Thursday, July 6, 2017


This past Tuesday, I headed over to West Tisbury for the Murdick's Run the Chop Challenge.  Every year I look forward to this race for a few reasons.  First, it's on July 4th, which, in general, is just always a fun day.  Second, it's on Martha's Vineyard, one of the most beautiful, laid back, free-spirited places on earth.  And third, having started running it back in 2007 when I was a youthful 32 years old, it's an opportunity for me to come back each year and test my fitness.  The race doesn't start until 9am, which for me is kind of brutal as I tend to get up at the crack of dawn and by 9 o'clock I'm already on my second breakfast and my third cup of coffee.  Thus, I have to tweak my morning routine a bit to make it work.  Not that big a deal, but still.  The later start also means we're always battling the heat and it's easily in the 80s by the time we get going, sometimes hotter.  Clearly, neither of these factors are big enough to prevent me lining up.  As you may know from reading my last couple posts, I've been struggling with a cold and some related sinus/ear issues, on and off, since mid-June.  Along with my health, my running took a hit and it has taken me a while to get back on the road consistently.  Thus, I had zero expectations for this particular race.  As many runners do,  I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well regardless of what's going on in my life.  Knowing this, and not wanting to make this race anything other than a hard push and a good time, I made a conscious decision the night before that I would not wear my watch and would just run by feel, ultimately letting my body call the shots.  I realize this may not seem like a big deal to some, but it is for me.  I've been running competitively since high school and I honestly can't remember the last time I didn't race with my watch.  After writing this, I realize how ridiculous that may sound, but it's true.

Oh, and yes, I went all out with the red, white and blue because it was July 4th and I like to go big.  The morning of the race was gorgeous, warm but totally dry, which is rare for this time of year.  Lucky us.

As usual, I was up at 5:30am.  I sipped some coffee and tried to relax while I waited.  And then waited some more.  For the record, I really wanted a second cup, but I didn't do it.  Too risky.  I left around 7:30, got to the school around 8:00, grabbed my bib and shirt and then took off for my warm up.  It was already pretty hot when I got going and by the time I was back I was sweating profusely.  It's a smallish race so I did notice a few people looking at me and wondering why I was already soaked.  Gotta love it.  A little side story here.  I stood in line for the bathroom and listened as the people next to me had the following conversation:

Guy: Where's Mike?
Girl: I think he's off running.
Guy: Oh yeah, he's probably off doing his 20 mile warmup.
Both laugh.

That's right folks.  A lot of us, regardless of whether we're fast or slow, like to warm up before we race.  Does it seem weird?  Perhaps.  Is it weird?  Not really.  You can't go from zero to sixty in your car without seriously stressing the engine.  It's no different for our bodies.  As a runner and a coach, I 100% guarantee that you'll have a better race if you get the wheels spinning prior to the start.  Don't believe me?  Try it next time.  Still think it's ridiculous?  To each his own.

Okay, so back to the race.  It was just before 9:00am, I was warmed up and ready to rock.  I won't lie and tell you that I didn't reconsider using my watch.  It's kind of scary to let go and run without knowing how you're pacing yourself.  But, once I got to the line I'd talked myself back into it.  I chatted with a few gals who were also wearing Oiselle, running gear being one of the great uniters, while I tried to stay calm and breath, reminding myself many times that this was supposed to be for fun.  Finally, we were off.  I'd give you the detailed play by play but there really wasn't one this time around.  I settled in behind a couple women, hoping to use them for pacing.  I grabbed water at the first mile and shifted gears a bit.  I had no idea what kind of time I was running and I've never felt so free in a race before.  There were no mental games.  I was just cruising, feeling good, letting my legs dictate and going with the flow.  It's a hard course, and the heat makes it tougher, but I was feeling really good and my body was responding each time I surged.  I got through miles 1-3 pretty comfortably and then mile 4 felt about 20 minutes long, but it didn't matter because I didn't know my pace and there was nothing I could do about it.  And because of this, I didn't really care.  I just wanted to be done.  Someone told me I had the lead right as I started in on my final mile.  I was fired up but without knowing who was behind me while also knowing I didn't have much left in the tank, I knew it was still anyone's game for the win.  At the final turn for the finish I saw a woman waving her hands madly and I had a feeling someone was gaining on me so I dug as deep as I could to stay in first.  I crossed the line in 32:19, my fastest time to date, which I was thrilled about, mostly because I beat my 32 year old self.  But the best part was that I was overcome with pure joy and elation, a post-race experience that hasn't happened for me in quite some time.  I hate to sound cheesy here, but I was so ridiculously proud of myself for following through with my plan and then having it play out even better than I'd hoped.

Before I'd left for the race that morning, my kids had wished me good luck and told me to bring home the fudge....or else.  They were joking.  Kind of.  I did bring home the fudge.  Lots of it.  But I also brought home a fresh batch of confidence in myself and my body.  We runners battle illness and injury and whole lot of other crap.  But, in the end, our bodies are going to do what they are capable of on the day.  And in most cases, when we consistently work hard day after day, despite the small bleeps in the radar, it's more than we expect.  I need to remember that.   We all do.

Listen to this:
Giants by Lights


  1. YES!! I love this! I have been toying with the idea of not wearing my watch at races. I almost want to give myself that challenge for a year or something. I HATE how tied to it I am and how what it says dictates how I feel. If the first mile is too 'fast' i could mentally freak out if its too 'slow' I can beat myself up. This is good motivation to cut that shit out. And it proved to be a good choice with that killer time! Are you going to go watchless for more races?? I think the feeling after has something to do with that too. All happiness!

    1. I probably wouldn't do it for anything longer than a half. But, for the shorties, that are mainly for fun or a workout, 100%! I think letting the mind be free plays a huge role in the success of the race. Good luck. Run free.

  2. Nice to Meet You..

  3. Over the years, the watchless race (or even run) has become so rare. Someday I may go back to it.

    No. I can't.

    1. Never thought I could. Ever. And then I did. So you can, too.