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Saturday, November 23, 2013

My White Whale

Call me Ezekiel. Some years ago - six years ago precisely - having little ultra experience, yet nothing particular to interest me in the traditional running scene, I thought I would make an attempt at the Leadville 100. It seemed like a way of driving away unhealthy habits and improving my circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mind, drizzly November in my soul, whenever I find myself infused with gloom, and losing sight of my true values, and especially whenever my demons get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from falling into unrecoverable funk, and methodically self sabotaging - then, I account it high time to run as soon as I can.  This is my substitute for dour self pity. With a philosophical flourish I throw my melancholy on the sword; I quietly take to the trails. If they knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, could cherish nearly the same feelings towards ultra running with me. (Sound familiar? This is an ultra  runner's take on Melville's classic opening paragraph)

Ahab had Moby Dick. I have Leadville. Leadville is my white whale, and while it has been the source of immense happiness and success for me, it has also become a great obsession. Therefore, just as Ishmael set sail for his epic journey, I now embark on my personal voyage of 266 days. After a 14 month hiatus from dedicated training and racing, I have now taken to real training in preparation for my return to competitive running in 2014. After a year of going, "out to pasture," as my college coach used to call unstructured running, I feel rejuvenated and hungry to compete. My year off was highly satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable, but I can't ignore my desire to toe the line; therefore, the upcoming season excites me!

My road to my fourth running of Pb begins just 84 days from the writing of this post, in Moab, UT, at the Red Hot 50K. I will be looking to bust out the rust, bang heads with some super talented athletes and gain redemption. Red Hot was the scene of what I would consider the worst race of my life. After chasing Kyle Skaggs and Tony K in the early going of the race, I suffered a blow-up of epic proportions. I was fortunate just to finish. I plan to be in far better fitness for this attempt.

Following Moab, by far the most exciting and meaningful event of my journey through 2014 will occur; the birth of the newest member of team Tiernan! Saint Paddy's day will take on new and far greater significance for my family as we welcome a new little girl into our home. I feel so incredibly fortunate that my wife supports my crazy running habit, especially with a fourth member of the family arriving. One of my favorite parts of racing ultras is the emotional boost I receive when I see my wife and daughter at aid stations, and I can't wait to have a new little person to cheer me on when I roll up through Twin Lakes in mid August.

May will find me on the Colorado front range running the Quad Rock 50. In March of 2012 Ryan Burch was gracious enough to let me crash at his pad and he and Nick Clark took me on a tour of Horsetooth and Lory state parks where Quad Rock is run. The terrain was great and the company was even better. I look forward to this effort, as I am sure that Nick puts on a fantastic race.

Ironically, just this morning I received an enticing invitation to a late June race in Silverton, CO, which could be the perfect event to fill out my summer race calendar. Having spent a few days watching the Hardrock 100 in 2012, I too caught the San Juan bug that has infected so many mountain ultra runners. The Sliverton Double Dirty Thirty, a new event for 2014, sounds like a hoot of a time and I will likely make the start list.

My July effort will be a virtual sprint for an ultra guy like me, but I hope to channel my inner Kenyan and put forth a solid effort in a local 14 mile race, the Mt. Sopris Runoff. However, this is no ordinary 14 miler; it will be the stage of the next running of the Tiernan Cup. The Tiernan Cup is a brotherly battle between my brother Alex and me. He is one of my favorite people in the world and the greatest pacer on the planet, but when we race, it's fiercely competitive! The standard distance for the Tiernan Cup has been 5k, but since I haven't held the cup in many years, I finally convinced my brother to run a longer race. Being 12 years his elder, keeping up with him has proved impossible, but maybe the extra 11 miles will play into my strengths. Oh, how I wish to drink from that coveted cup!

August in my main event, Leadville. Five years ago I ran the iconic 100 and managed to sneak onto the podium. Since then I have garnered a pair of runner-up finishes. The race has a grip on my soul, mostly because of the outpouring of love I get from my hometown fans, but also because, deep down, I harbor the hope of taking home the massive ore car awarded to each year's champion. Winning Leadville will not alter my life, nor will having a poor performance, but I would be remiss if I said I do not dream of being the first to break the tape. Leadville is my white whale, but I hope I don't suffer the same fate as Captain Ahab!