I just watched the second Kilian Jornet movie “Summits of My Life-Déjame Vivir”. It reinforced what an amazing athlete he is and someone who clearly takes some risks. Watching this initially made me think how conservative I am in my approach to running. However I then began to reflect on 2013 and realized that I did push myself in new ways last year that continue to impact my decisions this year.
Navacerrada, Spain – Early June 2013
Last year I had a business meeting in Madrid, Spain. It was my second time to this beautiful country but unfortunately I was staying near the airport rather than close to the historic downtown. Based on the location and business, most of my time was spent in the hotel for meetings and meals. However, I did find out after arriving that I would have most of my last day free.
Although it was last-minute, I decided that I wanted to run some trails in Spain given all of the amazing races that take place there. I went on-line and found a race that took place in a town about 1 hour north of Madrid called Navacerrada. I thought the difficult to read race map for the Gran Trail Penalara 110K would at least serve as a guide for where to run. Despite numerous fears, I decided to rent a car and to try to find my way to the mountains to run for a few hours before heading back to the US.
My excursion my last day in Spain started off a little rocky as the people at the hotel thought I was crazy when I told them what I planned. If this, and the fact I could not read most of the road signs wasn’t unsettling enough, the rental was a standard and I had not driven a stick shift in nearly 20 years.
I successfully navigated my way to the town, found the trail head, and began my adventure. As I started off, I saw a gentleman getting out of his car with running gear. Javier was a local runner planning to ascend the same mountain I showed him on my map. This was not easy since Javier spoke very little English and my
Spanish is limited to about a dozen words including “agua”. However, despite a huge language barrier we did our best and spent several hours climbing over 3000’ to the top of La Maliciosa (7700’). It was great day climbing hills steeper than I had ever experienced and trying to keep up with Javier who descended as if he was sliding down the side of the mountain. It was an experience that I will never forget and made me a better runner as a result.
Manitou’s Revenge –June 22, 2013
After I returned home I decided that I wanted to run one more race before Leadville 100 in August. I found a race the week before it was scheduled to occur but registration was closed for Manitou’s Revenge. It was the inaugural run and I reached out to the race director (RD) to see if I could get in. He initially tried to talk me out of it given the level of difficulty but my ego reared its head and I was even more determined to run… what was I thinking?
The RD allowed me to run the 56 miles that ran on part of Devil’s Path, often described as the toughest and most dangerous hiking trail in the
Eastern US. I assumed that the race might take me 12 hours since I had completed a difficult 100 miler in 26 hours and a challenging 50 mile race in 9 ½ hours the previous year. I had told my wife I’d be home for a late dinner given the 5am start and 2 hour drive home. However, 19 hours and 25 minutes later I finished on the following morning exhausted and shocked.
The decision to run this race last minute was an insane idea. However it was one that I was so grateful for at Leadville. Unlike my previous races, Manitou’s Revenge required much more hiking than running and challenged me more mentally and physically than any other race. The race was not only difficult because of how long it took but because I also had to use my of upper body strength to
pull myself up and lower myself down sections of the course. In retrospect, it was probably the hardest race I have completed and one which best prepared me for future challenges.
More to come
These two last minute decisions offered me new experiences which made me stronger and helped me to meet incredible people. They are events that I believe gave me confidence to try new approaches to training as well as to engage with new individuals who are helping me in my faith journey …. but I’ll cover that next time.