Friday, January 30, 2015

A race report and a revelation.

I'll start with the race report, that way, when I get to my rambling emotional stuff, you can bow out. My first race of the year was the St. George Half Marathon. I haven't run this race before, so it was fun to get out and run about the red rocks and palm trees.

I enjoyed this race. The organization was good and we were smart to stay at the hotel that was practically at the start line. Packet pick up was easy and the expo was a decent size. The course was pretty nice. Who am I kidding, I was just happy to get out of the cold, dreary weather of Utah County and down to sunny southern Utah. I especially liked the bike path that we got to run on for the last 5 or so miles. It was nice to get off the road and away from the traffic. I've done some training runs down in St. George while on vacation, but I had never found where to get on that path. Now that I know, I can use it in future training.
Enjoying the bike path.
Flying through the finish.
I went to this race with a great group of runners. The people that I rode down to the race with waited patiently at the finish line for me, the slowest of the Meet Up folks. That was kind of them. I felt very strong through this race, which was a pleasant surprise, since it came just a week after my 33.26 mile effort. I'm feeling quite optimistic about my upcoming ultras with how well things have been going with my training. Which means I better rein in that optimism, because every time I've felt ready, something has gone horribly awry.
So now we're to the part where things get all deep and emotional. You can tune out, I won't even mind. I've been thinking about why I run. It's been on my mind more than ever these last few weeks. It's funny, as I logged on to write this blog, I saw a blog post by my friend Jeremy that went into depth about why he runs. I guess it's that time of year or there's something in the water...

I had a realization about why I spend hours upon hours running. I've realized that I run so long because of my aloneness. Aloneness isn't exactly loneliness, but it's similar. Loneliness, to me, encompasses an element of sadness. I'm not all that sad. Just alone.

I've always had trouble connecting with people. It seems to get worse as I get older. I've always been just a little "off" I suppose. I was never popular, I never dressed right (still don't), I never followed the popular music scene, etc.

Not fitting in used to bother me more, and I tried so hard to fit in. I spent too much time trying to look right, say the right things, pretended to like the things that others liked. I forced myself out of the house for weekends on end, going out with guys I didn't care for because the weekends were for dating and that's what normal people do.

Finally, I found that if I filled my weekends with races, I had an excuse not to go out all the time. I had to go to bed early during the week to get my training in. It gave me an out. People didn't like it, so they left. And I was okay with that. I hit the point where I only want to spend time with the people who truly understand me.

So running all those races is one thing. But why the longer distances? I've figured that out too. How much better is it for me to run when I'm feeling my aloneness than to binge eat, or wind up in some dive bar, sharing a drink we call loneliness (But it's better than drinking alone! Everyone sing along, you know the words). It's a healthy outlet of sorts. I spent over 8 hours last Sunday in the act of running. I found a lot of peace in it. I understand myself, so I don't mind spending all that time alone with my thoughts.

So  running is my aloneness therapy. And then, when it's race time, I get to be a little less alone. I get to be part of a group trying to accomplish the same end. We all have to go the same distance. There's a sense of camaraderie, shared goals, purpose. And for a few hours (more than a few hours, depending on the distance) I belong.

In this life, there's very little we actually have control over. There's a saying out there about running. It's something along the lines of "running is an honest endeavor, you get out of it exactly what you put in", And it's true. I can control my efforts, my dedication, my attitude about it. When I feel like everything is spiraling out of control, as it so often does in life, I can go for a run. When I feel sad, I can go for a run. I can have a good cry when I run and no one knows because I can pass it off as sweat. When I feel happy, I can run and enjoy the feeling of moving my body. And after every run, I'm in a better mental  place than I was before I started.

So that's why I run. You can do with that what you will. Another therapeutic blogging session, courtesy of yours truly. Until next time, run happy. Or sad, or lonely, or alone, or however you need to run.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The fear report

The realization of what I have done has come crashing down on me, which is strange. On the advice of a very dear friend, I am writing as a way to deal with things (things like, let's say, emotions, and stuff).  And as an act of bravery (or stupidity, you decide), I have chosen to put this writing out into the aether.

Why should I be so terrified of this year's race schedule? My training has been going amazingly well. Last Saturday, I ran 33.26 miles in seven hours (about 7:20 if we count the time spent changing shoes, shirt, bathroom breaks, etc). Even counting that time spent doing things that would keep me comfortable, that is still 1 hour and 49 minutes faster than my first official attempt at that distance back in June at the Trail Rail Run. And then I ran another 5 miles on Sunday. Because it seemed like the thing to do. It wasn't easy, but I didn't have to stop and walk so I must have been feeling well enough.

So why, now, today, am I scared? I've been obsessively number crunching since Sunday night. I desperately want to get 50 miles in during my 12 hour event next month. And all of the sudden, I'm overcome with doubt that I'll be able to achieve that.Not just a little doubt, but oppressive, consuming self doubt.  The thoughts that are filling my head now are all about how I shouldn't linger at the aid stations. I should perfect every little move I make. I know that I'll need to change out of my wet clothes once the sun starts going down or I'll freeze to death. And now I'm overly concerned with how long that is going to take. I know I can't skip that, or I'll be miserable, and possibly hypothermic if I don't change.

Why is it all of the sudden so important to get 50 miles in 12 hours? That works out to an average of 14:40 minute/mile pace. When I see those numbers, I KNOW I should be able to do that. But then I realize that I will have to stop. Eat. Change. Cry. Have a massive breakdown. Rebound. Eat some more. Those things take time. Time that cuts into that minute/mile equation.

