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April 2nd, 2015

Why I Chose the Transrockies 6-Day Run

Choosing my next challenge has been a challenge in itself.

The past two years have been a bit of struggle for me. Injuries, motivation and other priorities translated into no racing at all in 2013 and 2014. When I say “racing,” I mean doing all the training needed and showing up at the start line of the race ready to go for it.

Those who know me may say, “But you did an Ironman and the Boston Marathon in 2014 alone.” Yes I did, but I didn’t train for them, so in my book they don’t count. Just because you can cross the finish line of a race, it doesn’t mean the event has any meaning, at least for me.

A race is only a Race (capital R) when you train for it.

I wanted 2015 to be a comeback year, so the first step was choosing a race that would inspire me to train for it. My little athletic brain needed to be put to work to make some decisions.

Do I Tri or Do I Run
The first decision was choosing between a “triathlon year,” a “running year” or a “hybrid year” (running and triathlon). After a lot of thought and planning, I decided on a running year.

Running is what I’ve been doing for 37 years of my life, and it’s been 17 years since I dedicated a full year solely to running. Part of me also wants to find out what I have left in the tank, and how much speed and endurance is left on these old legs of mine.

The A Race
Once I decided on running, the next decision was to choose the event that would inspire me to train for it and provide me with a physical challenge while feeding my emotional brain cells.

After researching many races both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, I set my eyes on the Leadville 100-mile run. I’ve always wanted to experience the toughness of this event, but scheduling conflicts never allowed me to make it. I thought it would provide me with a nice physical challenge (mainly due to the altitude), and I always wanted to experience Hope Pass (a nice hill, to say the least).

Once I found out I didn’t get in the race by lottery, the research started again. That’s how I ended up choosing the Transrockies RUN6.

I had looked into the Transrockies race, which includes a 3-day and a 6-day option, a few years ago but at the time they only allowed teams of two to participate in the 6-day option. Luckily they now offer a solo option for the 6-day run.

I have to confess that, at first I didn’t think that running 120 miles in 6 days would be much of a challenge. I have done 100 miles in one day, and in my younger years, I used to train 120 miles in one week. I wasn’t sure I could get all I wanted from this specific event.

The Challenge
I realized that I kept focusing too much on the distance and no so much on the real challenge of the race — specifically, the altitude and race profile. Once I accepted that running 6 days in altitudes between 9,000 and 12,000 feet would be a pretty good challenge for this old sea-level runner, I was sold!

This race will require a totally different training approach from what I’ve experienced before. It’s not an ultra, it’s not a marathon, it has the altitude factor, and if I choose to push it (too early to say) the pacing will be very tricky.

Once I signed up for the race I found myself getting some bonus to my experience: I’ll be sleeping in a tent vs at a hotel. Now. That’s something I have never done, perfect! I am officially very excited about my choice.

The Right Choice
How do I know I made the right choice? Simple: getting out there to run has been very easy and enjoyable.

A 37-Year Athlete Rookie
Back in November I was probably in the worse shape of my life — let’s say, at 30% of my potential. I had not done any training in the last 2 years, and on top of that the pounds had been accumulating and sticking to my body.

I am now a bit older than when I was a pure runner 17 years ago. Part of my 2015 challenge is to find out how my body responds to the training I know I need to do to get ready for Transrockies.

As I get older, I know I’ll never be as fast as I used to be. I have come to realize that my biggest accomplishments in my athletic career are not finishing times or awards, but the fact that 37 years later, I am still enjoying this athletic lifestyle as much or even more than when I started in a small town in La Coruna, Spain.

Training: The First Step
As a 37-year athlete in a 47-year body with a 2-year training hiatus, I have resorted to thinking of myself as a first-time runner when considering fitness.

As the 37-year athlete I know I have the “engine;” I just need a tune up. As a coach, I know I have the knowledge to get myself back and ready in time for anything I choose to do. After all, what coach knows me better than myself, right?

My first step was an easy “just get out there and run” run. I kept telling myself, “Run slow, move forward and breathe, that’s all. Just get back into it. Don’t let the excitement and pressure of training for this event trick you into trying to do too much too soon.”

I started with 40-minute easy runs. I didn’t care about my pace, and I didn’t care about distance. Being out there was the only thing that counted. I am now about four months into my training and things are going pretty well. We’ll save the full report for my next blog post.

Your Turn: I wonder, what was the longest period you’ve gone with no training?

Coach Ramon Bermo has been an athlete for 37 years and a coach for 17. He is currently training for his 60th marathon, and has completed 13 Ironman triathlons and multiple ultra marathons in addition to hundreds of other races varying in distances. Ramon is the founder and coach of Tri2B and currently works as the Senior Director and Head Coach for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation program. Through the years, he has coached thousands of athletes in achieving their athletic dreams through such programs as NYU running club, Niketown, Team in Training, DetermiNation and Tri2B. Without a doubt, his favorite coaching moment was watching his 12-year-old daughter complete her first triathlon.

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