Still coming off my super adrenaline high from being around hundreds and hundreds of local runners (and all their endorphins) this past weekend. I love race days.
Saturday started off with SVR Winter Series #1 at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. I went back and forth trying to decide what to do about this race. See if I could push both days? Go somewhat easy for SVR but miss getting some series points? It was tough. I knew the bottom 2 race performances get tossed, but the competitive girl inside of me was having a tough time with not racing. So, I decided to just go moderate; do a little speed play and wake up my muscles for the next day.
The race is an out and back, which is a lot of fun when you know a lot of the runners. I was able to high-five a lot of people and cheer them on as we passed one another. The theme was Ugly Christmas Sweater and I so enjoyed everyone’s holiday spirit. In the beginning of the race, I ran a little with Mike M. which was nice. Heading into the last half mile, I had to hold myself back from going all out to finish, but still ended up clocking a 6:23. Finished and ran back to see Dylan finish and then cheer John in (who would have possibly had a PR if there was a start & finish mat VERN!). My family (including our adopted Mario) went out for brunch after to replace some of those calories lost.
Sunday’s race was in Inwood, WV. I had heard about this race last year, but thought there was no way I could do 2 races in one weekend in my first full year of racing. The South Berkeley Christmas 5K is more of a half day event for the town – first the race expo, then the 5K followed by the Christmas parade. A couple months ago, race director Mark Peters had asked me to be part of the elite women crowd. I reluctantly agreed, knowing I’d only be 2 weeks off my 50 miler. I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity! A few days prior, Mark called again and informed me there was going to be an elite youth group as well and asked if Dylan could join. Dylan immediately said YES! We both turned in our bios and learned we would be announced heading to the starting line.
I did not realize how fun this race would be. All the other runners were at the line – a huge crowd of 700+ – and we waited to be announced. I was surrounded by so many amazing local runners – Courtney T., Chuck B., Matt L., Mike M., teammates Mario and Jeremy (as well as his son Connor in the elite youth) and a few new runners I had the chance to meet. As they called our names and read our bios one by one, we ran through a chute down the center of the crowd, giving high-fives along the way. Wow. Dylan was beaming. Later on that day he said, “Mom, I felt very special!” What a great experience to share with him.
For this race, I was nervous. The last few races I really wasn’t nervous for, but knowing I needed to find a fast gear for a short race was a little intimidating. I took a lot of rest the first week off the 50 and was only able to fit in one speed workout since. I wasn’t sure what I could really expect. I decided to just shoot for a PR, knowing it was a a fast course. I figured, that’s the best I can do. Win, lose, if I hit close to PR, that’d be the best I could do.
With a countdown from the crowd, we were off with a boom! Runners, young and old, jockeyed for position. Our first turn wasn’t too far off and I was sitting in 4th place female for awhile. Before the first mile, I passed one very talented young female. Hit the one mile mark – 5:53. Whew. Legs weren’t used to going this fast. I plugged away. We raced through the streets making a few turns and headed for a turn around. An upbeat, fun song played (thanks Hans!) as we turned around the cones to head back in the opposite direction. At this point, I could see where I was compared to the other runners. A few cheered me on (thank you!) as I headed into mile 2. From mile 1 on, I never checked my watch. We headed back towards the start, cheerleaders chanting “Let’s go runners!” and made the final turn. I could see the 2nd place girl ahead but knew she was too far to catch. I could see the finish line at the end of the descent. As I approached the finish line, I could see the time ticking 18:54, 18:55, 18:56… finished 19:00. Just off my 2017 PR by seconds. I wish I had looked at my watch in the last half mile to gauge where I was, but honestly, my legs were tired! Maybe I could have found a little extra push if I knew I was so close, but I like to think I left it all out there.
After crossing the line, we were greeted by several volunteers handing out dog tag medals, gloves, a hand towel, water, bananas and chips. Wow! I gathered my items, found Mario and we headed back towards the finish line. I was just in time to see Dylan cross! Another solid performance (20:33 on Saturday and 20:35 Sunday; the kid is consistent!).