I've been able to run a consistent sub 6 hour marathon this past little while. So I should be fine, right? Probably not, since I have to run two sub sixes to make 50 in 12. And as you keep going, you get tired. You slow down. Okay, well maybe YOU don't. But I sure as hell do.

And that leads me to the fear of my first official 50 mile event. There's a 14 hour time limit, so I shouldn't be having panic attacks, right?  Right?! Well guess what. I'm panicking. Big time panicking. I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that I don't want to be last. Again. Second to last is perfectly acceptable. Why is second to last so perfectly fine? I don't know. I just don't want to be last. I've been the last person to finish a race multiple times. As in more than once. As in, it happens more frequently than I am happy admitting. But for some reason, I love the last person. I love to stay and watch them come in, if I've somehow managed to not be in their place. I am always so proud of them. It seems like they worked harder than anyone to get to that finish line and they didn't give up. I often cry at finish lines, watching that last person come through. So why can't I love being last?

Scared, That's what I am. Scared to be last. Scared of how much it will hurt. Scared to fail. Scared that people will make fun of me because my very best effort is something that would shame them into never participating in another event. Does this happen to other people? Am I just losing my mind? It's just running, what's the big deal?

I've made huge strides in my progress as a runner. I need to focus on that. Perhaps all that's happening here is the fear of the unknown. I don't know how much pain is waiting for me during these events I've put on my plate.  My longest run to date was last Saturday's run. A couple of years ago, I never would have dreamed I could do anything over a marathon distance. And I have 4 times now, and I haven't felt all that terrible afterwards. But when I try to fathom doubling that distance, which is scheduled to happen this October, I get sick to my stomach. I shouldn't mention the fact that I've also committed to my first 100 miler, one year from now... Eep. Who does that?! Who commits to run 100 miles when she hasn't even completed a 50 miler without dying?!

That sick feeling, it's the same way I felt at the starting line of my first marathon,even my first half marathon. Oh, who am I kidding, my first 5K scared me. I guess that means I should keep that in mind. Once it's conquered, it's not going to have the same effect as it once did. I just have to do my best to show up prepared, in body and mind. Give it all I've got. And If I happen to be last (again), I should make it look good.

Huh, I do feel a little better now that I've got that out.

Until my next race report (or cathartic writing sesh), happy running :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 out, 2015 in!

Some people I know hate when a new year rolls around. They hate the passing of the time, they hate getting older. I, however, love it. Each day that passes in my life brings better and better things. Sure, there are the standard ups and downs. And my past is not full of unicorns and butterflies. I've had my fair share of bad things happen in my life, but I've long since realized that attitude is everything in this life.

 2014 was pretty darn good, ladies and gentlemen. I set out with a goal to run 1200 miles for the year. I beat that goal by a tidy sum, racking up an even 1300 miles. I logged my biggest month of mileage in December with 171 miles. I ran (well, walked, ran, and zombie shuffled) my first ultra marathon. I finally got myself off the pavement and onto some trails. And in doing so, I've met some of the most inspiring people.

2014 was a year where I feel like I've actually found myself. I've come to a place where I am more open than I've ever been. I'm more confident, more focused. I still have moments where I struggle. I wouldn't be human if I didn't. But I can't think of a time in my past where I've been so wholly happy with the direction I'm going.

You all may be wondering how all this super personal stuff about me relates to running. Or maybe you've figured it out (because the people who read my blog are no dummies). It all relates to running. All of it. The way that running has challenged me, rewarded me, and fulfilled me, has changed me and all for the better. And the best part is the people. Seriously, the runners that I have met are some of the kindest, most patient, generous people I've ever encountered. I spent far too long feeling like I didn't fit in with "runners" because of my slower pace. But when I think back, not once did any other runner make me feel like I didn't belong. That was all in my head.

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Jamie for sticking out a four hour training run with me a few weeks ago. It was cold and wet, and I wasn't moving fast. But she didn't seem to mind it at all. I had never done a training run with someone else before. I probably apologized to Jamie for my pace about a hundred times. But she just stayed positive and supportive the whole time. While I have been at races with other people, we hang out at the beginning and the end but not during, except for the Route 66 Half, where I ran the entire race with Geof. I have to say, having someone to keep you going when you don't want to keep going makes all the difference. I'm really grateful for the people who are willing to spend some miles with me and help me make my goals. And the longer I run, the more people I meet who want to spend those miles with me.

I still have some insecurities with running with others. And heaven help me if an attractive man wants to go running together. Especially if it's someone I really look up to as a runner. One of these days, I'll be able to put my ego aside and go out and run with anyone who offers. That's something I am going to focus on this year. Like I said, it's all in my head. No one I know would ever make me feel inadequate (because I kicked all of those types of people out of my life a long time ago).

2015 is going to be a blast. I've built up a solid base to do well with the running goals I've set for this year. I am aiming to run an ultra marathon distance once per month through the year. I even got a jump start on that by getting in two runs over 26.2 miles in the month of December. I registered for a 50 mile race today. That was a scary thing for me, but also really exciting. Hopefully, by the time that race rolls around, I will have run 50 miles twice before, by way of the two 12 hour events I'm doing before then. The 12 hour events don't seem as daunting, because there is no set mileage. I think they will do wonders for my confidence when it comes to these bigger distances.

So there you go. Y'all know more about me than you've ever wanted. Let's all have a wonderful 2015. Let's make the most out of every moment. We'll never be here again, so make sure it means something. Show your gratitude. Let people know how much they mean to you. Hug more. Laugh more. Don't take yourself too seriously. Go out and have adventures, get messy, get lost. That's how to live, and learn, and grow. Plus, it'll give us all some cool stories to tell when we get old.  Until next time, happy running!