Sunday, August 24, 2014

USA Trail 10km National Championships

Megan and I are married!

I'm still floating, and probably will be for the next 70 years.

Her name is now Megan Roche. Mrs. Roche won the USATF Trail 10km National Championships on our honeymoon, less than a week after we said "I do" in a Colorado mountain meadow.

All wedding photos by the amazing Lindsay Hiatt. Contact her (website here) for the best photographer in the world for all occasions.

So I had the biggest win of my life this week, 6 days before I toed the start line at the Continental Divide Trail Race, this year's US Championship. In the end, the Roches brought home matching National Championships trophies. But the trophy that I can't stop smiling about, and will never stop smiling about, is the one on my left ring finger.

Pre-Race:

Hey, want to see a beautiful bride?



Oh my god I am lucky. And yes, Megan asked if we could go off-trail through dirt and grime to take pre-ceremony wedding photos. This was after a 15 mile, 4000 foot elevation gain run up Independence Pass on wedding morning, plus a 2500 foot mountain bike climb. I am so excited for a life of trying to keep up with Mrs. Roche, playing the role of sherpa and domestique from now until forever.


During an amazing wedding weekend in the mountains of Colorado (wedding blog to come!), we did 15,000 feet of elevation gain over 3 days. Then we flew to North Carolina to visit where we fell in love. The flight to NC was the first direct flight I've ever purchased. Coming from me, that is probably the most meaningful manifestation of true love.

COOTIES!

Long before that most romantic of Southwest flights, we were having a whirlwind month. On July 17, I moved to California with our pup Addie, and we set up our new home. We are 0.3 miles from a Trader Joe's, 0.5 miles from a dog park, and 1 mile from the trails of Rancho San Antonio. So it is basically heaven for Megan and I, and for Addie those three things mean: (1) Stuff to eat; (2) and (3) places to poop. Which I guess makes it heaven for Addie too.

On July 19, we raced the Table Rock 25k in Stinson Beach, the penultimate race in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup. We both won in course records and were profiled in Trail Runner Magazine! Then on August 2, we raced the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase in Park City, Utah, winning in course records again (mine eclipsed a mark set by Rob Krar in 2012), also bringing home $2000 in prize money apiece (profile with awkward picture here). To translate that into David and Megan money, that means 150 trips to the local ice cream shop. In Addie money, that means 20 citations for having a dog off-leash in a California county park.

Mom and Addie do core work.

On August 17, we got married at 10,000 feet elevation outside Aspen, Colorado. Did I mention we are married? I feel like the more times I say it, the less chance there is that it's all just a dream. At this point, I have contusions all over my body from pinching myself.

Then we flew (DIRECT!) to NC. We fell in love on these trails and in these ice cream shops. But, dear lord, did we need to recover from our wedding adventures. After running and biking with Megan in Colorado, I felt like I was hit by a tractor trailer loaded with 33 tons of frozen yogurt. So I was euphoric about the yogurt shower, but still really freaking sore from getting hit by the truck. 

With just 1 day to recover before the National Championships, we got extra at the local ice cream shop. True story: 1.5 years later, they do not only remember our name, but also our frequent customer number.

We also played mini-golf. An angel got its wings and Megan earned a free game.

We also had our typical pre-race dinner, Subway chopped salads. The Subway looked a little sketchy, and it was at Wal-Mart, but it's all the same, right? I got turkey, like always. Megan did something different, and got chicken. That ended up being a bad decision.

In the words of the band Cake, Megan's meal caused bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse. I'm not sure if it was the chicken, or the dingy Wal-Mart Subway (but I know it wasn't the yogurt. DON'T YOU DARE EVEN HINT IT WAS THE YOGURT. I'LL CUT YOU), but it was a tough night. At 4:30 AM, I woke up to a wife who slept about 10 minutes total, who was so pale she looked blue. I made a quick run to the grocery store to grab some pink Pepto for my blue Smurfette, delivering the magical elixir with a "Sorry, this sucks. Don't race today, we'll chase a National Championship next year." "Let's just go and see what happens during the warm-up," she responded through hazy eyes, a pallid complexion, and a well-exercised digestive tract.

We arrived at the race site in the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains to a beautiful morning. Now, I usually always think Megan looks as beautiful as a mountain morning. But pre-race, she looked like death warmed over on a shitty microwave, kind of like downtown Detroit. We jogged the last 2 miles of the extremely technical course, and Megan made a decision: she decided to go for it. Her reasoning was that the course was so technical and treacherous that it was barely running anyway, and she could always jump over logs and bound over bogs.

From the epic wedding morning run. And yes, the bib numbers are our wedding date.

So we toed the line together, alongside a stacked field including Mario Mendoza (amazing guy and 2013 USA Trail Runner of the Year), Ryan Woods (2014 La Sportiva Mountain Cup Champion), and a host of fast road peeps. As the gun was about to sound, the field was a silent storm of nervous anticipation. Suddenly, a delicate yet authoritative sound ripped through the front pack. Megan burped. She belched. And she looked at me. Then laughed.

Everything's going to be okay. Then the gun sounded.

Race:

Important clarification: the gun sounding is not a euphemism for a fart. 

We took off on a slight descent to begin the race. My plan was to ruin everyone's race right off the bat. For the first 0.75 miles, I averaged 4:15 pace on the off-camber grass/roots. It hurt a bit, but I was hoping it hurt everyone else more. After a final 100 meter, 20% plunge down a steep embankment, the trail turned up for the first of four climbs. I was already a bit fatigued, and started worrying about my strategy for just a second. Then I stopped myself. You don't win a National Championship by being conservative. Pain is good when it is on your own terms. 

