Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Messenger

He’s been pictured as The Lone Wanderer, The Ghost of The Sierra Madre. A man of legend, an obscure mystic who dropped out of a former life to become some kind of a gatekeeper to a hidden culture of super humans.

The real story, however, is much better than this.

Micah True is a simple man, in all the best meanings of the term. Much like the Raramuri, he comes across as soft-spoken, calm and radiating with a humble pride. But that’s where the comparison ends.

Before meeting him, I was somewhat apprehensive that he might be a “convert”, trying to be more Raramuri than the Raramuri themselves, or some sort of overwhelmed preacher trapped in a one-way logic. It took the best part of a minute for these thoughts to vanish when he shook my hand for the first time.

“Hey, Francois”.

Within minutes, we were simply sitting together, sharing stories, planning to meet up later in the week, down in the canyons. Simple as that. Sure enough, a couple days after, we met again. It was even better this time; he’d found a new friend up in Creel and brought him along. It was Olaf, another aspiring Mas Loco soon to become “The Badass”. But that’s an entirely other story.

Since our first run, what struck me the most was how Caballo isn’t trying to be anyone else than himself, an impression that still holds after spending a couple weeks traveling and running together. Micah True doesn’t try to be a Raramuri, and that’s partly why I think the Running People appreciate him so much.

There’s a reason this man is welcome anywhere in the Copper Canyons, and it has nothing to do with fame or legend. People recognize him as a kindred spirit, a person of peace and a fellow runner. And he, in return, simply treats them the same way.

I consider it a privilege to have shared some of his travels, not only by running the ultra marathon but by taking part in the background work that leads to it, which is a story I feel needs to be told.

Months before the actual event, the cameras and the buzz, the White Horse is hard at work, making sure the extensive logistics will be in place, in time and ensuring the word spreads around in the canyons. Runners near and afar have to be invited, trails need to be maintained and marked, aid stations must be stocked, corn vouchers purchased. “It’s colossal work”, I once told him while running on the trails. “We are messengers”, he answered, “expressing hope, love and respect”.

I didn’t grasp the full extent of Caballo’s words before quite some time. But after having seen him work, travel, run, live, laugh, struggle, overcome and persevere, I got it.

  • He brings hope by making sure everyone who participates in the race, whether by running or by helping out, wins something. Tens of tons of corn, as well as thousands of dollars in money, are awarded every time. This is not a handout; it’s a genuine community event for all to look forward to.

  • He brings love by organizing a footrace that celebrates the center of the Raramuri culture and where the focus is set on Korima, The Circle of Sharing, expressed by the warm welcome given to everyone and by the distribution of everything won by international runners back into the community.

  • He brings respect by inviting avid, passionate endurance athletes from all over the world, who hold in the highest esteem this humble, proud tribe of Running People and who’ve traveled from far away just to get the chance to run alongside them for a day of peace and celebration.

However, it’s only after the race was over, after the elation, after I had left even my new brother Olaf to slowly make my way back home that I realized the key part of Micah’s phrase, that day. It’s a simple, two-letter word that holds all the power of Caballo Blanco’s actions inside and out of the Copper Canyons and that best sums up all the love and respect I have for him.

He said “We”.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rodeo 50k Race Report GOOD TIMES!

A peek of the Golden Gate at
Rodeo Valley 50k
(WARNING: This post exceeds 3,000 words and contains innappropriate humor. Read at your own risk.)
I haven't laughed this much since the New York City Barefoot Run last October. I'm amazed at how the universe has somehow brought together (and subsequently subjected the "serious" running community to) this quirky group of like-minded, crazy-witted, life-embracing, and often times very immature characters of the barefoot/minimalist running community. We are not serious folk by any means. Take the picture below for example: 

Meet the Robillards.
Super Beer Man and Wine Woman.

A perfect representation of our general attitude toward our group race event we completed this past weekend.

We were all ready to run the Rodeo Valley 50k. An ultra-marathon located along the coastal bluffs of the Marin Headlands just outside of San Francisco. This event was a great excuse for all of us to get together, have a few laughs, enjoy the beauty of the Northern California coastline and apparently dress up as superheros.

