adventures of a mere mortal in fitness and life

Archive for the ‘ultramarathons’ Category

a runner or just running?

Hello.  It’s me again.

Luckily for all involved, I got a little call out tonight on my lack of consistent blogging on this site.  I LOVE to blog, but life has its way of just beating the things you love into looking like chores, doesn’t it?  Which is pretty much what life has been doing lately, which makes me grumpy and not-so-nice words come out of my mouth with alarming frequency.  And my mother told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I just shouldn’t say anything at all.  So I haven’t.

But I have been thinking, because it’s something I rarely stop doing (yikes).  And the other day, I brought the girls to soccer practice and was talking to another mom.  A runner who is a mom, and many other things as well, who is always supremely nice and invites me to run, to which I always reply, “Oh, thank you, but I am not a runner.”  Which, once I said it again on Wednesday, got me to thinking.

What makes someone a runner?  I always say that I am not a runner.  But I run.  Sometimes more than twice a week.  Like not fast, but not terribly slow.  Not short, but not insanely far like Mr. Prepared and his crew of fellow asylum escapees who find joy in encountering rattlesnakes in the dark at mile…60…70…who’s counting?!

Early on in a race.  Still looking good.  Courtesy: Micheline Fairbank

Early on in a race. Still looking good. Both of us, that is. Courtesy: Micheline Fairbank

I run on the trail, on the road, on the treadmill, like other runners.  So maybe I could be a runner.  And how would that change my perception of my running?  I always feel like I need to have this depth of background knowledge about being anything before I can say “I am a…”.  I mean, I know I am a teacher or a swimmer.  I have plenty of experience and training to call myself either of those things.  So, when does a person have enough knowledge or experience to call one’s self a runner?

And I’m not saying that I have a need to define myself.  My question is primarily whether or not defining myself that way would change anything about my running.  Would I be more confident?  Would I know when to empty the tank better, or when to hold off?  How much running does a person need to think, “I am a runner”?  Because I sure would like to.

And then, I would like to get started on the idea of being a BIKER.  😉

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lessons from leadville

Some of you may know that my husband, Mr. Prepared, went to run the Leadville Trail 100 Run this weekend.  He has been working his tail off since January training for this weekend, which was also to be his first 100 mile race.  He has completed many 50 mile races, and he thought it was time for a new challenge.  His season so far has been excellent, knocking an hour off his 25 mile time in April and 45 minutes of last year’s San Juan Solstice 50 time in June.

Mr. Prepared meticulously completed and tracked his training, and I have been running a pretty tight ship since January, making sure we both make use of the time available to train allotted by the Almighty Schedule.  Consequently, when Mr. Prepared said to me on the drive up to Leadville, “I know I have done everything that I can to prepare for this race.  Everything that is in my control I have done,”  I kind of started to assume that we had this one in the bag.  As a matter of fact, I had assumed that from waaaayy back when.  Mr. Prepared is one of the mentally toughest people I know.  He holds firm belief that “anyone” can “gut out” a marathon.  I think he doesn’t live in the same mental solar system as “anyone”, but I don’t argue.  Too much.

Fast forward to Saturday (I will save my color commentary on Leadville for another post, but believe me, there is A LOT of color, and it deserves commentary).  Anyways, there were many lessons to be taken away from this weekend, regardless of any result of any runner.  Mr. Prepared didn’t make it to Mile 100, or the belt buckle, a result of injury and under the strongly worded advice of medical personnel.  He made it to Mile 60 (or 63, depending on if you count the “newer, less dusty” section of trail as you know, actual mileage).  Up and over Hope Pass twice, which is an accomplishment in itself.  I couldn’t be more amazed or proud, but I am a little emotionally raw from a full day of watching this race.  Nevertheless, I picked up a few things to absorb as nuggets of wisdom:

1. You can do more than you think you can.  This is the motto of the LT100, along with “Commit not to quit.”  I saw some amazing feats out there- many mere mortals trying to achieve a goal they set for themselves.  Some had more ambition than skill, and some had the skill and the ambition.  Some we like to call “triumphs of will and spirit” in our house.  All are admirable, no matter what, and this race is a live-action show of people doing more than they ever thought they could, or at least more than they ever attempted before.

