Saturday, July 16, 2016

In order to kick ass you must first lift a foot.

I like to think of Ultra runs as mobile picnics.  Ask anyone why they run and it doesn't take long for the reason, "so I can eat more!" to come up.  I'm no different.  I love to eat.  Any reason to do it more is good enough for me.  But my good friend Tim reminded me lately that it's not that easy.  Eating can be very challenging when covering vast distances over difficult terrain and something that if not given the proper attention can ruin your day.  I'm not going to get into the physiology of running- I think you get that.  You burn calories when you run and when you deplete your glycogen stores your body protests.  Sure, running slower can help, but in the end you need to fuel your body.  You've heard the phrase, "don't get behind on your nutrition" but sometimes you just do.  It's challenging to eat when you're working hard.  Your stomach protests and won't absorb calories.  It happens.  A lot of stuff happens running 100 miles.  You can't escape it and eventually you're not going to have a great day.  Because let's face it- that's what it takes to get 100 miles done...a pretty freakin' awesome day where a lot of shit conspires and you cross the finish line.  I think sometimes we forget that.  We take stuff for granted every day and it's good, once in awhile, to be reminded of just how special life is...just how special our sport is.  And, how cool it is to have the opportunity just to attempt to run 100 miles.  I know it's not always easy to accept defeat.  I've DNF'd my last 4 attempts at the distance, however what they say is true: you learn the most from the one's you don't finish.  (I've learned I like to sit down and cry at mile 86) : (
You analyze, critique, break it down and figure out what went wrong and what you're going to do different next time.  So yes, if you get behind on your nutrition you will likely not do well.  Your body will shut down.  If you're blessed to have the gift of speed you can sit in an aid station for an hour sipping broth and slowly eating solid food until eventually you're ready to go.  But- for a manatee or a turtle- that is a luxury we cannot afford.  We must keep moving or be swept up by the great equalizer of time. 

So, in light of our mistakes or missteps or misfortune with our stomachs, let us remember this- Let us remember to when we started. When it all began.  When we had the audacity to believe in the unknown.  The belief that we could achieve greatness and do something that not long before wasn't even on the radar.  When I think back I think of Craig.  As I was helping put shoes away in his store one day after classes I talked with Craig about my plans and my hopes of someday running 100 miles.  When I asked Craig what he thought- and what it's like- he gave me these words that he had written:

What it's like:
You will have to run a 50 for yourself to find out what's it's like.
But I'll tell you, in my experience, what's it's like to run 100 miles.
It's bigger than you are.
I've run the Western States 100 three times, each under 24 hours. The race starts at 5am.  It is dark.  The start is at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe. The first thing we do is run to Emigrant Pass, 9,000 ft.
From there we run through every Sierra canyon and over every Sierra ridge until we get to Auburn. 
We run all day.  And through the night. 
It is glorious.
Whether running across exposed rocky ridges with spectacular views or through canyon forests with sunlight filtering through the trees and onto the ferns, or across deep, cold, fast flowing Sierra streams; the experience is breath taking.
Every canyon is different from every other canyon.
Day is different from night.
Night is hard.
You try to stay out of trouble.  You fail.  You recover.
You run where you are.  You see and experience everything as it happens.
The next day you expect the entire experience to come crashing in.  It doesn't. It's scary that it doesn't, but it doesn't. 
You can remember any point of the race vividly, what it looked like, how you felt.
But you cannot get a sense of the experience in its entirety. You've run all day through short term memory. You will never have a complete feeling or understanding of the whole experience.  It's bigger than you are.
It's like life.

So Tim, don't take it too hard my friend. You didn't fail anything.  Obstacles and challenges force us to grow.  As Winston Churchill said, "Success is not final, Failure is not fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts."  So that's what we do.  We don't give up, we train harder.  We learn from our mistakes and become better animals.  It's not always easy to understand.  Like Craig said, it's bigger than we are.  But you've got to toe the start line and try, regardless of the outcome. Because let's face it, in order to kick ass you must first lift a foot.

Happy trails,

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