|Photo Credit: Didler Lanne|
If change is so necessary though, why does it instill such fear? Well, that's easy. It often comes down to a single word…FAILURE. Like it or not many of us are afraid to change because we are afraid to fail. That dream job that we've been thinking about chasing, that college application for our "reach school", that pretty girl who lives across town, very rarely will such things come to fruition if we don't act on them. And so at times we must throw caution to the wind, pull up the anchor, and set sail on a voyage of change, even if it threatens to push us off the edge (of the World). Are such actions crazy? Perhaps. What might be crazier, however, is refusing to try. After all, the explorers of old already proved that the Earth isn't flat. Worst comes to worst you'll probably just circle back around with a few cuts, bruises (and scurvy), and possibly an even greater desire to try it again (Side note…circling back around might take a while. Trust me, I've been out there. There's an awful lot of, well, not much.).
|Photo Credit: Didler Lanne|
Looking back at my most recent race (a forty-something mile ultra-marathon in France), I can't help but think about how this pursuit of change applies to what happened. And so we take a look at the race, the motivation, the strategy (or lack thereof), the execution, and the end result. In regards to motivation, people often ask me why I run. It's a valid question, no doubt, for I spend a great deal of my time doing it. But perhaps an equally important question is why I race. Is it for attention, money, a need to feel successful? Is it for the opportunity to travel to and explore a new place? Or is it because it's what the sponsors want? While all such reasons can contribute, none of them are my primary reason. So what is my reason (or reasons)? Perhaps the answer to this is found in my pre-race rituals. No, I'm not talking about applying spit to my shoe laces (a trick I learned from Coach Dave Hummel back in high school). What I'm talking about is a prayer that I say before the gun goes off. It's simple, but I pray that my race will be glorifying to God. Now, is this my sole reason for racing? No, but I would be lying if I said I didn't want to glorify God with this gift that he has given me. So back to the whole glorifying God thing...how does one do that? How does a human being manage to glorify God?
|Photo Credit: Didler Lanne|
Now I know what some of you might be thinking. "Oh, Zach didn't win, so now he's just acting like winning doesn't matter, painting this fake picture of success because he blew up and finished 5th." But that's not it. I love winning, and by golly gee wilikers I sure wanted to win Les Templiers. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud of my effort at Les Templiers, but I'm still human, I'm still competitive. A part of me still kicks myself for messing up the nutrition (I should have had more to eat and drink. How did I mess that up? I'm Dan Miller's son…I love to eat!) and falling apart in the final miles. But, do I regret going out like I did? Of course not! Running like that was a blast! I loved going out fast and running down Ricky Lightfoot on the first climb. I loved cruising the fire roads with Ricky and Chris Vargo, spooking the birds from the trees, watching the orange/pink glow of the sunrise, and trying to keep up with the Europeans on the first technical downhill (OK, maybe that part was a bit nerve-wracking).
|Photo Credit: Nico Raybaud|
Shortly after exiting the church(?) I started to pull away. Coming into the second aid station I was in first place with just a small gap back to 2nd. I was in such a rush to get out of the aid station that I ripped my Nathan hand light right off my hand. I thought I might have broken it (the light, not my hand), but as it turns out, I just undid the Velcro (Velcro…good thinking Nathan!). Having ditched my Nathan Firecatcher pack I pulled on a fresh one and took off (Note: Pennsylvania's Nathan Sports supplied me with five Firecatcher packs and tons of hand bottles and hydration bladders for this race so that I could go "crewless" and still get in and out of aid stations nice and fast. Thanks so much Nathan for your great products and wonderful support/service! Pennsylvania proud!). Fearing that second place had passed me during transition I asked a spectator if anyone was in front of me. Fortunately he told me that I was leading (side note: When racing internationally, the language barrier can add a whole new element to things. Communication just isn't as easy. Thank goodness for body language!). Tearing off through the countryside I nearly missed a turn. Fortunately I noticed it at the last minute. Crisis averted, I continued on. Diving into a set of switchbacks, I descended to a flat section before embarking on a relatively steep climb up to a ridge. Running across the ridge, I encountered some pretty cool rock formations, including a rock arch (think less Utah arch and more giant hole).
|Reaching for the back of the "pain cave". Photo Credit: Guilhem Prax|
Coming into the third aid station (45k I believe), I spotted Bryon Powell of irunfar.com. Bryon was quite excited and told me that I was crushing it! Feeling good, I swapped out my Nathan Firecatcher pack for a new one and surged out of the aid station. Given that I had 13 miles until the next aid station, it was very important that I get some calories and fluids into my system. Heading down the trail I gulped a VFuel gel, munched a banana, and sucked down some Powerade. Fortunately this 13 mile section proved to be one of the most scenic parts of the race. As we climbed and descended we were treated to sweeping views of the gorge and glimpses of the magnificent bridge that we had been admiring earlier in the week. Part way through this section we encountered a fairly technical area in which the trail was far less obvious and littered with rocks. It was at this point that I ran off trail and ended up at a bunch of cave-esque rocks. Feeling that I had made a mistake, I backtracked and quickly found the trail (I had only ran about 15 meters out of the way). Plunging down another descent I was surprised once again when I noticed two Frenchman hot on my heals. Not liking that I had been caught, I took off. Fortunately we entered another climb and I was able to get some separation. As I neared the top of the climb I spotted Gill and he told me that I was running the perfect race. Cresting the climb, I ran through a field, re-entered the woods and was soon heading downhill. Not wanting to get caught, I tried to keep a good pace on the downhill. At the bottom of the descent I transitioned onto a road. Looking back over my shoulder, I couldn't see anyone. This was a good sign! Still feeling pretty good, I sped across the bridge, ran through the town, and powered into the climb. The first bit of the climb was littered with fans and I fed off their energy as they cheered me on (it was fantastic!). Sometimes I would even get people running along in front of or behind me with a camera.
|Photo Credit: Guilhem Prax|
|Head up...I'm gonna finish this thing! Photo Credit: Guilhem Prax|
|Thibaut Baronian's video of my "march" to the finish was a hit on Facebook.|
|Thanks guys! Photo Credit: Christophe Rochotte|
|I wore a buff for the first time in this race. Am I doing it right? Thanks NIKE!|
|Thanks NIKE, Nathan, Enduro, and VFuel!|
Best start line yet!