In thinking about it on todays run… I spent all of the time I was an adult and working in California obese, inactive, eating all the wrong things.
I am not really exaggerating.
There were times where I would start a diet, try to get active, only to give it all up in a freaking hurry. As soon as I got hungry or sore – I would quit. And then gain even more weight. Like probably 30 different times. Hell. Maybe 50. Or more. You get the point.
I see California as my ‘fat’ young adult years.
It’s where pre-diabetes walked in the door and would soon refuse to leave. I don’t have memories of California that aren’t of me as an obese adult. Happy, but the obesity and type 2 Diabetes were escalating rapidly.
Doing something new that I never knew existed always makes me introspective… And this time doing something new in California – in a place I drove by for decades – made me sappy, happy, grateful. I mean this is a place that could have been my stomping grounds had I been in any shape to have been stomping around.
Spencer and I along with our friend and fellow ultra-runner Josh Hough are in Auburn, California this weekend to run in a training camp. We will run 70 miles of the Western States Endurance Run 100 course over the next 3 days. Spencer and I did this training camp last year and it is ahhhmazing. Running a historic course. Non race event, just long training runs that are supported. Surrounded by amazing athletes and folks passionate about the sport of trail running.
This year our road-trip brigade came down a day early to get our bearings, get set-up and simply spend one day relaxing.
Turns out that none of us are very good at relaxing. 🙂
Spencer and I went for a run this morning on a new-to-me trail that is right off of a highway I traveled for decades with my family and during College.
I was telling Spencer that my life is just still so surreal on a few levels.
Being in California, eating plant based, running… Those are all things I could NEVER, ever have imagined when I was living in California. I found myself thinking about 6 different times this morning… ‘WOW! Is this really my life now?!’
I’ve driven by this spot for 20+ years and never thought for a split second about trails in all the years we drove by. This specific freeway off-ramp had ALL the good fast food you could possibly want before heading up 84 to Tahoe. I know those locations by heart.
I never thought I’d be back here one day and parking at a trail head so we could go run alongside the American River for a few miles.
I never imagined I would want to climb the trails in the Sierra’s, or run on them, or care deeply about treading the ground of a historic running race.
Yet, here I am.
And I’m loving this view and experience of California that requires me to get off of the roads, explore and eat healthy and move along under my own power. And explore!
I am happy and healthy and do NOT take any of that for granted for even one second.
I have been given the second chance at life. Not everyone gets that chance. I won’t waste it.
I will use this weekend to build new and healthy memories in the state that I grew up in.
Mac 50K this year was fantastic! Cool, rainy, muddy, friends, laughter, perfection…
Mac is my favorite race, in one of my favorite places in the world.
I approached the race as a long and supported run to practice for the event I have in September. I was testing gear, making sure of my shoe choice, practicing my new-found downhill skills and I HAD TO WORK on fueling. This was my chance to put it all together and watch it work.
In the back of my head I knew I had run this race in 8:04 in 2015. So I’ll go ahead and admit that yes, I had a trying-to-ignore-it-but-it-was-out-there goal, to try to break 8 hours. I was trying not to think about that. It was NOT the point of the day.
Ultimately, I nailed everything I set out to do.
SOME MAJOR WINS!
Fueling was better than it has ever been.
Gut stayed intact.
Loved my Altras. (I still have all my remaining toe nails!)
Comfy with my hydration pack and know where to stash everything.
FINALLY got to run an entire 50K with my friend/running partner Josh.
Spencer placed 8th overall. He had a fantastic run and wrote a great blog about it. Read it here.
Wendie paced Josh and I the last 5 miles, after cheering and crewing for us the entire day.
It was a perfect day.
From ‘The Saddle’ (last aid station) to the finish line is about 5 miles or so.
Everyone was muddy and tired. The finish line was really looking good at this point. I’d slipped and gone down in the mud at least 3 times. I was an unharmed, total mud ball head to toe. 🙂
Josh knew my not-talking-about-it-goal. I could see him assessing the situation. He knew we were in a race against the clock to break 8 hours. We were appropriately tired, but totally healthy. We COULD pull it off, if we picked up the pace.
I knew it.
I was just pretending to ignore it.
A portion of my brain was totally fine with not finding that goal.
To hit that goal would mean that we would have to run consistently and fairly hard for the remainder of the course.
That’s a lot of hard work at the end of a whole lot of hard work.
It had been a day of huge wins ALREADY. I didn’t even have to cross the finish line to have felt like the day was a smashing success.
But as I was starting to push the edges, with Josh speeding up, my brain was busy trying to convince me that we just didn’t need to put in the extra effort to hit that goal…
‘Bets. Just walk.
You’re going to finish close to last year’s time anyway. Close is good.
It’s fine to ease back now, Spencer and Josh and Wendie are still going to be proud of you no matter what.
