North Face Endurance Challenge
The message to always move forward constantly delivered by the TriJake goal orientation includes accepting failures as part of the journey to live a fulfilling and worthwhile life. I set goals for myself and my clients that are seemingly out of reach. I believe that goals should be a quest to accomplish something great. Something beyond what you think you can do. The idea to set these large goals is to experience something that few people in the world experience anymore. The element of breaking through to a new sense of empowerment and taking responsibility for what you have done. Sometimes the goals are not met. This past race, I fell short of the finish line. It was due to injury. But I also want to be clear that the injury, perhaps, could’ve been avoided if I had prepared better for the race and had more respect for the trail.
I probably had no business toeing the line at this years endurance challenge. The reason why I say that is not because I am incapable of running such a race, but because I did a poor job preparing for the race. I was cocky, just coming off a great run at the Grand Canyon, and I thought a 50 mile mountain run through the New York trails would be no problem. I did not do my homework on the technical venue that is the Bear Mountain 50 Mile Challenge. I wore the wrong shoes, I brought too many supplies, I was operating on an hour of sleep due to poor travel planning. These are not excuses as to why I did not finish the race. They are statements of the responsibility I am taking as to why I did not finish the race. Too many times in this world people get trophies when no trophy is deserved. I deserve no trophy, no pat on the back, and no “A” for effort. Michael Jordan was once quoted as saying, “success is nothing more than stumbling from failure to failure.” I look at this race as a failure, but I am not down on myself about it. I just want to be real as to the results that came of my actions. The overall point I’m trying to make is not enough action was done on my part to make this race a successful finish.
I saw my last client on Friday at 3 PM. I had packed a bag, that I jokingly said to my fiancé, “I’m not even sure what I packed in here.” She responded with a loving, “do you have shoes?” I laughed, and responded with a yes. She wished me luck and I was on my way. Three hours and 45 minutes later, I was at the Howard Johnson Hotel in New York State. Most races I am familiar with, you are responsible for all of your own supplies. So I went to the grocery store to pack up. I bought a lot of the usual stuff: nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, couple of Snickers bars, and of course gummy bears. I went to dinner and had a little pasta. By the time I had gotten home, packed my bags for the morning and fell asleep it was 1:30 AM. I had to be up at 2:30 AM. The arrogance in thinking I can run a 50 mile technical mountain trail run on one hour of sleep makes me feel like an ass. All the same, my alarm went off, I made the coffee, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Bear Mountain State Park.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by the awesome staff of Northface. These people really have their act together. They were organized, and very helpful. I learned I did not have to bring all of my own supplies at once. What I should have done is brought several small bags and checked them to be available to me at various checkpoints along the trail route. This is another oversight in my preparation for this race. It would’ve been very helpful to have dry socks and shoes along this very technical mountain trail. When I say technical, I mean very rocky, very wet, with lots of climbs and descends.
“Oh well,” I thought. I’ll be fine. Besides I won’t have to be slowed down by stopping at checkpoints. How wrong I was. I got in line and with some final words from Dean Karnazes himself, we set off into the darkness. One mile in we hit the first creek bed. It wasn’t a crossing, we ran in that creek bed, with runoff from the mountain down the trail. I realized then I was definitely in the wrong shoes. I had a pair Brooks Defiance on, a fantastic shoe which I’ve run many miles in, but not soaking wet with jagged rocks under my feet. I shook the doubt out of my head quickly. It’s important to keep a clear head when you’re doing an activity such as a 50 mile trail run. And I blasted through. For me, the trail was awful. It was wet, slippery, sharp, and I even felt like it was dangerous. Come to find out later someone had broken a leg, another person knocked out a couple of teeth, and there were several injuries along the route. All of this news hits the runner through various checkpoints. See you hear about it. Kind of good, kind of bad. I felt as though I was out of control during a lot of the race. This is never a good feeling. You should always feel like you have some sort of say as to where your right foot hits and when your left foot hits. I didn’t feel that way. I almost felt like each step could’ve been my last, out of control with an element of fear as I slipped on a rock and twisted my knee. It didn’t hurt at first. In fact, it didn’t hurt for a while. I continued to plug along at the top of the field when I came across some runners that I wanted to pass. There was a log off to the left of the trail, so I took advantage and jumped over it. When I landed I felt a little pain in my knee. This is very odd for me, my joints never hurt. I flushed out the thought and kept running. About 2 miles later my knee really started to hurt. My thought was to run through the pain, that’s always my first thought. This was different however. This was joint pain. Not something I’m used to. It felt debilitating. Fear said that I was really hurt, not hurt, but injured. I’m a very in shape runner, meaning I am very durable. So when I twist my knee, perhaps the ligaments don’t pop or tear, rather they stretched. I thought if I keep going I might tear a ligament. The pain was in the back of my knee, and it hurt like hell to negotiate left and right. Had it been a less technical trail I might’ve made it. But I knew that if I wanted to race the rest of the year my best option, my safest option, my smartest option, was to drop out.
Nobody likes to quit. And I’m no different than anyone else. But sometimes the trail wins. Just like no one likes to quit, few people want to look at losing as character building or a lesson in humility. But that’s exactly what this is. One of the doctors that was working on my knee asked me how I was doing. I laughed and replied by saying, “right now I’m struggling with acceptance.” He told me I was smart to stop, and then I may have saved the rest of my year. I said, “thanks, doc.” I needed to hear that; it made me think I had made the right decision. I felt at peace.
This experience is part of my journey. I have already contacted several of my ultra running friends and asked their advice. I have already researched different styles of shoes for different trails. I am not done by any means. Had I not had the humility and awareness to stop, I may have ruined my chances for the rest of this year. It’s a big year, and I have a lot planned.
I ran 22 miles on a very technical mountain course before I dropped out. There was a time in my life, and it wasn’t too long ago, that that was an impossible task. Today it is my failure. That is what always4ward is all about. It’s not picking goals that you can obtain overnight. It’s picking goals that are well out of your reach. So then what you have accomplished is something beyond what you thought you could. My bar for success is always rising. I am always moving forward. I will take this experience, learn from it, and come out a much better trail runner. I’m going to take the time to learn how to manage technical trails, get the right equipment, and I will be ready for the next race of this type. After the race I was reminded by this quote from Theodore Roosevelt from a very good friend of mine.
“Far better is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Dare to dream, dare to go against what some call “commonsense”, and dare yourself to accept the challenge beyond your capabilities. Dare to be with TriJake.