The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile:
I have a love / hate relationship with trail running. I love it, but it hates me. Maybe it doesn’t hate me, but it challenges me physically and mentally more than any other endurance feat I have tried my hand at. For that, I love it! When someone tells me I am not cut out to do something, or I am not good at something, or maybe I should stick with road running….I take that as a challenge.
This season, I tackled the Ice Age 50 trail run and now I can add The North Face 50 to that list. I finished this 50 miler 53 minutes faster than Ice Age, which I was extremely happy with, but I am not like everyone else. I don’t always race to set new PR’s.
Arriving in Delafield Friday night with Laura and Mr. Miles, I felt very relaxed. I didn’t put any pressure on myself for this race. I just told myself, ‘go out and run. Enjoy yourself and the journey’.
I had a lot on my mind throughout the run. I was thinking about what this season’s races meant to my family and also those that have inspired me to keep running. People like Josh Guernsney and John Ebel, who are out there living life with a true challenge staring them in the face. I don’t have any of these challenges. I have my health and absolutely nothing to complain about.
The first 20 miles were effortless and really fun. I let my mind wonder and put my legs on cruise control. I thought about Josh, who was doing the Lake Geneva Triathlon that morning with myTEAM Triumph. I heard his voice in my head, telling me I should speed up because he is planning on racing me next year! I have always enjoyed his sarcasm, and thinking of Josh made me smile.
I hit the mile 21 aid station feeling awesome. The out and back route to the Emma Carlin turnaround (mile 28) would prove more difficult than the first 20 miles. I felt like I was on a roller coaster of hills…that never ended! I thought about John Ebel during this section. The ups and downs he faces with his health every day. I hiked the big hills, ran the down hills. I closed my eyes and brought back a memory of the Fox Cities Marathon in 2011: myself, John, Christian, and Dean Peterson, sharing some words I will never repeat, and will never forget. Just thinking about that moment brings tears to my eyes.
I didn’t care how hard the course was. Running hills for 20 miles straight was nothing compared to what Josh and John deal with on a day to day basis. They inspire me. They keep the fire going.
I hit mile 40 wondering why it was so flipping hot out today. Why is it always hot when I run a race? I started laughing. Yes, I really did. Mile 44, I hit a hill that was more like a mountain, and I stopped laughing. My progress slowed to a crawl. I hit the top and felt exhausted, knowing the last six miles would be hard, out in the prairie, baking in the sun.
Coming around the last bend before entering the finishing arch, I saw my lovely wife and newborn son. Is there anything better than seeing your loved ones than after running for 9hours and 30 minutes? Well, yes there is. Try reuniting with your loved ones after you come out of a coma. Try dealing with short term memory loss from battling MS for 15 years, wondering what the hell is going on with your body.
Running is easy. Running brings patience to my soul and has enlightened my mind. Running has transformed me…but sharing the journey of life with people like Josh and John motivates me. It moves me. Because of them, I enjoy life more than I have before. I appreciate my loved ones more than I ever have before…and I will continue to run for others as long as I am able.
I am looking forward to running the Fox Cities Marathon this weekend with John…