I had a goal this winter: Run my first ultramarathon--the HAT Run 50K. As I shared in a previous post, this was way outside my comfort zone for so many reasons, but I knew I could get there if I had a plan:
- Join a training group for guidance, accountability and a bit of fun. [Achieved this one easily by joining up with the Charm City Run crew]
- Commit to run every single long run on the training schedule.
- Commit to complete as many of my weekday training runs as possible--even if it meant dragging my butt to the gym to use the...shudder, shudder...treadmill.
- Run more on trails to prepare myself for the intense hilly course.
- Practice pushing hard up hills and recovering on the downhills.
- Eat healthfully to support my training--lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds, legumes and whole grains--without letting my ravenous appetite take over.
- Follow a strict carb load protocol in the days leading up to the event.
I had a solid plan.
However, the world had alternate plans for me. Wicked cold made running a real challenge this winter. Then the snow came. Days passed where my the roads from my house were un-runnable, and trails were buried deep in ice and snow. Did I mention it was cold? Because it was. But I stuck with my plan as best as I could and tried not to make excuses for skipping runs or eating poorly.
And then there was the race itself.
I was prepared for the brutal hills, but what I (and the other 400-something runners) did not expect was the mud. The snow and ice that was so beautiful and bright and scenic when we began turned to thick, sludgy mud as the day warmed. Miles and miles and miles of brownie batter-consistency mud worsened as the day went on. The uphills were treacherous, but it was the downhills--the places where I was counting on recovery from the 7,200 feet of incline--that were the real nightmare. Inches of wet slippery mud that provided ZERO traction, sending me careening wildly more than once, arms flailing trying to gain balance with every muscle clenched.
Runners commiserated, volunteers consoled (I cannot express how amazing those volunteers were--the best, most empathic, generous human beings I have ever encountered on a race course!!!) and plans were put to the test. Around mile 24 that wave of despondence that many long distance runners know passed over me. The mud was deep and endless, and the non-stop up-and-downs were grueling. "If I have to walk-run-slide the next 7 miles at an 18-minute pace," I began reasoning, "that would take me nearly two hours. I cannot do this for two more hours." I bargained with my quads to push harder. I pleaded with the sun to hurry up and dry out the mud. And I drew on all the work I had done this season. I got a surge of energy with three miles left to go, and cranked it up to the finish line.
Things did not go exactly according to plan. But I can't imagine how they would have gone if I didn't stick to my plan leading up to the event! I was well-fueled, I was physically strong, and I had good mental game. The world reminds me over and over that there is so much I can't control. But if I can take responsibility for what is under my control, it sure makes it a lot easier to deal with everything that isn't.
Need help developing your plan for being your healthiest self (which, by the way, does NOT necessitate running a 50K or even a 5K if that’s not your thing)? Let’s chat… firstname.lastname@example.org