Friday, July 26, 2013

"How can you run so far?"

People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”
Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

When people find out that I run ultras I’m often asked “How can you run that far?” proceeded by “I hate running,” or “I used to run, but now I have bad knees.” 
It’s curious to me that some people see exercise as a task or punishment.  To me, exercise is a chance to   experience magnificent places free of worry.  The hypnotic rhythm of my pace lulls me into that space where I am able to surrender to my soul’s needs, and I hit the off switch on my brain. 

I think people run ultra-races (more than 26.2) for many, very personal reasons.   For me, it was simply because someone told me that I could, and I really wanted to believe him.  I wanted to believe that I was the girl who was physically and mentally strong enough to run 100 miles, so I just kept moving.  That’s it.  There is nothing special about me, except that I always go to the starting line knowing that eventually, I WILL finish.  Dean Karnanzes said “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up” and that is my motto in ultra-running.  Relentless forward motion.

I’m so blessed that my sport has taken me to breathtaking places I would never get to see otherwise, and I pick races because I want to run in the woods, listen to babbling streams and become intoxicated with fresh air.  I want to experience a nature that leads me to myself.  How do I run that far?  It goes something like this:

Miles 1-30.  Awe and amazement.  How am I so lucky that I get to run here?   I run cautiously walking all uphill while taking in the magnificent scenery.  I am alive. Giddy.

Miles 30-50. Doubts begin to creep in.  I’m not even to the halfway point.  Are my legs heavy already?  Gosh I’m walking a lot.  Too much?   
“Oh look, there’s a chipmunk!”
I find someone to talk to until I can pick up my pacer at mile 50, and try to stay calm and positive.

Mile 50-75.  At mile 50 I’m half way there.  This is a huge confidence booster.  I pick up my pacer at mile 60, and even though it’s dark,  they always bring new light.  Now I have someone to think for me.  Now I am safe. 

Mile 75-90.   Just so tired.  Complete mental meltdown.  Often crying.  Need calories and sleep.  This is the “pain cave” that everyone speaks of, and I still have almost a marathon to go.  I can’t do this.  How am I going to do this?  Relentless forward motion
Mile 90.   There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Just 10 miles.  I can do anything for 10 miles.

Mile 95- I don’t have to save it anymore.  Let’s run to the finish.
Mile 100- Am I really allowed to stop?  It’s hard to convince my brain.  I collapse into a chair.  Happy?  Yes, but more importantly insanely tired and hungry.  Please feed me and let me sleep.   I promise to be ecstatic in the morning when reality settles in. :)

Why do I run so far?  It makes for amazing memories that give me strength to live this life to the fullest.  More simply?  Because I can.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Enjoy the ride

"Just play.  Have fun.  Enjoy the game."
Michael Jordon
The speedometer on my bike reads 32 mph as I skyrocket downhill.  The speed is exhilarating as my adrenaline pumped body surrenders to the rush of air and unbridled momentum. 

“If you fell right now it would be so bad…” my brain warns.
“But this feels amazing!” I fight back
“And you know you’re going to have to go back up this hill on the return” it taunts.
I’ll deal with that later” I retort.  “Can you please sit back, relax and enjoy the ride?”

More often than not, my workouts gift me with life lessons, presenting not only mirrors to current stresses, but answers and solutions.  It’s really a blessing in disguise.
I have been haunted by a lot of “what ifs” lately. 

What if I have to climb a hill? 
Then I’ll switch gears and pedal until I finally get to the top.
What if I fall? 
Then I’ll get back up.
What if I can’t keep up? 
Then I’m strong enough to go it alone. 

My finding is that if I just keep going eventually I hit that even road to sail on.  Sometimes I come across someone to draft behind, or I get the push of a tailwind.  Sometimes I fly downhill and get to stop peddling all together, and often I stop and just take in the beauty that the day presents. 
I’m beginning to understand how important this minute is- right now; and that it’s all a part of enjoying the ride.