Austin Distance Challenge - Conclusion
After five races, 105.4 km (65.5 miles), five months of constant training, and 6 hours, 28 minutes, 46 seconds of racing, a short math teacher from Wimberley became the champion of the Austin Distance Challenge.
The margin of victory came out to a whopping 47 minutes. Going into the last race, the lead was a comparatively small eight minutes. Eight minutes is still a lot to make up in a single race, but the the margin swelled to 47 minutes only because the guy who’d been in second place for the entire series had an unforeseen bonk at the end of the very last race, dropping him to finish much farther back. If he’d switched to the Half Track before the last race, he would’ve won it.
One of the best things about the results was I exceeded my expectations in every race, often by several minutes. When you train in heavier shoes, on trails instead of pavement, on hillier terrain, and without ever taking a day off, it’s hard to guess how much faster you’ll be on flat pavement with plenty of rest and lighter shoes. As a result, I kept underestimating myself. Fortunately, I didn’t stay too conservative in the races once I realized I was feeling good at a faster pace. If I’d “only” hit my goals for each race, I would’ve been in second place for most of the series.
In the few weeks after the Austin Marathon, I didn’t run much and rode my bikes a little more often. Good to get reacquainted with some old friends.
Two weeks after the Austin Marathon, the Austin Runner’s Club held an awards ceremony for not only the winners, but essentially for all the finishers, who were there to pick up their finisher’s jackets. It’s nice to be recognized. I’d been hoping there’d be a rep from an outdoors company that would be interested in some kind of sponsorship, especially for my summer-long full-time adventuring, but no luck. I’m sure my dad hoped the $12 fee would pay for more than chips, guac, and one beer from a limited menu.
Oh well. I was glad simply to do something fun with my dad and my friend Chelsea.
The thing that makes the Distance Challenge great - and tough! - is its unrelenting nature. There’s a race roughly once per month, and to do well in the challenge, you need to do well in every single race. No chance to take a week off from training, because there’s always a race coming up. You even have to change your training routine based on the varying distances of the races, giving you little time to train for each specific race. Specialists won’t do well. Versatility and lack of weakness is the key.
In the end, what I’m most proud of isn’t necessarily the results, but everything in between. Everyone tries hard on race day. Not everyone tries as hard on any given training day. The difference between good and great is when you don’t feel like running today, and you do it anyway. It might be one of your bad days, but that’s OK; everyone has bad days. If you push through them, your bad days will get better and you’ll have them less often. My proudest accomplishment isn’t the fast times I had on race days, but the slowest, most grueling training days.
The most fun parts were the races themselves, but before the finish line. The best part of almost anything is in the act, not in the result. In the thrill of the race itself. The slow adrenaline surge before the gun, the exhilaration of speed seconds later, the satisfying grin that spreads across your face once you lock into pace a few miles in. The delight towards the end of the race when you have X miles to go and you got this, easy.
So what’s next? Spring is coming on, which usually means more biking and less running as the weather heats up. Especially so this spring, as preparations begin for this summer’s adventure: A mountain bike tour from Tucson to Seattle, staying off pavement as much as possible (~95% of the time). Stay tuned for a ton of journals and photos (and possibly a video journal!) from a wild ride in the desert.
To those who’ve been reading along or supporting me in any way, thank you for reading. And to those that ran the Distance Challenge, I hope you had as much fun as I did.