2. Running 100 miles is f’in hard.  I said to Taylor as we were driving on Friday, “You know what will be great about doing this race?  When people tell you they have read Born to Run and ask if you’ve ‘done Leadville’, you can now say yes and leave it at that.”  But running 100 miles is not just something you “do”, like taking up kickboxing.  Most people cannot conceive how difficult this is, not just physically but mentally.  I watched grown men vomiting, shaking, and crying, and that was just at mile 50 (BTW, the women just crumple in a heap if they’re suffering, not quite as loud as men…).  Your body and your mind have to be of iron will to finish a race like this, and there are HARDER 100 mile events out there than LT100.  Many people say, “I just can’t imagine…” and believe me, you can’t.  If you would like to see a slice of humanity without traveling to a 3rd world country, you should really check out a 100 mile race sometime.

3.  Human beings need each other.  So many, many amazing people were not only out on course yesterday, but on the sidelines.  While this race has somewhat less of a “community” feel than other ultras, there were so many amazing teams of support out there.  There were T-shirt wearing support teams (Go Team Texaho!), costume-wearing teams (the gold spandex bodysuit girl and the guy in the banana suit are a firm tie), and cause-supporting teams.  In any form, most of these runners could not do what they did without their crew and pacers.  In the lowest moments, someone else can spur you on.  I know that the guy who was crying out, “Momma, Momma!”  certainly needed his momma.  STAT.

4. It is all about the journey.  So Mr. Prepared didn’t get a belt buckle.  Neither did most of the people who started that race.  Yes, I said MOST, but that’s commentary for someone else’s blog.  But ALL of the people there started on a journey that I imagine changed their lives forever.  Some will try again, if not LT100, then somewhere else.  Some will remember it fondly as making good on a New Year’s resolution, or a bet, or whatever, but all will be affected by the experience.  And that is what they really came for- not the buckle.  Runners who have been afflicted with “buckle-itis” are doing it for the hardware to display, not the lessons learned along the way.

If you are living the motto “You can do more than you think you can” you are going to have to embrace the journey at some point because a life worth living is not only running the red carpet and belt buckles.  Goals accomplished only become truly sweet if we experience eating dirt and the disappointment that comes with DNFs, because DNFs are just temporary placeholders until you finish what you set out to do.

year view mirror

I got to spend the weekend in a beautiful spot in Colorado.  Nope, not the sidewalk of the local “Flight Days” parade, but secluded, pristine Lake City, CO, home to the annual San Juan Solstice 50 Mile Endurance Run.  The hubby was running the race, which is about my favorite of the whole season.  This event is homegrown, for a charitable cause, a lot of fun (to spectate, I can’t speak for the running part, although I’m told it’s good if you like that sort of thing), and we get to stay at a cute little cabin in an RV resort in town–if we remember to make our reservations 9 months in advance.  Of course, our stay last year was quite memorable to us, and apparently it was to others too.  Upon arriving, Lloyd, the owner, stopped chatting and remarked, “Hey, aren’t you the people who forgot their kid’s diapers last year?”

Me: “Yes! That was us! How do you remember that?”
Lloyd: “I know when someone comes knocking on my door at 9:30 PM at night that it can’t be good news.”
Me: “Oh.  Did we do that?  Sorry.”

I apparently ordered my husband to hunt around the campground and disturb other campers to see if they had diapers last year.  A lovely mom named Tanya remembered the incident too.  Oops.

What a difference a year makes.

Most people raise their eyebrows in surprise when I tell them my husband runs ultramarathons.  I usually make some joke about his insanity or something like that, but the truth is, I can kind of see his point of view (well, without the running an ultramarathon part, anyway).  I like the runs because they are very casual, natural, generally family-oriented affairs.  There were gaggles of children playing around at the RV campground and the town park, which was the finish line.  There is a sense of community where total strangers are at ease looking after your kids for 5 minutes while you go to the bathroom.  Spouses of runners keep tabs on other runners and report back in case someone missed their person at an aid station.  Not to mention, most of these races take place in beautiful surroundings.  I took the kids fishing, we saw a moose, and we went for a hike along the lakes.

good little moosey…

Can you think of a better way to spend a weekend?  Neither can I.  Fortunately, I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, pound a trail for 50 miles through lovely but smoky surroundings, up and down, and up and down, and up again.  My husband remarked that at 30 miles in this race, you feel like you should be done.

Mile 40 @ Slumgullion (yea, I said it) Aid Station

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, I was still filled with bitterness and resentment about the amount of time ultrarunning demanded from the hubby’s life.  I realize now that running makes him a better person when he comes home, and our time is about quality, not quantity.  I am able to see that because I feel the same way about exercise and competition as he does.  It’s something that makes me a better person to be around- happier, calmer, and more capable of tackling problems head on instead of stressing out and feeling overwhelmed.  A year ago, I just didn’t know it.

