Ultra trail runner. Ironman. Both descriptions fit me. Both descriptions also represent my passion for endurance sports. Triathlete is another description but earlier today when John asked me via Twitter the following:
My response to this question was Yes and No but it was something that I had to think about for a few moments. The reason I had to take pause before giving that non-committal answer is that I love the sport of triathlon. The opportunity to compete at three different sports on one day to accomplish a task that seems larger than life is grand. Add in the fact that the training is not boring because of the multi-sport discipline and you can understand how much triathlon appeals to me.
I have also found a home at ultra running, specifically ultra trail running. En route to being able to add the title ultra trail runner I found a re-kindled fire for the sport of running. For nearly 18 months every run I did was on the heels of a bike ride. There were long runs but they were not for the sake of running, but rather to help build the Ironman machine. For the past 18 weeks each run was done to help put me in a position to succeed as an ultra trail runner at the Lake Martin 100.
When I set out on this endurance lifestyle I had no clue where it would take me. All I knew is that I enjoyed it. More than that I loved it. The freedom to be out on the road while biking or running. The chance to spend an hour with friends swimming in the lake all under the guise of training. While training for different events I would have different goals for each. My first goal was to qualify for Boston but then I found triathlon. As anybody in the sport of triathlon would attest to the goal was to reach Kona. Today that goal has changed again. I am now in pursuit of a Western States qualifier. The 100 mile run is in my blood. The ultra trail run is in my blood.
After Lake Martin was done and I managed to not hit the deck from passing out after the race Jeff and Dave said something to me that still resonates, even over a week later. Their words (I am paraphrasing) were: You may have found your niche. Thinking about that they might just be right. I found the whole idea of running 100 miles to be incredible. The ups and downs (literally) of the entire 28 hours was somewhat enlivening. There was something about being out there going through the woods that I loved, even when the dark moments settled in. The battle of wills between my mind and body. Between me and nature. All of it was, for lack of a better term, awesome. I wanted to keep going to prove to myself that I could do it.
On the car ride back from Alabama I started to think about Rocky Raccoon 100 at the end of January 2015. This race is a Western States qualifier, but fortunately for me it is not the only shot I will have at qualifying. The Bandera 100k is also a qualifier and takes place 3 weeks prior to Rocky Raccoon 100. Thinking about this, and typing the words, has me very excited. The idea of these challenges is frightening and simultaneously awesome. Conquering the distances and the terrain is the great unknown which makes ultra trail running more exciting than an Ironman.
For me, I know that I am capable of going 2.4 miles, 112 miles and 26.2 miles but each 100 mile run will present a whole new set of obstacles. No two races will ever be close to each other outside of distance. This unknown is what makes being an ultra trail runner inviting. Triathlon, and Ironman, is something that I will come back to for sure but I think once Ironman Chattanooga is complete that ultra trail running will take over even if just for the first few months of the year.
Ultra Trail Runner versus Ironman.
Today it is ultra trail runner. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.
** Cover Photo from Braynston Bombers