Vision Quest

My name’s Doug, Doug Welch. This year I turn 40. I’m not ready for it. I haven’t done anything yet. So I made this deal with myself. This is the year I make my mark.

When I first started running less than two years ago, I was nearly 300 pounds and beginning my 4th or 5th firehouse “Biggest Loser” competition. I was even heavier than I had been any of the previous years (and I was a consistent 2nd place finisher). I found myself clicking through the channels while on the couch one day, and stumbled upon the movie “Running the Sahara.” I was moved. Inspired. Amazed. I was blown away by the human aspect of the movie. It is a true testament to the power of the human spirit.

I found myself identifying with one of the main characters in the movie Ray Zahab (“Running is 90% mental… The other 10% is all in your head”). He said he was “just a regular guy” who took up running one day and the next thing he knew he was running ultramarathons. I didn’t even know what an ultramarathon was, but I soon found myself scouring the internet for information and found a bunch of videos of the 100-mile ultramarathons posted on youtube (Western States, Hardrock, and of course Leadville). Instantly I thought “I would LOVE to do that!”

Right away I started looking for shorter versions of those races (they don’t exist). I just didn’t think I would ever be able to run 100 miles. Of course I never do anything half-assed, so I decided I’d start by running a marathon. Being that I live in the Boston area, I figured the Boston Marathon was a good place to start. I remember the first time I ran 5 miles without stopping, I told my wife “I’m going to run the marathon next year!” She laughed and said something like “why don’t you try running a 5k or something first dumbass?”

“But all I ever settled for is that we’re born to live and then to die, and… we’ve got to do it alone, each in his own way. And I guess that’s why we’ve got to love those people who deserve it like there’s no tomorrow. ‘Cause when you get right down to it – there isn’t.”

When I crossed the finish line of my second Boston Marathon this year (3:58:14), my first thought was “I’m done.” Not in the “I’m done with this particular race, thank God,” kind of way, but in the “I’m done with road marathons altogether,” kind of way. You see, I’m not exactly built for speed. And that became all too clear while training for Boston this year. I trained to run a BQ (Boston Qualifying time of 3:20). By all means I should have been able to run a BQ, but the wheels came completely off somewhere around mile 18.

I’d been seriously thinking about (and in fact planning on) running the Vermont 50 ever since running my first trail race in October of 2010 (The Groton Town Forest Trail Race), it was right then and there that I knew. I felt at home on the trail. I’d finally found my niche. I was just like a kid running around in the woods, yet I instinctually knew how to run downhill on technical trail, and FAST. I had a vision that it was my destiny to do something EPIC on the trails.

My whole life I’ve been searching. I’ve been searching for exactly where it is that I fit-in, searching for my place in the circle. I’ve always had this inkling that I was “destined for greatness,” like I’m sure we all do at times… I’ve just never found my path. I’ve done a lot of different things along the way. Some of them I was good at, (most) others I was just awful at. I was a decent football player, but only because I worked hard at it. My coach always told me that I was “all heart and no brains.” I was a good wrestler who won a couple of State Championships and even earned a partial college scholarship. Again, I wasn’t particularly talented and I certainly wasn’t genetically gifted like some of my opponents, but I was always able to find a way to outwork them.

I was even a not-half-bad DJ in the hip-hop and rave scenes throughout the 90’s, but it certainly didn’t come easy for me (I was horrible at networking and marketing myself). My biggest problem? I was terrified of making the total commitment to my music. I always had to have a regular job and “something to fall back on…” Unfortunately my DJ’ing “career” just faded away over time. I still have all of my equipment and a bunch of my records, but I don’t make it down to the basement anymore, unless it’s to do laundry or jump on the treadmill.

“There is no tomorrow. If you really want to live a fulfilling life, you have to believe that. If you keep putting-off the things you want to accomplish in life, before you know it your time will have passed.”

Now, through the happiest accident of my life, I’ve stumbled onto my “thing.” I’ve finally found my passion! It’s not only my passion, but I seem to be naturally good at it. I have been given a gift, the gift is endurance. I don’t know if it is a genetic gift (although, during my Lactate Threshold testing there was a pace zone where I was actually eliminating lactic acid faster than I was producing it), or if my life experience has just made me so stubborn that I don’t know when to quit. I know I’ll never be an elite ultramarathoner, but I think I can at least be competitive in my age group.

“If you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you’ve ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip?” – Eminem; Lose Yourself

Unfortunately, I know I have a finite amount of time to accomplish my goals and leave my mark on the world through running. People have asked me “Why now? You have two young kids, you work two jobs, you have bad knees and a bad back, you’re too old, what if you get injured, blah, blah, blah…” To them I say that the day will eventually come when I can no longer run. Today is not that day.

People have often (looked at me like I am crazy and) asked “when is it going to be enough? How far are you going to push yourself? How far can you go?” I have to honestly say I don’t know, but I’m damn sure going to find out! I’ve always said I’d much rather regret the things I have done than the things I didn’t do. If I don’t do this now, I’m always going to wonder “what might have been?” That question would burn a hole in my soul.

So, here I sit 14 weeks into my 18 weeks of training for the Vermont 50, my first ultramarathon. It’s been more challenging physically and emotionally than all of my marathon training. I am regretting having been a bad blogger and not written more on the abundance of trials and tribulations I’ve faced during my training, but I plan to rectify that from here on out.

One month from now, on September 25th, I’m going to run the Vermont 50. My plan is to go out there and run, walk or crawl to the finish line (hopefully under 11 hours so I can qualify for the Western States 100 lottery). I fully expect to hurt, suffer, think, feel, move, meditate, connect to the infinite, laugh, cry and possibly even hallucinate through the nearly 9000′ of elevation gain. I will most likely push myself to the breaking point and beyond, but that’s kinda’ the point isn’t it?

“It’s not the six minutes, it’s what happens in that six minutes!”

There is no tomorrow… Go out and get it TODAY!

Doug

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8 Responses to Vision Quest

  1. Luau says:

    Guess who’ll be running with you?

  2. Wish I could be there to see you cross the finish line!

  3. Doug – you are going to rock the VT50. And, I’m with you: trail running, distance running is the absolute best. I wish i could be there this year. That course is epic – plenty of technical trail to keep you on your toes. The first several miles are on relatively easy dirt road – be careful not to go out to fast. You will pay for it dearly when the real elevation starts. If you want to run fast at the start, just remember: about 9000 feet of climbing is coming.

    Are you planning on using any jog/walk patterns? Maybe walking the monster hills? let me know if you have any questions about the course or whatever. happy to help.

  4. Daretobecome says:

    You are going to be just amazing at this 50 miler.

  5. Ann says:

    Doug, I have only run one ultra, the JFK 50 Miler almost 10 years ago and it is still one of the highlights of my life. You are going to love Vermont. Good luck and keep moving forward.

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