30 for 30

This past winter I read Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes, where in chapter 4 “Run for your life” he chronicles the night of his 30th birthday. Unhappy with the trajectory of his life, he had a transformative experience. While out celebrating his birthday at a bar with friends, he decided to leave and go run 30 miles. This sparked many changes in his life and was the first step on his way to becoming one of the most accomplished and influential endurance athletes. And just like that an idea was planted in my mind. Scheduled to hit that same 30-year milestone on June 8th, 2020 I started pondering what that would look like for me to go after the same objective of running my age in miles. Before COVID, I was supposed to run a 50-mile event at the end of April and my first 100 mile event in mid-July, so I wasn’t sure if a 30 mile was going to fit into my training. Then came COVID. Races dropped like flies and I was in need of a new objective to train for. So, 30 miles on my 30th birthday naturally became the goal.

It just so happened that in the 3 weeks leading up to my 30th birthday, Nicole and I moved out of our apartment in Cambridge, MA and spent 10 days in CT with her parents. While this was going on, Nicole got a job offer in Golden, CO with a start date of June 1! And so, we went from being in limbo to frantically searching for an apartment in the Denver area and then driving across the country, acquiring new furniture, moving our stuff in and getting settled in a new area. While my training dipped during all of this, it allowed me to get fresh and ready for this effort, plus moving heavy boxes and furniture might just be the best form of strength training that no one is doing.

Being new to the Denver area and having only a handful of runs to acclimate to the new altitude, I wanted to find a 30-mile route that would be easy to follow and not involve too much elevation gain. I settled on the Clear Creek Trail, which is over 20 miles and runs from Denver west to Golden. I decided that I did want to have some variation and not be running on a paved bike path for the entire day, so I decided to start in Wheat Ridge and run out to Golden where I would pick up the North Table Mountain loop trail for one full lap before returning back to where I started via the Clear Creek Trail. Minimal turns and around 2,000 feet of climbing and even better the entire last 13 miles would be slightly downhill. I wanted to do this fully self-supported and carry everything that I might need. I brought 1.5 liters of water in a bladder, 6 Gu’s, 3 Clif bars, a bag of nuts/dates, a multi tool, a mask and my phone.

Nicole dropped me off at Johnson Park in Wheat Ridge and I set off at 6:18 AM on the morning of my 30th birthday. Temperatures were much cooler than previous days, starting out in the low 50’s and climbing steadily throughout the day into the high 60’s/mid 70’s. The first few miles followed clear creek and I passed by a nice waterfall. I had a lot of shade and a cool breeze and so the miles passed quickly. I brought my Bose Soundsport headphones to listen to music/podcasts and also to call people along the way. Running is a selfish thing to do, I spend a lot of my free time off running or training, away from Nicole, my family and friends. I run for me, period. But I know that I am a better person because of my running and it is good for my mental and physical health. I wanted to use this time to connect with people in my life. I documented my adventure on my Instagram so that others could follow along. I called my family members to check in with them and thank them for their role in my life. With an early start, I decided to call my mom first as she lives in Florida and was 2 hours ahead of me. We chatted for several miles which kept me at a nice conversational pace. My mom is the reason I started running. When I was growing up, she got into running to stay in shape and she entered many local 5k, 8k, 10k and up to the half marathon distance. When I was 8 years old, I ran my first 5k with my mom, I started out too fast and she caught up to me and we finished together. She instilled in me a love for running and an understanding of pacing.