After cheering on a couple other runners, I headed back to our Runner In Training booth at the Expo. Prior to the race, I really enjoyed working our table – meeting a lot of new runners, giving out stickers and finding out “Why Do You Run?” We had a lot of great reasons, some creative and some from people who thought they were really funny (ahem, Mike L.). The awards ceremony was nice – cheered on many running friends we knew as they accepted their medals and how fun to be presented with my medal by none other than Barbara S.! Thankful for the hug 🙂
If you haven’t run either of these races, you should! The SVR Winter Series includes 8 races for basically the price of 1, or if you sign up for just a couple, they are very affordable. Races are every other weekend in the Winchester/Front Royal/Stephens City area. The first race had approximately 430; so depending on the weather, expect a good crowd for the future races. The SVR crew (and volunteers) put on a fun series of races.
And, if you have not run in the South Berkeley Christmas 5K, you definitely should! An extremely affordable race fee, so many goodies at the finish line, plus donuts and pizza inside after! Mark and Aimee Peters, much kudos to you for a well-organized and fun day. Thank you for inviting us to your event. You can count on us to be back!
The weekend went by way too fast with all of this running fun; but I can’t say how glad I am to be part of our local running community. You all are a lot of fun!
“You must go on adventures to find where you truly belong.”
Like any other distance, 50 miles begins with a single step. You put one foot in front of the other, mile after mile. Just as I imagined, the JFK 50 was an amazing adventure full of many steps.
Where to begin? Even on Friday night, I was in disbelief I’d be attempting to run 50 miles the next day. Mario planned on sleeping at our house and riding with us to the race, so I made a pasta dinner for all of us. I set out my race outfit, a couple pairs of shoes, change of clothes and fuel yet still felt I wasn’t prepared. Falling asleep took awhile as I was anticipating the 3:30 a.m. wake up call.
We left our house at 4:15 a.m. for the trek to Boonsboro, MD. Packet pickup was quick and easy and a small group of runners were already scattered across the gym. Soon after, we found Jeremy then Josh and Sara. After a couple last minute trips to the port-a-potties, it was time for pre-race instructions. The director asked runners who had run multiple JFKs at certain finishing times to stand up. Seeing the JFK 50 veterans was inspiring – especially those with bib numbers less than 100 (meaning elite athletes or multiple JFK50 finishes). As soon as instructions were complete, everyone headed outside for the 5-10 minute walk to the starting line.
Walking to the start, everyone enjoyed light conversation and seemed very calm. I had just a few minutes to take off my warm ups, then the 4 of us headed to join the runners – Mario and Jeremy went up near the front and Sara and I hung back. I began retying one of my trail shoes and then BANG! It was time to go. We started running through downtown Boonsboro for the 2.5 mile uphill journey to the Appalachian Trail.
Sara and I ran for about 1.5 miles before we hit the long, winding uphill where we decided to power walk. We climbed and climbed until we saw familiar territory, the parking lot where we began several training runs. We were happy to hit the first timing checkpoint and start on the trail. Right away, we were laughing. If you read our training post, you’ll remember the numerous times we thought we were off course. The 2nd training run we thought we went the wrong way to “tent city”. As soon as we were directed on the trail, guess where we were headed? Right towards the tents! We were right all along and had no idea. Quickly, we accessed the actual trails and started the AT section.
All of our training runs, we were pretty much the only humans on the trails. Race day was a little different – was a little tougher to plan foot placement when someone was running right in front of you. We chatted about our week as we fell into line with the others. Soon, another laughing moment. I believe I mentioned in our training blog post about our first time trying to run the course and running up the long road; trying to access directions via Facebook and finding the trail by the communication tower. On our next attempt, we thought we found the actual trail/course. Well, Saturday we found out we were supposed to go up the road! The road seems very long and is quite an incline so we ended up speed walking for most of the climb. Much more boring than the trail close by, but definitely easier to traverse than the steep, rocky path.
Once we reached the fenced area, we were back on the Appalachian Trail and on a familiar route. The path becomes rockier and some runners were having a little trouble with this more technical part of the course. We enjoyed running the trail until…BOOM! One rock reached up, grabbed Sara and down she went with a spectacular roll! Thankfully no injuries, right back up, walked it off and we continued along the way.
Soon we were at the 1st aid station at Gathland State Park. A girl commented on my pink hair as we ran through the tunnel of volunteers. We took a quick walk up the pavement before getting back on the trail. About ¾ of the way through the 2nd part of the trail, a light rain began to fall. We navigated the trail chitchatting with other runners and began the descent to Weverton Cliffs. 15 miles down! As we came off the trail, we quickly spotted John and Josh, changed out of our trail shoes, refilled our water bottles and hopped back on course. John and Josh told us we were only 20 minutes behind Jeremy and Mario. Wow! About .5 mile away, we were able to see Vern and Lisa as well as visit the 2nd aid station. I grabbed PB&J and a banana before we began the 2nd section of the day – 26 miles on the C&O.
