Pride & Faith – Ultra Running

Take pride in how far you have come and have faith in how far you can go.
But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
 -Michael Josephson
It’s happening.

50 Miles.

June 1st.

I’ve had it on my calendar for months, but my focus this winter and spring was all about Boston.  I believed at my core that if I trained right – if I was smart and if things went well – I would be pretty solidly prepared for my first ultra distance coming off of Boston training.  I poured myself into Boston and trusted that if it was meant to be, it would be.

There have been moments though, so many of them along the way, that shook my confidence and had me wondering whether or not I could do this.  Or, honestly, even if I wanted to.  I would find myself doubting whether or not I was capable, whether or not the timing was right.

I think now that probably no matter when you decide to do an ultra, or to run farther than you ever have before (whether it’s a 5k or a 50 miler or something in between) or to do anything in life that is bigger or scarier than anything you have ever done before or that is completely unknown to you, the timing never totally feels “right.”  Fear is a given when we challenge ourselves.  We have to accept it – and either let it compel us and even fuel us towards personal greatness and growth, or let it shrink us back into our caves.

In my moments of fear and doubt and worry, I would accept and acknowledge the negative thoughts and I would mentally move past it all, telling myself that it was expected to feel that way and that when it was time to focus on “The 50” I would evaluate everything from THERE, from that place, with Boston behind me.

Boston came and I ran a smart race – executing it exactly as I had hoped I would.  My legs recovered

extremely well from it, faster and better than they had after any previous marathon.  I was traveling a bit after the race and developed a horrible infection that would not go away (I was on three different antibiotics in as many weeks – ugh).  I took 10 full days off from running after Boston and by the time I went for my first run – an amazing trail run through the forest in Whistler, Canada (BEAUTIFUL), I felt like I was running on brand new legs.

But make no mistake, I was still totally freaked-out.  And scared.  All those gremlins inside my head were talking up their nasty self-doubt game.

I stepped back and took a look at how far I had come to get to this point.  And I understood why I thought this was a good idea in the first place.  I trusted in my training and in my choices that led me here.  I decided I would listen to my body and to my heart.

I would take pride in myself and in how far I had come.
And I would remember to have faith in how far I can go from here.
This weekend I did something I had never done before.  It was a really important moment for me as a runner and honestly, as a person.  I ran over 31 miles on Saturday.  It took me almost six and a half hours.  I went into it feeling excited and nervous yet calm and clear.

it’s time to go

I came out of it feeling very grateful.  Grateful to be where I am and grateful to have my eyes and heart open to the possibilities of what is next.

I went into the woods with Jodi and Chris a little after 5am.  It was dark and drizzly.  We wore our headlamps and packed our vests with water and fuel.  As the adventure started and we crept through the forest, I was really questioning our sanity.  Every tree root looked like a long slithering snake to me (I am pretty sure I never actually saw a real snake – but my eyes and mind played tricks on me).  Each time I saw a slimy frog hop I shrieked a girly sound, laughed and freaked out simultaneously.  I was behind Jodi and Chris led the way for us for the first hour or so of the run.  At one point he stopped dead in his tracks as a little creature with beady eyes stared him down.  It turns out it was a baby possum, probably way more scared of us than we were of it, but we seriously had no idea what it was at first!  We laughed out loud, we ran silently, we persevered.  We chatted about nothing and everything.  The first hour of our run was so far out of my comfort zone.  I never considered stopping, but I was eager to have the sun come up.  Running in the woods in the dark is something I will have to get used to.  It is a whole new world for me!

me & my sister after the sun came up!

We had to completely alter our route due to some streams that were not passable because of all the rain last week.  We tried going around them.  Really unsuccessfully.  We cracked ourselves up as we crossed over tree trunks and walked through tall grasses off the trail to see if we could find alternate routes over the streams.  Eventually we just turned around and looped the trail back so we could keep moving.  I loved the symbolism in this – we just kept ourselves moving no matter what.  Even if we got tripped up or had to slow down, we didn’t stop.  Ever.

Jojo is amazing.
my turn!

