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Big Brad 50K — learning from wrong turns

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The purpose of a race report for me is to have a record of what went well and what I might do differently the next race. Others can use this information to get a feel for an event or learn something about a course before they choose to take it on. Later in life I will be left with a record of days I spent doing what I love.

This race fell on the calendar perfectly to see where my fitness was and help me make adjustments over the next few months before the HURT 100 in Hawaii. My only expectations were to go out with the leader and sit comfortably back and chase. Let whoever it was do the work and stay relaxed. Pace evenly through the race and finish the race with legs that still had plenty of miles in them.

Through the first 14 miles this is exactly what I did. I stayed in 2nd place and kept the leader within a minute gap that could be closed over the course of the next 15 miles and I felt comfortable. After reaching the top of Bradbury Mountain I made a wrong turn where the trail forks. Not being familiar with this portion of the course I knew that I should be heading downhill towards the start/finish to start my second loop. I was heading downhill but would shortly find out that this error would bring me back to the bottom of the last climb, adding an additional mile and the unfortunate opportunity to make my way back up Bradbury Mountain.

As I passed a runner I asked him if he knew what position he was in and he said he thought 14th. This wrong turn was a huge set back emotionally and physically. I decided to go hard at this point to see what kind of ground I could make up. As the other runners made their way up the climb from the start/finish I realized how far back this mistake had set me.

I spent the next 6-7 miles being pissed off and considered dropping out completely. I was so mad at myself for making a mistake I lost sight of what mattered.

This past week David Fulmer, a professor from Hebron Academy, had passed away in hospice care. He taught psychology which I would later go on to major in college. If you knew him I do not need to say anything more as he was one of those genuinely amazing people that would leave an impact on everyone around him. He was also a runner.

One of the strongest memories I have of this man was a day I was working out at the gym on campus. Mr. Fulmer was in the back just hammering away on a stair climber in a way that made you almost feel sorry for the machine. While doing this he was smiling and enjoying what he was doing while at the same time engaging with those around him. This has stuck with me for over 10 years now. He was able to find joy in the struggle. Climb, smile, and enjoy.

I looked down at my arm where I had written David’s name prior to the start of the race. Why was I still so mad about that wrong turn? My legs felt good, they still had strength and speed. It was a perfect fall day in New England and I was running on a beautiful single track trail surrounded by blazed orange and red foliage. I was doing something I love.

I let go of my mistake and focused on the moment I was in — what I could do now with what I had. I thought of Mr. Fulmer on the last climb of the race. Climb, smile, and enjoy. Rolling down into the finish I was grateful for the day I just had and the lessons it had taught me. You truly never know how many of these days you will get.

Equipment:
Pearl Izumi Trail N2’s
Fayettechill Guero Hat

Nutrition:
3 Honey Stinger Gels
8 Succeed SCAPS
48 Ounces Water

Result:
7th Place, 5:12:44, 32 Miles, 3,541ft climbing

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