Almost half a year ago, I spent the longest day of my life on the mountains of the San Juans around Lake City, Colorado. Six months of training had transformed me from a hiker and 10K runner into an endurance athlete who crossed the finish line of one of ultra-running's most mountainous courses.
If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll remember my online training diaries. It's not too late to catch up! To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here. Part three is here.
I still remember the icy roads (and occasional snow storm) as I ran countless miles on the only snow-free surface I could find during the first few months of 2014. Every other part of my life, including work, had to fit in with my training. I would study the race map at the breakfast table, run for a few hours, and then stretch and refuel (even meals had to change to suit the goal). It was a huge undertaking that affected almost every part of my life, but I'm glad I did it.
People run endurance events for a variety of reasons. I think that a lot of people really enjoy running. I wasn't one of those. For me, it was all about the challenge. I wanted to know if I could do it, or at least if my body could be as strong as my mind.
I don't think that I'm the same person that I was a year ago. Something about this kind of event changes a person. I like to think it's for the better, but you'd have to ask people who know me well for an objective answer. I'm certainly stronger - in every sense of the word.
My output in terms of photography suffered throughout the training period. If I had the choice between running or hiking with my camera gear, I had to pick running. Still, as I look through my work from August onwards, I can see a marked improvement. Was it due to the break, the race, or was it purely coincidental? I'm just happy to be continually improving.
To mark this milestone in my life, I decided to write a short book about training for the San Juan Solstice 50 mile race, and about my experience as a first-time entrant. Titled How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon, it is available at most ebook sellers (including Amazon and iTunes) and I describe it online as follows:
How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon is based on one man's experience of training for a 50 mile mountain race in the Rocky Mountains, despite being much more used to hiking rather than running. Read a full personal account of a first-time ultra marathoner's race, and learn how he changed from a 10K runner to an endurance athlete in just six-months - perhaps the ultimate fitness challenge.
If you're a runner or an athlete of any kind, or if you're simply curious as to what goes through a competitor's mind before, during and after the race, I think you'll find How To Run Your First Ultra-Marathon an interesting read.
To see images from the various sections of the SJS50 race, click here.
My attempt at the SJS50 was partially sponsored by Alpine Animal Art.