16 September 2010

Reach the Edge

Tomorrow I set off on an adventure. Not really a race, just an adventure. Yes, after a number of years of contemplating it, I’m finally running the Reach the Beach Relay, somewhat by accident, but running it just the same. The bigger theme of the week, however, is riding the thin edge between crash training and injury, so I’ll call this Reach the Edge week.

Reach the Beach is a 209 mile odyssey through New Hampshire, starting in my beloved White Mountains at Cannon Mountain at the top of Franconia Notch (where it will be tough for me to get back in the van with my team without heading off for a summit first…), and winding its way down to Hampton Beach, along a route not even remotely direct.

The finish point is somewhat ironic. I’ll spend over a day heading for a destination that, while I’ve never really been there (I think I drove the main drag once?), I associate with tacky beach businesses and partying crowds. With me being a mountain person and it being a beach, it’s already starting out handicapped in the impression department, though admittedly some recent R&R on Cape Cod have bent my opinion of beaches significantly upward. Nevertheless, Hampton is not a high spot on my list. Shame on me for being so judgmental for so many years, but it is ironic to work so hard to leave a place I so love just to get to a place I could so care less about.

But then again, after working so hard to get there, I may just fall in love with the place and find its hidden beauty. That’s one of the cool things about running and racing. I have tremendously fond memories of places like downtown Lowell and Buffalo, neither considered the garden spots of their regions, just from memories of running and racing adventures. And so this adventure could in fact transform into a new appreciation for a place I associate with heavy traffic and beer-swilling beach types with loud radios and oversized coolers who like to engage in what used to be known as sunning but what I refer to as active cancering.

But that’s really not the point of this story. I just got carried away a bit.

While I’ve wanted to run this relay for a number of years, Reach the Beach wasn’t even on my radar this year. I didn’t seek it out just as I haven’t sought out any races all summer, and only recently tried to return to the land of the living. But my same club friend Bill who lit me up on the forty-dollar marathon (or, as I previously noted, the inexpensive training motivation program) dropped me a note last week that his team of twelve numbered only eleven, and would I consider jumping in?

It’s like giving candy to a baby. What, are you kidding?

Now, the funny part is that I was signed and sealed before I even knew who I was running with. I knew this wasn’t a team racing for glory, this was a team out for a fun adventurous run. Super, no pressure, just fun, I’m in. And Bill told me it was a group from his church, where I know he’s very active. We’ve had numerous chats about promoting the church life and though we’re of different denominations (I’ve always been amused by that word, what, I’m a ten, he’s a twenty?) we’re pretty much on the same page. So I knew I was going to be an honorary Lutheran for a day and a half, and I’m cool with that.

What I didn’t realize is that his team – no, make that our team, known as “Outer Body” – is doing this as a fund-raiser for a food bank ministry his church runs. So I’m sort of kind of maybe accidentally begging for donations to the Central Food Ministry of Lowell. Which is a place, as I noted before, of which I have fond memories. Funny how these things connect. Anyway, I figure since we’ll be tooling around in the Food Ministry’s van on the back roads of New Hampshire, I’d be a good sport to ask for some donations to their cause. So, all six of you reading this, consider this a plea, email me, and drop a few bucks to a good cause.

Now, what was my point again? Right, the edge. We’re now down to two weeks to that marathon. I managed a seventeen-and-a-half miler late last week, and, feeling good, kept up the intensity for a couple of days, hitting a respectable fifty miles over five days. And whammo, the shin injury came back, with a vengeance. Well, what did I expect, anyway?

So we dance. A few more days off. Then, much by accident, but a great motivator, Reach the Beach. Considering the lingering injury, not really at a good time, but how often does life fall exactly as you want it? I cover nineteen miles, which would be a good training run for the marathon if it were in one shot, except that it’s in three legs, so it’s not. Which means that next week I’ll need to get a twenty-miler in, or I am pretty much doomed to the death shuffle come the high miles on the west side of Newfound Lake. But a twenty following shortly after Reach the Beach is of course likely to re-aggravate that already aggravated aggravation.

Aggravated if you do, aggravated if you don’t.

A crash training program can easily lead to a crash. It’s like piloting the space shuttle in for a landing. You’ve got to hit just the right angle, and you get exactly one chance to get it right. In short, I’m riding the edge. Drive the training, synergistically build the motivation, while dodging the injury bullets that come so often on a trajectory like this. Two more weeks till the marathon. I just need to keep my balance as I ride this thin line, trying to reach the edge without falling off.

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