It was a road trip kind of race. We were all convening at the house of Pablo Päster in the Bay Area to spend a couple days. I carpooled down with the Shelly and Jason Robillard on Saturday. Later that night we all piled into their vehicle to pick up "Team San Diego" (Shacky and Vanessa) at SFO International airport.

The Rodeo Valley 50k was supposed to be part of a double challenge for Shacky & Vanessa who were scheduled to run the Oriflamme 50k in San Diego on Saturday morning. Jason and Shelly were also planning on participating in this "double challenge" by participating in a 50k run along the AR50 course in Sacramento on Saturday as well. Pablo and I were the only two of the crew who decided not to take the bait of a double challenge. I was happy to hear the seasoned ultra-runners were planning on handicapping themselves. It would clearly put them at a slight disadvantage and maybe my inexperienced ultra butt could keep up.

Shelly, Pablo and I checking out the course from
near Mt. Tam
(photo credit Jason Robillard).
As it turns out I unintentionally happened to handicap myself the Tuesday before the race by doing six sets of sixty squats. (Hey. I never said I was smart.) And as fate had it the "double challenge" was off for the two couples when Oriflamme got canceled (due to California's recent freaky weather) and when Jason found out the AR50 course wasn't hilly enough. Damn. I was to be the only cripple at the starting line of Rodeo Valley.

Speaking of the weather. The Rodeo Valley course was pretty swampy and saturated in parts. A few of the steep hills were covered in mud. We all decided to blame Jason for the horrible storm preceding this race. The entire state of California saw El Niño equivalent downpours for nearly seven days prior to this race. Right about the time the Robillard's arrived in Auburn, California. I also seem to remember New York City being in the midst of a downpour and crazy weather patterns when I was there last October. The common denominator? Jason Robillard. Our theory was later proven when Jason claimed that he and Jon Sanregret (one of the sales reps from Merrell and a friend of the Robillards) were caught in a random shower on the course the day of the event. A rain shower that Shelly and I never experienced. Hmmm. How is it that we were all running this Rodeo Valley race and only Jason and Jon experienced this rain phenomenon? Coincidence? I think not. Clearly, Jason has some sort of weather superpower he hasn't told us about. His costume may have had a beer glass on it but I'd bet a tasty beer that he was probably hiding a lightening bolt. I think I'm close to revealing his true identity.

Shelly and Jason goofing
around near Mt. Tam
The Robillards and I got to the Bay Area a bit earlier than expected on Saturday so our tour guide, Pablo, drove us up to the top of Mt. Tamalpais for a view of the coastline and a sneek peek of the course from the top. It was cold. Damn cold. We started strategizing running gear options for the race on Sunday. Little did we know that Jason and Shelly already had their superhero costumes picked out.

Its fascinating to learn about everyone's pre-ace strategies, rituals and preferences. We all had our own little idiosyncratic traditions. For instance, I brought my lacrosse ball and wooden rolling pin to roll out my sore and stinging post-squat quads and Shelly brought her jug. Yeah. Her jug. I nearly peed myself (a common theme that seems to happen whenever I'm around Shelly) when I saw her hard-core hydration strategy. 

Shelly's hardcore
hydration strategy

Its not your whimpy 16 ounce or even 32 ounce water bottle. No. This chick chugs from a gallon milk jug to make sure she is ultra-ready. I doubled-over with laughter when she started chugging in the backseat on our way up to Mt. Tam. We laughed about trying to chug water on winding roads. Laughing + hydrating = more kegel training!

My pre-race burrit
More laughter ensued (at my expense) when I ordered the mucho grande burrito at the local taqueria on our way back to the house. (What can I say? Us chicks don't mess around with wimpy pre-race diets or hydration) OK. Maybe mine was a mistake. I don't order burritos because most of the time I don't eat tortillas so I didn't pay attention to the size discrepancies between burritos (Pablo insisted he warned me. Have I ever mentioned I don't listen well when hungry?) Suffice to say that my burrito could have fed a starving family of ten from Mexico. It was the size of a small child. What can I say? I was carb loading. There were jokes about me stuffing my burrito into my pack the next day for the run. I don't need no stinking aid stations! I got my BUR-RITO!

