The Measure of Success

It was during a beer-infused evening sometime in November of 2018 that a group of four guys decided to run a trail marathon. The idea wasn’t a total moon shot: one of the guys had already run a 240km trail run that very year, another was running half marathons on a regular basis, yet another was slowly moving up within his running stats, and then there was me who kind’a just said “fuck it, let’s do this”.

If you’ve been following my running history there really isn’t much that would suggest I could go for a marathon at all, much less one in the mountains with 2km of elevation gain. I’ve got three official half marathons behind my belt, a couple more in Endomondo stats, but really I am barely at the beginning of my running career. So why would I ever agree to this? The real answer is that I don’t know. But it sounded really fucken great at the time, I know that.

Fast forward to now, and that dreadful marathon day is behind us now. It was in fact yesterday. And to take away the suspense, I had failed to finish the marathon. But I’m writing this post not to excuse myself for failing (ok, perhaps a little of that), but to show how much more knowledgable I am today.

First off, I’ve never done anything this extreme before. 2km of elevation difference didn’t mean much to me since I had no delta to compare it with. Now I do. I finished 23km of the 45km planned, and during those 23km I have ascended 1,160meters (3,805ft). About half of what was planned, or as you can see below, to the point B2.

pointb21

The elevation graphic above shows the predicament that I was facing. I arrived at point B2 dead tired, and with only 15 minutes to spare before the cutoff point for the 2nd section. I could soldier on and most likely not make it within time allowance to the 3rd point, or walk-off and keep it safe. In retrospect, I should have soldered on. But being there at the checkpoint didn’t feel good at all and I kept doing calculations in my head that basically said: “you’re done for today”.

The second thing I learned yesterday was: wardrobe matters. My shorts kept slipping down, my shoes are evidently a half to a full size too small for mountain running, and my backpack didn’t carry enough water.

That’s the third thing I learned yesterday: hydration matters. I was required by race officials to carry a water bottle to refill at each hydration station. But one 700ml water bottle wasn’t enough for me and I found myself out anything to drink about 3/4 of the way through each section. In fact, two bottles weren’t enough. I had a second 500ml water bottle that was also dry before reaching the checkpoint.

The fourth thing: must eat during the race. Because I have only done short distance flat surface races before, I’ve never really thought about the nutrition one must get to keep on going throughout the race. “Eat something every hour” was the command. And I tried to keep with that, but it didn’t feel right, nor natural, and at one point I had no water to swallow down the energy bar and so I was left with a huge dry mouth to run with.

The fifth thing: mountains are steep. No amount of regular flat surface running around my immediate area could have prepared me for the climbing that was required during that race. Holy shit was it tough. At one point I stopped at the base of one climb and all I saw was a very colorful line of people as far as the eye could see up. “Everest’s got nothing on this”, I thought. I know what this race looks like now, and I know what to do next: get my ass to local mountains at least once a month for some hiking.

Other next steps include signing up for this very race next year, and training for it taking all the things I’ve learned into consideration. That is what my success story is for having failed yesterday. I have learned much and now I have to put that toward next years’ event.

By the way, out of four of us that signed up, one chose not to start at all, one did not finish (me), but the other two, well, they brought home the medal way ahead of the 9hour cut off point. The race also brought together 5 families and it was awesome to catch up, grill some chow, and have a few laughs.

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