I know that many people say they are too busy to work out, or to tackle a difficult or worthwhile goal (which may or may not be competition-related), but fulfilling ourselves makes us better people for our kids and our significant others. I am inspired by those that rise at ridiculous hours or my husband, who runs late into the night after the kids go to bed. You can make it happen, and for those that make it happen, I want to know: How do you find time to accomplish your goals or fit in that extra hour for working out?

Home sweet home

Well, we are (FINALLY) home at last.  18 days on the road and I can say with clarity that it was one of the dumbest ideas I have ever had.  I mean, I guess I was due for a dumb idea, but really?

Now, I know that there are cool, laid-back people who probably think nothing of putting their kids and their worldly possessions in the car for 18 (or many more) days and hitting the open road.  I, apparently, am not one of those cool, laid-back people.  To all of my friends who raised an eyebrow when I was extolling the virtues of a good, old-fashioned car camping trip, I have to say:  Why didn’t you smack me upside the head?

My routine-loving children at the start of the trip.

I like showers.  I like beds.  I like routines.  I like my food that I like to eat at a certain time and in a certain way.  So do my children.  My oldest child might be returning to normal after a complete plunge into feral behavior.  She wasn’t even speaking words by Saturday evening.  I have to give my biggest thank you to our friends who looked the other way when she was acting like a rabid dog and antagonizing the crap out of their children.  And don’t let me forget about the dog…I’ll get to him later.

My favorite signs included this one, the sign for the home of split pea soup, and the Obama Jerky stand.

But for all our Griswoldian moments, including the one where the squirrel ran into our tent while Sarah was inside (SQUIRREL!), I have to say that this trip was what my mother would call “character building”.  We had to move outside our comfort zone.  A LOT.  And that’s good for everyone.  Even the children.  And sometimes moving outside your comfort zone rewards you with good things.  My husband made me get on my bike in a new place many times on this trip.  It was good for me to ride on new routes, new surfaces, and with different conditions, including the squirrel that I crushed with my rear tire on my special Mother’s Day ride.  Honestly, I swerved to avoid him, but he changed direction, and I am just not that talented on 2 wheels.  Sorry little buddy.

Fun at our friends’ Free Range Farm Camp for Kids. I told them to market it.

 There were ups and downs and ups again.  And after some yelling or crying about this or that, we (usually) laughed.  And laughed a lot.  Even after an exhausting day out at the Ranch Creek aid station for the Silver State 50/50.  Even after waiting for my husband to come in and watching the clock tick minutes away thinking I might combust with irritation or throw myself in the nearby pond.  Still, we laughed a lot after that day.  Times like these give me perspective and build strength on the inside.

Ranch Creek Aid Station, Silver State 50/50

Getting back to the dog…Sunday morning I get a phone call before we left Nevada from my sister telling me that my a-hole dog Rocky, whom she had been diligently taking care of for 3 weeks, had eaten my nephew’s parakeets.  And by eaten, I mean stalked until no one noticed what he was up to and tore open the cage.  I cried.  It’s OK if you laughed- most people whom I told did.

Anyways, it’s good to be home. I think I have had enough character building for a while.  I think I am going to work on being a cool, laid-back person.  Ha!

Here we go!

We made it!

To the end of the semester and the ski season, that is…and now it’s vacation time!  The hubby and I dreamed up a ridiculous 18 day road trip with the kiddos, and we leave tomorrow.  Of course, everyone is sick and the house is a mess, but it wouldn’t be an adventure if there was no challenge, right?

The Land Yacht, aka the Suburban we bought in February, is not apparently large enough to fit all of our stuff.  (For the record, I wanted a Wagon Queen Family Truckster, but those are a little harder to come by).  The hubs last night told me that we definitely needed to add the roof box to the top of the behemoth monster that we drive.  And we just got a bike rack last week. Every time he accelerates, I start counting, “One dollar, two dollars, three…”

The land yacht

My top choice was rejected.

Hopefully, it will be our trusty steed (and home) for the next couple of weeks.  And it’s the official crew vehicle, since I will be doing the IronGirl Lake Las Vegas triathlon (I know! So exciting!) this weekend and Taylor will wrap up our trip at the Silver State 50 near Reno in a couple of weeks.  I think the jury is still out on whether or not we are warping our children by designing vacations pretty exclusively around racing.  Trainer Guy thinks we are being “good role models”, while I think that someday they may rebel and become coach potatoes.

