comfort zone

Why You Should Try an Ultra

“Running has taken me in, and continues to comfort,

heal and challenge me in all kinds of magical ways.

I am not a ‘good runner’ because I am me.

I am a good ‘me’ because I am a runner.”

– Kristin Armstrong

Some trail humor... not my photo, so I can't take credit. (unsure of source)

Some trail humor… not my photo, so I can’t take credit. (unsure of source)

Today I started my second day out from the Chatfield Hollow 50K with some yoga… or at least I attempted to. I realized very quickly that flexibility and balance postures are a pretty much a joke for me post ultra (shocker, right?) Plus, my dogs kept interrupting to “help”. The good news is that, despite my recovery time getting cut short due to the fur balls, I still felt some immediate relief in my post race soreness and stiffness.

dogyoga“But you’re on the floor… What do you mean you don’t want to play?”

The rest of my day I spent doing some work on the boat with the hubs, catching up with my mom, and, of course, looking up information on other ultras… like 50 and 100 milers… Now I know what you are thinking “Jeez woman you just ran an ultra!”, but I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. If I came across that finish line on Sunday completely victorious, that might have been it for me for the season (I know, I know! Who am I kidding). However, instead I got my first ultra running DNF; and there is no way I’m going to end my season with an unfinished race!

It’s not so much that I have something to prove. I am completely happy with my performance, DNF or not. What is different about this race is it opened the door to possibility. That course was HORRENDOUS, and yet I basically begged them to let me do a forth lap. I would have done a fifth too and finished had they let me! That is what made me realize that I totally have a 50 miler in me. What’s more, I’d like to do it sooner rather than later.

I may not have come away from Chatfield with a finish, but I did get something better. It ignited a little fire within to push even harder. I went into that race feeling fried, burnt out, and unmotivated. Yet, I came out 40K later completely invigorated. It was as if I had gone back to my roots and renewed my sense of passion for trail running… for ultra running.

The thing that appeals to me so much about ultra running beyond just my love for the trails and community is that it is so much more about character than pure athleticism. Not to say that a certain level of athletic skill isn’t required, but it’s not what’s going to get you to the finish. The drive and push to keep going when your body fails (because it will fail) and the unending pain sets in comes from the heart. Ultras are run on resiliency, determination, and faith more than physical prowess.

I am better at ultra running than any other sport two reasons 1) I love trail running, and 2) I can enduring suffering. The longer the race, the more heavily mental fortitude is favored over speed and talent… (and the faster I look since I tend to run the same pace no matter the distance). Basically, I can hang in there and keep moving regardless of how much it hurts, I am doubting myself, or want to stop. That is my running super power. Sadly, it doesn’t serve me well in short runs. Yet, set me out for a full day on the trails and I will just keep on truckin’.

If you want to have fun and get fit take up a class. However, If you want to learn the absolute depths of your strength and soul, take up ultra running. It’s more than a sport. It’s a mindset and culture that will change your life and build you into a better person. I can fully understand why some people say trail running is their religion. There is no other place in my life where I feel more clarity or at peace than spending 7 or 8 hours running in the woods. Nothing else even comes close.

If you have ever thought about ultra running you should seriously consider trying it. So many people think it’s too hard or far, but the truth is that if you have ever run far enough to have to push through a “wall”, then you can work up to a half marathon, marathon, or ultra. The only difference from one to the next is how many “walls” you have to run through. As long as you hydrate and get enough electrolytes and calories you will continue to get “another wind”. That is the trick to long distance running. You just need to realize that feeling terrible is going to come in waves, and if you hang in there it will get better. Most people just don’t ever push themselves past the first “wall” to realize there’s a second or third.  However, now you know (if you didn’t already), which means you are already well on your way to long distance running success.

On a more serious note, while ultra running may not be for you (yet…) at least consider that there is some distance that could push you outside your comfort zone. Rather than pick a race you know you can finish, choose the one you’re unsure of. The reward is so much greater when it isn’t guaranteed. Plus, it will help open the door to the next challenge.

Truly, there is no greater feeling than accomplishing something you never thought you’d be capable of. Don’t you owe it to yourself to try?

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Waterbury Duathlon Recap

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.

If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

-Dale Carnegie

Image

It’s the moment you have all been waiting for!  That’s right, it’s time for my Waterbury Duathlon Recap!  Spoiler Alert: I didn’t die or get maimed.  That means I am now officially someone who competes (and I use the term loosely) in more than one sport!  I am a duathlete!

To say I was nervous going into this event would be a gross understatement.  Absolutely TERRIFIED would be a more accurate Imagedescription.  Luckily, my uber supportive and encouraging hubs came along for backup.  I was a little surprised when he registered because he had signed up for the Five Boroughs Bike Tour the day after.  Have I mentioned recently how much I love him?

Anyway… he made sure our bikes were all prepped and ready to go the night before, so we were all set to go in the morning.  After finally settling on parking at the YMCA (after driving around in circles forever a few times) and taking a short walk to the start, we headed over to registration.  Can I just say that I have never raced in an event that required an ankle bracelet for a time chip.  There were also so many stickers and bib numbers!  It was just a little overwhelming… especially given that I didn’t even know how to rack my bike.  It made me very grateful to have the hubs there to show me how to set everything up.