This was a tough course. Take it easy. You’ve earned easy.
Just being out here is enough.’
I recognized that my head and her subtly negative voices were trying to shut things down.
‘Head’ management is very much part of the training for ultras. You literally have to practice making sure your head doesn’t talk you out of completing what needs to be done.
This is always scary and fascinating to me. Sometimes my brain drags out ‘the big guns’ and I really have to fight to just keep breathing and moving. This time – since this race was essentially a practice run and I was surrounded by friends I trusted deeply – I decided I would just watch and see what demon/trick/weapon my head was going to try to drag out into the light…
My brain went straight for it’s old friend laziness.
‘Take it easy, you’ve earned easy. There’s no harm in just walking at this point…’
I have had years of practice being lazy. Honestly, it’s the natural go to for me. And at this point in the race – 26ish miles in – my legs and back were screaming for me to just. stop. running. My belly wasn’t thrilled. My feet hurt. I had these OBNOXIOUS and painful adductor cramps violently grabbing hold of my upper, inner thigh – and stopping me dead in my tracks a few times.
My body was doing it’s part to try to stop me.
My brain just joined in on the chorus.
I’ve done a few races at this distance, so I can now say that I have been here before in some form or fashion. This is the point where I simply have to buckle down and keep moving forward as best I can. And I have all kinds of tricks stashed away to IGNORE or quiet the chatter in my head that isn’t productive or healthy or nice. I usually just kind of blank out without fully defining whatever weapon my brain has chosen, count steps, breathe, and try my best to ignore whatever tricks my head is playing.
But this time I instantly recognized laziness.
And it was really pretty cool to define it, understand it and then just accept it for what it is.
I didn’t bother trying to evict or ignore the thoughts.
I sure as hell didn’t give into it.
I just decided to run with it – and tire it out.
Here’s where my thinking went… When I’m on a training run – and my coach has given me parameters – I always go straight for the middle or low end of whatever it is that I’m being told to work on. Unless specifically told to do so, I rarely push to the outer, upper edges or beyond in training on my own.
It’s a subtle, persistent form of laziness.
I mean training to run ultras is hard work in and of itself. I’ve done a lot of hard work to get to this point and lose weight and reverse T2 diabetes. So does it really matter that I’m just a tad bit lazy about some aspects of training?
To be clear – I’m not being hard on myself or beating myself up.
I ran a freaking great run.
And this ‘work’ going on in my head around battling and understanding laziness was fantastic and constructive.
I ultimately kept on Josh and Wendie’s heels and PUSHED hard to the finish. I put down faster miles at the end than I had most of the day.
I’m just acknowledging that I recognized the voice screaming in my head as my long-lost, best-forgotten, crappy ex-best friend named laziness.
And I decided that I don’t want to be friends anymore.
So I just ran away. 🙂
I ignored the normal long-run pains and tiredness and just PUSHED hard to the finish. My training allows for that. My body was working her butt off. And this really was a training run – so why not PUSH hard and see what happened?
As I ran, in the back of my head the idea was clanging around that I am SO FREAKING CAPABLE of being and doing so much more.
If I’m given the chance to push hard, do I always give it my all? Or do I get lazy?
It’s an idea that I just can’t let go of…
What exactly would I be capable of, if I refused to let laziness win?
I got home and Spencer and I were debriefing the race. I walked through the pieces that went great; fuel, shoes, handling the wicked leg cramps. Spencer and I both agreed that we could clearly see the core and strength work we’re doing with Jordan paying off as I was able to manage the slides and the muddy, steep terrain really well. And then I ran faster miles at the end…
I was really proud of the effort I gave at Mac. I’d had a good day.
I also told him that I recognize I get lazy in some of the targeted training runs during a training cycle. I cheat myself and aim for good enough/middle of the road. By doing what I’m told – instead of really testing the limits. I told Spencer I was going to work on learning to push myself harder when given the choice. I confessed that I know that I sometimes let myself off the hook when I really should be capitalizing on the opportunity to push to another level.
The last few miles of the Mac I kept thinking…
I’ve come so far and I’m more in love with trail running and my body is doing things I never, ever thought she was capable of. And I know without a doubt that I am capable of still more strength and more growth and more change and well… just more good stuff.
Laziness isn’t going to win this race. Not this time. I’m going to keep training to out run it.
As I sit in the airport waiting for the flight home — I still feel the rocking motion of the boat. I’m told this is a phenomenon called ‘Jimmy Legs’. 🙂
I’m soaking in the memories of the experience and the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbyes with new friends.
Yet I am finally headed home.
Such a wonderful mix of feelings…
I spent a lot of time sitting by the pool (saltwater pool!) working on this blog. I was slathered in sun screen since I skimped on ‘solar cream’ on day one and seriously sunburned my rear-end…
Lesson quickly learned. 🙂
This whole experience?
