Winning is the only thing

The training block for the Austin Distance Challenge wrapped up this morning with a 30-minute tempo run. Last night I tried to convince myself to catch up on some rest and allow myself to sleep in. But my eyes popped open at 3:50 a.m. and I tried to doze until I gave up and got out of bed at 4:15. Excitement invariably trumps the need for sleep. And I wanted to get out and see what I could do in this last fast run if I just let things happen instead of forcing some kind of split pace. I let it happen this morning, and I felt really good and strong and confident during and after the run.

The Austin Distance Challenge is an annual race series that’s organized by the Austin Runners Club. There are six races in the series. Each race progresses in distance and includes the biggest and most-attended events in the city. The Challenge offers a full track, for those who want to run the Austin Marathon as the last event, and a half track, for those who chose to close out the series with the Austin Half Marathon. The prior five races are all the same distance, regardless of track. There’s a 5k, a 10k, a 10-mile, and two half marathons.

I decided to sign up for the Austin Distance Challenge this year for a myriad of reasons. Recently I’ve felt really drawn to be more active in the broader Austin running community. And, so far, I’m really glad that I made that decision because I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing, kind, and generous people. I’ve made new friends. I also wanted to support and be more of a part of the Austin Runners Club. It’s a special run club that’s been in Austin since 1974 and it’s important that it stays vibrant and active in our community. I’ve been blessed to get to hang out with and forge bonds with the club’s staff, members, and volunteers, and my hope is that I can somehow continue to help them support its membership and mission. And, lastly, I wanted to keep learning and training. I was hesitant about signing up for the Austin Distance Challenge because I knew I wanted to focus on my training for this year’s Boston Marathon. Before signing up for the challenge, I built a 32-week periodized training plan leading up to Boston to see if I could strategically fit six races into my training cycle. I realized I’d start getting into longer marathon training mileage leading up to the final race in the challenge, so I decided I’d just somehow make it work. And so far, that has worked out. We’ll see how things play out at the Austin Half Marathon this Sunday.

When I signed up for the Austin Distance Challenge, my first thought was to have fun with it and perhaps compete in my age group. I thought I’d run the first race, the CASA Superhero 5k, see where I ended up on the leaderboard, and then formulate some kind of racing strategy after that. A few days after that first race I checked the leaderboard. I was first in my age division. For grins I check to see where I was stacked in the Masters division. I was first in Masters. I checked one more thing. I wanted to see where I ranked overall. I was in first place overall.

That formulated my strategy and training block. I want to maintain the lead and win the whole thing.

The next race was tough. A group of six of us ran a 120-mile Ragnar trail relay the Friday and Saturday before the second race in the distance challenge. I don’t recall if we actually had a plan to place in the relay, but we all ran hard through the day and night. I ran 23 miles harder than I should have. But we placed 2nd in our division and had a lot of fun doing it. After only a few hours of sleep in the previous two days, I showed up to the Daisy Dash 10k and gutted out a podium spot in Masters and put myself one minute ahead of 2nd place in the distance challenge.

I’ve been putting in the work ever since training started in early September. I’ve miraculously managed to stave off injury and illness. I’ve fought and trained my ass off every single day. I’ve pushed myself hard. I’ve prioritized winning. There is no other option.

I currently sit with a nine-minute and three-second lead on second place. There was a fleeting moment where I thought about finding second place at the Austin Half Marathon and settling in behind him to pace and maintain my margin. And then I grinned.

I love this sport so damn much.

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