Our trip to the airport to pick up Shacky and Vanessa was just as entertaining. Shelly and I decided to check out how fast we could go if we sprinted on the moving walkway. I think there were elbows and pushing involved. Yeah, bitches! Don't think for a second you can beat me cuz I'll show you!!

Our plan to meet Shacky and Vanessa in baggage claim got derailed when both Shelly and I had to use the loo. (Pre-race hydration has its drawbacks especially if you drink from a milk jug.) The timing couldn't have been more perfect though because just as we were stepping out of the bathroom Shacky and Vanessa were coming down the stairs. We did our formal greetings, hugged each other like old friends and headed back to the house. We had an early start the next day.

Just before going to bed talk of our pre-race rituals were brought up again. Shelly, Jason and I were nearly paralyzed when we found out that Pablo doesn't drink coffee nor was he going to make any in the morning. HOLY CRAP! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This was valuable information that I had already known about Pablo and realized that I must have blocked it out. How were we going to get our pre-race caffeine fix let alone release the first deuce so we don't have to risk being caught off-trail performing our "morning doodies"?? Yeah. I actually said that. I believe I used the word "shit" instead of deuce. Its nice to be around people you can be totally open and honest with. We were all runners. Runners all have the same issues. Its nothing to be ashamed of.

Don't get caught on the trail
doing your morning "doodies!"
The three of us agreed that morning coffee was a pre-race morning ritual we were not prepared to compromise. Jason agreed to get up early and make a Starbucks run. He was officially living up to his superhero status.

Sleeping arrangements were made with couples in the guest bedrooms and I in the living room next to the kitchen. Shelly came over to help me set up my bed and we joked about how I didn't mind sleeping in public. I don't remember how the whole joke started because I had been "carb loading" with some beer and things were a bit fuzzy but the conversation may have gone something like this...
Me: "I guess I'll set up my bed in the living room. I'm OK with sleeping in public."
Shelly: "Don't you know we have the live Krista Cam set up over your bed so everyone can watch Krista online while she sleeps?"
Me: "That's good. How much do you charge for people to see me drool and scratch myself while I'm sleeping. Is it free or Pay-Per-View?
Shelly: "Well, scratching yourself could be a little erotic. I think it should definitely be Pay-Per-View."
Our humor tends to be borderline lowest common denominator. OK. It IS lowest common denominator. Enough said.

In the morning, everyone was amazingly ready to go with time to spare so we piled into Jason's vehicle again and made our way to the race start for packet pickup.

Shacky & Vanessa
We spent most of the time in the truck staying warm. At the starting line many pictures were snapped, mostly of the Robillard superheros. It was like paparazzi. They were even demanding Jason do certain poses for the camera. Jason obliged like a superhero. It was awesome.

Race start parking lot - Rodeo Valley 50k

Pablo, Me, Vanessa, Jason, Jon (photo credit Shacky)
Jon, Shacky, Vanessa, Me (photo credit Shacky)
Rodeo Beach
Jason and Shelly Robillard (photo credit Jason)

Wine woman descending mud steps.

The race started down at the bottom of the valley at Rodeo beach. When the race started it was all hills. Hills, mud, steps, bridges, mud, wind, downed trees, mud, rocks, scree, mud. This race had a little of everything. Mostly mud, though. The course was gorgeous and definitely one of the most beautiful I've ever ran on.
Nothing but mud for miles.

Did I mention the mud?
But, despite all the crappy weather we had the preceding days the skies were blue and the clouds were harmless. Except for the one just over Jason's head. Ha! 

Pablo, Jason, Shacky and Vanessa all took off ahead of Shelly and I. We decided to take it easy on the first hill. I was having trouble breathing out of my nose. My body doesn't sweat much when I run, but it finds other ways to excrete lots of bodily fluids. Shelly seemed to be a snot rocket expert so I asked her to give me some tips. I had never blown a snot rocket before. Aside from peeing standing up, this seemed like it would be a very handy technique to have at my disposal. Shelly's tip: Don't hesitate. Blow it like you mean it. So I covered one nostril and blew as hard as I could. It seems I had perfected the art of snot rocketing on the first try. Later, though, I learned the NOT-to-turn-into-the-wind lesson really fast. That got a little messy.

