-- Nelson Mandela
When the year started, I sketched out my running goals:
A 5K in January: under 27 minutes. (I eeked that one out by the skin of my teeth; having just gotten over being sick AND the trauma of losing one very stubborn, bloody toenail. I came in at 26:57).
Summerlin Half in April: under two hours. (We all know how that turned out. ::silent fist pump::)
Chicago Full Marathon in October: found out I got in on April 14th, two days post-Summerlin half. Woo-hoo! Only concern: the weather. Either we will be running in snow or 90 degree temps. Oh Midwest, you fickle mistress...
Las Vegas Rock-n-Roll (half) Marathon in November: help a new runner complete his/her first half-marathon. This is less of a goal, more of a pledge. I just want to pay it forward, similar to what Reinier did for me last year. :-)
Run an ultra, anytime this year. To complete the totally made-up trifecta of running events: a half, a full, and an ultra. I don't know if such a thing really exists, but I like to think of it as a the hat-trick of running.
I've referenced the ultra on the blog, but I don't think I've given details. First question is always, "What IS an ULTRA marathon?" Essentially, it's any race distance over 26.2, your standard marathon length. Ultras can range from 50km to 50 miles to 150 miles. If you've read Born to Run (which by this point, you should!), some of the more popular ultras are Western States 100 Endurance Race (100 miles), Badwater (135 miles through Death Valley in July), the Hardrock 100, and the Spartanthlon (153 miles). By the way, these races have no breaks in between. Once you start, you don't stop until you finish. This isn't the Tour de France; no giant plate of pasta or a nice warm bed waiting for you every night. In some ultras, it's 20-40 hours of straight running.
Needless to say, ultras attract a well, unique crowd. I get the same reaction when I talk about ultras as I did when I was still in practice: either people step closer to you, interested, or they step away from you, scared.
When I started reading about them, my only thought was "of course I have to do one."
Traveling for an ultra is out of the question at this point, with Brian's work schedule, so I knew I had to find something close to home. And because ultras are so, well, bizarre, the more random, the better. Reinier suggested the ET Full Moon Midnight Marathon in Rachel, NV as my first. It fit perfectly: 51km (so it's a tiny ultra, just what I wanted. 51km = 32 miles), close(r) to home, and really, really eccentric. We will run a stretch of highway 375, also known as Area 51 starting at midnight under a full desert moon. Thirty-two miles or eight hours later, it'll be over and the group will meet for breakfast at the Little A'le'Inn in Rachel, NV, population: 54.
I'm so in.
I mentioned the idea to several running friends and gauged their reactions. All stepped away except one - Kat. Her eyes got big as saucers, her grin widened and she immediately suggested we make t-shirts. Hell yes, she's in, too. It also happens to be her birthday that weekend. I'm thinking alien-shaped balloons at the finish line?
The weird part of all of this (as if this wasn't strange enough) is that I'm dying to start training. Like, itchy, fidgety, annoyingly impatient. The two-week break after the Summerlin half has been long enough. I didn't realize how much I enjoy reviewing my training schedule every morning, analyzing it with a cup of coffee in hand. I have nothing to think about in the morning and nothing to worry about at night.
I do not enjoy being a runner without a race.
Spring break and the week after was a good reminder as to what running does for me. I enjoyed myself during those two weeks - I mean, really enjoyed myself. There was a near-constant flow of wine. I ate chow mein at 10pm after hanging out with synchronized swimmers. (long story). I went out with friends - on a Thursday night - that prompted one of them to post a pic of all of us with the tagline, "Kim's reintegration into society." (I guess I didn't realize I had become such a hermit). I just kept exclaiming, "There are people out! Really, people! Do people do this, like, a lot? Wow..."
By this Sunday, however, a full two weeks into my bacchanal buffet of amusement, I felt physically awful. Although I made it to boot camp every morning, I'm fairly confident I was sweating Chardonnay (oaky, with a hint of green apple). I was exhausted, cranky, and achy. The less I ran, the less I wanted to run. I got slower and slower during my "easy" runs and easy runs felt like long runs. The more I thought about running, the worse I felt, if that was even possible.
So let me be a tiny little case study for all you new(er) runners out there, or experienced runners trying to get back into it. Your lifestyle has to support your running or things can get very, very painful. Eating poorly and not sleeping enough make it very, very difficult to find the motivation to lace up those sneakers. It's totally common sense but sometimes hard to put into practice.
Thankfully, by Tuesday, I managed to get the right food in me and sleep well - and it all came back easily. The joy, the freedom, the peace. My seven-miler was on of the best runs I can remember and a good reminder that those feelings are better than even the best vintage or late night out. Bring on the lentil burgers and kale salad! Hooray for water!
The ultra may seem excessive, but to me, it's the next logical step. I need it. I want a goal - a big, crazy, outlandish, over-the-top goal. I want to complain about this come July ("I'm so tired! I'd kill for a beer right now!" Somewhere, Brian just slammed his head down on his desk) and wonder if my legs will ever stop feeling tired. But what keeps me going is I honestly never thought it was possible to complete a full marathon. The moment I crossed the finish line, the wonder and shock I felt amazed me. I hope that feeling travels to Rachel, NV this August.