An incredible gift.
We’ll start with the short version…
I stayed active. Made the best food choices I could given the situation. I’m thrilled I was entrusted with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from my university. I met some incredible friends. I’m so happy to be headed home.
Win, win, win!
The longer version?
I came on this cruise intent on doing the best job I could for OSU and also to work on testing my lifestyle in a new environment.
You’ll recall that I shared in my previous blog that I was worried about gaining weight, getting lazy and going bezerk with the unlimited food.
I really wound up learning/re-learning some critical life lessons.
I realized about three days in that there was a massive amount of accumulated life wisdom on this boat regarding health, wellness, business, adventure, relationships…. So I shut up. Listened intentionally. Observed. And tried to ask some good questions when I had someone’s ears.
Here’s my top ‘lesson’ list straight from my journal:
Age is simply number. There were 55 year olds who are marching steadily toward the grave with an attitude of having given up. There were 85 year olds kicking up their heels, laughing, having the time of their lives with each of the days they have left. Age is only a number.
Size matters. European food portions were served on this ship. Not American super-sized versions of portions. There was a dazzling array of foods — at seemingly all hours. Elegant and intentional presentations. Food and the dining experience was treated with respect and care.
Size REALLY matters. Again, this is a European ship. Smaller towels, smaller showers, smaller chairs. It is built for a non-obese/normal weight population. A large (pardon the sad pun) portion of the inhabitants of this ship were overweight or obese. They struggled with some of the accommodations. Watching their struggles served as a good reminder for me. The old me, 392 pounds, wouldn’t have fit in my shower stall in my room. Likely wouldn’t have been able to use the commode that was wedged into a tight corner. I couldn’t have sat in the dining room chairs, worn the luxury robes provided and would not have been able to share a stairwell with anyone. That’s just naming a few of the reminders I saw that put my old and new lives in perspective.
Friends. Friends are where you make them and where you take them.
Accountability. I found new friends on the boat who quickly and happily agreed to being accountability partners. Meeting for walks/stretching/running, grabbing extra ice waters and focusing on great conversations; not on food. I shared my goals and ideas — they shared theirs!
Kindness knows no language.
Listen. Two ears, one mouth. I listened a lot on this ship. Heard incredible stories of strength and determination and heartbreak. I consciously tried to make sure I walked away from a conversation having listened more than I talked. I mean, I know I talk. A lot. And I recognize that it’s a bad habit. This ship was good practice for me to re-learn the value of listening.
Drink water. The older runners on board make plenty of water a daily habit. Sparkling eyes, great skin, general good health. They were laughing at me when I finally strung together all of their advice and told them the only thing I could find in common with all of them was that they wouldn’t give-up, had worked to make sure running stayed a habit in their lives and they drank plenty of water. Everything else they suggested/lectured me about was a wildly mixed bag of contradictory advice.
Blowing a snot rocket on the boat deck is a) not acceptable or appreciated and b) super tricky with cross winds. 🙂
Rest. I got great advice from a guy named George on day 12 of this adventure. He had my number as far as my cheerleader/extrovert/go-go-go personality. He said ‘Take ‘me’ time for you. Rest, recharge your emotional self. Not just your body. Or you’ll crash.’ And MAN WAS HE RIGHT! That sounds crazy given that I was on a luxury cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. And resting and relaxing is like ninja-expert-professional level sport. BUT I hadn’t been resting or relaxing for me… So I took a day and slept in. Hard. Woke up after about 14 hours of sleep. Ate a good food. Worked on this blog. Just kind of ‘hid’ and took care of myself all day long. Even extroverts need some quiet time now and again.
Routine. Routines are powerful. I spent time thinking about whether the routines I have created were being used for good/health or comfort/excuses/control. 🙂 Shaking up my routine has helped me evaluate those elements that I want to embrace and those that perhaps weren’t serving me best after all.
Be present. So hard for me to remember. But I had plenty of time to practice breathing and enjoying only what was in front of me.
This time on a ship was good for me to realize I can stay active and make smart food choices. It did NOT look at all like the activity and food that would be my ’norm’ back home, and it honestly took me about 8-10 days to be OK with that.
I kept portions under control. I took stairs. I drank water. I mostly stayed away from the desserts (Fresh sorbets… Man. They were amazing!). I kept the focus on people and good conversations instead of food. By the time we docked, I knew every nook and cranny of that 1/13th of a mile track on the top of the ship. 🙂
I am reminded that I really do have the best of both worlds.
I loved this trip, new friends, the countries, the Panama Canal crossing, the fire-testing of my lifestyle in a totally new environment.
And yet I am thrilled and excited to be heading home to my family, friends, healthy foods, trails.