No sign of rain here!
Shelly and I passed ONE guy on the trail. An older gentleman wearing a pair of tight, cut-off jean shorts. I wasn't sure if that was a costume or not. He seemed to be enjoying the run. After that we pretty much didn't see anybody for a while.

I was impressed with Shelly's stamina despite the fact that she wasn't able to get some decent food until we looped back around to race start around what I'm thinking was about mile 23 or so. We saw Shacky and Vanessa at the aid station and chatted a bit while Shelly was finally able to pick up her sandwiches from the car (she has a gluten intolerance that doesn't allow her to eat many of the typical race snacks laid out for us at the aid stations). Once we peed and gorged ourselves at the buffet (this aid station finally had chips for Shelly) we were ready to tackle the first brutal hill once again and circle back to finish the race off.

The video above was the windiest part of the trail. I almost blew off the ridge!

I used the railings to stretch my legs.
The last few hills seemed a little daunting since we knew what to expect this time around. As Shacky and Vanessa moved full steam ahead Shelly and I were a bit slower. My feet were starting to feel a bit beat up from the drier, rockier fire road trails and I was starting to feel some pulling in my front hip flexor. Most of all my glutes were in need of a serious massage. In fact, we joked that the guy at the last aid station may have given me one if only I had asked, but I felt a little naughty asking some random guy to massage my ass. Not to mention since I'm married it may have been a little misleading and shallow. All I needed was a good butt massage. No strings attached.

Shelly and I made it up the hill from Rodeo Beach (it was so easy it was like buttah - at least that's what I was telling myself) which t-boned into a color ribbon conundrum. Do we go left or right? Yellow or pink ribbon? Had we gone this way before? If we took the yellow ribbon direction wouldn't we just be putting ourselves back on the 50k course? Was the pink ribbon marking the last loop of the 50k? Both of us were thinking we should go with the pink since we hadn't seen pink yet and were figuring that was marking the shortcut for the 50k loop. I felt like a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire when I decided to "phone a friend" and call Pablo since he studied the map vigorously prior to race day. He was also fairly familiar with the area. Turns out that was a good decision. He had all the right answers. So we went the way of the yellow and headed towards the last aid station in Tenessee Valley. Why we didn't think to ask what ribbons to follow at the last aid station I don't know.
Jason showing off his
superhero thong at the
first aid station.

At mile 25 I hear this shuffling behind me like someone's being mugged. And since we hadn't seen anyone else on the trail it perplexed me a bit. I turn around to see Shelly in mid-fall like she's just realized she's about to bite it. Hard. She drops her water bottle, tucks her shoulders and rolls into the fall with full-on superhero style. This chick knows how to tuck and roll!! I was super impressed. Turns out she was fine. We both laughed and I almost peed myself. Again.

Jason finishes superhero style.

View from the trail

Coming down into the last aid station we saw Shacky and Vanessa. I took a salt pill, grabbed a handful of peanut m&ms and some pretzels, shoved them in my pocket and we all headed up the hill. The very long now-I-REALLY-need-my-ass-massaged-hill hill.

It was nice to get to hang out with Shacky and Vanessa on this last stretch of the race.
I regret not getting to know these people better. They seem like such great people. Both Shacky and Vanessa are strong runners, but Shacky was admittedly struggling and wanted Vanessa to run ahead. Vanessa decided to chill with us back-of-the-packers. We were all hurting a bit and wondering if we were going to make it in time for the cut-off which was eight and a half hours. Once we were turned on to the green ribbon part of the course (we remembered to ask how to get back this time) Shacky took off. It was like there was a fire under his butt. We caught up to him within a mile and Shelly and I decided to keep moving. It was less painful to run than to walk at that point.

Shelly and I had pre-planned a little practical joke, but didn't have the energy nor the physical means to carry it out. We thought it would be hilarious if we faked as though we had been doing burpees for the last 10 miles. Then we'd have a perfectly badass excuse why we DFL'd. As soon as we saw Jason we were going to jump up and start doing burpees into the finish line all the while counting "Five-thousand ten, " " Five-thousand eleven," "Five-thousand twelve." Ahhhhhh. The best laid plans... It would have been a great idea had we not just run a crazy-ass, muddy, hilly 50k.

