Humbled at Frozen Heart 

Pride is a horrible thing — especially when you let it almost derail your long-term goals.

The day before the Frozen Heart 50K, a coworker asked if I was going to try and win. It was the first time I’d been asked that in my running carreer and for once it — winning a race — was actually not a completely absurd idea.

My long term goals this year involve running multiple endurance races, I need to focus on quality time on my feet — not PRs during February 50Ks. But last month I let my pride get in the way and the end result was me walking it in from Mile 17.

I was bonking.

My Achillies hurt.

And I just didn’t want to run anymore.

My pride had turned what was supposed to be an early-season training race into a setback — both physically and mentally.

When the weather is good, the three-loop Frozen Heart course in Southern Maryland is extremely runnable with almost no real accent or decent. This trail system is only a few minutes from my house and this race is effectively on my “home court.” On paper, this race should be an extremely fast 50K.

Should be.

In its first two years — 2014 and 2015 — the Frozen Heart 50K lived up to its name with snowy race-day conditions.

And that for me is where my issue really started.

The first loop of the 2015 race was slow going, with the runners breaking fresh, ankle-deep snow. I managed to push through the first loop and the second loop was much more runnable. It was still cold, the snow was uneven, and it was not easy running but I managed to maintain through a strong pace and positive thoughts through the second loop.

The thing about the Frozen Heart race, is you can finish at 17K, 34K, or at the full 50K distance and still receive recognition for your finish. As I finished my second loop, I was told I was in fourth place. At the time, I figured all of the smart people had quit at the 34K mark. On the third loop I pushed hard through the snow and pulled off a third place finish. It was — and is — the highest I have ever placed in a race. That finish was the first surprise performance of what ended up being a great running year for me personally.

So when that coworker, one who had worked an aid station at the 2015 race, asked if I was going to try to win the 50K, I gave him the rational answer and said it was just a training run. I brought up the Achilles issue that I have been fighting all year. In even had an appointment with an acupuncturist the following week. But in the back of my head were some other thoughts.

Pride, it’s a bitch and I am a dumbass.

Frozen Heart was supposed to be a training run.

I started off the race at a 7:49 pace. By Mile 5 I had dropped to a leisurely 8:26 pace. Never mind that this pace would put me at a huge PR. My dumb ass was running so fast that my water bottle flew out of my vest … twice. Granted I need to retire that worn-out vest, but still. Dumbass.

By Mile 17 I was done. I was bonking and my Achilles hurt. I walked it in the last four miles.

As I preformed my premature death march, I questioned where I was in my training routine:

Will I be ready for the Georgia Death Race in just four weeks?

Why am I dropping out of this race?

If it was more difficult to drop, would I be able to continue?

Why the hell did I go out so fast?

I came up with a number of excuses for why I stopped after 34K: The Achilles issue that has been nagging me since I ran the Red Eye 50K on January 1st; The exhaustion from driving from Maryland to Miami — and back — for a four-day music cruise on which I barely slept.

Bit the real reason is pride.

Last year’s quality runs led me to set new, higher expectations for myself.

Others noticed too. My friends call me one of the fast kids. That coworker honestly thought I had a shot at winning the local 50K.

My pride lead me to push for an outcome in this race that was beyond my current capabilities and outside of my current goal set. I earned the right to be humbled by the Frozen Heart 50K.

The day after the race I woke up and my Achillies was not feeling as bad as I had expected. I put on a little music and I headed back out onto the same trail (although I stuck to the part that was much drier).

By the end of the run I had put in 20 miles at an overall pace slightly better than my Frozen Heart 2016 pace. The Death Race is still on my agenda, but I really need to get myself mentally and physically together before I get to Georgia.

A play list consisting of the three albums below fueled that Sunday run, highly recommended.

  • Turnpike Troubadours, The Turnpike Troubadours 
  • Nikki Lane, All or Nothin’ 
  • Jonny Two Bags, Salvation Town

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