Going from climbing on trails to running on a flat surface was a big change. Immediately, Sara and I started to keep each other in check when we saw our splits in the 8s. On this part of the course, we created a comfortable pattern. Thank goodness for aid stations every 2-5 miles; otherwise the towpath would have seemed a lot longer! As we reached each aid station, we would grab whatever fuel we needed and then walk a bit to eat and drink. Then, we’d start up the engine again which at times was difficult. I joked I needed an oil can to get the joints moving again. After a few minutes of running, it always felt much easier and we would be plugging away at 9-9:30 pace. Usually when we were in need of a break, another aid station would appear and we would start the cycle all over again.
We leapfrogged the same runners over and over again on the towpath. We met Justin from NC who is being deployed to Iraq in December, Andrew from NOVA and Geoffrey from Albuquerque. We would chat about where we were all from, our families, our jobs and offer words of encouragement. Everyone was so friendly cheering us on. Andrew told us we were doing great for our first 50 and mentioned if we kept up the pace, we’d be around 8:45. WHAT! I hadn’t even tried to calculate what our finishing time would be – we were just focusing on finishing and not being out on the course in the dark. A 9 hour finish? Wow.
The rain continued which made the path muddy and slick, especially with the leaf cover. I knew we both began to feel a little tired but mentally, we never wavered. Often, we’d run a few steps apart, always within talking distance. Although the majority of the time we were not talking, knowing a friend was near you was always comforting. We were able to see our crew again before 30 miles. Just refills on water, a few words and an update on our teammates – again, just about 30 minutes ahead. Glad to hear they were doing well. I think around this time, Sara mentioned one of the runners ahead was one of the JFK 50 veterans who usually finishes in 9:30. Soon after, we caught up and passed him.
We’d chat and joke with the volunteers at the aid stations, thanking them for their help. Usually, I am a sweet tooth kind of a girl, but this time I craved the salty items. Chips and pretzels were my go-to although I did grab a pretty cookie and M&Ms. Having warm soup or broth at several stops was wonderful since the rain did make us a little chilly.
Just before mile 40, we were able to see our crew one last time. We were still smiling and in good spirits although the miles were starting to take their toll. I commented to Sara how amazing it was to still be dropping low 9 minute miles. Only 10 more to go! We were so ready to get to the road portion, and just had a couple more miles on the towpath. One of the last stations was Christmas-themed, complete with Santa Claus and Christmas cookies, yum! Not much longer and we were onto the 3rd part, road for about 8.5 miles.
At this point, we realized our watches were off the official race miles which was frustrating since my watch said we were 1 mile further. I had stopped awhile back looking at the total miles and just focusing on our per mile pace. We ate our fuel and started on the pavement. As soon as we came off the C&O, a hill awaited. One resident was kind enough to be offering beer to help dull the pain of the incline. A few runners veered over to join him; we did not. As we reached the crest, we decided to try to run again. A little rusty, but soon we were moving. Although it was nice to be out of the muddy path, running on hard asphalt was a bit jarring.
We continued along the country road, stopping a few times when we’d reach inclines for a short walk. Then, we’d start it up again. Seeing the mile markers alongside the road was very exciting – 8, 7, 6…. We were so close! I looked at my watch to see what our overall time was and was surprised to see we had been out for 8 hours and 11 minutes. Really? It didn’t seem like that long. Is it crazy to say I started to feel a little sad the end was near?
Honestly, my muscles didn’t feel that awful until mile 45. My calves were feeling a little tight and my upper back was aching a bit but I kept trying to drop my shoulders to stay loose. I certainly felt like I had been running for hours, but not as bad as I expected.
Just before the mile 4-to-go marker, we ran into a woman we had met in the beginning of the race. My eyes went wide as I saw trails of blood running down both legs. Beast! She must have taken a spill back along the trails.
A couple more twists and turns and we approached the last aid station. 1.5 MILES TO GO! Wow! It was hard to believe our adventure was nearly over. We kept moving forward, knowing with each step we’d be seeing our family, friends and teammates soon. As we ran up one last hill, I heard a crowd ahead. I lifted up my eyes and saw the finish line! Since we didn’t see a 1 mile to go marker, this was an exciting and unexpected sight. I turned around and said, “Sara!?” She said, “Is that the finish?!” YES!!