So the four of us, Shacky, Vanessa, Shelly and I all DFL'd but still made the cut-off so we picked up our ultra-marathon pint glasses and our shirts and headed back to Pablo's by way of the BevMo.

Pablo and his wife had made a delicious dinner and Jon Sanregret joined us for a little post race celebration. It was his first 50k, but he looked like an experienced ultra-runner to me.

Me & Pablo
Post Race mobility.
Where is my lacrosse ball?
(Photo credit Jason Robillard)
Talk of left-handedness, future races, upcoming schedules and random facts (I had no idea that tri-tip was just a California thing) and again... my burrito, circled around the table. My Racer 5 took affect pretty quickly and soon we were all on the floor in Pablo's living room demonstrating different styles of push-ups and I was getting friendly with the ball and the roller again. Apparently, this was after dinner entertainment. Jon even hooked me up with a new pair of Merrell Pace Gloves since my old ones were clearly worn in the midfoot and were half a size too small. I originally bought the only size they had available at my local REI store out of desperation for a good minimal shoe, but I really should have bought a half size bigger. Even with the cramped, wet and muddy conditions my feet had to endure for 32 miles they faired really well with only one tiny blister on the top of my right foot's second toe. Getting the mud out of my toenails proved to be a challenge, though.

Kristina's "Good Luck" note.
Then in true New York City BFR style, Jason puts a full open beer right in front of me towards the wee hours of the night. And since I didn't have to run in the morning I drank it. We had stepped off the hydration train hours ago. Our job was done. But it would be another early start for us in the morning to head back to the Sacramento Valley. So I stayed up to finish my beer and chat with Jason before heading off to bed.
Pablo and his wife, Kristina were superb hosts. I can't thank them enough. Kristina was extra patient with our slightly muddy post race spirited-ness and over-indulging hot water usage. She even wrote us a cool note that we found the morning we left for the race. She's a really cool chick.

Overall the messy trail conditions and long hill climbs were won out by clear blue skies, beautiful views, and incredible people that we shared the trail and a weekend of fun with. I feel so lucky to have found a group of people who share the same passion and have such fun personalities. I just wish they all didn't live so far away. Perhaps we'll have to make these "road trip races" a tradition.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
posted by zapmamak @ Running Naked On Sharp Pointy Stuff

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Todos Son Ganadores"

Everybody wins. I’d heard Caballo Blanco say it a couple times before the true meaning really sank in. This is not some kind of marketing spin to make a race interesting; it’s the core principle of an event that celebrates a culture and a way of life. Whoever you are, if you run in the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, you will win.

During two fantastic weeks of awakening and amazement, I had the privilege of traveling in and around Urique and Batopilas with the White Horse. I witnessed the reality of life in the canyons, away from the superlatives and the fantasies. Along the way, I met wonderful people, visited awe-inspiring environments and experienced first hand what it’s like to live with and around the Lightfooted Ones.

Instead of super-humans, I met real humans. I wasn’t struck by a People suffering a plight; I encountered a People living its life. My attempts at creating a contact were not rebuffed or ignored, they were quietly acknowledged. I didn’t see fear or resentment for strangers in the people’s eyes; I felt their humble pride and their resolve.

This year, 500 men and women toed the line together at dawn in Urique, looking forward to a day of joy, of physical achievement and of sharing the love for running. Some had traveled the canyons to partake in this unique event, while some others had crossed half the world. I couldn’t help but notice that the start wasn’t given by a gun. It was given by a beautiful, beaming pregnant woman who simply counted down from 3…

From the first instant to the last, the Urique canyon was united in the celebration of running. All differences faded away, as the long, colorful line of people started climbing up and down the sunny trails, over the river and along the great rock walls. The only sounds you could hear that day were the echo of cheers and the crispy noise of footsteps on the rocky paths.

Even after the sun faded away over the rim and the winners had long arrived, the whole community was still exuberantly cheering home its last champions, coming in dirty, exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion as they took their last steps toward the finish line.

Late into the evening, with music all around, runners would cross each other in the street, nodding approvingly, smiling at the colorful bands adorning their wrists and sharing the great pride of having been out there together, in this magical place that had become, for just one day, the center of the world.

