Re-Igniting the Fire
At the beginning of this school year, the plan was to run the Austin Marathon, and possibly the entire Austin Distance Challenge. In doing so, there was a reasonable possibility I'd win the 35-39 age division in the Austin Marathon (as I would now be among the youngest in the 35-39 division, instead of the oldest in 30-34), and could also become the first two-time winner of the Austin Distance Challenge.
The way I’d re-structured my classes left me with a lot more papers to grade than last year, and it became hard to find the time to run. Combine that with a September that was hotter than an average July, and it was also hard to find the motivation. After the first six weeks of the school year, I resigned to taking the year off from racing. I’d still run...not every day...and go for bike rides on weekends. Because it’s good to stay in shape, and I still enjoy it.
Sometime around Thanksgiving, I found out about Ultra Expeditions. They put on about a dozen races in Texas, including a series of eight trail runs, most of them ultras. They even have a multi-race competition for the series, and long-time readers may recall I’m a sucker for those (like the Austin Distance Challenge). Ever since moving back from California a few years ago, I’ve wished Texas had something like Coastal Trail Runs, which was an absolute blast. Now, it looks like we do!
Ultra Expeditions was also looking for brand representatives, and I’ve always wanted to be sponsored. Not only for running, but especially for the bigger adventures I do every summer. While being a rep for Ultra Expeditions is a net loss (registering for the required six races costs a lot more than the free shirt you get in return), maybe after a year of experience running under a label, a legitimate sponsor would be more interested in getting behind me.
While filling out the application, it became clear they were more interested in how many followers you have on social media rather than whether or not you’re a decent runner. Realizing this, I decided not to fake it. “I may not be as popular as some of the other applicants, but if you want to be represented by a good runner, here’s your opportunity.” I got the gig.
After using language like that, it figures I better back it up. Unfortunately, Ultra Expeditions reps find out they’re on the team all of eight days before they begin representing the company. What a generous amount of time to train!
Training began as soon as I found out, and for the first few weeks, it was rough. I was increasing my weekly distance by about 20 km each week, while also doing a ton of floor exercises to build strength. I was slow, but the distances bothered me less and less, even as they got longer. However, the first race I planned to run was only a half marathon, so to be competitive, I needed to build speed, not endurance.
Slowly but surely, some of the holiday weight came off and running became more effortless. I’ve managed to lose about seven pounds in as many weeks, which is a lot on a little squirt like me. Speed day hasn’t gotten much faster, but most of the other runs have, especially hills day. And hills are speed training in disguise. Importantly, it’s also gotten more fun!
Two weeks before the first race, the Plano Half Marathon, I was starting to feel good about my chances of winning. Based on prior years, anything under 1:20 would give me a reasonable shot. That’s nowhere near the 1:13 I ran a year ago, but I’m not in the same shape, since I haven’t been training in earnest for long.
And then I randomly found out about a half marathon, 20 miles away in San Marcos. Five days prior to the race. On a whim, I signed up. And like Plano, I intend to win.