We were so excited – we both threw our water bottles to Mario (thank you!) and with BIG smiles, we crossed that finish line (with a cartwheel and raised arms) in 9:09:57! Our primary goal was to finish and the expected finish time we had registered with: 10 hours. We were in disbelief we finished just over 9 hours for our first 50 miler. We were reunited with our group with hugs and all immediately headed inside to warm up. A smorgasbord of food awaited us and we noshed while chatting with the guys about their race.
I am an ultramarathoner!
A couple days have passed and we are still on cloud 9. My body had a couple aches and pains, but nothing near what I imagined. I think the year of training, both running and strength workouts completely prepared my body for the challenge. It will take awhile to fully sink in what we accomplished.
Thank you to John, Josh, Vern, Lisa, Laura and Andrew for being at the aid stations to give us whatever was needed – water, fuel and most importantly, words of encouragement. Seeing friendly faces at those points really kept us moving. Thanks to Mario and Jeremy for the votes of confidence and for believing in us. Thanks to all of you for following us and cheering us on! Last, but certainly not least, thank you to Sara. Thank you for agreeing to tackle this challenge, being beside me during training runs and my partner for 50 miles of fun. I’ll never forget my first ultra. Love ya girl!
Finishing the JFK 50 means I have now checked all the boxes for my 2017 goals. What’s next? Stay tuned…
“Believe in yourself, push your limits, experience life, conquer your goals and be happy.”
The end of the year is creeping up on us and wow, what a year. Back around June, I did a goal inventory and haven’t looked back since…until today.
2017 Race-Related Goals:
Mile – I wanted to break 6 minutes and clock a 5:45. In May 2017, I ran 5:21. CHECK!
5K – Breaking 20 was my goal for this year. Added in speed work as I had planned and ran sub 19 in May. CHECK!
Half Marathon – 2017 goal was to break 1:40. Shamrock Half was very kind to me in March – 1:29. CHECK!
Marathon – I mentioned I wanted to simply beat my 2016 time of 3:46 and possibly BQ. CHECK! 3:25 AND a BQ!
Ultra – The thought was a maybe. Now it’s just a few days away…
Other 2017 Goals:
Train my husband for his first half: CHECK! He also did a 2nd which I helped pace him for a sub 2 hour finish.
Find more opportunities in the fitness/running industry – started working full-time in fitness once again. CHECK!
Personal Trainer Certification. CHECK!
Coaching Certification. CHECK!
Which leads me to….
Fellow runners and readers, you may understand or you really may think I am crazy.
Do you ever feel a little lost once you complete a task? You’ve worked so hard for an extended period of time, focused on doing whatever it takes to be a success, and finally crossed the finish line. You are ecstatic. Yet, soon after, you are looking for a new challenge.
That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Just a couple days out before the 50 miles and I’m already thinking, what’s next? Where do I go from here? Do I want to run longer? Go faster? Try something new? I have been so focused on checking off the boxes and not looking ahead for the next carrot.
Chasing goals is exciting; keeps me dreaming and raising the bar. The line we cross when we tackle a goal is not the finish, but a new starting line.
What do I want to try to do? Honestly, I am unsure right now.
I’m not too worried; after all, I have 50 miles to think about the possibilities. 🙂
I do have a goal formulating in my mind, but I’m not quite ready to share yet. Stay tuned….
Tell me: Have you reached your 2017 goals? Set any new goals for 2018?
Even after witnessing the wild weather which occurred during JFK 50 last year, the seed was planted about possibly running an ultra. Last December, I was out at a winery celebrating a friend’s birthday when the topic arose (obviously alcohol-induced). At this point, it still sounded crazy and I still wasn’t quite sure I’d really consider entering.
Fast forward to the spring. Through several group runs and races, Sara and I became great friends (as did our families). Ads for JFK kept popping up on social media. Mario signed up for his 2nd, then Jeremy for his 3rd. Would I really try to run 50 miles? So far, I had only completed 1 marathon. Was I really considering doing almost double? Unsure how the conversation came about, all I remember is a message between Sara and me: “I’ll do it if you do it” (and no, this time the conversation was not fueled with any wine). That night, we filled out the form and hit submit. We were in.