We all came into the canyons to celebrate peace, hope and health. We shared the joy, the effort, the challenge and the inspiration, drawing on each other in times of need and giving without ever asking anything in return. We left Urique already yearning to be back, feeling a deep sense of kinship, having experienced a great truth.

We are all one.

We are the Running People.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I Were Cold, I'd Be Wearing Pants

(originally posted on ...whenitalkabourrunning)

"It's not summer time you know -- its winter!"
"Don't you know its COLD outside?"
"Did you see that crazy guy?  He's running in SHORTS!"
I'm used to leaving the occasional comment or shocked utterance in my wake almost any day during my commute -- after all, I am the only person I've ever seen running in East Flatbush, and the sight of of a white guy running with a neon-orange backpack and safety-yellow vest and shorts really is note-worthy.  I don't begrudge anyone their surprised reactions.
During these crisp winter days, however, I get a lot more comments, since as soon as the temperatures start rising into the mid 30's I switch from tights to shorts.  The other day I also wore a pair of UnShoes hauraches rather than closed-toe shoes.  But these comments -- the one's that all boil down to "It's cold, you should be wearing more clothes!" -- do bother me, because they often have a slightly different tone.  Its more judgmental, almost angry, as if the person I'm running past things I'm breaking a legal or ethical rule; that's it just wrong to be outside in the cold in shorts.  True, I'm the only one on the sidewalk in shorts and sandals, but then I'm also the only person on the sidewalk running.  And sweating, despite the near freezing temperatures.
This phenomenon overlaps with the Judgmental Old Ladies that any parent will be familiar with, the one's who see you with your kid in public and feel it is there God Given Right, perhaps even their their Divine Responsibility, to point out what your kid is doing wrong: running too fast, picking up rocks, being to loud, and most egregious of all, not wearing a hat or gloves even though its cold out.  "Put a hat on that kid, he's going to get sick!" "You should have her head covered!" "Why isn't your son wearing a jacket?"
My immediate response wants to be "YOU try getting him to keep his hat on, lady!" but I usually just hold my tongue and ignore them.  What confuses me is that I get this response, both to my kids and myself, not just in the dead of winter, but on brisk spring days -- days when I think going bareheaded and jacket-less is not just acceptable but invigorating and refreshing.
What gets me angry, however, is that people who make these comments seem to have no understanding that we might be having different experiences -- that one person's "cold" is another person's "pleasant."  When I'm running, I'm NOT cold; in fact, the other day I left my school in hat, gloves, socks, and arm warmers, and I stopped three blocks from my school to strip all of them off because I was too HOT.  And then people I ran past shouted at me because I had to be cold.  As if they knew what I was feeling.  As if I hadn't chosen to go outside in shorts.  As if my son wasn't perfectly happy running around the playground without a jacket on.  As if there were rules that simply need to be followed, without question, no matter what, regardless of how you are feeling.
"It's not summer, you know!  You should be wearing pants!"  This was from teenage girl the other day.  I normally give teenagers more lee-way in terms of stupid, obnoxious comments: after all, it is the role of the teenager to be stupid and obnoxious.  That is their God Given Right.  I remember when I was in high school thinking it was hilarious to pretend to have a French or Brittish accent and do "funny" things while at a mall, or to try bowling with frozen chickens at the grocery store, but looking back on it I realize that we must have just come across as simply stupid and obnoxious.  I've had plenty of teenagers shout stupid things at me, and I usually just smile; sometimes I wave, or invite them to run with me, which they find hilarious.  
This girl, however, wasn't being stupid or obnoxious -- she was horrified that I was breaking the rules, that I didn't know the right way to behave.  She wasn't shouting at me to be witty or impress her friends, but because I was doing something wrong.  And that depressed me.  That she would spend the rest of her life choosing what to wear based not on the weather or how she felt, but by what was right, what was proper.  That she'd teach her kids the same thing, and in 60 years she'd be at the playground, scolding young parents for letting their kids run around with hats and gloves.  And that she was already going it at 15.  It depressed the hell out of me, it really did.
There's always a dumb horse race, and some dame breaking a bottle over a ship, and some chimpanzee riding a goddam bicycle with pants on.  It wolndn't be the same at all.  You don't see what I mean at all.
I mean, its depressing enough with its from an adult, from from a teenager?  From a kid? Not "Mister, you're crazy!" which I understand and even embrace, but the distain of not following rules.
Follow the rules that matter, that mean something.  By all means, wear pants if you're cold, jog in sweats or gloves in May if you need them.  But there are no rules here, only what works for you, what feels right, what feels good.  So often in life doing what feel good isn't the right thing, so shouldn't we make sure to follow our feelings when it is right?
Run in shorts, pants, shoes, socks, barefoot, in the snow, in the sun, on trails, the sidewalk, a treadmill.  In a tutu.  But enjoy it.  That's the only rule.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Smile Like a Bad-Ass

