Annie's a mountain woman!

No, that’s not the devil!  That’s Annie!  She’s a mountain woman!

If the devil is that “voice,” I’d say he’s always there. But I’m getting practiced at telling him to chill out!

It’s a great year to be alive. I am around 1.8% older, chronologically speaking. Time truly does march on. Powerlessness!

But I’m now about 5% faster than last year, averaging two foot races. Effectively defying age? By my deductions, assuming aging naturally slows us down, I’m now around 7 percent more awesome than I was last year at this time. How cool!

How did I do it? Well, by ignoring that negative “voice” that says to ease off. Using age as an excuse is lame. It’s a good way to die prematurely. Believe! Push! Push some more! Recover with great nutrition and rest, stretching and cross-training. Push some more! God gave me this body to use to its fullest potential. Waste this amazing gift? No way Jose!

I now believe in an interval-focused training schedule. Since I’m (temporarily?) off the marathon carousel, there are more opportunities to run intervals. Simple logic says I must run fast to be able to run fast. I must train with speed to be able to run fast on race day. Ricky Bobby had at least one thing right: it feels good to go fast!

Another thing I’ve tried, by accident, is to run “blind.” No timing device to tell me my pace. Just shorts, a shirt, sunglasses and a willing spirit. It turns out that my heart and lungs know how fast they can go.

The two races Annie and I have run so far this year have had very different starts. The St. Patrick’s 10k offered a downhill first mile, teasing me to go out very fast, which I did. I was running like a kid. Yeah! But then the devil was fed. After about a half mile, my heart and lungs required me to slow down. So they started passing me. And passing me. Crap! How many are there? Dozens, as it turns out. Those folks that are faster than me! My mind said “shit!” I’m too out of shape and I just can’t do it. I might as well walk. Go back and train until you’re really ready. NOOOOOO! I’ve been down that path. Quitting is as addictive as drinking or drugging. They all drag you down to the depths.  That is no place to be. Just keep running dude! You really still have no idea what pace you’re going. I did have an Ironman watch, but I somehow missed the start button. It has no GPS and I wasn’t really sure what time was on the mis-set clock when we started. I didn’t bring the I-Phone, because it’s too heavy. But foot racing is not rocket science. You find what pace you can sustain and do it, pushing the inner voice that wants to ease off. Mental toughness plays a huge part in race day success. So I ran as fast as I could, getting passed just before the mid-point by a friend who I knew was fast. Either she had slowed down a bunch or I was doing pretty well. I found myself focusing even harder on mile five, the section when I slowed down last year. As I approached the finish, climbing the hill, I thought I saw a 49 on the clock. When I got closer, I saw that it was definitely a 49. I sprinted with an amazing burst, hoping to break 50 minutes. 50:01. Wait until next year! That was over 2.5 minutes faster than last year and a few minutes ahead of Annie. My streak continued!

The Badger Mountain Challenge is Annie’s home course. She stares at Badger all the time, as it overlooks her home in Richland. She trains there, in masochistic delight. She’s also my personal trainer, when possible, and she’s not into easy. Easy is a four letter word to her. She’s a get ‘er done type of person.

Badger just happens to be the devil’s home course too. It opens with somewhere around 1.3 miles of an uphill grind, often steep and even requiring some stairs. It could be called heart-attack hill, except we’re smart enough to walk much of it. It truly makes Bloomsday’s “Doomsday” hill look wimpy. After summiting, it’s a long downhill section of winding trails and roads, where we run very fast. Then a long, relatively flat section along the back side of the mountain precedes a gentler route up the second ascent. The capper is another long section of downhill curves, then the stairs and a sprint to the finish. 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) is not short and not brutally long. But the hills can sap your energy or trick you into excess walking. Toughness to run and wisdom to walk are important for most of us. Or just stay as close to Annie as possible! Her powerful legs are strong on the ascents and amazingly fast on the descents. I did well on the ascents, but she pulled away on the descents. She was determined to beat me, and so she did, by 33 seconds. Annie is the new family champion! She was 3 minutes faster than last year and I was 5.5 minutes faster than my earlier effort. We pushed each other to succeed. It was a beautiful thing, knowing that we’d given it all we had. Averaging over ten minutes per mile on this course  felt like averaging eight minutes on flatter courses. Badger is magnificently brutal!

It’s proper to note that Annie even beat me at my logic. She ran 3.5% faster than last year and she’s 4.5% older, making her arguably 8% more awesome than last year. I’m not entirely sure this logic works in her age class, but it’s my formula, so I should keep my whining to myself…..

With running, you can’t really sell bullshit. You’ve earned your condition and you  control your mental toughness on race day. You get to face your reality. It’s wonderful! So the smack-talking I do is self-motivational, as well as to prod others. It gets me out on the trails. We love to see each other do well, but we want to win! So, of course, we win either way! But there’ll be no losing without a fight. So y’all get ready for Bloomsday! If you beat me, I want to make you earn it! Run well!

Banana +  Recoverite = Bloomsday preparation!

Banana + Recoverite = Bloomsday preparation!