I was also relieved to have my first race involving cycling with our YMCA family!  There were lots of familiar faces, which helped to put me slightly more at ease.  Everyone was so supportive and encouraging.  All I could think was if I could just get through the bike, I would be fine.  My motto for the day was “go slow, have fun,” and I repeated it over and over in my head.

The thing that frightened me most was that the bike course was in downtown Waterbury, and it wasn’t closed.  This meant not only did I have to contend with my general clumsiness on the bike, but do so while avoiding traffic.  Are you freaking kidding me?  As if I’m not challenged enough. lol  Had I only known what was coming!

I think you could have given me all the time in the world, and I still would not have felt ready at the start.  My bike was racked, my transition area set, but there is just no feeling prepared when you step outside your comfort zone.  As crazy as it sounds I think I was almost more afraid of the USAT official than the actual race.  Not that she wasn’t a nice person, but it was more than a little intimidating to go from just running to a race with rules and penalties.  I was so scared of accidentally drafting or doing something I could get disqualified for…  As if the race official was going to care about those of us in the middle or back of the pack.

The first leg of the race was a relatively flat 5K.  It went by fairly quickly despite the fact that my legs weren’t feeling great.  I tried to just relax and focus on my running form.  I reminded myself that just because I didn’t feel great at the start didn’t mean the whole race would be bad.  If ultra running has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t judge a race by the first three or even ten miles.  As long as you hang in there, chances are things will turn around… eventually.

I was actually surprised when I looked down at my watch at the end of the 5K and saw it had only been 22 minutes.  I made my way around the park into the transition area and caught a glimpse of the hubs on his way out.  I tried to take my time getting set up for the bike leg because it was my very first transition and I didn’t want to forget anything.

roadrashThankfully, I managed to mount my bike without too much difficulty; even though I did accidentally release the fastener on my shoe by hitting it on the pedal and had to fix it before I could get on.  Still, before I knew it, I was clipped in and on my way!  I was relieved to find they had officers at each intersection to direct the traffic.

I just was starting to relax and think it wouldn’t be so bad when the hills started…

It wasn’t that the uphills were particularly hard.  Sure some were steep and long, but it was anticipating all the downhill that had me spooked.  What goes up must come down, right?

I was probably the only person who dreaded those down hills more than the up.  As it turned out, it was with good reason!  When we did finally reach the top of all those hills, we were rewarded with an incredibly steep downhill.  Not just a downhill, but a downhill through traffic, with a sharp right turn at the bottom!  I kid you not, I thought it would be the end of me!  I couldn’t help but visualize myself wiping out on that turn.  It was not pretty!  All I could think was that I should have unclipped because I was going to eat it!  What’s worse is that it was still downhill after the turn!!!!  Even worse still, the course was a loop, so I had to do it all over again on the second lap!!!!

I sincerely thought of ditching my bike and quitting I was so shaken.  I almost cried.  In fact, I’m surprised my lip didn’t bleed from how hard I was biting it.  Despite my better self preserving instinct; however, I didn’t quit.  Instead I finished my first loop and headed out for the second.  I dreaded coming though the downhill again, but I was determined to get through it.  The second time through was even more awful because we had to navigate between a line a traffic and row of parked cars.  There was almost no margin for error.  I was SO glad I had practiced riding through all those lane dividers on the Cheshire bike path and managed to keep myself straight.  Thankfully, I made it all the way down and around the turn without crashing.  Once I got back to even ground, I knew I was in the home stretch.

I plowed through the rest of the course back to transition, and after being redirected to the appropriate exit (yes, I initially went the wrong way), I headed out for the final 5K run.  My legs felt heavy as I expected they would.  Again, I focused on form and tried to relax.  Despite the fact that I felt like I was barely moving, the miles were going by quickly so I knew I was moving at a good pace.  The sun and heat were killing me, but I had already survived the bike.  There was no way I was going to let a little warm weather take me out!  It kept telling myself “It’s only 5K, it’s only 5K “.  I chipped the miles off one by one, then before I knew it, I had the park in my sights!!!  One of my swim buddies was volunteering near the park directing runners, and I shouted his name because I was so happy to see him.  I think he was surprised to see me already so close to the finish because I had told him how terrified I was about this being my first event with a bike.  He told me I was “Rocking it!” and I continued on my way.

At that point there was only a short distance… including a ridiculous staircase (I mean really?  A staircase?  Sadists!) to the finish.  The hubs was there at the finish waiting for me.  I ran straight to him and I could see the time on the clock was 1:57!!!  I cannot even explain what it felt like to cross that line!  I had been so scared and worked so hard.  It is just indescribable what it meant to me to actually take the leap and do it.  Less than a year ago I bought my first real bike, and now I’m a duathlete.

winning

The hubs and I went to check the results and he was excited that he had one of the fastest times on the bike course.  (Woohoo! Go hubs!!!)  I was just happy to have finished.  I was ecstatic it was in under 2 hours, and in utter disbelief that I finished in the top 50.  As part of the race, we got bracelets that entitled us to a free beer and sandwich at one of the local pubs so we headed over to eat.  Instead of finishers medals, we were each awarded a pint glass.  I know, again with the pint glasses.  I’m going to have quite the collection!

spoils

Actually, we left our glasses at the pub… Okay they took them, but we didn’t mind because they had the pub logo instead of the logo for the race anyway.

