Pretty spontaneously, I decided to register myself for my first ultra.
Ultramarathons are anything greater in distance than a marathon, ranging from 50 km’s to 200 miles and beyond. Yes, that is crazy. No, I am not going to run a 200 mile race (yet…?). Ultra’s aren’t usually the type of thing you register for ‘on a whim’. They are usually carefully orchestrated and planned to a tee. They usually involve a dedicated training block, complete with taper and a nutritional plan. I mean, ultra’s are no joke, right?
I get it. There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t run this race tomorrow.
The last few months have been nothing short of a blur. 6 weeks ago, my brother in law passed away from a very aggressive form of melanoma leaving my sister and their 3 year old daughter with a whole new future they could never have imagined. It was only 6 weeks before that, he was diagnosed. Everything happened so quickly. With our world flipped upside down so suddenly I’ve been frantically looking for something to ground me.
During this time, running was my only escape from the stress and uncertainty of the life I was now a part of. It was equal parts an ‘escape’ from this emotional rollercoaster I was both a part of and witnessing and equal parts when I felt everything the most deeply. What I knew, was that at the end of my run, I was a different person. Whether it was a short 20 minute spin around the block or a 4 hour exploration through the forest I always felt better and somehow changed. I had processed something. Emotions and thoughts that were stagnant inside me were diffused and shifted and I felt stronger and more capable. When I ran, I felt like I could handle anything anyone sent at me.
However, the physical body’s needs and the emotional body’s needs don’t always line up perfectly. I started to increase my mileage, sometimes pulling double days if I felt particularly stressed. At first my body was handling it like a pro, but eventually old injuries and weaknesses started to show their ugly faces. Eventually my IT band started to act up causing some discomfort and signalling to me that I needed to pay some more attention to how I was caring for my body.
So basically what I’m getting at is I was running with no real plan or schedule, my body was starting to revolt and my first thought was ‘I know, I should do an ultra’.
Put that way it sounds like the most ridiculous idea, however a different perspective will show a different story. I’ve had my eye on an ultra for a while now, diving into the ultra community and learning about the sport before having actually completed one. Although I’ve never done an ultra, I have a pretty good understanding of what it looks like (says the person who’s never done an ultra… I get it).
Then, the stars aligned and a race that I’d had my eye on for a while became an actual possibility for me to run.
Beyond all the reasons that I knew I shouldn’t run this race (I hadn’t done a run longer than about 28 km’s since last year, I had only done about 3 real trail runs this year, and my IT band was acting up pretty regularly etc etc) a greater force was driving me to complete this run. Something I couldn’t ignore was pushing me to this race, and pushing me to run this distance. I had no choice but to listen.
I am genuinely curious to know what running 50 km’s feels like. It’s a hella long time, especially on trails with a pretty decent amount of elevation gain and loss. I’m equal parts excited and nervous. I’m going into this race with the thought that 50 km’s is the A goal. If I make it to the end, Wow, that’s amazing. I will have accomplished something pretty epic and feel great (well… I will eventually feel great. I hear in the immediate aftermath of an ultra you don’t feel all that hot). If at 30 km’s I decide that I don’t want to go on anymore , that my body has had enough then I just ran 30 km’s in the forest! That’s pretty fucking amazing on its own. If I get to 40 km, shit man that’s a marathon through the forest.
I have never felt such a deep love and appreciation for running, for being in nature and for LIFE. Experiencing loss of life, so close to the heart gives you this wild new perspective. When I think deeply about why I would chose to not do this race it all boils to fear. Fear of those dreaded letters (D - N - F... did not finish) coming up after my name on a webpage no one actually cares about or looks at. Fear of trying something and failing. Fear of reaching beyond my comfort levels and having to endure pain.
I am going in with no pressure on myself, hence why I hardly told anyone about this race. The past 3 months have been filled with enough stress, enough emotional turmoil .. ENOUGH. Just enough. This race is for me.
It’s for me to connect with the trails, connect with nature, and connect with Brian.
<3 <3 <3