Seventeen Seconds - Part Three

Ten years ago, I attempted qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials - Seventeen seconds that changed my future. Read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Four years is a long time to hang on to a dream - especially when the pursuit of the dream had cost so much physically and emotionally. I still wanted it - but now I was missing 1:17. The trials standard had been lowered to 2:47 and I was already questioning if I could seriously run that fast. After all, 2:48:17 had hurt beyond anything I had ever imagined. I did my research though - the window would be open for one day in 2005, then re-open in mid 2006 until one month before the trial in Boston, 2008. I would rehab and recover well from my surgery and try at the Twin Cities marathon. If that didn't work, I would make one attempt in 2006 and one attempt in 2007. But I'd learned my lesson - no more 90-95 mile weeks, more recovery and actually listening to my body while training. At least that was the plan...

Then I saw an ad for a triathlon in Nevada. An iron distance race that was advertising its self as the "world's most grueling triathlon." I was intrigued. Deep down, I'd already given up on qualifying - when I lined up with some of the really fast runners I looked like a line backer. Twenty pounds too heavy and five inches too short - and no longer willing to run the high mileage everyone said was required for qualifying. But this triathlon - now that looked interesting. I always wanted to do an iron distance race. We were even planning on using Ironman Wisconsin for our Wisconsin marathon. And here was this inaugural event, set in a very pretty and challenging area of the country. Before I even saw the course profile, I was signed up. I wanted to be one of the first to challenge the Silverman course. I was starting to do a few shorter triathlons and really had fun - my swimming background combined with my running led to some solid results. And it was fun. A lot more fun then just running. The final nail was helping my then boy-friend with a 24 hour mountain bike race in 2005. I ran his pit, keeping him and his buddy rolling. I did a little mountain biking on the course, but was terrified of the rocks and didn't ride much. But it looked like fun - like a real challenge. Something more then just running fast for three hours. Something that required both endurance, speed and mental strength, as well as solid prep and planning. As a novice mountain biker, I was sure I'd never do a solo 24 hour race, but I still wanted to try. There was so much more to experience then just running

All that was happening as I was trying to train for Twin Cities. On an unusually humid day in Minneapolis, I lined up, feeling somewhat ready. But in the first mile, I changed my plans. I wasn't ready to run that fast - I would be happy for just running under 3:00. Even that didn't happen as I finished in 3:05, disappointed in my performance. But I had my bike with me. My fiance and I rode around his home town, getting stared at by the locals. They never saw bikes, or spandex or any of that in Park Rapids! I also had Silverman coming up. And I was more excited about that then anything else. Something different - something new. Something challenging. I'd finally seen the course profile and knew I was in for something big.

I loved every minute of that race. Every photo - smiling huge. I had a blast. The swim was awesome, the bike hard as hell and the run a slap in the face. And I wanted more. Silverman would end up becoming one of the primary focuses in my training for the next five years and I'm still sorry that it's no longer around. I wasn't just running anymore and I was having more fun then ever. I was still running marathons - working on finishing the 50 states, but I wasn't trying to run fast. In 2006, I ran 8 marathon going under 3:00 twice. I didn't think about trying to qualify that year. In 2007, I made a final attempt but again blew up spectacularly. And promptly turned my attention to IMWI. If I couldn't run in the trials, I would qualify for Kona. With a fast swim, solid bike and (for me) sub-par run, I met that goal easily. Instead of the trials, 2008 would be the year of the triathlon. I finished three iron distance races that year, including Kona. I decided that I wouldn't worry about marathons anymore and would focus on triathlons.

I would stay in triathlons for a few more years, trying my hand on the Xterra circuit instead of the hyper road scene. I loved the racing and the places I was getting to see. But I was starting to see a side of triathlons I didn't like. I would always return to the long distance racing and riding and find that's where I wanted to be. It would take three years for me to figure that out. All the while watching Nick head out for long, epic days on his mountain bike and wishing I could join in the fun. Especially after racing my first 24 hour race with my husband (the same race I crewed for him at.) There was so much going on and such a fun, low key crowd. That was the turning point.

Finally, in 2012, I'd had enough. I just wanted to ride my bike and be able to do things with my husband, not travel across the country trying to force myself into a square I'd never fit. I turned my back on triathlons to ride ultra distance mountain bike events. And doing so, I found where I belonged. Not among the svelte twigs running marathons. Not among the type A road triathletes. Not among the speedy but technically lacking Xterra athletes. But on real single track - riding up mountains, down mountains, through forests and meadows. My lack of speed suddenly didn't matter as the time stretched out during 24 hour races. It's about finding something that you love, something that you can share with the people in your life. It's not about the racing, it's about the journey that takes you to the starting line. The journey is what's worth doing, worth experiencing. Every new trail, every time I clean a rock garden - it's another step in a life long adventure.

Where would I have been if I'd run seventeen seconds faster in 2003? Good question. I've pondered it many times, but always return to the same answer. Struggling with injuries, trying to hold onto something I never really had? Burnt out and not even wanting to participate in sports? I don't see success or happiness had I qualified - just another back of the pack runner at the end of the day. But because I failed and didn't meet my goals, I was sent onto another path. One that has led me to where I am today. Getting to ride my bike with my husband as he has patiently helped me excel with technical riding. Fun camping trips with amazing single track. Sharing a podium with the man I love at 24 hour races. Sitting among the trees, staring at maps, plotting new adventures. Would I give any of that up for seventeen seconds in 2003?

Hell no!

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