Thursday, January 13, 2011

Remember Pants.

On Friday, I got the flu. It was the kind of flu that makes you feel like you’re working harder than you ever have in your entire life, but you’re actually barely moving. I love that kind of flu—not because it’s comfortable or something to strive for—but because it felt philosophically dramatic, and I tucked it away in my mind to someday use as a metaphor when I need to say something meaningful and poignant.

I slept all day. That evening, I met up with my brother over dinner, and we talked about the following morning, which would be his first attempt at an ultra, the MHRRC Recover from the Holidays 50K. I wanted to give him some anti-advice, (i.e. Sprint out really hard in the beginning. Fill your water bottle with milk. It’s okay to run in blue jeans. Fanny packs? Yes. Wear at least two.) But he kept grumbling in nervous agitation, calling the dinner his “last supper,” so I was supportive instead.

Saturday morning, I woke up early. My life was enshrouded in darkness, metaphorically as pertaining to my illness and because it was pre-sunrise. I wandered into the kitchen, flipped on the lights, and found a note from my brother, to himself.

1. Remember food.
2. Remember pants.
3. Stretch.

WHOA. It looks like he figured out the sport of ultrarunning. Cracked the code, discerned the three secrets of the sport: food, pants, and stretching.

I started to pack some food for the day and got tired. Flu. So I took a nap on the floor. My bro walked in and found me there. “Feeling okay?” Teddy asked. I shook my head, sweeping my curls across the kitchen floor. “Nooooooope. I feel like the opposite of okay.”

I wouldn’t be racing that day, but I figured I'd get a few miles as long as I was there. I went to the course and saw Pete Colaizzo, the RD. We caught up a little on life and sports. He’s also the Marist track coach—thug life, right?! The MHRRC has grown considerably over the past few years. They have a full calendar of exciting races and training opportunities coming up, so if you’re in the area, check them out:

The gun went off, and I went with the lead pack, hanging on and chatting with the herd, to ultimately manage a 25K of training, which on that course meant five repeats of 2.5K out-and-backs. The road was covered in ice and snow. I would run up the hills and slide back down, like Sisyphus, when the net worth of your struggles amounts to zero. It was COLD. The air was basically made of ice cubes, and you had to bite them. You had to bite the air to chew out some oxygen or else you couldn’t breathe. I kept my HR steady and low (in the moderate trot/aerobic zone), while chewing the ice-cube-air until my day was done. The runners ran on, and I waved goodbye.
(Check it. That's a struggle-face. Misery and distress jog.)

On the way home, I sang some Justin Bieber. This is uncool; I know that. But my singing voice is best after I go running. After 100 miles, forget about it; get me a record contract.

While I’m bummed I didn’t get to race, I have to keep it in perspective. For me, winter races and anything under 50 miles exist as a test of fitness to get me where I need to be when it counts. It’s demoralizing to train hard for something and not be able to compete, but I know I’m getting stronger. This brings me to my next point:

In this sport, a common saying is, “Ultrarunning is 90% mental.” Like this:

Or, they say, “Ultrarunning is 90% mental. And the final 10% is mental”…which is cute and catchy but probably erroneous. And the philosopher in me is wondering how the mind is functioning without implicating flesh and if I have to be a substance idealist to keep running.

I think it’s more like this:

You need to get in shape on two fronts: mental and physical. The mental determines how far you can physically push yourself. Ideally, you want to be at 100% in both categories because (and you can see this played out in yourself on race day) you physically race what you deserve from your training. But your emotive and intellective constitutions (your mind) can easily prevent you from running full-out what you should. So by all means, prep your mind. The strongest runners are focused and passionate. But work out like a dog, too, or you won’t make it far past the starting line.

I PROMISE, THIS IS THE MOST BORING THING I WILL TYPE EVER AGAIN IN MY BLOG. I just needed to get it out because sometimes, colloquial expressions are false. But people keep saying them! It’s like that inspirational saying, “Reach for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” And I’m thinking, no you won’t. The moon is much closer than stars. If you miss, you probably didn’t exceed Earth’s escape velocity, and you’ll come right back down and burn up in the atmosphere.