Over the next few months, I think we both bobbled between excitement and “what the hell did we sign up for?”. Knowing we would have each other to run with I think made the task seem a little less overwhelming. Over the summer, I racked up miles training for my marathon and Sara worked on building a base as well. Now, if you read my post on crewing Yeti, you’ll know Sara joined Josh for 43 miles! Unsure how many she ran vs walked, but she still did 43 miles. Amazing. After Yeti, I knew she would have no problem with JFK.
Once Yeti was over, we started to look towards our race. We planned to head up to the course and tackle the trail portion one Saturday morning. I emailed the race director with a few questions and looked up the maps since we had never been to the area before. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, we were already a bit discombobulated, haha! Out of the car and we weren’t sure where the trail started – sheesh, what are we in for? We asked another runner in the lot and felt better after he said he had no idea since it was his first time there as well. Blind leading the blind is not a great way to start. Another duo of runners were gearing up and thankfully they pointed us in the right direction. And, off we went!
The two of us were having so much fun, running through the trails, chattering away. We came to a road, crossed and kept going up the asphalt. We continued up this looooong incline forever, switching off between walking and running until we reached the top. And came to a dead end. Crud, what now? I remembered reading a post about a runner who asked where to go at the top, thankfully had cell service and was able to pull up the information on my phone. We circumvented the tower and started back on the trail….until we came to an intersection. Now, the two of us are no girl scouts, so we had to make a decision of which way to go. I again tried to use my phone and we headed to the left. Chattering away again as we ran through the woods – we kept saying, this is so much fun! And then, we ran into the other runners….coming toward us from the opposite direction. Navigators, we are not. So, we turned around and followed them back the way we just came and settled back into our pace. Happy to say, the rest of the run was great! We ended up with 15 great miles and headed to refuel at Panera.
We decided to head back out again, this time adding on more miles on the C&O. One of our goals was to run the trail correctly this time. Once again, we parked in the lot and we started off to the trail…or so we thought. Somehow we ended up in tent city! Laughing at our awful orienteering skills (Sara – unsure if we are cut out for Barkley!), we quickly found the trail and were underway. When we crossed the road this time, we found the trail we missed on the last run (woohoo!). The trail became fairly rocky and we ended up speedwalking much of the first couple miles. About halfway through, Sara tripped and came up with minor scrapes but that girl kept on trucking! So glad Sara is an easy person to be around; always positive, never panics and is just as determined as I am.
Once we finished the trail and came to the Weverton lot, we met John who was going to run on the C&O with us. We changed out of our trail shoes, fueled, and set off again with John this time. The sun was out and it was a little unseasonably warm for late October. We kept hydrated and ran onto the C&O through Harper’s Ferry. What should be a beautiful running route, especially during the fall, ends up being a tad boring after the miles of trail. We realized on this part of our run when coming to a complete stop; you shouldn’t try to go back to running right away. Definitely need to ease in; walk a bit before taking off. We ended up doing a marathon and John did 12. Another great training run.
We hit the trail one more time this past weekend and we are glad we did. Since our last run, many more leaves had fallen off the trees which make the trail a little more challenging. We are happy to share with you this time, we did not get lost at all. About halfway through, I was running along chatting and then WHAM! I was flat on my face. Brushed myself off and we continued on; no injuries. A few more miles and our last training run was finished. Almost 3 hours and 13.5 miles later, we came out of the trail and began walking towards the car as if we had just jogged a mile.
As we headed back to pick up my car at the start, we decided to check out where the race begins and the course leading up to the trail. As we drove down the street, we once again were reminded of the intensity of this race. The road leading to the Appalachian Trail is one long giant hill! Unsure if was a good or bad idea to go see what the start has in store for us. Oh, what an adventure this will be.
Now it is race week. Did we get in enough long runs; enough miles? Not as many as I would have liked to, but there are only so many hours in the day. I know we will finish – even if we are crawling or Sara carries me on her back. We are still excited and still wondering, “what the heck did I sign up for?”. 50 miles is FAR!
Tune in next week for my race recap – hopefully I’ll be able to type after 50 miles!
Update: did you read yesterday’s post about fear? After publishing, I worked with 2 clients who both decided to move forward, not be frozen by fear and go after their goals! Exciting!
