25 Hours of Frog Hollow. Then on Nov. 16 Beat, myself and two friends are traveling to Nepal for a six-day, 155-mile stage race through the Annapurna Foothills with Racing the Planet. And right now, October, is when I have to get my body ready for all of this.
How does one train for a 25-hour solo mountain bike race followed by crazy travel sandwiched around a 155-mile, week-long run, and still be at least partially productive in other aspects of life? I wish I knew the answer to this question. For now I'm just trying the strategy of ride, run, write, ride, visit with friends in town from Utah, send-emails, write, run, blog, and maybe occasionally sleep and eat. For an unstructured person my days seem surprisingly busy.
But I was wrong. After four miles the trail does not get easier, it turns to singletrack and becomes even steeper. If I wanted to run at all, even just to shuffle at a pace only slightly faster than walking, I had to push my effort to the redline. My ragged gulps of air turned to desperate gasps, sweat streamed from my pores in full shower mode, and the 74-degree air felt unbearably hot. But I was going to *run* the *whole way* because I was *running* so just harden up and ...
I'm not sure how I actually made it to the peak. I'm suspicious that I may have even blacked out for a half mile, but when I staggered onto the final crest I had a strong urge to just curl up in a fetal position next to a rock and maybe if I was lucky I would die quickly. I'm only exaggerating slightly; I really haven't felt that bad during a workout in a long while. I was six miles into a 17-mile run.
This is the part where I knew the learning experience would begin, and I knew it would be painful. I began shuffling down the steep trail and developed a side stitch almost immediately. I was already breathing badly through my congested nose; the side-stitch made oxygen even more scarce. I continued to gasp and shuffle on a downhill grade that I can normally almost coast. It was bad. I was in pain. Running is hard.
It took four slow miles for the side stitch to finally loosen its grip. By then I had reached a rolling section of trail, gentle climbs and more steep descents. This is the part where my IT band started to tighten and hurt. By now, I was just angry. Running is hard. Why is running so hard? When I ride a bicycle, even if the ride is long and difficult, it's almost never painful. Running, even when my route is short and easy, almost constantly is. This is the part where fellow cyclists nod their heads in agreement and say, "Yes, this is why humans invented bicycles, so they wouldn't have to run." I'm inclined to agree. And yet — in my own strange universe where struggle and pain travel arm-in-arm with reward and bliss — this is what makes trail running so appealing to me. Running is difficult. It's so disproportionally difficult that I can't simply accept the difficulty at face value. I want to accept the challenge, embrace it, and run with it, so to speak.
So today I suffered for the entirety of 17 miles and I wasn't even fast, even relative to myself, nor did I take a single photograph. But I did it, and I learned some things. And perhaps when I'm in a really amazing place like Nepal, I'll be able to take what I've learned and run that extra mile, the one I didn't think was even possible. After all, that's what running is about.