Let me state it for the record
In two months, I’ll start my 11th Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run. I love and worship this race. My wife and I have a wedding anniversary, my daughter has a birthday, and I get inexplicably excited for the Summer Solstice — but MMT just might be my favorite day of the year.
What can I say? We have a strong, long-standing relationship — one rooted in “firsts.”
MMT was my first DNF (2008) and first 100-mile finish (2009). It was also my first time crying without releasing tears because I was too dehydrated to spare any fluids (2009). Aaron Schwartzbard was gracious enough to catch me in the middle of the second and third firsts:
I hope MMT and I will soon share another first: a ten-time finish award. With a healthy dose of luck, I’ll join these 19 wonderful people.
Joining the ten-time finisher crowd was a goal I set out for myself 12 years ago. To my recollection, it’s the longest goal (with a defined end-state) that I’ve ever held. I’m really close. In a difficult sense, though, I may be too close. My past five finishes have all been within 12 minutes of each other — a mere 0.9% spread, relative to my average finish. That’s ludicrous!
Sure, I know the course well and enjoy somewhat of a home-field advantage. But, if I’m being completely honest with myself, I have to admit that a large part of my consistency is my desire to finish under 24. I know I can do it, so I keep doing it. I’ve been running MMT (relatively) conservatively so I don’t jeopardize the silver buckle.
I’d like to change that. So, let me state it for the record: I’d like to finish in 21:52.
This time would put me 50 minutes under my five-year average, with an extra hour removed to control for changes to the course in 2019. (MMT is 3.1 miles shorter and contains one fewer climb than in years past. It’s finally 100 miles!)
My goal, mind you, is not rooted entirely in wishful thinking. I genuinely believe in the power of positivity, but I also believe in the power of training. This year, I have a few new things going for me:
I moved from 50’ above sea level to 5,500’ above sea level
I’m lifting again, with a particular emphasis on my climbing legs
I’m making this declaration
The last change is particularly important. For better or worse, I am a person who cares about what (certain) people think of me. I respect their opinions, perspectives and advice. Accordingly, I’m more likely to draw motivation from these close friends and family members if I know that we harbor the same definition of success. By stating my goal for the record, I’m extending accountability beyond myself.
This is advice I give to others. Whenever I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts with someone running their first ultra, I usually say something along the lines of, “Register for a race and then tell your closest friends.” It’s not bragging — it’s extending the circle of success. These friends will support you and sustain you. The particularly honest among them will push you and punish you. Come race day, you’ll think of them all.
Prior to 2019, MMT was 103.7 miles long. In 2009, at mile 103.4, I looked over my shoulder to see another runner closing on me fast. If I didn’t adjust my pace, he would finish ahead of me. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t really give a shit about being out-kicked. If anything, I am more than happy to get beat by someone who simply wants it more.
But “normal” circumstances evaporated with this runner. You see, my good friend, Andrew, was and is the “particularly honest” one. To my surprise, he took the time to research other entrants and find someone who would most likely finish right around 30 hours — my goal at the time. Instead of saying, “Good luck!”, Andrew said, “Don’t get beat by Brenden.”
I kicked it in for that ass hole.