The other day, I was at the gym, trying to find a magazine to read on the stationary bike. The table was covered in mostly academic periodicals. “Uhhhh,” the girl next to me said. “This place has the worst magazines.” She looked over, and I was clearly, visibly drooling over a science periodical with a brain on the front. I froze. Oh, my gosh. She’s going to realize I’m a nerd. Think of something cool to say! Think of something cool to say! But I couldn’t think of anything. She sized me up. Dang. Next time I’ll have something prepared, like, “I know right?! Worst magz ever. Did you know BeyoncĂ©’s not really pregnant. Just a rumor.” It’s the small battles in life that make the world exciting.

This week so far:
Monday: 35 miles (20 and 15) + core work
Tuesday: 10 miles + 90 min. cardio + leg lifting
Wednesday: 38 miles (24 +14) + core work, light lifting

Whachaaa! Happy trails, friends! Have a great week.


  1. Impressive Circle drawing skills! Inspirational Blog. I've been ultra-running for a few years now. It's good to know I'm not alone running endless miles in the snow.


    P.S. Try a protractor..ha

  2. Raj! Thanks for your comment. Hahaha you are right-I'm a circle-drawing slob and should probably invest in a protractor. :) Enjoy your snow miles! I can't wait for Spring, but this is fun for a while.

    I have decided that to prove my theory that your blog's humor is only maturing like a fine bowl of raisin bran, I will need to review ALLLLL your posts and vote for my faves. Ohh...maybe a couple of other people could join me and it could be like American Idol. Who wants to be Simon? Except I don't have time to do this right now. Later, later. I promise. For now, you'll just have to take my word for bring more and MORE joy to my life all the time. And not just with your blog. MWAH.

  4. It's official: I am not smart enough to hang with you or your people. (I am also not fast enough, but I knew that already). Whoosh! That's the sound of your quick wit and mind going over my head.

    Hope you are feeling better :-)

  5. Haha Sophie! You're way cooler than me. Way, way cooler. I am feeling better, thanks! Hope you're having a great week!

  6. One time I took home a Journal of Public Health I saw at the gym. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. But sometimes I just want an Us Weekly.

    Also, this post is awesome.

    Also, no more fluking. That's flu puking.

  7. That sound you here? That's me snorting. Can't breathe from laughing soooooo hard. Who needs speed work? I just read your blog posts.

    p.s. Glad you're feeling better!

  8. I just discovered your blog - and I'll be back, if not for the humor, then for tips on how to run ultras with flu, allergies and asthma.

  9. Not to post twice but I had a question. You're 10 times the ultra-runner that I am (best thus far is 87 miles in the Back on my Feet 24 hour run). What kinda shoes do you use? My point is I go through running shoes like a crack-addict goes through crack. Much like drugs it becomes an expensive ordeal. Most decent running shoes are $100+ and when I kick training into gear I can put 100s of miles down in a matter of a couple months if not sooner. Basically have you yet to encounter affordable or durable trail/ultra shoes? If you're not dying to become an advertisement, it's understandable. Thanks.


  10. Raj, thanks for your compliment, but really anyone out here kicking their own butts is doing something really worth celebrating. Don't worry about PR comparison. You're a stud! Anyway, you're right-shoes drain the bank. Typically, I train in inov-8s and race in their f-lite model. Mostly because they don't break down easily, let you foot strike the ground in a way that's more natural then that heavily cushioned crap most stores sell, and I had tendinitis until I started wearing them. To cut down on cost (which is something important to me b/c I'm still in school), I buy 3-4 pairs at a time of different models and rotate which I wear. Sneakers all break down in diff ways, so you can get more wear on each without incurring injury. Keep the questions coming, friend! Happy trails! :)

  11. this is quite possibly the most fabulous, utterly fantastic ultrarunning blog post I've ever read! AWESOME! :o) can't wait to check out your other posts. LOVE the picture of you dressed up with a vacuum cleaner in your most recent post! hilarious! :o)

  12. Thanks for the compliment, Jenn! And I look forward to meeting you sometime at a VHTRC event. Happy running! :)