The goal for 2015 was to do the Half Marathon at the Into the Wild Running Festival at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg, CO, the same race I ran my first 5k at in 2014. That goal was short lived as I struggled with what I now know was ITB syndrome for most of the spring. I ended up focusing on attending run club which really attracted a lot of people early on, and really grew into a community when we started a weekly Thursday night pub run.
Along with run club, I sort of fell into the mindset of lifestyle running: just running for pleasure and not so much attention on running races. The side effect of that focus in 2015 was really building up a base. The pain in my right knee subsided as summer came around. I made sure to get in a couple of 10k distance runs every month. My wife and I would go hiking with our dogs every couple of weeks. It was working great.
In September, I went out to do a meandering, weekend long run and ended up winding my way around town and hitting the 10 mile mark while still being a couple miles from home. I decided that since I was going to end up so close to the half marathon distance, that I should go find that extra mile somewhere. It was a struggle, but I did it. I did it again a little faster and a little stronger on a run chasing down items on the #RunChatHunt photo scavenger hunt list in December.
Being a part of the online running community, it’s hard to stay away from the race mindset. Twitter chats and blogs and podcasts are full of people doing amazing things while training for or running races. A couple of my Twitter friends ran a timed race over the New Year holiday into 2016 aptly called Across The Years. It’s in Arizona on a flat course just over a mile in length. There are several races to pick from over 6 days, but the people I follow ran 24 hour races, and both broke the 100 mile mark. Their stories inspired me to look into that format a little more.
Another thing I was inspired to look into was a little vegan restaurant in Omaha, NE called Modern Love, created by renowned cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I knew that she was planning on opening another one in Brooklyn in 2016. Since Omaha is closer to me than Brooklyn, I thought it’d be pretty cool to get out there and try it before all my online New York vegan friends got to. Being a runner, the next search is “Omaha race.” There are options. Then, even though Nebraska has a reputation for being flat farm land, I searched “Omaha Trail Running.” The first thing that comes up is GOATz: Greater Omaha Area Trailrunners. On their website is a handful of trail races they put on. I was quickly drawn to the Dizzy Goat, a 12/6/3 hour timed run on a 3+ mile loop, with a surprisingly daunting topographic profile, “dizzy” or “washing machine: style: switching course directions each lap. I registered for the 6 hour race, and vacation planning was on.
I initially thought I’d keep it quiet from my other running friends. I thought I’d return and tell the story of this epic 6 hour battle and pushing myself through the June heat and humidity to some surprising number of miles. Like returning to run club to praise to boost my ego or something, but I know from experience that that sort of thing never pays off the way your ego hopes. Three of my run club teammates were training for half Ironman triathlons. One was training to qualify for Boston. One had just finished her first marathon, in her 60s. There were these people around me all working hard with big goals, it was best to put my big goal out there too, and share in the experience. That’s one of the perks of a team. The goal I put out was 50k in 6 hours. It seemed doable. I saw the top finishers at previous years’ races, There were not many over that mark. I knew it was a huge challenge, but that was the goal.
I registered for that race in March, and set to a training plan pretty quickly. I’d train on scraps, like a friend of mine would say. I’d run to meet my wife at the store for our weekly grocery trip. I’d run to run club, run with the club, maybe do another lap, then run home. I’d put together as many of the 20-40 foot hills of my city together in one run as I could. I started learning how to work up the motivation to get up early on Saturday or Sunday and drive up to some trails in the area and get my long runs in. Because for whatever reputation Nebraska and Colorado have, Omaha is much more hilly than Greeley. It’s not too far to get some real hills, but it does take getting out of my city. I had great times getting out of the city and on to some single track and hit big marks like my first 20 mile run, out and back on the Devil’s Backbone/Big Sky trail system in Larimer County.
I recapped the Dizzy Goat race on my blog while it was fresh in my memory last June, so I won’t go into too much detail beyond saying it is still the proudest moment I’ve had running almost a year later. Training came up a tad short of my plan, but I felt great going into the race. Rain the night before caused a change in the course, from something like 3.2 mile loop to 3 flat. I came up short of my top,”if everything goes perfectly” goal of 10 laps of the original course, but finished 9, officially 27 miles in 5:58:47. I even made a custom “27” sticker with the hashtag #BarelyUltra cuz I’m silly like that.
Since the Dizzy Goat last June, I tempered my audacious goals a little bit. I focused more on half marathons and getting stronger on trails. But since I first discovered the Dizzy Goat format, I had ideas about organizing a similar run at the one park in my city that’s close to trail running, with gravel trail and a bit of a hill. To start 2017, for my 36th birthday, I invited my friends out to Josephine Jones Park to run the Dizzy JoJo 6 Hour. I asked a nominal donation to a chosen charity from everyone who came, then had a birthday running party. It was a casual run, with lots of breaks. The other people came and went, not actually sticking around for six hours, but I kept my clock running from 10am till just after 4pm. I was proud this time to break that nearly year old goal of 50k in just over 6 hours, and raise over $150 for the Dear Jack Foundation.
Otherwise, 2017 has a been a little more like 2015 thus far. I’m sort of feeling things out again, trying to decide some goals and live life as a husband, teammate, vegan, athlete, and whatever else I am. I’ll probably explore that more in an upcoming post.
I hope that gives the Vegan Runners Club team and followers and friends reading this a good look into who I am and how I’ve gotten here over the past few years. I really can’t stress enough how much things have changed over the past few years. I want to talk about these things I’ve accomplished not just to brag, but to tell anyone reading this that if I can do this, you can do this, and nothing is more rewarding than learning that. Let me know how I can help you take that next or first step: Twitter, Insta, and Strava.