Monthly Archives: May 2013

(Contributed by Colin Alley, Pamakid member since Aug 2012)

 verb \tran(t)-ˈsend\
: to rise above or go beyond the limits of
: to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of, to overcome
: to outstrip or outdo in some attribute, quality, or power
: to rise above or extend notably beyond ordinary limits

In early April, John and Yvonne reached out to me to ask if I might write up a race report for the American River 50-miler.  I agreed, and thought that I’d actually look for a way to tie that race report to a report on The Boston Marathon, which I was going to run 9 days after AR50.  My working title for that blog post was “Shifting Sands,” a diatribe which utilized the facts that I had re-upped for Boston in 2013 as a result of a DNF in 2012, and had subsequently been granted a coveted entry into the Western States 100 race for June of 2013. I planned to address how shifting priorities and points-of-view radically inflect our perception of eminence as runners, and ultimately human beings… heady stuff, right??

Colin Alley at AR50 2013 around mile 45. Photo by Myles Smythe (Michigan Bluff Photography)..

Colin Alley at AR50 2013 around mile 45. Photo by Myles Smythe (Michigan Bluff Photography)..

With a shifted perception of the importance of Boston in my year’s goals, I focused my mental energy on AR50, and other trail ultras to follow in May, relegating Boston to a “C” level race…basically half a step above a long training run.  I had already purchased my plane ticket and have family in Boston, so figured “what the heck,” might as well go enjoy a long training run.  No expectations and no real focus going in…so, with my shifted sands in place, I took my seat on a flight to Boston, and began writing the following:

As I write this I am on a flight to Boston to participate in the marathon on Patriot’s Day.  This trip was conceived 9+ months ago, and was to have been my “running baby” for 2013 – my shot at that elusive sub-3 hour marathon, in a place that had gotten the better of me last year – my one and only DNF in a multi-decade running career.  So, registration was completed, plane tickets were purchased, and my sights were set on ‘redemption run 2013.’  Just in time to receive notification that I had been selected to participate in the Western States 100 – a race that any dedicated trail runner knows is the ‘grand-daddy of them all,’ so to speak.  How could I turn down this opportunity?  How could I not focus myopically on the new goal, to the exclusion of all other races?

And so, with the reading of my name at the Western States Lottery, the sands shifted from under my well-laid plans for a marathon PR at Boston, and propelled me instead towards a whole-hearted investment in the Pacific Association Ultra Series, with my eye on the prize of finishing States at the end of June.  Boston remains a part of my race schedule, but has been demoted to something slightly above an organized training run  blip on the radar – a tangent to my true trajectory for the year.

That was as far as I was to get on that train of thought.  The flight landed, the race was run, and we are all aware of what happened next…

Entering the race with a somewhat lackadaisical attitude (for a flag-waving type A personality!) about the whole thing, I decided I’d shoot for an under control 1:35 first half, and see if I could pick it up a little in the hillier second half to approach my PR of 3:05.  As the race progressed, that of-the-moment transcendence took hold of me, and I was able to float along with it – enjoying the camaraderie of other runners, the unabashed revelry of spectators lining the entire length of the course, and a sense of belonging.  At the 35k mark, I checked my split, and realized that not only was I ahead of my game plan, I was on track to run under 3 hours.  I decided to turn up the effort a bit, and see what it netted.  What it netted was a new PR of 2:56:05, and a sense of elation upon crossing the finish line on Boylston Street.  After bumping into a couple of other SF runners and chatting with them, I made my way through the post-finish line machine of space blanket, finisher’s medal, food and water, sweats bag pick-up, debated over waiting for a massage or not, and hunted for a nearby restroom.  Basic needs fulfilled, I began the walk over to my cousin’s office, approximately a mile from the finish line, to reconnect with him.  Upon arrival there, I was met with the news that there was an explosion at the finish line, which was followed by a literal inundation of my cell phone by text messages, Facebook posts, and calls from friends, relatives, and even reporters.  I think I could see the battery charge decreasing in real time!  It was amazing that, even a mile away from the chaos of the finish line, a palpable pall fell over the city.  People were stunned, people were scared, and people were unsure of what to do next.  My cousin and I decided to scrap our evening plans in the City, and headed back out to the calm of the ‘burbs for the evening.

Colin Alley at the Boston Marathon finish the day before the race. Photo by Colin's cousin.

Colin Alley at the Boston Marathon finish the day before the race. Photo by Colin’s cousin.

Following a somewhat restless night’s sleep, and a much needed recharging of my cell phone battery, I awoke to dozens of “Likes” to my ‘I’m OK’ Facebook status update, along with other posts and emails unequivocal in their statements of transcendence for both Boston as a City, and the running community worldwide.  Wow.  Transcendence on a whole new level.  Never have I been more proud to call myself a runner, to be a part of a community that is forged through common interest, while supportive of one another regardless of differences.

I’ve always looked to running as a means of transcendence in my daily life.  By this I mean it’s my way of getting out of my head, into my body, out of stress, and into nature.  It’s Zen.  It’s cathartic.  It’s my ‘thing.’  Being strong, fit, and able affords me a self-confidence to address others areas and aspects of my life in a balanced and mature manner.  It makes me whole.  Seeing this same ethos of transcendence applied to a horrific act of cowardice, and amplified by a worldwide community of runners, I felt comforted by the sense of belonging, of being a part of something good and pure, and larger than myself.  Per the definitions above, to transcend is to “rise above,” or “triumph over the negative.”  The outpouring of support, emotion, collegiality, and common purpose – most notably by the running community — following the acts of April 15, 2013 will remain a rallying cry for pushing past the negativity and difference so often trumpeted in our society, to a higher ground of community, inclusion, and philanthropy.

Transcend, Green!

…Oh, and since this is supposed to be an American River 50 miler race report, I did pretty well there, too!