I read on someone's blog that one of the biggest motivators to finish a race is the thought of having to explain why you didn't finish for the following year. I can tell you firsthand that this is true. After a DNF (did not finish) at the Resurrection Pass 50 in 2011 I was burdened with the task of retelling the story every time someone found out I had run 50 miles.
"So you ran 50 miles?"
"well...actually I didn't finish. I dropped at mile 42...my feet, mental toughness, blah, Blah, BLAH..."
It quickly got old. I was determined to make it right the following year. At some point in my thinking I reasoned that I should just go for 100 miles because I would complete 50 in the process. Against the advice of most resources I consulted, I jumped right in with both feet and self-proclaimed my intent to run the Resurrection Pass 100 on July 27th, 2012.
A goal like this becomes a reality when you begin telling people. I probably told my wife first but I don't really remember. I followed this up with telling a handful of close friends and co-workers. The response was typically "Oh. Why?" I would answer with something like, "To see if I can," which seemed like a good enough response. The question of why is probably the most difficult to answer. Did I have something to prove? Maybe.
Training officially began 24 weeks prior to the race date, it was the third week of January. Using a training plan from Bryon Powell's book Relentless Forward Progress I began to rack up the miles. Many times while slogging through a multi-hour run in the snow I contemplated why I was doing this. I have run trail races since 2004 completing distances from 4 to 25 miles with no training to speak of. This is the first time I have actually trained for a race. My off-the-couch failure at the 50 had convinced me that REAL preparation is necessary to run 100 miles. Maybe I was looking for structure, discipline, focus...
I built up the mileage week by week throughout the cold, dark Alaskan winter. Running by headlamp became second nature as my runs typically began between 5-6am. Tues-Thurs I would run 5-7 miles per day with Saturday bringing the longest run, and Sunday a mid-distance run. The long run began at around 12miles and would build each week. It was definitely a challenge as Anchorage had a record snowfall winter, accumulating over 100" in town, with more at higher elevations. I remember my first long run of 18 miles on an early Saturday morning. I awoke to 6" of new snow on the roads and trails. That day I ran down the center of the outside lane of a major road. I think only 6 vehicles passed me that morning for the 12 miles I ran on the roads. Most people stayed snuggled in bed.
As these long runs racked up I figured out eating and drinking on the run, as well as what socks, shorts, undergarments, packs, and shoes chafed. The preparation was not only for the physical aspect of the run, but the gear needs and nutritional requirements as well. When the going got rough I would keep in mind the end result. Each day spent training was one in the bank that would keep me going on race day.
I liked the structure of training and I stuck to it, exhibiting a determination that is lacking in other areas of my life. On an early June run across the ball field below O'Malley peak the phrase "what it takes" popped into my mind. The pouring rain was turning into snow, the wind was howling, and I was only 2 miles into a mountainous 10 mile effort. Did I have what it takes to complete a 100 mile run? Maybe this was the answer to the question of "why?"