A Moment of Realization.
I recently read a post about 100 mile races which claimed “You will be tested to your core; you will face demons; you will have to make tough choices.” I have been devoting so much to training for Cascade Crest. I said this of training for WR50 last year, but this is the most effort I have ever put forth to anything in my life. It is a good feeling to set a goal and do all you can in hopes of achieving it. However, the more I train and the closer race day approaches, the more my mind is assaulted by thoughts of doubt and failure. Having only ever run 50 miles as my longest distance, it seems natural that doubling that distance would create doubts in anyone. With all of my training, I am seeing vast improvements on where I was this point last year; running similar trails outside of Seattle with more ease than I thought was possible. These moments give me great mental strength. But it is the unknown that causes fear and a desire to train even harder.
This past weekend I had a long run followed by an early morning 1/2 marathon I was running with some friends from work as a part of Engineers Without Borders’ Run To End Poverty campaign. It was an opportunity to share my passion with workmates as well as run for a great cause. I woke up early Saturday morning to begin a long run only to find late June weather attempting to be early winter; cold and rainy. I hid out in my apartment for 2.5 hours before I built up the mental strength to face a long run in the rain. Those that know me, know that I am one of the few people that love the grey and rain that comes with living in the PNW. I do like the sun too, in its allotted 2-3 months in the summer. But running long distances in rain is less than ideal. Body glide, tape and other anti-chafing aids do not work and soggy feet increase opportunity for blisters. The past few long runs I have had were all in pouring rain. (As a side note I should mention that rain in Vancouver is significantly different than Seattle: precipitation vs mist.) So when I woke up to see rain again on a long run, it took some deep talks with myself to convince my body to go.
Generally for my long runs I will run with my apartment or car as a base to refill water and supplies. Because of the rain I decided to not head to the trails and run from home. By the time I exited my apartment, the rain had turned to a happy misting state. That is until I was at the end of my out and back. Forty minutes from home and the bottom fell out. I was drenched in a matter of seconds. Time to press on, all the while cursing Vancouver and wondering if I had the mental fortitude to finish my run for the day. As I approached my apartment, the rain had turned back into mist. So I refilled my water, grabbed a few gels, rung out my shirt and set back out again. Twenty minutes later, I felt like it was monsoon season. Seriously, Vancouver? Seriously. I decided to take this opportunity to truly test and nurture the mental aspect that comes with ultrarunning. I pressed on. I was the only person running in the downpour, receiving the all too familiar “is he for real?” looks by passing cars. The rain eventually died down and the sun slowly began to make an appearance; along with all the rest of the runners who now felt it was safe enough to venture outside. I got home for the second time, grabbed a different shirt and changed my socks. What a world of difference. Dry socks! I neglected the fact that the body glide safely covering my ‘sensitive areas’ had all been washed away and set back out for a warm, dry run. For those of you who may have never run under chafing conditions, you cannot possibly understand how much it begins to hurt. I had finally made it through the mental struggle and triumphed over the rain, now this. Thankfully, I made it back to my apartment after round 3 just before enough damage was done to tape up; I was past the point of body glide. I ended up finishing about 34 miles in 5:20; not phenomenal but this feat seemed impossible for me this time last year. And I was not really that spent after the run!! The next morning would be the test though, as I set out to run a 1/2 marathon with no idea how I would feel.
I have done a few back-to-back runs before, but never after a 30+miler. I had planned to run to the start of the race since it was about 5 miles away from my apartment, but I did not wake up with enough time. 😦 I did drive part of the way and run the rest though, which probably added about a mile and some change. My legs were a little stiff starting out but eventually started feeling great. It was a fun experience to share running with my work community. I ended up finishing in about 1:41 and still not that sore.
During the race on Sunday which began at 7am, I had a realization. If this were Cascade Crest, I would STILL be running from my long run yesterday. It was tough to digest at first, but the more I pushed myself during the 1/2 marathon, the more I dreamed about what it would feel like to be rounding some of the last miles of Cascade Crest.