(This article originally posted on Barefoot Monologues)
Last weekend, I ran 12 miles.
It's been six days since then, and so the triumphant feelings have dulled a bit. But the fact remains that I did it. To many of my readers, 12 miles is barely a long run. Even to me that distance isn't much of a big deal anymore. It's just four 5K's back to back; a ten-miler plus twenty minutes. I've done it before and will again. But because of how this run felt and how I handled it mentally, it was as if my glass ceiling finally got smashed to pieces.
It wasn't about the number of miles run. It was about the number of miles run with a smile on my face. It was the fact that by mile 11 I wasn't obsessing about my sore feet or about how far I was from home like I usually do, instead I had a big, fat, bad-ass grin on my face.
A little back story. The last time I reached the 12-mile mark during a run, I was crying. It was the famously hilly Great Bay Half Marathon and I had tweaked my IT band at mile 7 because I didn't know how to run downhill properly. I was in pain, I was disappointed by my performance, and I was tired of running. Worst of all, I was in a shitty mood during my first half marathon when I should have been enjoying the achievement.
Like I have done on some other regrettable occasions in my life, I let my bad attitude ruin what could have been an amazing experience.
But this week I was a completely different person. I crushed those miles. Yes, they were long...I won't pretend that they were not. It took me longer to complete this trail run than it took me to finish the Great Bay Half Marathon on roads. This run was comprised of several out-and-back mini runs, so I would never be too far from my car and could make pit stops to drop clothes or get more water (which probably helped a lot). At times I was cold, because I was only wearing a long sleeve tech shirt over my tank top and the wind got through it during walk breaks. There were too many people near the start of the trail with unleashed dogs and I kept having to strong-arm Oscar to keep him from jumping at them. The effort screwed up my form and by the last pit stop my IT band was bothering me for the first time in 10 months.
But my mood didn't falter, not once. When I hit the trail head at mile 9 I dropped the tired pooch off in the car for a short nap, and continued on for the last three miles. With better form my knee hurt less, but I still needed occasional walk breaks to ease the strain. At 10.5 I turned around for the last time and said to myself, "You got this, Trish. You're a bad-ass distance runner, and you're amazing. You're about to run 12 motherf***ing miles." It sounds dorky as hell now, but at the moment it made me smile so hard my face hurt a little. It's amazing how far a little self-motivation can go when you're alone on a deathly-quiet wooded trail.
At 11.25 the song "I'm Too Sexy" came on my iPod and I danced a little while I ran, bopping my head until I was dizzy and laughing at an old joke between my pal Lynsey and me. I thought of Lynsey and how I wished we could be finishing this run together. Then I stopped because my knee was screaming. Walking felt like a massage on my tired hips. My feet didn't even hurt like they usually do - or if they did, I was in a mental state that kept it from annoying me. I ate the last of my mango slices and praised them for giving me the best (chemical-free) energy surges throughout the whole run. I ran through the weird concrete tunnel under the road for the last time and finished the water in my CamelBak. At the very end I passed a runner just starting her journey for the day and I was glad to be finished with mine.
When I reached the car I said to myself, "See how easy it is to run these miles without that shitbag attitude?" Yup.
The truth is, no matter how far you can run, no matter how many hours you put into training, it's all about attitude. You can drop out of a race, you can injure yourself during training, but you don't have to let your discomforts and limitations determine your mood. After all that I learned on this one 12-mile long run, I know that if I had the choice to finish the Pinelands 50K in a shitty mood or DNF it with a shit-eating grin on my face, I'll take the DNF.
Because I feel like more of a bad-ass when I'm smiling.