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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Plourd

Miles Behind Me

My brothers and I have been asked several times which parent passed down our athletic gene, but we haven’t always been runners. Brent has a strong heart and naturally excels with little to no experience, Brandon has a determined curiosity to test his physical and mental limits, and I have a stubborn will to keep going. What we have in common is a good-intentioned competitive nature.

In 2002, I forced my mom and brothers to run around a field while I compared their heart rates for a high school science project. It was over 100 degrees, the ground was uneven and large dogs were on the loose. No one had fun. After three laps, my mom said it was too hot and went inside to make dinner. Brandon thought out loud about why his legs were hurting and Brent figured he won because he kept his heart rate the lowest. Feeling left out of the experience, I ran too, just for fun.

I continued to run sporadically until 2010 when 15 pounds and a love for the 550 calorie green tea frappacchino inspired me to run a half marathon. I like things to be black or white (or green if it’s from Starbucks) so I recognized the distinction between running and walking and set an arbitrary goal to never walk. I pushed through what I thought were my physical limits, ignored every sign from my body and stuck to the first training plan I found on the internet. I finished the OC Half Marathon with a knee brace and 10’28” pace. I was sore for days but the sight of that medal gave me a mental high.

Half Marathon training buddies Nikki and Chad

I described the feeling to Brandon and I guess he wanted in, but he reached further and ran a full marathon. Looking back, I regret not being there to cheer because I now know the physical and mental toll 26.2 miles takes on the body and I wish he could have felt more support when he hit that infamous 20-mile wall. He got his medal and it was metaphorically heavier than mine. I wanted it. But long runs felt like torture so I sat the dream on a backburner and did a sprint triathlon instead.

At TriRockSD, Brandon rode his new road bike and I got second in the beach cruiser division (of 10). Brent was interested, but he wanted to win. In 2015, Brent dedicated himself to training and nabbed 3rd place in his age division and 10th overall (of 475) with a time of 1:05:58!

Second place TriRock trophy (currently holding pens and markers in our home office).

We bantered and boasted our individual achievements at family gatherings, and it fueled us to conquer new goals, but I was constantly battling injuries and my speed had completely plateaued. That changed when I reconnected with an old friend, Gisele Schaaf. She's a marathoner and she’s fast! Like 6’51” marathon pace fast. She told me I could be fast too and started spitting out tips I'd never heard, plus she had science to support her claims. I reluctantly committed to her training plan (childless me thought I was busy then, ha!) and oh the results! I got faster and stronger and no more injuries. Plus it didn't feel like torture, it felt invigorating!

But also we wanted to start a family and pregnancy put a full stop on my running expectations. Some women can run into their 9th month pregnant. I am not one of those women.

Brandon and Brent didn’t intentionally leave me behind, it was the FOMO I let take control of my mind. While I ate for two, they trained for their first Ironman. When I was 9 months pregnant, they crossed the red carpet in Cabo. While nursing Crosley and running local 5ks, they trained for their second Ironman. It wasn’t until Tempe, Arizona, standing at the finish line and secretly 2 months pregnant that my attitude shifted. Watching athletes of all ages pushing through relentless pain to cross the finish line and hear “you are an Ironman” triggered something in me that gave me new inspiration. I’d have this baby (giving birth, the ultimate one-upper card that my brothers will never have on me) and get back to my fitness goals. That meant a marathon, half Ironman, full Ironman and a 5k with a sub 7 minute pace.

Blythe was born and I hit the ground running. First up, the OC Marathon. On race day, I was going strong until I hit that infamous wall. I audibly yelled at my legs “keep moving!” and they listened. Even with 100 yards to go and the finish line in sight, I continued to fight the physical desire to walk. I crossed the finish line with an 8'59" average pace and cried from full physical and mental exhaustion. This race remains to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Right next to potty training a toddler not ready to go peepee in the potty.

Next I set my sights on the half Ironman and checked that goal too. Bam! Just two goals left and I’m feeling unstoppable! My current 5k pace is down to 7’13” and I’m signed up to race the Ironman Arizona, November 24th, 2019!

So maybe the more appropriate question to ask is where does our competitiveness come from? And that’s easy, it comes from our dad.

Four-time winner of The Vase, the most coveted item in the annual Ashurst White Elephant Crap Exchange.

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