Running 100 Miles is Totally Reasonable

Grand-Trail-Book

I just devoured this book: Grand Trail by Alexis and Frederic Berg. It’s a combination of articles on ultra trail running, profiles of ultra trail runners and races and tons of phenomenal pictures.

One article talks about how we are born to run. That we as a species survived and thrived largely because our bodies are built for long distance running. Our ancestors out ran their prey. It was our evolutionary advantage. To put this in perspective the following example is used:

“Over a distance of 100 meters, Usain Bolt, the king of sprint races, would come a poor second to a rat or even a squirrel. Conversely, on terra firma, no mammal and no primate can keep up with a man or a woman after several hours of effort, not even the horse, dog or the camel.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve read this. I was introduced to the concept through Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. (A must read whether you’re interested in running or not.) And I’ve been reminded of it periodically, through articles like this one, published in Smithsonian Magazine, about a family that lived in Siberia for 40 years, cut off from all human contact.

“Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders.”

You read enough of this stuff and running 100 miles, with over 33,000 ft of elevation gain, at an average altitude of 11,000 ft (as is the case for the Hardrock 100) starts to seem like a perfectly reasonable idea.

Okay, that’s a lie.

But a 50K or even a 50 miler on trails, with the unavoidable ups and downs in elevation, is beginning to feel more “doable” than “crazy”. So much so that I’ve set a goal. I’ve alluded to it a couple times and now here I am just putting it out there.

I don’t have a race picked out and I wouldn’t say I’m training for one yet. It’s still that far out there. I don’t even know with certainty that my body will be up for it. But I’m optimistic, and I’m more than headed down the path. I’m running.

I went for a 12 mile trail run this past weekend. Within minutes of starting a herd of tall and lean young men darted past me, almost flying over a small stream crossing our path. I very cautiously found a route across the same stream while they disappeared between the trees. Soon thereafter I almost ran into another man while he tried to pass me. I hadn’t even covered 2 miles and was already walking an uphill stretch. He snuck up on me so fast I didn’t even hear him coming.

I’m choosing not to feel discouraged. I have to start somewhere, right? And I haven’t had to poop in the woods yet. What more can I really ask for at this point?

Today We Run

Green-Mountain-Trail

The sky is overcast. That seems to be the afternoon norm these days. Big Girl and Baby Girl are fighting over a blow up bat decorated in superheroes. Or with the bat. I can’t be sure. Probably both.

Yesterday, I happened to notice that the bottom corner of our shower curtain is covered in mold. Perhaps I would’ve noticed it sooner if I ever showered. I should probably wash it. Which reminds me. I’m down to my last pair of clean underwear.

My husband just informed me that Baby Girl threw up. Wonderful. And shocking because robots don’t throw up. That would actually make sense if you had heard her chanting, “I am a robot,” all weekend ad nauseam.

I feel a little sick to my stomach too. Not because I’m sick. I hope. But because I ate a little too much pizza and ice cream this afternoon. All I really want to do right now is take a nap and divert all my energy to my digestive tract.

But I need to go for a run.

This is where progress is made. This is the meaning of training. Runners don’t become runners by accident. We don’t just happen to get faster or run farther. We get there through one seemingly small decision after another. Not to take a nap. Not to do the laundry. Today we run.

Not Your Average Yoga Retreat

I took no yoga pictures, but managed to sneak in a quick run during our one legitimate break and snapped this one.

I went on a retreat for yoga teacher training this past weekend. An image is likely coming to your mind. Perhaps you just let out a sigh that was a mixture of relief and jealousy. Whatever it is you’re imagining, let me assure you. It was not that.

I don’t mean to say it was bad. I cried twice publicly and full on sobbed for a solid hour one evening while I shared a personal story with my roommate. I was obviously affected by the experience, and I feel like I can say with some confidence that I wasn’t the only one.

But it was not relaxing. I was up at 5:00 am every day so I could pump and still get to the 6:00 am asana practice. Nursing Baby Girl takes all of maybe 5-10 minutes, but some combination of performance anxiety and unnaturally small breasts/improperly sized equipment led to 40 minutes of pumping per session. For the most part our free time consisted of 10 minutes here and there to collect our things and move to another location. And a second round of pumping commenced around 9:30 pm when we were finally dismissed. In reality, it was exhausting.

The focus of the weekend was yoga philosophy. We went over the entirety of the Yoga Sutras and about half of the Bhagavad Gita. I’m churning over all of the material.

I think I would’ve oddly felt more comfortable studying the bible for a weekend, because I am very much at ease with not being Christian. I feel more conflicted about yoga philosophy because I know with a certainty that I want to teach. How much of the material do I have to buy into in order to teach in good conscience?

“Take what serves you and leave the rest.” This is what they tell us. So I plan on setting aside a good chunk of it to mull over in my own time.

