Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Putting the "Mull" in Mulligan

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” -Robin Williams

About 355 days ago, I set out to run 100 miles.  Within the virtual bowels of the interwebz lies an unpublished draft of my 2014 Vermont 100 race report.  I could never figure out how to write up that experience without coming across as an annoying, navel-gazing whiner . . . not sure that the almost-50.5 weeks which have since passed have allayed that concern, but here I am again, on the brink of embarking on this journey for a second time.

Last year, I was reasonably well-trained, but extremely anxious and wound up in the weeks leading up to the race.  I'd just gotten married, had a wonderful honeymoon, and was managing a busy law practice, split-schedule parenting, and the generally hectic and unrelenting projectile nature of modern American life.
This year . . . ummmmm . . . no weddings or honeymoons, at least.

The 2014 Vermont 100 Endurance Run began well for me.  I was present, happy, social, in control . . . for the first third of the race.  Then came the first "bad patch", swollen hands, concerns about over-hydration leading to hyponatremia.  I weighed in at Mile 47; 5 pounds heavier than my pre-race weight.  The first-year Medical Director told me I was done.  I didn't argue.  I just did the manly thing and burst into tears. 

Blood work at the at the ER confirmed that things were trending towards trouble, so dropping out was objectively and reasonably the right thing to do.  But, not once in 355 days has it felt to me like the right thing.  Not one day has passed that I have not thought about how I might have approached 2014's race differently.  Not once have I truly accepted that I gave my best that day, and that my best was no where near good enough.  Seriously, if that was my best, then I had better hang up the shoes and find some other leisure pursuit.  I've heard a lot - A LOT - about CrossFit, but do I have what it takes to bring my self-involvement and tireless proselytizing to the next level?  No, I'm not quite there ... yet. ;-)

The disappointment of letting myself, my crew, my friends, my family, and my donors (to the four causes for which I was running) down has gnawed at me like little else in my life.  I knew from the moment that I threw in the disgustingly sweaty towel that I would be back this year . . . and would keep coming back until I cover every inch of that 100+-mile course from start to finish in one try, and in less than 24 hours.  Having joined the race committee as the Sponsor/Vendor Coordinator has only increased my appreciation and esteem for what this event is all about: the myriad moving parts, the community engagement and coordination, the collective effort towards adventure and self-improvement.  And beer.

So, he we are, with mostly the same crew, plus my 14-year-old son Carter, and a baby-to-be-named later (due in early-September), ready to put myself out there again and finish what I started last year.

This year, I think I'm in comparable physical shape.  A year older, of course.  Hips still cranky.  Hair unruly, but shorter in the back.  But, I am far more ready for the mental aspect of this challenge.  How?  PATIENCE  By definition, the primary aim of any race is to get from Point A to Point Z as quickly as possible.  But, much like the Vermont 100's elevation profile, this is by no means a linear pursuit, and success is not measured solely by digital numbers on a clock. 

I am prepared to endure discomfort, pain, challenges, obstacles, both expected and unforeseen.  I have spent much more time training to walk big hills for long stretches.  My ultra-running best-pal Nate has introduced me to overnight walks.  Now I know how it'll feel to keep moving when physical exertion meets sleep-deprivation and things start to get loopy.

One other similarity from 2014 is that I am raising money again.  this time, though, just for one cause which has become a major part of my running and non-running life: the Massachusetts Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired (MABVI), specifically its Team with a Vision (TWAV).

Oh, and I'll run a (short) section of the Vermont 100 course blindfolded, with a guide, of course.  Why keep things straightforward if there's a way to make them more challenging?

If you'd like to donate to the cause, please click here: .  Even if you aren't in a position to make a donation, please consider becoming either a sighted running guide for blind/VI athletes, or otherwise volunteering in your community.

As for mental preparation, I have been reading about extreme endurance, and have received some excellent chestnuts along the way:
  • "The key is to keep moving while you decide whether you can keep moving." -Ray C.
  • "You can always do/give more than you think you can." -Lots of wise folks
  • "A 100-miler isn't an athletic event.  It's a spiritual experience." -Joe H.
  • "The more you try to force your plan on the race, the harder the race will fight back with a plan of its own. So embrace the shit show". -Jenn Shelton
You get the idea.

And so, it is with a year's worth of daily contemplation -- i.e., "mulling" -- that I get my 100-mile race do-over -- a.k.a., a "Mulligan" -- where I will have another opportunity to find my limits, expand them as needed, all the while being supported by some of my closest family and friends, in the midst of a wonderful community of like-minded adventurers, while covering some of the most beautiful terrain in creation.

Some -- like, say, every older Jewish relative I speak with -- may ask, "Why do you do this?"  The reasons are plentiful, ranging from poetic to philosophical to psychological to spiritual to inspirational to selfish to insipid.  On one end of the spectrum is the fact that setting huge, intimidating personal goals leads to greater growth and self-awareness.  On the other, that I want to earn a pewter belt-buckle to wear around for the next 365 days . . . well, maybe not EVERY day, but most of them.  And definitely through airport security, so that I may remove it with a flourish and loudly identify its nature and origin to anyone within earshot.

Come to think of it, maybe I am ready to try CrossFit.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates . . . or, if you actually have an interesting life of your own, don't.


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