Monday, December 30, 2013

Part II. Touring Vermont by Bike Instead of by Foot. Having fun with failure.

11 Nov 2011 –The pinnacle race for most ultrarunners is the 100 miler; like the marathon to the distance runner, and the 100 meters to the sprinter.  After completing several 50 mile races I felt ready to tackle the 100. I chose the July 2012 Vermont 100 – one of the oldest endurance running races in the country – to be my first 100 mile challenge. Frankly, I chose Vermont because it seemed less daunting than other western 100s (think mountains and altitude). Plus we could stack the trip by a summertime with my wife’s family in nearby New Hampshire.

19 June 2012 – Spring training and racing went surprisingly well. I had two first places in two 50 mile races! However, I failed to reign in my excitement and developed a running injury following the 2nd 50. I took time off and rested but it persisted. So I made the decision and finally cancelled my registration.

Disappointment consumed me. I failed. Or was I in some small way…actually relieved? Relieved as I still could not mentally fathom what it would take to complete 100 miles. I stewed.

Lisa with her wisdom suggested we bike tour through Vermont instead. It was a brilliant plan to keep me from stewing and re-focus my attention – especially while on vacation. She packed up her Bike Friday, a foldable travel size bike, and I borrowed a friend’s Bike Friday. We mapped out a 6 day tour through Vermont’s southern Green Mountains.

Bike touring is a bit like ultrarunning. You gain a sense of freedom to explore and feel alive each pedal stroke of the way. With a good map you can explore back roads at a casual pace, pull off and swim in a creek, devour local eats, and then go some more.

Local eats. And sample we did!
Vermont is a bike touring paradise. Lean-to shelters at state campgrounds with local swimming holes keep you well protected and refreshed. The lazily winding roads have idyllic restful spots scattered along. Locally made pickled beets and homemade pies can be found at about any country store.

30 July 2012 – On the 2nd to last night of our bike tour we found ourselves at a campsite near where the Vermont 100 race is held. As that dawned upon me I thought back to the quad burning hills we had climbed and whipped back down that same day on our bikes. I realized how painful these New England hills can be even though we were not in the Rocky Mountains or Arizona’s Sky Islands.

The bike tour showed me new freedoms and joys I had not experienced before. I let go of my disappointment and was grateful for our time together touring by bike.

…fast forward 10 months…

8 June 2013 – Plodding through the 18 mile aid station at the San Diego 100 I began questioning my decision to race. Why had I not let myself drop like the previous year for Vermont? I could be relaxing on the beach, body surfing in the waves … I consciously let up my pace as I considered the next 80 miles coming up. The sun blazed overhead as I picked my way along the Pacific Crest Trail. To keep the negativity at bay, I turned my thoughts towards my running form. An efficient less impactful form equals conservation of energy. This is what gets a runner through the long hours.

Up Next: Part III.  A breakthrough – redefining myself as a runner with barefoot form

One of many swimming holes
- on the sunny days.
Luxury lean-to shelters at
state campgrounds.
Even the bikes needed a rest
hauling up the Vermont hills.

1 comment:

  1. Great account of your experiences, Catlow. Wonderful for you to share them. Thank you.