I am taking with me the beautiful friendships that are beginning to bud, blossoming and flourishing. At the end of the last day of retreat we did a closing ceremony, during which most people shared very personal and emotional thoughts and stories. We cried and we hugged. It was profoundly moving.

As Brene Brown says, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

I am beyond grateful for the bravery this group of women showed through their vulnerability and authenticity. The love and acceptance within this community is the medicine we all need.

I Was a Bad Mom on Mother’s Day

Colorado-Women's-Classic-Finish

I ran the Colorado Women’s Classic 10 miler on Mother’s Day. Big Girl ran the kid’s fun run. She did well and ran the whole 100 yards or so. And then she got a cupcake. So she should’ve been set, right?

Turns out she didn’t get her fix with the 100 yards or so. When Big Girl saw me near the finish she jumped into action and came charging after me down the finish chute yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” A good mother would’ve slowed down and ran with her. That would’ve been the motherly thing to do on Mother’s Day.

But that’s not what I did. Nope. I just kept right on going, fully aware that she would not be able to keep up with me. I didn’t even turn around until I stopped my watch. I prioritized my finish time over my daughter. I was a bad mom.

Oh well.

The race went pretty well. I felt strong throughout the first half. And then it got hard.

I blame my husband.

I voice texted him so he’d know when-ish to look for me at the finish line. But it took like 7 tries and happened to take place on a downhill. So I ended up with a side cramp. Fortunately it didn’t last too long. It went away as soon as I stopped swearing at my phone and focused on my breath. The course veered to the left right around that time, and I turned straight into a headwind.

That felt hard. A client of mine recently commented on how she didn’t fully realize how hard the end of a race would be. And you know what? It’s been so long since I really raced that I think I actually sort of forgot. The course was basically flat, but the few “speed bumps” in the second half felt like mountains.

But I gave it my all and got it done. Right up through my solo sprint to the finish.

Colorado-Women's-Classic

Part of me feels embarrassed that a 9:49 min/mile pace felt as hard as it did. I sort of didn’t want to tell you that. Now that I’m coaching I feel like I’m supposed to be really fast. Definitely faster than my clients, right? Well, I’m not. Not even close. But like my old therapist used to say, “I wonder how helpful it is to compare…”

Answer: It’s not.

So I’m reminding myself that running fast and being a good coach require two completely different skill sets. And I’m reminding myself that it wasn’t that long ago that I was sidelined with a knee injury. It will take time to build my base back up. And I’m reminding myself of my goals.

I’m working towards a really big running goal right now. It’s big enough and scary enough and far enough away that I’m hesitant to write it down right now. But I will tell you that it doesn’t include speeding up.

I guess I should have reminded myself of these things while I was running. Maybe I would’ve waited for Big Girl. I hope she doesn’t think I’m a bad mom.

Eh, I gave her a rose and my chocolate milk. She’ll be alright.

You Know That Thing You Want to Do? What’s Stopping You?

I’m running the Colorado’s Women’s Classic 10 mile race on Mother’s Day. It’s been awhile since I did a race so I’m feeling a mix of nervous and excited. A friend of mine registered months ago. It took me a lot longer. Then one day she asked me, “What’s stopping you?” Those probably weren’t her exact words, but that was the gist.

And I thought to myself, “Ohhhhh, good one. What is stopping me?”

My default answer was, “I don’t know if I’ll be ready.” But if I’m honest with myself I know I can run 10 miles. What I don’t know is how long it will take me. I really don’t know. But it will likely be much slower than I want it to be. I decided that was a silly reason to miss out and signed up.

Within a week of registering for the Colorado Women’s Classic I told my husband I was thinking about signing up for the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon in August. I’ve wanted to do it for years but living in California proved too much of a barrier. He responded with something along the lines of, “Do it. What’s stopping you?”

And I thought to myself, “Damn. What is stopping me?”

Fear of commitment. I was registered and about halfway through training for the Napa Valley Marathon when my mom was diagnosed with cancer in November 2015. We decided to move and I knew I couldn’t commit to training in the middle of life. I was finally building my base back up and looking at a handful of races last summer when I hurt my knee. It seems like every time I start to get serious something comes along to derail me. So I’m afraid to commit.

But then the next day we were chatting with our neighbors and one of them asked me if I had any races coming up. “You should try the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon,” he said to me.

Holy coincidence! “I was just talking about that one yesterday,” I said.

You know what he said? Of course you do. Some variation of, “What’s stopping you?”

So I sat with that for a couple weeks. What is stopping me? Fear. Fear I’ll have to back out for some unforeseeable reason. Fear my ego won’t be able to handle my pace. Oh fear, you tricky little bastard.

This morning I put fear in timeout and took care of business. I am now financially committed to and looking forward to a fun filled summer running the Colorado Mountain Half Marathon Series. (I’m such a sucker for an extra medal.)

Colorado-Mountain-Half-Marathon-Series

 

You know that thing you want to do? Start running? Try yoga? Change careers? Big or small, we all have a thing. Whatever yours is. What’s stopping you?