But, damn, it still hurts. I crested the first climb knowing Mario and Ryan were probably right there, but I used all my will-power to avoid looking back and letting them know I was already exploring nooks and crannies of the hurt locker. After rolling for a half mile, the course nose-dived down a tree-filled game trail. In a trail race this short, you have one good move to make, and I had already used it in the first half-mile. Commit, commit, commit blared through my head.

Wedding photo intermission.

That mantra was briefly interrupted when I took a turn too hastily and flew off into the woods, tumbling in the underbrush. I brushed the dirt off my shoulders and got back on my feet, only to almost immediately twist my left ankle. Then my right. Fuck, it's 2 miles in, 2 of the best trail runners of the last 5 years are on my heels, and I am the most uncoordinated person in the world.

But screw it, I thought. Remember what Megan said: we can always jump over logs and bound over bogs. Every step was technical, but every technical step also meant that fatigue was less important than committing to the task at hand. I grabbed trees for leverage, flailed my arms wildly, and attempted to channel the Mountain Goat Gods for inspiration. Somewhere behind me, they were chasing. But they were going to have to earn it in blood and bruises.

At the halfway point, the course pointed toward the sky and went up a 20% grade for a half-mile. With the World Mountain Running Championships in just 3 weeks, I felt at home on the steep grade, hand-over-fisting my way to the mountain meadow at the top. Just then, halfway into the race, I had a realization: I am married to Megan. That sounds corny, but it is true. This race was a celebration of that fact, and no matter what we were going to share a big sweaty, bloody, and possibly poopy hug afterward.

Our love story made the cover of this month's Endurance Magazine!

At 4 miles, there was a short, steep climb called the Grass Wall, after which the course bombed down an impossibly steep grade on the way to the penultimate climb. Newly energized, I scaled the wall and bounded down the hill. I must not have prayed hard enough to the Goat Gods, because my right ankle gave out again, at a shitty time, and sent me spiraling into the weeds. After the impromptu barrel roll, I picked myself up and forced weight onto the throbbing ankle. Inspired by Megan, I channeled her pre-race comment: on the ankle and tired legs, for the last 2 miles, I was just going to go, give myself a chance, and see what happens.

And I felt good. Maybe the ankle woke me up, maybe it was the Megspiration (Megan inspiration as opposed to Megan perspiration), but I suddenly had energy again. Cranking up the 2nd-to-last climb and back onto insanely technical game trails, I was just so happy to be in the moment, with my bride somewhere on the trails behind me. Up the Rock Wall at mile 6 and over the final climb---it is all a blur really. Suddenly, I was at the top and saw the red, white, and blue flag sitting perfectly still in the NC humidity. And on the loudspeaker: "Your 2014 National Champion, David Roche!"

I crossed the line with my arms up, then the fatigue hit. Shit that was tough. With my arms still up, I went down. The ankle gave out. I didn't think about it once after the twists, but it was already the size of a softball and growing by the second. Megan was somewhere on the trails though, she was sick and vulnerable, and all I could think about was my wife. So I crawled and hobbled to the top of the final climb, desperately asking for news about her race. 

"Did you see the first woman come through earlier?" I asked a small girl spectating with an American flag cheek sticker.

"Yes, she was wearing purple." Her mom said.

"She looked like Superwoman!" the girl shouted.

That's my Megan! It had to be. Sure enough, the girl who was vulnerable and sick just a few minutes before crested the hill, flying over the grass trail and transforming into a super-hero in a sports bra. Seeing her break the tape with the American flag in the background is something I will always remember. Then, just like I had a few minutes before, she crumpled to the ground. I joined her there in sweaty matrimony, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. But hands clasped and wedding rings touching, I realized what made it truly special.

It wasn't even close to the happiest moment of the last week.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!

Thanks so much for everything. Megan and I love you guys, even if we don't talk to you in person. Your support means everything to us. A humongous thanks to Integrity Sports, an amazing company whose support allowed us to travel to race on our honeymoon. You all are amazing!

/we run off into sunset, "Just Married" painted on the backs of our singlets

14 comments:

  1. USA! USA! USA! You guys give new meaning to the terms "trophy wife" and "trophy husband"! Didn't realize Megan was sick and that the course was that crazy! Congratulations and may you continue to fist/hand your way to victory!

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    1. Dylan, we love our trophy friend. Dylan! Dylan!

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  2. Beauty and change indeed. Well done.

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    1. GZ, thanks for everything. I think the world of you, and your blog is what got me to start thinking about blogging way back in the day. You're the man!

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  3. Replies
    1. We owe it all to an awesome mom/sherpa :)

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  4. Wow, you all rocked that (insert expletive of choice here) course. Great run and congrats on the wins, marriage, and life!

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    1. That means so much Brian. My ankle definitely got rocked :) You're so great for saying that!

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  5. Congrats all the way around! Can't beat a Colorado mountain wedding and two National titles.

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    1. You're awesome Jeff, thanks for everything :)

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  6. congrats on everything! you both are an inspiration. couldnt be happier for you. but we still need more poop. just because your married doesnt mean poop and fart jokes arent funny. they always are.

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    1. The poop was implied. I am more subtle now :)

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  7. You are funny. I'm just glad they picked the right Roche for the cover of the magazine...

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    1. I've noticed a pattern Jeremy. We do interviews together, and I don't make the picture. Smart magazines...

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