waist, big gahones thinking as well. Love going big, and you have seen what happens when I plan for big goals. Of course I have had some great motivators and inspirations along the way (you brother). This will be a fun three months though. Go big or go home indeed!

  5. I like how you’re always trying cool, new runs. All the best.

  6. Wow a great challenge and well done for going for it this year. The worst that can happen is that you treat it as a learning exercise…

    1. The one thing I did not understand and accept a year ago is that sometimes you fail. What I had to learn was that failing is not the end, its a sign that day was just not your day. The difference lies in how you overcome the failure and or setback and roar back. That acceptance that sometimes we do not succeed has given me the mindset of going for goals that are large, like a 50k. Thank you for the encouragement.

      1. A great philosophy to have. I felt the same as I attempted to swim Windermere. Could I do it? Well I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try and at worst it would teach me what I needed to know / do to come back another time to crack it. Enjoy the journey as much as the result and you will always have success!

  7. Wow, what an awesome goal – I love that you are planning for this because you always have a clear plan for your goals (unlike me, haha). That is great your wife was supportive enough to say go for it if you have your heart set on it. And what a cool concept for the race!

    1. Thank you, hopefully it does not do me in. I try to challenge myself.

  8. […] my big goal for the end of the year, run a 50k, ignoring the marathon distance  in the process (here).  A few weeks before I wrote that post, mentally I was not invested yet, it was a goal without […]

  9. […] my year end focus to running my first greater than half marathon race, a 50k instead of a marathon (Details Here) As I started to train and research ultra running, I joined the Georgia Ultrarunning and […]

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