Since I have contracted the Black Lung from my children earlier this week, I tried to hold a pity party for myself about my potential race performance.  Trainer Guy and my husband both told me to get over it, so instead I am focusing on the important things, like these cool, new speed laces that match my shoes exactly:

It’s the little things that excite me.

And the super fancy sleeveless wetsuit Christine let me borrow.  I wore it this morning to swim practice.  It’s pretty awesomely buoyant.  And, it is easy to take off, which has been my #1 fear going into this race, since it took me about 27 minutes to take off my full-sleeve wetsuit at Highline Lake a couple of weeks ago.

It looks even cooler right side out.

 So, no matter what happens or how I feel, I am VERY excited to go and see the spectacle that is a 700-woman triathlon event, even if I fall down taking off my wetsuit in T1, or get a flat tire, or win (hahahaha).  Because after that our road trip consists of seeing family and friends, camping along the coast in California, going to Yosemite, and being in and around Lake Tahoe.  So hit me up with suggestions— for my race, for sights to visit, if I can use your washing machine, or something like that!  I’ll send pics!  🙂

WTF- Welcome to Fruita

So… we got to have our first Fruita trip of the “season” if you will.  Taylor ran the Desert RATS 25 mile race.  I gotta say,  I LOVE FRUITA.  I can’t really say if it’s the place or the time of year, or the invariable beautiful weather that greets us, but I love it.  I saw a  bumper sticker in town that read “WTF -Welcome to Fruita” and I think I was even more in love.  Even when I believe a guy called me “jerk” from his road bike as I was driving my gas-hogging-anti-Earth-loving vehicle (SLOWLY!) down the road from the CO National Monument for the 2nd time that day.  Oh well, you try getting everything all packed up by 5:30 AM, ya jerk… WTF. Welcome to Fruita, I guess.

My baby #1 taking a hike.

Anyhow, I love that race, and I was psyched to go and see the finish (of which we made it about 5 minutes before Taylor came in), dig in the sand/dirt, etc.  Going to an ultra marathon race always puts your personal fitness in perspective, and Desert RATS was no different from any other race.  I texted Christine to tell her that going to the race packet pickup was like being the fat chick at the frat party.  I pretty much had to be the only lady above a size 4 there.  Oh well. WTF.  Welcome to Fruita.

Taylor rocked it in his goal of 5 hours or less.  He did it in “or less”- not sure how much less, since they count that stuff IN HOURS and I wasn’t paying attention to the clock.

Sarah and Meg running Dad into the finish line. 🙂

After the race, Taylor was a good sport and let me stop at Highline State Park on the way back to Fruita to get “acclimatized” to the water.  It was a BALMY 52 degrees.  After reading all these open water swimming books, I was CERTAIN I would be SO AWESOME at swimming in the open water.   I totally wasn’t.  It was pretty sad.  All those same feelings I have always had in open water re-surfaced and were twice as bad because the water was murky.  I thought I had open water swimming down pat, but I realize that I have not swum in anything but clear open water, so I kinda freaked.  But I did several hundred yards, even if it was fifty yards out and back several times.  I haven’t ever swam in a wetsuit, so it was good to know what that would feel like before my race in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks.

I am glad I went swimming there, since my goal is to complete an Olympic distance triathlon in that same water in October.  That’s right, I signed up for the Desert’s Edge Triathlon in October at Highline State Park.  It will be my first Olympic length triathlon, if I make it that far.  I sure hope I do, since it will look weird if we just happen to be camping there for the weekend and not doing the race.

I am pretty excited to end our race season in Fruita as well, since I pretty much love the place.  Mostly because of its proximity to Kohl’s in Grand Junction.  And they remodeled the City Market in GJ, so it has a very large natural beauty products section which smells a lot like Whole Foods Market, which I imagine is the closest the Western Slope will ever get to having a Whole Foods.  I could have stayed in that section of the City Market for the day it smelled so good. As it was, I walked in for a toothbrush and to let my kids pee (since the city parks don’t open their public restrooms until 7:30 AM) and walked out with $30-plus of natural products.  Plus, in Fruita, they have awesome food, camping, and a dinosaur museum,  which Sarah thinks is the best thing since macaroni and cheese.  Which she consumed at least 3 times in our 36 hour trip.  WTF, you might say?  I say, Welcome to Fruita.  And welcome to racing season.  Pretty psyched for what’s ahead.

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