The fueling strategy was simple but very serious – eat every half hour whether you are hungry or not and start this right from the beginning of the run.  I will tell you this – every single time we crossed a 30 minute barrier the idea of consuming food made me want to GAG.  But I forced myself to do it anyway, because it made sense and because I wanted to last the run and enjoy myself and feel strong.  I never hit a wall or felt my muscles fatigue and I am CERTAIN it was because I stuck to the fueling plan.  My Camelback holds 2 liters of water and I filled it up again around Mile 20.  It wasn’t empty when I topped it off – but I was consistently sipping from it and made sure to drink a little extra every time I ate.  I never felt dehydrated or depleted at all.

peanut butter pretzels – hello yum

Other than our rule about eating, we had a rule about hills – WALK them.  This was a really tough one for yours truly at first.  I caught on quickly though and slowed myself down and walked up the hills.  This was brilliant.  I have no doubt it saved my legs.

My goal for my 50 Miler is not to RACE it.  I want to meet the distance and conquer it.  I want to romp through the woods with my friends and enjoy a beautiful day.  I want to be smart about it – to execute an intelligent strategy so that I can face my doubt demons and overcome them when they rise up.  I know I will be tested mentally, emotionally and physically.  I believe I have prepared my body as best I can and that it is up to me to be present to handle my thoughts and emotions.  I intend to take care of myself as best I can so that I can be happy – SMILE – and be aware of the experience.

still smiling

When I finished my run on Saturday – 31.11 miles – I was beyond happy.  I felt incredible.  My body did not hurt, though it was covered in mud and sweat and I was itchy all over from all the plants and dirt that grazed my skin along the way.  I do not even have a blister to speak of on my feet – thanks to loads of Body Glide and my awesome Saucony Peregrine 3 trail shoes, for sure.  Yesterday I did a super easy 7 mile recovery run and felt strong.  Today I logged another 11 easy miles.  My body is responding well to this training and I am enjoying it so much.

happy muddy feet

I have no question now about my ability to run 50 miles.  I know now, that I can do this.  That I will do it.  I am doing it!

wow

Over the next few weeks I will be bringing my mileage back down, tapering for the race and resting my legs.  Hydrating and nourishing my body for the adventure that awaits on June 1st.  I am so excited about it!!  It is this big huge giant goal – a quest, an adventure – filled with possibility and amazingness.  And yes, I know it will be incredibly difficult – probably the hardest thing I have ever done or tried to do as far as running is concerned, anyway.  But I have faith.  A tremendous amount of faith.  I cannot wait to meet 50 Miles!!!

Have you ever run an ultra before??  Any advice? Tips?  Fun stories to share?  Are you going to be at the North Face Endurance Challenge DC on June 1st?  Have you ever run this race before?  Let’s talk ultras!!

11 thoughts on “Pride & Faith – Ultra Running

  1. So excited for you!!! I have run one ultra, 50 miles, last year and LOVED it! I haven't done any since, mostly because it hasn't coordinated with family/work life, etc. but I know I want to do more at some point! Ultras are so different from marathons, there is a much more laid-back vibe. My best advice is to keep the pace very, very easy; in fact don't even think about “pace” just run like you are doing an easy recovery run. I also read somewhere to estimate your 50 mile time, take your average marathon time, double it and add 2 hours.
    Happy training!!!

  2. You are going to love it! I've never run a 50 miler, but I've done a 50K (last June NFEC DC) and it was one of my greatest running moments, so I can't imagine what the 50 miler would feel like! I miss running the trails in VA. It's so different out here… very exposed and dry… I still love it though. I had North Face endurance SF 50 miler on my radar for this year, still seriously thinking of doing it. So excited for you! You will do great!

  3. I'll be there cheering all of you on during the 50K and 50 mile races. I'm running the half on Sunday. I'm so excited to see you do this, and I can't wait to put myself out there next year.

  4. i ran a 50K last August (yes, August – luckily we got a relatively cool day). it was amazing!!! i loved every second. the atmosphere is so laid back and no one is racing (in the sense that they are not throwing down 7 min/miles). my next ultra goal is the JFK 50 miler. i definitely want to do that soon.

    best of luck to you! you will love it!

  5. How exciting! I can't wait to read all about your race. I have never ran anything past a marathon but the Ultra distances are looking more and more appealing to me. If I can ever stop doing triathlons that is 😉 I love too many sports!
    Good luck!

  6. You got this! My advice: don't think of it in terms of pace OR time. Think “I'm spending the day in the woods with friends.” Don't even look at your watch until maybe the very last aid station.

  7. Way to start your taper on a high note!! I'm running the 50k at the Endurance Challenge and it's going to be my first ultra!

    This really just got me excited for it again!!

  8. Awesome training run! I would have thought every stick was a snake, too. 🙂 I saw your instagram post and thought you were talking about the race day already… but wow, just a few weeks to go! You're ready!

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