3rd overall, culminating in a podium kiss with my bronze medal buddy.
|This could have gotten awkward if one of us finished 2nd.|
In the last 6 months, Megan and I have raced in Montana, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, California, Colorado, North Carolina, Utah, Italy, Oregon, and now, Hawaii. We have sampled the local cuisine (Italy: gelato, Oregon: beer, Montana: lost hiker), gotten married in a mountain meadow (our groomspeople were mosquitos), and explored a couple thousand of miles of trails. And last week, all that culminated in being named the male and female USA Sub-Ultra Trail Runners of the Year! This really has been a once-in-a-lifetime whirlwind of a half-year. Thanks Nike and Gu for supporting the adventures!
Results since I last posted:
US 50k Champs: Megan 1st! David 4th!
|Megan winning her 2nd national championship in less than a month.|
Brazen Championship Race: Two 1sts!
|On our taxes, we plan to write-off frozen yogurt as a business expense.|
Mt. Tam Trail Race: Two 1sts!
Moab Trail Marathon: Two…DNFs.
Oh man, that last one. That last one was tough, for both of us. The course just didn't suit us and there was no way to keep going that day. We had planned to end our season after Moab, prepared to run very little and eat just enough ice cream to make like a Twinkie, indestructible and squishy all over. But standing on a slick-rock tower in southern Utah a few hours after the DNFs, we decided to shoot for one more big race. XTERRA Worlds in Hawaii.
The week before the race, I was crossing a street in Alaska when I accelerated to catch a light. Of course, Alaska is the land of snow and ice, and I had an exaggerated, cartoon-like fall onto my butt. Why does David cross the road? To make a fool of himself in front of work colleagues, apparently. But definitely not to get to the other side. He isn’t very good at that. The booty contusion will come back to the story later…
The rest of the week was spent doing my runs on ¾ of an Anchorage block that were mostly ice free. Also, if you run 8 miles back and forth in front of the mayor’s office at 6 AM, you may get questioned by the police. Just an FYI.
After a few 16 hour work days and meals composed primarily of cute, charismatic megafauna, I met Megan in Hawaii. She had med school finals while I was dining on fairy tale creatures in Alaska, so we were both exhausted and one of us smelled vaguely of salmon and caribou. Surprise twist: that person was Megan. She slept with Addie the Adventure Pup while I was gone, and everything Addie touches turns to an exciting, fur-covered olfactory experience.
We had an amazing home-stay in Oahu, just 3 miles from the race-site. Sergio is an amazing athlete and father, who did not ask questions when we treated his 2-year old son Kai like a puppy. “Good boy! Come here for a head scratch! FETCH! /throws tennis ball” In our defense, it’s all we know. Also, Kai actually did fetch the ball, so we’ll probably be the best parents.
The day before the race, we did our shake out jog in the jungle. The best word to describe trail conditions would be moist. It was the moistest. After Alaska, I was sweating from orificies I didn’t know I could sweat from. Ear sweat is a thing, and it makes it harder to hear my own humidity-induced wheezing, which is a good thing.
We woke up on race morning to a gorgeous moon-rise and an even more gorgeous gallon of instant coffee. Sitting there with Megan, an hour before the race, there was a moment of silence on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Thinking of the sacrifice filled us with a humbling swell of gratitude. Being there, at that moment, with my soul mate—that was empowering. Whatever happened in the race, we made a pact. Let’s go for it, fight our asses off, and finish no matter what.
Like the booty contusion, that “no matter what” would come back to the story later…
At 9 AM, the humidity was touching 100% and the sun was rising high into the sky, just as the gun was about to go off. I sprinted to the start line, where Megan was waiting alongside of some of the best trail runners out there. To give context for the next moment, I have to tell a quick story.
In 2010, 2.5 months after we met and 1 month after we said “I love you” for the first time, we did a race that started at midnight on New Year’s Eve. We were both wearing evening-wear, were a couple drinks deep in the night, and were entering the race as non-serious non-runners coming from other sports. As the ball dropped, I leaned over for the obligatory New Year’s kiss. I put my hand on the back of her sparkling dress, and my lips slowly began the descent to her face.
