The Rare Incredible Reward Of Not Having A PR

Crossing One of the Creeks In The Early Miles - Photo by Michael Kirby of the Auburn Journal

Crossing One of the Creeks In The Early Miles – Photo by Michael Kirby of the Auburn Journal

Now that it has been about 24 hours since crossing the finish line of the Way Too Cool 50K, I can look back and enjoy the experience. My finishing time of 4:16:20 speaks for itself, a good 8 minutes slower than last year and this year’s course was faster. I settled into a nice rhythm early, kept the heart-rate between 150 and 155. And then things seemed to slow from there. I mean the effort felt constant but the speed kept dropping. I think I realized, or maybe succumbed, around mile 7 that it was not going to be a personal record type of race. When Erik Skadden passed me around mile 7 (he almost always passes me around mile 18-20), I knew things were not looking good. Then Kenny Brown rolled on by. Then Jady Palko motored right on through. And these were just the faces I could recall with limited oxygen. At least a dozen others zipped passed me. Dang! “What’s going on!” I kept thinking, “These guys and gals are shifting into 3rd and 4th gear and I’m still stuck in 2nd gear.”

From a different perspective: these were obvious signs of not pacing very well and starting out too fast. Classic case and this coming from a pace leader! As we rolled towards the fire station to put the first 8 miles in the bag, that competitive switch in the brain suddenly flipped. Serendipity. It’s the deciding moment in the race when your body asks the mind if it’s willing. Are you ready to suffer? I must have answered, “No.” There was an obvious mental shift. It became just staying in the game. Finishing what I started. Seeing the job through. Still, it was more than just an also ran – I ran hard and didn’t throw in the towel. I suffered but it was a peaceful sort of suffering. The experience had nothing to do with finishing place or with time.

The course has some parts that are best seen firsthand. At about mile 11 of the race, the Quarry Trail, though more fireroad than trail, is 5 miles of running with the sights and sounds of the river just over your left shoulder. And from mile 18, the backside of the Auburn Lake Trails, to the finish has to be one of the most scenic trails around. Here’s a link to my Garmin data from the race:

There are a few lessons to be learned. My heart-rate was nearly identical to last year’s race (1 bpm faster this year). So I’m working harder but moving slower. The extra 10 pounds of body weight over last year obviously isn’t helping. Age is no excuse here. I met Rich Hanna at the finish and here’s a 48-year-old and he just finished in 2nd place running 3:30. And those last few miles I was running a little scared thinking any minute I was going to hear Lee McKinley announce “On your left!” and blow right past me. He’s 50 and putting up new PR’s. I need to put more emphasis on the Effective part of the Minimum Effective Training approach. The key is quality miles and not quantity. And balance. Between family, work and training. Training is the lowest priority so using time effectively needs to be key.

Some congrats are in order. Kayden Kelly handled his first 50K in style and I’m sure we’ll see more of him on the trails.

Kayden Kelly Nearing The Finish Line

Kayden Kelly Nearing The Finish Line

Again, what can I say about Lee McKinley. Another PR. I need to start training with him. And two of the brightest and most popular runners on the course: Allyson and Carrie.

Allyson Conwell and Carrie Hyatt All Smiles

Allyson Conwell and Carrie Hyatt All Smiles

Our life ebbs and flows. And sometimes it’s difficult to know if we are flowing in the right direction. Sometimes it can be very confusing. And then it can be incredibly rewarding. Recent Saturday afternoons and Sundays have been spent snow skiing with Nicole and Dylan. Taking the Funitel Gondola and carving out turns down the Mountain Run with Dylan brings so much joy. The moment comes when I see our son travelling down the side of the mountain with all the other skiers. He’s on his own, blending in with the other skiers and boarders, making his turns and searching to hit the next mogul. I just stop for a second to take in the moment. It’s clear: life isn’t going to stand still or slow down.


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