Editor’s note: Erika had so much good stuff to say, it warranted it’s own additional pst.
I am not a trail runner. Well, today I am.
An 18 mile trail run, you say? This was the same trail Eric Siegel so casually seemed to complete last year, categorizing it as something he “gets some kind of enjoyment out of.” When I think of the word enjoyment, an 18 mile trail race in New Ipswitch, NH going 9 miles back towards Mass and then turning right around again, is not what pops into my head. I am more thinking along the lines of fear, worry, unknown, you know, the negative words. This is the exact reason I did it.
“Always do what you are afraid to do.” This is a very simple yet complex sentence that if you stuck by it, would constantly inspire growth and change in both small and big ways in your life. This is really all I could think after a very matter-of-fact discussion with Stacey consisting of “hey, we should probably do this.” “Well, do you wanna?” “No, but that’s why we should.” And, done.
I would like to preface this blog by saying I am not an endurance athlete (Shocking). Growing up in a town with not very competitive sports, it was pretty easy to shine in all of the ones I picked where I did not have to move for long; goalie for soccer, point gaurd for basketball, and 3rd basemen for shortstop for softball. I always slid by showing “athletisicm” just enough so you never really saw what I lacked in….until CrossFit. I figured this out pretty quickly after starting the sport of fitness as I enjoyed moving weight, sometimes my body, and never running, rowing, or double unders. This now bothers me and I am continuing to work on it within every week I train. But sometimes you need something bigger than a couple of CrossFit endurance workouts or long runs to shock you and change the way you think about a weakness. I would say this race did the job.
This past Sunday morning was a great hiking day. It was sunny but not too hot, muggy at times but not too humid. Showing up and seeing a lot of people older than Stacey and I who weighed a lot less (males and females) was a bit intimidating from the beginning but I didn’t do this to compete with them. So I quickly shrugged that off. Starting off with a couple of them telling stories behind us was entertaining and almost easier to listen to someone else’s thoughts than your own. After discussing the other 40k’s and triathlons they had done that weren’t as hard as this, they decided to “really get going”. Great. The stories ended, and it was just us.
I can honestly say the first 9 miles were not that bad. It was mostly downhills, trail running, and a couple of bitch hills that gave me enough confidence to get through the first half pretty strong. Making sure to be the cool new runner label that I was that day, I heard Eric in my head making sure to fuel every hour even though every gel made me want to puke. I forced them on Stacey too since she wanted to rebel and not eat them at all. At about an hour and 43 minutes, the first runner was coming BACK, let me repeat BACK from the turn around onto the finish. We were about an hour and a half AWAY from the halfway point. That’s fine. No biggie. When you don’t know that, it’s much better for everyone. Reaching the half way point was actually very motivating. I’ve heard many runners say when you can do half of what you are supposed to do, that means you really are capable of doing it all. That always rings in my head and it did then. Even though we were told we were last, it still really didn’t matter to me. We were half way through something I never thought I would actively give 20 of my dollars to and participate in.
The second half is where it got interesting. The huge downhill that seemed dangerous with too many roots, boulders, and out of place rocks was now an uphill danger. Stacey kept her distance from me staying at one pace on the hill with her freak legs, as I just kept looking up gauging when she stopped going uphill, I would get to too. We actually gave a pretty good effort at running the trails when it was flat or just small hills that were tolerable to jog over. But after that miserable uphill battle once the second half started, physical fatigue started to set in. It started to become an on and off run/walk even when it was flat, in hopes to save some energy for the uphills we knew we would encounter coming back. We kept moving pretty well passing the 5 1/2 mile mark to the finish. Looking back on it, those last 5 miles were probably the hardest of them all. After that mark, there was no way to know how much we had left. Why this was only worse than the first half was because everything from the waist down ached, and we knew it was near the end. My right hip flexor was pissed, my first half of the race calf pain decided to take a trip all the way up to my butt. Finally, my bad, surgically repaired knee was starting to swear at me in ways that a lady’s knee should never swear.
The uphill’s got more challenging because of this even with stopping to stretch for a minute or two. The conversations got shorter. The Adele songs were coming to a hault, and we just wanted to be done. Finally when we thought were a mile away we picked it up basically running the fastest mile out of the whole 15 or so thus far. Poor decision. We were wrong as we approached a hill only to see more woods and trail. Thank god Stacey asked if I wanted to walk when she did or I may have had to resort to crawling. From there we probably had another mile and a half to go. We had to walk/shuffle. Everything in my lower body was done. I joked that I could probably walk on my hands, or do a WOD with handstand push-ups and probably be fine. I finally saw the tent and knew we should at least give it a jog in for the last couple hundred feet to the finish as we saw Eric, Les, and Brian waiting and cheering. We crossed as the last ones at 5:50. If we had to say we had a time goal, it was under 6 hours. So goal achieved….boo ya.
Clearly I am never doing this again. I do not need to. I didn’t do this to be the fastest or even get a respectable time. I did this because I hate long things. I love 2 minute workouts that consist of 5-4-3-2-1 rep schemes where my mental state is tough the entire time (because it’s only 2 minutes). I surprised myself completing this not with my time (obviously) but with how I dealt with it when it started to get difficult. Bottom line, there was never any room to be negative. This was a challenging task all on its own. The thought of even making it more of a challenge in my head was barely an option. Every time it started to go there, we would yell, cheer, or say some kind of a Joe comment like ”Only 6 miles left, pfft….all day” I have never sworn so much at my legs to keep moving. The funny thing is, they had to listen. I wasn’t quitting. I wasn’t NOT pulling my weight. I was not choosing to be the Debbie Downer and I refused to let any of those mountains win. Even the image of looking ahead of Stacey climbing only to see that there was more hill, was absolutely mentally diminishing. There was always only one option; up. I also came up with some fun ways to silence my little mean voices in my head and make other fun things get me through it. I started pretending every time I stepped I would be crushing little mini Wario’s from the Nintendo games telling me I couldn’t do it. I virtually stepped into Super Mario Bro’s 3 keeping the theme song in my head because dodging roots and rocks became a video game to me. Hey, whatever gets you through it, right?
I call those 4 mountains with a total elevation of 3000 feet a mountain of lies. This name is not just for all of those nice trail runners coming back towards the finish telling us good job when we were clearly the slowest. It’s actually for all of the lies I had to tell myself to make my body keep going. I lied about how I was feeling, how much we had left, that we were going to be done after this next hill, and that I was not a trail runner or endurance athlete. On Sunday I was, no matter how long it took me. I moved the most I have ever moved in 26 years and I could not be more happy with what I took away from it. I am going to translate it immediately to my workouts. In a 21-15-9 where it’s 15 and I want to die, I am stepping on those Wario’s again or playing a video game in my head. Similar to the last miserable mile of that race, I will be on the 9′s and I will have conquered those dumb voices in my head telling me to stop. I am better for having done this race even though I am still not an endurance athlete. If I have to, I can damn sure act like one.
Strength: Front Squat 5-5-5