In late February of 2018, I got a text from Joe DiNoto along the lines of “yo Travis, looking forward to seeing you run the 30… are you going to go for it? .. trying to get a sense of what the field is going to be like.” Joe is not a “Race Director” as much as he is a curator. He researches every individual who signs up for one of his races. He promotes rivalries, hypes underdogs and celebrates risk takers. From the moment he drops the whiteboard scripted message on Instagram, hinting at the possibility of a race, he is narrating a story. I played it cool “I’m in decent shape (lie)… I’ve been running a bit (training my ass off)”
I WAS planning on going for it! I’m not sure what I was hiding from. There are so many fine lines in endurance sport. With cocky, obnoxious, audacious on one side – scared, insecure, sandbagging on the other. Humility/honesty – if we’re honest, it often plays as hubris. What if we over promise and under deliver, the worst offense. I thought about it for a few minutes then sent another text “It’s not like me to sign up for a race and not prepare… you can expect me to go for it!”
I did prepare for that race. I scouted the course. Had endless conversations about whether to take First ave or follow the east river bike path. First ave had over 75 intersections- but it was almost half a mile shorter. I took First ave, I went for it.
Erik (Reitinger) went for it too! We battled that day and I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that beating him for the win made that finish feel incredible. To say that it didn’t, with some attempt at humility, would be downright disrespectful. Beating Erik that day is one of the highlights of my sporting career. If you think “that’s harsh,” think again. That’s praise! Erik’s a really nice guy, who I happen to love training with. I also love racing AGAINST him. He’s as fierce a competitor as they come.
Imagine heading out for your long run on a Saturday afternoon in March. Instead of running in central or prospect park or staying on the bike paths and running along the piers; your plan calls for running the majority of the workout through the grid. That’s from the Brooklyn Bridge up through Harlem and back. Then a lap through Brooklyn for the hell of it. The workout will be done at goal marathon race pace… but you’ll run several miles more than a marathon. Welcome to the OSR 30! The mental and emotional exhaustion of this event only reminds me of Ironman triathlon, except it’s different because you’re running so much faster and harder.
Physically the race is brutal, surging through intersections to beat the traffic, hopping on and off curbs, sidewalks, guardrails, up and down stairs.. The mental and emotional strain is where the real challenge of the race lies. The constant decision making, navigating, timing, judging, assessing – all of the novelties of an open course- they compound over the distance.
I wasn’t looking forward to racing again in 2019 until around January, when there was enough distance between me and the pain and all that was left was the glory. I knew there was a target on my back. That was all the motivation I needed to put the work in. I practiced a different nutrition strategy and trained more and more on hard surfaces (the course has a lot of concrete) with hill work at the end of my long runs to simulate the Brooklyn and Williamsberg bridges.
David Kilgore is an athlete in another league! He was rightfully predicted to win the race in 2019. I’m not, nor have I ever been faster than him in any distance from 1mile to 52 miles (he recently ran the Rio Marathon then turned around and ran back to the start!) The only chance I had was to out-prepare him and hope that the course wore him down. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened. I’m convinced the guy had the flu as well and was too classy to say so.
This time victory felt unimaginable. The glory overwhelmed the pain and I was talking about 2020 within days. I knew that there would be a handful of runners saying to themselves “If he can do it..” Nothing was more motivating than proving them wrong (again, I’m sure they’re nice people). Also, I knew Kilgore and Erik were likely killing themselves training for redemption.
I put in the work. Out of fear of losing, out of respect for the race, and because It’s not like me to sign up for a race and not prepare. There’s a well known phrase in the Ironman world coined by German world champion Sebastian Kinle, “There’s a fine line between fit and fucked.” Training to be better & faster is an exercise in stepping just beyond your limits, then allowing your body to adapt. Sometimes we step too far beyond those limits – a fine line.
OSR 30- Joe, Erik, Kilgore and the rest of the competition racing on March 14th 2020 pushed me to train, motivated me to stretch my limits. That’s when the race began. Make no mistake, pushing myself beyond my limits and not showing up for the race healthy, is losing the race, and that’s on me. I’m heartbroken to deny them the glory on race day, but am certain I’ll have more than enough motivation for 2021.
Black and White images by George Grullon color images by Park Feierbach 2019.