Go big or die trying with Tim Rossi
Editor's Note: NYC native Tim Rossi lives and breathes running. You'll catch him logging huge miles week on week and racing anything he can on the east coast, always repping his crew, Lostboys.
When he's not running, he's writing about running for TEMPO as our first regular columnist.
Hood to Coast is a 199-mile, 12 person relay event from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Oregon.
The team splits into two vans containing 6 runners, with each runner completing 3 legs and spending the time between trying to stave off soreness and fatigue from the cramped confines of a van (or driving the van, either way).
This year, I was runner number 5 (go look up the HTC leg assignments to realize why this is important). I completed my first 6-mile leg at 5:39 pace, and then my second 8ish-mile leg at 5:34 pace. I then slept around 15 minutes after driving our van to the final “major exchange”.
Somehow I did not crash: Shout out to me.
As 6am approached after all that running/driving, I still needed to prepare for one last 6 miler. But not just 6 miles, 6 miles that involves an initial 3.5 miles of what is essentially climbing up a mountain: It was going to be interesting.
But that’s one of the beauties of Hood to Coast—you can be in the best shape ever and truly have no idea if your legs are going to respond during your final run.
Asking your legs to run flat-out for the 3rd time in 20ish hours is crazy in-and-of itself, but doing this on 15 minutes of sleep and having only consumed 4 Monsters (yes, 4 Monsters, sponsor me please) adds to the intrigue.
It’s asking, “can I do this,” and having no idea what the answer is going to be.
And the best part? This hadn’t been thrust upon me; I had wanted to be runner number 5 and, moreover, been dying to run Hood to Coast. I’d tried to get on a relatively competitive team for around 3 years with no luck and then finally found myself in the spot I’d dreamt of.
Because I knew that Hood to Coast is the ultimate test of belief: belief in your own fitness, in your ability to hold on, in your ability to fight when everything is seemingly going against you.
And that sort of belief and jump is similar to the leap of faith I will take on November 4th during the NYC Marathon.
In every article I’ve written for Tempo I’ve reiterated my goal: sub-2:30 at this year’s NYC marathon. I’ve done this, first and foremost, to bring everyone up to speed on my goals, but also for other reasons.
I’ve done it restate that goal to myself. Why? Because it’s intimidating as shit.
I’m talking about running 5:43 per mile for 26.2 miles, about PRing in that distance by 16+ minutes. That doesn’t usually happen, so why would it happen for me?
I could try and break 2:40 for the first time. Hell, I could aim for 2:35 this year. Going through the half in 1:17:30 sounds way more realistic than rolling through at (or ideally under) 1:15.
AND I would still PR by over 10 minutes. That would be sick!
I know I shouldn’t let them, but thoughts like these still creep in every single day. These are the “demons” (Once a Runner, go read it) that I’ve been dealing with since I started my training plan and, more specifically, since I threw my goals out to the universe.
But I am taking a leap of faith.
I recently went on a run with someone I’d met at a local race, and during our all too familiar intra-run rambling I asked the loaded question of, “What are your big goals within running?”
And their answer was fucking amazing.
They gave a little bit about their short-term goals but then ultimately threw out that they wanted to be on the starting line of the US Olympic Track Trials in 2020.
The fact that they were willing to share this with me with such confidence was nuts. Not because the goal itself is so crazy, but because they were willing to say it to me after having known me for a week.
And it fired me up, because I’m rarely confident enough to actually say, out loud, that I want to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon.
Shit, I’m trying to teach myself how to be bold enough to say that I want to break 2:30 in the marathon this year. Whenever people ask if my goal time is to break 2:40 or 2:35, I generally say, “Something like that.”
Because voicing my big, reach-for-the-stars goal is scary.
There is no way I am going to know I’m ready to run 2:30, that’s part of marathon training. You literally cannot go out and run 26.2 miles at marathon pace.
I mean, running endless 5-mile tempos at goal marathon pace is a nightmare.
You go through the first mile and think, “how the HELL am I going to run this for 25 more miles?” Confidence gets shaken, goals get revisited, training logs are poured over.
And then you go out and do it again.
Another tempo, another track session, another long run.
Banging your head against a wall.
Building confidence, losing it, rebuilding it.
“You’ve venturing something significant every time you go out for a run and you have to believe that the sacrifices you’re making at the beginning will be honored in the end.” - Alex Hutchinson
And then you are on the starting line, not knowing what’s going to happen, but ready to take that leap.
Whether you are trying to break 2:30, 2:19, 3:00, whatever, you are taking a leap of faith.
That’s the idea.
Even now, as I’ve voiced my goals from behind the safety of this keyboard, I don’t always truly believe: And that belief is what I’m trying to get at and build.
I need to believe, need to be confident even when things don’t go perfectly.
Because things never go perfectly.
The road is never going to be exactly what you thought it was going to be, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t lead to the destination you thought it would.
Because there are 1000 ways to get to the same point, and you need to believe strongly enough in your journey, in your process, in your path, to be able to say that it will lead you where you want to go.
“There’s many ways to take and you just hope you’re gonna take the right one.” - Zane Robertson.
You need to take that leap.
Which brings me back to Hood to Coast.
As I got that baton for my final 6 mile leg, I realized that I had more to give. And I started rolling. Even though it was a grind, I came through those 3.5 uphill miles in around 6:15 pace and knew that I only had 2 downhill miles left.
And while it would have been awesome to simply cruise through the end of my part of HTC, I knew my legs had more.
There is a pretty amazing video on youtube of David Torrence breaking 4 in the mile for the first time by running down a massive hill, and I’ve always wanted to rip a downhill mile but never had the option.
But, at 6:20am in the middle of nowhere in Oregon on the side of a mountain, I was presented with that opportunity.
So I split my watch at 4.95 miles so that I could try and break-5 on what would be the last of my 19+ total miles during Hood to Coast.
I ended up running 5:01, but am happy I tried.
Which brings this all back around to a simple point: goals are going to be scary and intimidating but if you are going to dream big, that fear is going to come with the territory. It is part of it. And in spite of this fear, you need to maintain that belief in yourself.
I wonder constantly if my goal is too aggressive, too big.
But there are moments all the time that fire me up and make me believe again, and I cannot overstate how important that simple 10 miler with a friend was in keeping me on my invisible path—in helping me rediscover that belief that the invisible path will actually lead somewhere.
But also in helping me realize so much more: about the process and about running and why I love it yes, but also about myself. And that is vague, but it’s vague because I honestly don’t completely understand it. Yet I know that those small moments that have a much larger impact are rare, and that I can’t take them for granted.
So to that person, thank you for affecting me more than you will ever know.
And to everyone reading, I would encourage you to have the confidence in your goals but also the humility to go and thank your community for helping you when you are at a low-point.
It happens to all of us, doubt is part of the process.
But when you are chasing something that you can’t be absolutely positive you are ready for, you need to take that jump.
“Because that’s what people do… they leap and hope to god they can fly” - Hitch (great movie).
I’m chasing my goals and I’m working hard so I’m prepared for anything on November 4th.
But no matter how well I prepare, I’m going to stand there at the base of the Verrazano Bridge shitting my pants. Demons running wild in my head, doubt already creeping in, wondering what I got myself into.
Then I will think of everyone that has helped bring me back and helped me along my path. All the miles logged, the good, the bad. The bonds made. The vague indescribable discoveries. The support.
The gun will go off, and I’ll take my leap.