After we got home and cleaned up, we headed out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants followed by  ice cream at a local creamery.  Just in case you were wondering, I did not feel the least bit guilty about all the calories.  I especially didn’t feel guilty for the DELICIOUS  s’more martini I had with dinner to celebrate.

smore

Overall the hubs and I both had a great experience.  It was a very well organized event, and I was glad that my first tri event was on our home turf.  It definitely made it less intimidating and added some comfort level.  Plus, it was fun to see so many familiar faces out on the course.  I was really happy that the hubs was so pleased with his performance.  One of the guys from the bike shop we use had recommended he get into racing, and I think his performance might help encourage him.

When we finally got home from all our festivities, the hubs showed me how to clean the bikes and re-lube the chains.  I had told him that I want to get comfortable with the maintenance, so he has been introducing me to the basics.  His mom sent us a text while we were working to let us know she saw our race results and that we had done better than we originally thought.  Sure enough, I had placed second in my age group, 12th for the ladies, and 48th overall!  Not too bad for my first time.  The hubs had finished 26th overall and was well ahead of me with a time of 1:42.  For the record, though, I ran my second 5K faster than him. 😉

photo 2

It’s hard to imagine, even now, how much this journey to triathlete has changed my life.  It has forced me to face and conquer my fears on a regular basis.  I decided I wanted to someday finish an Ironman before I even knew how to swim or bike (properly).  Now, I am well on my way to achieving that dream.  I may not do a full Ironman in the next year, or even two, but now I have the foundation to get there.

In fact, the day after the duathlon I went to the pool and swam over 2 miles without even getting tired.  The last 1100m I swam continuously.  It’s a far cry from the girl who was terrified to even put her face in the water.  That’s how much stronger and more confident triathlon has made me.

worthwhile

Moral of the story: Some of the most rewarding and worthwhile moments of your life will start with being scared to death.  Don’t be inhibited by fear.  Everything worthwhile in life is on the other side of it.

On the Edge

“We all have a comfort zone where everything feels safe and familiar. We tend to not want to venture beyond it, however if we allow ourselves to stay there we will not be challenged, experience personal growth, or learn new and exciting things. In other words, we would stagnate.”

It’s taken me a little while to get to posting.  Besides the usual being super busy, I just wasn’t sure what to write about.  I have been really on-edge lately, and that has really been bugging me.  Wednesday we leave for California and my first Tough Mudder.  As excited as I am about getting away and finishing my first obstacle race, I am also equally stressed.   I have been pushing myself way outside my comfort zone recently, and this will be another HUGE step.  I know I can finish, but I am terrified of a few of the obstacles- specifically the electric shock and under water tunnels.  Being underwater makes me claustrophobic.  I even hyper-ventilate when I snorkel.  I am a little worried that going into a dark tunnel, underwater is going to give me a panic attack.  On the bright side, I know that Adam will be there to look out for me; and that is a huge relief!  Just knowing he’s there gives me that little boost to push myself a little firther than I would have otherwise.

It is so easy for me to get frustrated with myself for being worn out and stressed, while completely overlooking all the progress I have made recently.  I have been more social- spending time not only with my own friends, but with Adam’s.  I have let my guard down and really enjoyed the company of new people in my life.  I also have tried knee boarding for the first time, and even picked it up quickly!  I didn’t think about falling or hurting myself; I just went for it.  Adam and his friends were all impressed- they told told me I looked like a professional. lol  I think that was a little gracious.  They were also all very supportive of my marathon training. It meant a lot to me, since a few of them are marathon and obstacle race veterans!

Tonight I have Boot Camp Session #3, and tomorrow the plan is for a 17 mile run (GPS watch permitting).  I have my new hot pink compression sleeves to try out.  🙂  I am hoping to squeeze in a morning Boot Camp Session before we fly out Wednesday too!  Saturday will be the first of the three big races milestones (Tough Mudder, Diva Half Marathon, and Hartford Marathon) I have planned for the fall.  I feel like everything is starting to happen so quickly now!!!  I am looking forward to getting through all of it and taking a much need break. lol

As far as my missing tapeworm post- it was about how all this training has turned me into the “hungry catepillar” (complete with picture!) and what a chore eating all day has become.  I am always hungry!  If I don’t eat every 2 hours, I get light-headed and my stomach growls loudly like it has a mind of its own.  Training and eating have taken over my life!!! I don’t even want to look at food anymore.  There’s no fun in eating.   It’s become a challenge to shovel in protein wherever I can get it, as frequently as possible; because despite stuffing my face all day everyday, I still seem to be losing weight.  lol

Anyway, there are far worse things I could be plagued with than binge eating and still losing pounds.  I hope everyone takes a step outside his/her comfort zone this week!!!  Thank you for reading!  Questions and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Here's the proof!