Each week, someone will chat with me about goals they’d like to achieve whether related to weight loss, running/fitness, career or personal goals. Many times, I can sense a hesitancy; something holding them back from proceeding with 100% effort. The end result they are looking to achieve would definitely make them happier, more fulfilled; yet fully committing to the journey creates an uncomfortable feeling….fear.
Fear of change. Fear of feeling like a disappointment. Fear of failing. Fear of the unknown.
Fear can be found creeping in every area of our lives – careers, families, relationships, extracurricular activities, our health, attitudes towards ourselves and others, etc. Sometimes due to our fears, we become slaves to habits, patterns and actions which do not serve us and may actually hurt us.
The fuzzy gray zone of the unknown stops many people in their tracks – should I stay in the less than ideal, somewhat comfortable area I know so well? Or should I push my boundaries, struggle a bit, be uncomfortable to hopefully reap big rewards?
There are no guarantees. We can plan our hearts out, work hard every day, do everything we can to succeed and still, we can end up with a different result than we anticipated.
Is your fear stopping you from living your life to its full potential? One day will you look back and think, “What might have I achieved if I didn’t let fear get in the way?”
What can you do? Feel the fear and do it any way. Yes, you will have to decide whether the struggle will be worth the possible prize waiting for you on the other side of fear.
Whether or not we believe we are in control of our destiny, we are certainly in control of our choices. Don’t let fear paralyze your actions. After all, YOLO!
How does this relate to me right now? I definitely have fear approaching this 50 miler. Yes, racing is not life-altering, but it’s the current fear I am experiencing. I have trained and trained for months. Run hundreds of miles, made a plan, studied the course and yet, I may fail. Running 50 miles is going to hurt. My brain is going to fight me; want me to give up. I fear giving in. I fear feeling extreme discomfort.
Outside of the upcoming race, I also have fear of returning to the old me. I feel I need to keep moving forward; always looking for the next goal to stay focused. I fear injury and needing recovery time. I fear letting others down. Like you, I have many fears. Some I am attacking full speed and others I am still tip toeing around; dipping my little toe in the dark, unchartered waters. If I don’t try, how will I know what is possible?
Once again, I encourage you to do what makes you happy – whatever that is. If needed, take a step back to see the big picture. Maybe write down goals you’d like to accomplish – where do you want to see yourself a year from now? 5 years from now? How can you get there? Who can help you?
Whatever the goal is, I want you to buckle up, brace yourself and take the first step. Don’t let fear decide your future or kill your dreams. Remember, fear is only temporary – regret is forever. Be brave heading towards the unknown. You may reach the other side and be surprised by what awaits you.
And if you fail, at least you tried – you probably learned something about yourself along the way. Go try again.
I’m stepping aside from my blog series about ultras for a moment to chat about something that has been weighing on my mind.
While most of my posts discuss race recaps and running fun, there is also a negative side I didn’t expect to experience from losing weight and returning to the racing scene. Obviously, I like to share positive and inspirational posts, but sometimes I feel being truthful and open is refreshing. Also, my words just may hit home with someone else. After a conversation this morning with fitness friends, I realized I needed to put my thoughts down on “paper”.
Most of you reading this probably have only known the “me” of the last 10 years or so. When you met me, I was sedentary, overweight and not overly confident. Some of you may only know the “me” of the last 2 years, when I hit the running scene again after 15 years.
Yes, these two versions of Becky are vastly different.
At this point, I feel more like me than I have since I was in college. I feel alive, energetic, healthy, outgoing and inspired to help others. Sharing my passion for fitness and running helps me to keep putting one step in front of the other. I feel reignited.
Now, the dark side I’ve experienced. There’s a word that’s been floating around that makes me cringe. Upsets me. A word that makes something so positive in my life seem so negative.
Obsession: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.
I run 5 days a week and take 2 days of rest. I run early in the morning so I don’t interfere with family, work and other extracurricular activities. If I’m sick or really injured, I will rest. Because I may run what some may consider extreme distances, I may be considered obsessed. Because I run through most any weather, I may be considered obsessed. Because a core group of my friends are runners, I may be considered obsessed.
I prefer dedicated. Passionate. Committed. Lucky to work in a field I love.
Running is what keeps me sane. Running alone, or with friends, allows me to escape for just a fraction of my day. A short period of time to get away from the day in and day out stresses of life that will be awaiting me once I cross back over the threshold.
This is my therapy. My time to clear whatever is on my mind; mull over big decisions or plan out my day.
