Friday, September 23, 2011

Everybody Has Two Cows

(Farm life, the good life.)

Everybody has two baby cows: calf one and calf two. Both have to be healthy in order for us to thrive as runners.

In May, I wrote a blog entry that mentioned cows in passing. My comment was passing. The cows were alive. Subsequently, my measurables indicated that a lot of people arrived at my blog in ‘cow’ google searches, so I wonder where are all of the hard-hitting bovine blogs are. Not here. I don’t know anything about animals.

Over time, the connection persisted and solidified, as people continuously and regularly googled ‘cows’ and ‘cow care’ and found themselves here. These days, my blog is like a haven for the farmer. My blog is essentially a farm. Talk of Gatorade is comparable to irrigation strategies, although it is tough to simultaneously cater to such disparate audiences. I feel so scattered--like seeds on a prairie AND like racers over a point-to-point trail run course after the first 30 miles.

Welcome to my farm. Have you considered ultramarathon running?

(Thus ends my modeling career. And my role modeling career.)

Smooth transitions…

Right now, I am sidelined by an enfeebled calf. By that I do not mean that I am cornered by a degenerate baby cow. I anticipate you reading it like that, and I could let it stand without clarifying but that's as good as lying. I rarely encounter cows, and that's the truth. I actually mean my leg calf. I attempted to do a lot of running this summer in a wide range of events, so it is okay that I am injured because I am now more acquainted with my finitude, and I have this opportunity to think more about sustainability, an issue deer to the hearts of all farmers. See what I did there? I wrote ‘deer,’ rather than ‘dear,’ to seduce hunters to come learn about the ultramarathon.
("Hi Mom, it's me. I just ran for 48 hours, and I am losing sight of my finitude...Should I, like, what? Get injured?")

Welcome to my farm, hunters. I love you, deerly.

But to proceed forward (as runners are apt to do) and both because I am trying to be a woman of substance [*Ontologically, I already am.], and because this entry is devoid of worthwhile content, I would like to tell you about the things I am learning about running and injury relayed through population ecology. It’s an animal theme.

As it turns out, sustainability isn’t just for groups of organisms struggling in the wilderness. The way animals survive and thrive can teach us a lot about how to do the same.

1. Herd Mentality. I read a study a while back that examined athletes in two camps: those who train alone and those who train with others. Those who regularly ran with a group produced better results, were more consistent, and even rated themselves as happier. It seems intuitive, right? People need people. We thrive in community. Even if we relish the time alone, it is still worthwhile to forge an affiliation and to periodically return to the pack. No man is an island. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .because islands are inappropriate ecosystems for calves, and everybody has two calves. (*This is an untrue, artificial extension of a trusted aphorism to suit my purposes.) If man were an island, he would be in an interminable state of calf impoverishment and never be able to run. Rather, man is a temperate pasture where land herbivores tarry about, imbibing pesticides--a field of cattle bonding and gratuitous hormone ingestion to facilitate heightened lactation. This is a metaphor.
(In whale pods, the whales are often similar in appearance because of their genetic kinship. Here we are, demonstrating.)

2. Limiting Factors. In ecological terms, these refer to those things (like special resources, nutrition, and shelter) that control population growth. There is typically one specific factor that continuously keeps a population in check. If there is insufficient food suitable to a species, it will die out. For runners, it works the same. Everyone has a limiting factor. It's the thing that slows you down when all else is going well. Identify your factor, and pre-treat.

3. Carrying capacity. Look at the graph above. When a species is populating a new environment, it can grow for a while but then must drop off or else it will erratically exceed and drop below its carrying capacity in turn. The environment can only sustain so many individuals. Mileage increases function analogously. Our carrying capacity is how much we can amass mileage before sustaining an injury. Some athletes chronically rise and fall below this line, alternating between excellence and injury. (I do this. My running log is a sinusoidal wave, but I'm learning.) Don't be like that. But please get close to the line. Don't under-perform. Nobody likes a half-hearted athlete.

4. Zone of thriving. Some organisms have small zones. Environmental factors (temperature, pH, comestible resources, etc.) have to meet rigorous standards. Other organisms, like detritivores, for example, can thrive in a wide range of settings and conditions. Runners can be graphed onto this metric. Some of my friends train exclusively on a track, at a specific time of day, and back off in certain weather conditions. Others can run anywhere, anytime. Do what you do. Don't compare.
(Getting my temperature taken.) Monitor your own health. You know best when you feel strong and are running well.

Okay, go thrive.


  1. Sorry you're sidelined. Hope it's short-lived and you're back on the trails soon, moo-ving along at your usual spirited pace. :)

    We miss you at WUS!

  2. Hope the calf heals soon and doesn't grow to become a mean cow.

  3. Okay, my dear! It's official . . . you make my head hurt. I barely understand you. I am from upper east Tennessee. And now live in North Carolina. Can you perhaps consider doing two blogs? This one . . . and the one that translates so that I have a chance of following you! :-)

    I'm sorry you are hurt and hope your calf gets better soon! I do know something about injuries!

    Oh . . . by the way! I sure hope this isn't really true:
    "Some athletes chronically rise and fall below this line, alternating between excellence and injury. (I do this. My running log is a sinusoidal wave, but I'm learning.) Don't be like that. But please get close to the line. Don't under-perform. Nobody likes a half-hearted athlete."
    I sure would like to see someone try a little more then not trying at all. Just my opinion (as one of those half-hearted athletes) . . . I know I could try harder and do more. But I do more then most.

  4. "Do what you do. Don't compare." Yup. I'll take that.

    Get better soon, buddy.

  5. in my dream world, i herd a bevy of beautiful little calves up to yale and you choose a nice healthy one to replace the gimp. moooooo moooooo moooooo.

    also you look supa fierce with that dynalift. totally smeyesing. great neck extension. blah blah blah you're hot blah.

    come to virginiiiiiiiia. is 2011 going to end without another reunion?

  6. As I farmboy who spent my young years with cows and calves, and still a farmer at heart, I love this post! Hope you heal quickly!

  7. I love your blog! You are an incredible athlete, and HILARIOUS, always fun to read:)!! Would love to do an in depth feature on you for our new website for showcasing ultrarunning females who inspire & motivate others (it is still in the creating phase, but have a few world class athletes already doing interviews) I can't find a link to your email, but if you're interested, could you shoot me an email? Thank you! Hope to hear from you!-Ashley Walsh