Sunday, October 20, 2013

To the Edge

English: An aerial view of the Fraser Valley i...
Aerial view of the Fraser Valley
by Matt Gray

Over the past six months I've made the habit of listening to the TED Radio hour while out on long runs . . . I might actually say I'm a bit addicted to the program as they splice together three to six TED speakers, and accompanying interviews, into a 50-minute show about a certain topic or theme.  The result is often mind-bending, reality changing, paradigm shifting, and most importantly, it helps me through some of the more mundane training runs.

Back on the Fall Equinox, I ran a 17-mile course from Fraser to Granby up in Winter Park.  Most of this run captured the high drama vistas and terrain of the Rocky Mountains at 9,000 feet, but a four-mile section ran parallel to the roar of traffic on U.S. 40 (only a two-lane road, but on a Saturday in September, the cars and trucks are consistent, and loud). It seemed like the perfect time for a TED Radio Hour fix.

For irony and fitting distraction, I tuned in "To the Edge," an episode which captured the stories of a solo expedition to the North Pole, an unsupported paddle across the Atlantic, deep cave exploring in Mexico, and a French tight rope walker famous for his stroll between the Twin Towers in the early 70s. Needless to say, my highway run didn't compare to even the first moment of any one of these journeys.  I had to remind myself to make the best of the training miles, and I know that they are in preparation for a much longer run in November: the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Diana: Ford Lake
A foggy lake, Photo credit: M. Callow
But this afternoon I went out for what I thought would be another "mundane training run:" a half-marathon course around three of my neighborhood lakes.  It's not that this run isn't pretty and doesn't have some of its own unique challenges, it's just seemingly a long ways away from any sort of edge. At mile 8, all that changed.  During the second of three laps around the largest of the lakes, the sky darkened, rain started to fall, and the wind picked up. I contemplated cutting the run short and heading home, but I decided to enjoy the challenge of running in dropping temperatures.

By mile 11, the rain turned to sleet, the wind chill dropped the temperature to below freezing, and I found myself still two miles from the car, wet, cold, and running at an eight-minute mile pace (two to four minutes faster than my usual long-run stride).  And I wish I had a picture of the smile on my face as I headed up the hill of mile 12, woofing down some high energy waffles and increasing my pace. 

Mile 13 is a low-grade descent during which I took off into my version of a sprint, and then had to do a series of high-step lunges to keep warm at the really long signal light that curses the last half mile. People in passing cars surely thought I was crazy. I just felt driven.


And when I reached the car feeling like I could go on, I looked down at my watch to discover I'd run my first sub-two hour half marathon beating my previous time by eight minutes.  Is a 1 hour and 56 minute time competitive?  Absolutely not.  Is a nine-minute mile average something to brag about in the running world? Not in the least. But was I at the same edge of the man and his team who descend 30 kilometers into caves on multi-day spelunking expeditions?  Surely not.

But I had reached the edge for me, for this day, on this run.  I had found my bliss; I had discovered my Wind Horse.
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