She didn’t even move her head. She just grunted disapproval and took off like a bat out of hell as the start gun fired. She ran a 17:xx in her first race, coming straight from field hockey, in a ball gown, and won an oversized $100 check. That is when I first learned an important lesson. The kiss comes after the race.
Flash forward 4 years. We’re married, with puppy, living 3000 miles away from where we fell in love. And at the start line of the World Championships, 20 seconds before the starting gun, she grabs my hands and gives me the biggest kiss we’ve ever shared (in public).
And just like that, THEY’RE OFF!
Put simply, what came next hurt. It hurt bad. I’m not sure whether it was Alaska, or the exotic meats, or the humidity, or just a long season, but the usual trail race tooth-grinding effort came 10 miles earlier than normal, on the very first climb. But I promised Megan. So I fought.
After 2 uphill fire road miles, I found myself in 3rd, with Patrick Smyth and Brett Hales in sight and the muddy single-track upcoming. The trail wound through jungle trails, past the filming locations for Jurassic Park, Lost, and most of my nightmares involving freakishly large beetles.
I was losing ground to the leaders rapidly, who were out of sight at mile 6, when I was given a 1 min time gap. At that point, I was firmly in my own head anyway. It was going to be a battle fought with a few neurons for the rest of the race. In the back of my battling head, I knew 3rd place had major financial incentives for both Megan and I. But that wasn’t the motivator. It was that crappy feeling after Moab. It was the beauty of the island. Most of all, it was that pre-race kiss.
Also, the freakishly large beetles that could be lurking around any corner provided solid incentives to keep moving. Through the lactic acid and dehydration, I attempted to survive the climbs and push the downs close to 4:30 pace, just to make up as much time as I could when gravity was doing the work. Basically, my internal monologue undulated from “Gravity, FUCK YOU!” on the ups to “Gravity, you complete me!” on the downs. But even the gravity-love on the downs was about to change…
Because at mile 10, at the end of the longest climb of the day, we came to the descent from hell. 2 steps in, I fell, tumbling off the single-track trail. Get up, David, GET UP. Then I fell again. And again. And again. It was a mud-slick down a 20% grade, with no traction and nowhere to hide. So I decided to roll with it. Literally, roll with it, spending the majority of the down on my butt or my side, slipping-and-sliding down as fast as I could (which ended up being 11 min pace down the half-mile climb).
I survived, bruised and battered, sure that 4th place was breathing down my neck. I got up, covered in blood and mud, and decided to fight. It was a feeble fight, to be sure, but I recommitted to the single-track, with 5 min pace becoming 6 min pace and 7 min pace. I was moving forward though. Relentlessly forward. Then down to the ground on a slick spot. Then forward again.
After a few miles of pain, I made it to the finish, 3rd overall at XTERRA Worlds. And I promptly collapsed. Refusing to budge from a spot of shade at the end of the finishing chute, I waited for Megan. Moving between worrying about blacking out to worrying about my wife, I sat there dumping water on my head and attempting to keep myself together enough to avoid being carted away. A few minutes later, in third place as well, Megan crossed the finish line. Without seeing me, she collapsed. And when she hit the ground, she was right next to me in the same spot of shade at the end of the finishing chute.
We spent the next 30 min in the med tent, sharing one cot. We did post-race interviews curled up in the fetal position, side-by-side, until we recovered enough to sit upright. Sitting there, our grimaces turned to smiles, which turned to giddy laughs. We made it. We fought. And now, it was after the race.
So, in the tradition started on that first New Year’s together, she hugged me, and we kissed.
|Med tent romance.|
Thanks so much to everyone for all of your support this year. I am writing this story with a booty that is the shape and size of the Goodyear blimp. And the same color too, if the Goodyear blimp looked like a mostly-purple Jackson Pollack painting. At my much needed, impromptu standing desk, I have pictures from this year, from all those different locations. And the biggest take-away is how much I love the community we have met along the way. YOU ALL ARE AMAZING. The biggest thanks to Nike Trail Running for believing us. In 2015, it's time to really live up to the Nike Trail Team hashtag of choice. #werundirty