A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fighting the Devil on my Shoulder

Approaching the finish line!
Everytime I run a race a little devil appears on my shoulder, usually about two-thirds the way into the race. "You can't do this. You're too tired. Your legs feel like lead. Your lungs are burning. You should slow down. Maybe walk a little. Or just quit." That devil cost me a PR in last year's Denver Rock 'n' Roll half marathon.

Fortunately I have an Angel on my other shoulder who balances that out. "You can do this. You have trained hard. The pain is temporary. Think how good it will feel to cross the finish line knowing you reached your goal -- and then post it on Facebook!"

Yes, sadly, I actually think about that when I am running :)

This past Saturday I beat the devil at his own game. I used him as motivation to run harder. I was expecting him. And when he showed up my Angel was prepared to fight with words of encouragement.

One of the angels on my shoulder was my friend Sheila Ressler, who not only helped plan the race but also finished her first 5K!
Since I had helped mark the course for the Beefin' it up; Fuel for the Finish 10K, I knew the course. Between miles 4 and 5 in Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park there was a nasty hill. A long, steady incline that ended with a steep, winding climb. To make it worse, a cold headwind blew down the hill. Having experienced it on the back of a four-wheeler the morning before, I knew this is where the devil would appear.

Yet another angel, Kathy Tokach, handled many of the details of planning her first race like a pro.
Saturday morning was cold, but not as cold as Friday morning. And a clear, blue, sunny sky greeted the 175 runners and walkers who showed up for the race. I took the sun as a sign the Angel would be strong!

Turns out I had several angels on my shoulder! Two Facebook friends, Sarah and Teresa ran their first 5Ks in identical times of 36:21. I'd have loved to see them cross the line together (but I was still out on the course!).
At the start of the 10K I took off fast. I wanted to lead out the group through the first turns to make sure everyone made it to the main part of the course. One young woman, who I now know as Brie, took off fast. And sure enough, she missed the first turn. I yelled to her as I made the turn and she quickly turned around then caught and passed me, with a guy in neon-colored shoes, who I now know as Jared) right behind her. I had held the lead for about .2 miles and now sat in third.

I kept Brie and Jared in my sights up the mile-long climb to the 5K turnaround point. But when I crested the hill into Fort Lincoln they were long gone. I hoped they could follow the markings we had made on the pavement. When the landscape opened up at the bottom of the big hill (the same brutal one we would climb on the way back) I could see them make the turn on the road that would take them to the turnaround point.

Brie and Jared were still running together when they passed me heading back from the turnaround. We high-fived as we passed. I was still in third. And when I made the turn at the 5K mark I was right on my goal pace. I had just run my fastest 5K ever!

I like an out-and back course because I think it's fun to see all of the other runners, give some high fives and offer words of encouragement. I saw my friend Calli on the way back and she said "nice work." I liked that comment. It reminded me that there was still work to be done. A hill to be climbed.

Turning back on the main road it hit me. The wind. The hill. The devil. But this time I was ready. I actually talked to him. "Shut up!" I said when the negative thoughts creeped in. "Go away!"

That hill sucked. But I didn't let it beat me. That mile was my only one over eight minutes and it was 8:00.10! At the top of the hill I checked my Garmin Forerunner 410. I was still on pace to break 48:00. In fact, I had a shot at 47:00! The devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat :)

After crossing under the road and turning towards the finish line I saw the clock was still on 46:00 and change. I heard the DJ announce my name and sprinted towards the finish. I was still in third. I was going to make my goal. I crossed at 47:04 and yelled. Something like AAAAAAGGGHHH!

It was a painful, happy, satisfied, ardurous sound. I had just ran the fastest race in my life. Not only the fastest 10K, the fastest pace at ANY distance (7:35/mile). Take that, devil! At age 48. I'm not getting older. I'm getting faster!

The Beefin It Up! planning committee: from left: Michelle Marohl, Sheila Ressler, Sheyna Strommen, and Kathy Tokach.

The first-ever Beefin it up; Fuel for the Finish 5/10K was a huge success and provided me with a memory of a lifetime. Thanks to the North Dakota CattleWomen for inviting me to take part. Congratulation on putting together a tremendous race.

Ride on!


P.S. Jared and Brie took first and second in the 10K. Check out the full results here.


  1. What a great story line! I loved it that you let me, the reader, get into your thought process. I immediately began to think about how we all potentially have devils and angels sitting on our shoulders as we run life's race. Congratulations to you and your angel!!

  2. Daren-Thank you so much for coming out and helping us with this event! your passion and excitement is so awesome that many people on Saturday ran their best or just got out to show their support for our Beef Community!! The NDCW are very proud to have you on our side and we look forward to working with you in future events! I myself am very proud to call you friend!! Thank you again for everything you did to help us with this race and for everything you do on a daily basis to promote our way of life!!
    Sheila Ressler

  3. My favorite line "That hill sucked." I too was running the 10K, my first. My goal was to finish in 1:15 and I did even better with a time of 1:07! :-) I was happy to run the Beefin' It Up as my husband & I are also beef producers. I'll be there again next year and hope to see you again too!


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