As I said in my last blog post, some of you will understand the need to push your boundaries. Some will not. Either way is okay; just don’t pass judgment on those who aren’t the same as you. For each of us, there are different feelings, different emotions which trigger how we view each other. Some will ask “why?” and some will say “why not?”. I have a need to pursue the challenges set before me. I am unable to leave a box unchecked without trying. You may see obstacles differently than me.
Friends, family, we are not obsessed. Are we preoccupied with an unreasonable idea? I don’t believe so. Yes, maybe we are not normal. We say yes when others say no. We rise when others sleep. We do what others may not. We have a drive; a need to determine our limits and then break through. We are always on a quest to see how far we can possibly go.
For those of you have been with me along my journey, yes, I know I am different. After college, priorities changed and I did not consider myself high on the priority list. Now, I want to be the best I can – for not only myself, but for my family, for my kids to know to never give up. That anything is possible, whether you are 20, 30, 60 or beyond. Why let others make the rules? Go and be you.
And, if you truly feel obsessed? Come run with me; we’ll enjoy a therapy session together 🙂
Last week, I shared a little introduction to ultramarathons and also the perspective of crewing an ultra.
Now, we will chat a little about one of the more extreme ultras – the Barkley marathons.
Nicknamed “The Race That Eats Its Young”, the Barkley is a 100+ mile race through Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee. Barkley is a little bit of an enigma wrapped into a puzzle interwoven into one wild race. Everything from how to apply for entry, when the race will begin, and what the course will be is held under lock and key by Lazarus Lake, the race director. Since 1986, many runners have tried to complete Barkley, yet only 15 runners have finished within the 60 hour time limit. Over the winter, I watched this documentary of Barkley.
First thought, these people are insane. Second, eccentric Lazarus Lake was extremely entertaining. Third, yes, these people are definitely crazy. But yet, I couldn’t stop watching.
When race time rolled around this spring, I was intrigued to follow the runners (including NOVA runner Michael Wardian) attempt whatever the Barkley would entail for 2017. After 3 loops (which in the Barkley world is considered a “fun run”), only 2 runners remained – John Kelly (3rd Barkley attempt) and Gary Robbins (2nd Barkley attempt). I won’t spoil what happens…
Ethan Newberry, The Ginger Runner, followed and documented Gary Robbins during his 2016 and 2017 Barkley attempts. Once his project Where Dreams Go To Die was complete, Ethan & Gary went on a 15 city tour to share this emotional, powerful and inspirational journey. Lucky for me, one stop was in DC. A few of us decided we could go, I bought my ticket and quickly found out the event was sold out before anyone else could purchase. I hit up social media to find extra tickets and thanks to a retweet from Michael Wardian, we scored! On to DC!
Arriving at the theater, I found it quite interesting to look around and see who else was interested seeing a documentary about an ultra marathon. Definitely lots of bearded folks. Walking down into the theater, we ran into another local running friend Juan – didn’t know he was coming. We found seats, sat back with popcorn and beer and waited for the show to begin.
Amazing. Simply amazing. Watching the planning which goes into an ultra – the training, deciding and gathering your gear and fuel, communicating with your support crew – there’s a lot to consider. Every runners understands the highs and lows when you are out on the course; Barkley takes it to the extreme. The drive, the passion and the will to not only continue, but to succeed, is admirable.
After the movie, we were treated to a Q&A panel by Ethan, Gary and a special guest, the 15th Barkley finisher and MD resident, John Kelly. Very cool.
Listening to the questions from the audience presented to the panel, I felt like I shared at least an iota of the same personality they have. I also realized some people just don’t get it (and that’s okay). Some people won’t understand; they will ask why? Why would you do this? This distance? This extreme?
I still say, why not? Why not see what you are capable of? Why not see how far you can push?
‘Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.’ – Joubert Botha
Will I ever consider even applying for a Barkley type event? Maybe, maybe not. In the past few years, I have definitely learned to “never say never”.
The first running steps I took were training for a 5k, then I pushed a little more, then just a bit more and eventually worked my way to a marathon. And now, I’m 11 days away from my first ultra.
Am I scared? Of course. Am I nervous? Heck yes. But the fear and the overwhelming idea of running 50 miles will not hold me back. I will not give up.
I’m still writing my story, one chapter at a time, one mile at a time. It’s not over yet…