Bodies & Minds

Bodies & Minds

We are always looking to better ourselves, and our lives in some way

This doesn’t mean it always works out. In fact, it often goes awry and lands us in missteps and mishaps. This is where we like to share our journey of being well, wrangling our mental mess, and trying out new adventures!


100 Miles of Gratitude

Before we went to our last race, I told you my motto was anything is possible. And that is still true. Anything is and can be possible. But the hard part is you still have to work at it (most of the time).

As luck would have it we are in the season of giving thanks, and I have an abundance to share. In our 48-hour adventure at the Ozone Endurance Challenge, when I was 12 miles from my B goal, my husband John came in clutch. He dug in deep when he was already at his personal best of 80 miles and came back out on the course to help me get to 100 miles. I say 100 miles was my B goal because, in my last race in a format like this, I hit 100 miles, so I wanted to be able to get at least a few more miles over that just to feel like I was making progress, that I beat my previous personal best. 

I knew going in I wasn’t at my fittest physically and mentally, so I wasn’t surprised that at mile 88, I was struggling not so mightily. I was beaten up by the distance, and mentally, I was losing my focus. Let’s be clear, I struggled many other times before this point. I dealt with bouts of nausea, impatience, frustration, and disappointment. But in the dark just before midnight, 12 miles from 100 miles, I was ready to throw in the towel, not because I wanted to but because I couldn’t see a way through. I couldn’t find anything to hold onto. 

John was planning on taking a break and getting some sleep, so I was on my own for a while. It turned out to be a shorter time than either of us had planned. All my minor maladies, like fatigue, soreness, and self-doubt, became louder on my own and in the dark. Those night miles are often where the mental game is won or lost. I was losing mine.

I don’t know how long it took, but not probably more than 20 minutes after returning to camp in tears, and at my lowest point of the race, John put his shoes back on and headed back out to help me wrangle 12 more miles.

In case you forgot, let’s recap, my husband, who had met his personal best distance of 80 miles, got up from rest to motivate me toward my goal. In case you don’t know what 80 miles feels like on a human body, for mere mortals like John and I, it hurts. Your feet are swollen no matter who you are, and every muscle you use to stand upright is sore and achey. Add in that it was dark and cold, and getting out of a warm sleeping bag and back onto your feet is the last thing you want to do. But that’s just what he did for hours to get me to 100!!!

I say hours because, at this point, I wasn’t moving well or fast. My feet hurt, as did everything else, and I was siphoning any motivation I had off of him. I have often shared that you never accomplish distances like this alone. There is always a crew, aid station volunteers, etc, that help you get to your goal if you are lucky enough to grasp it. John has crewed, paced, and cheered me through countless miles over the years, and none of it I could have done without him. But in this race, he was profoundly selfless. He denied his fatigue and desire to rest to help me meet my goal. 

And as I came in on the final lap, he actually ran ahead, up a small incline that feels steep at this point, to take a photo!!! 

John Barton is good people; one of the best. When I told you a few weeks ago that anything was possible, I meant it. But what I have learned is one small adjustment was needed: WITH GOOD PEOPLE, anything is possible.

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Anything is possible

Start with the end in mind.

This is a good approach whether you are training for an event or beginning college, or contemplating marriage.

According to Google, Stephen Covey coined the phrase “begin with the end in mind,” I mention it because I like to give credit and secondary; if my words of wisdom hold as much weight as a helium balloon, then I thought this little tidbit might help.

Ahem, as I was saying, it’s incredibly important to ask yourself where you want to land at the end of any adventure, whether it is chosen by or thrust upon you.

In my pre-blog, the 2-3 pages of nonsense that I often write before you get my quasi-final product ended with my actual beginning: Anything is possible.

I don’t even recall writing it. But when I came back to either edit or start over again after that brain dump, I scrolled to the bottom, which is usually where the clarity starts to show up, and that’s where I begin with you today, where I ended previously.

Anything is possible. 

On Friday, October 28 John and I will embark on our second 48-hour race. And after the topsy-turvy that this fall season has carved out for us, I think that may be the perfect motto.

I have been training with the end in mind, which means I have been considering how to keep myself on my feet as long and as often as possible. Ultimately, that’s really the goal. Relentless forward motion, however you create it, is key.

I have been working with the idea of racking up miles all day long in whatever space I have available to me. I am less concerned with whether I am running, walking, or power hiking and more focused on being on my feet.

When I am on my feet, anything is possible.

In my pre-blog I babbled on about my approach to training, mileage, and the like, but the truth is most of you don’t so much care about those inane details. What most of us want or need right now is to believe in possibility. To hear about something that feels just a little out of hand; or out of the ordinary, and being able to little by slowly reel it in.

This is what I am telling you- about you. Anything is possible.

Whatever end you have in mind– it’s possible.

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There are rules to everything

A good steep hike up to Maryland Heights

Since my last race at the tail end of July, I had clear goals for the remainder of the year: to build aerobic endurance and overall strength. I have doubled down on zone 2 training and committed to that slow practice of building the capacity to run longer and faster in a lower heart rate zone. In theory, it makes perfect sense and seems like a reasonable goal to work toward. In reality, it’s painstaking and patience-testing. It’s hard to run slow, and sometimes even have to walk to keep my heart rate in the range I want. I consistently have to remind myself I am training my heart quite literally to stay in a certain range. It’s not unlike teaching a puppy to stay; it requires repetition and fortitude. 

Just like training our bodies or puppies, there are rules. There are rules to everything. Having parameters, however, doesn’t preclude the presence of disarray. That has been life since we were last arriving in your inbox. We have been living by the rules of chaos. The unexpected has become commonplace.

My first instinct in these times is to hold on tighter and try to maintain a level of control. I appreciate routine in life. It helps me be productive and keep moving the needle toward my goals. For a brief period, I thought I could do both: train hard and deal with chaos.

Life, however, is the driving force of nature; who am I to think I can wrangle it? When life happens, sometimes we simply have to go with it. Instead of fighting it all day long, I have been attempting to let it carry me, and when it slows down on its own here and there, that is where I exert some power over my schedule. Going to bed early and getting up before the day hits hyper-drive are my attempts at surfing the waves I can and taking a pass on the rest. I also have had to relent on some of my expectations for this upcoming event. It’s not going to be the race I planned, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be the experience I need.

Chaos may be unforgiving, but it’s not without form. I can see the mark it leaves on my days. I can see how it moves. I can see how it moves me. We all tend to resist change, which only makes the process more painful. As we move forward into October, the best I can offer myself (and you) is learning how to be flexible while maintaining focus on my goals. I am even considering getting up at Zero Dark Thirty to get some training in before the day begins. The embodiment of focus and flexibility for someone like me who really likes sleep and is a little iffy on mornings.

At the end of this month, I have a final big adventure of the year in the form of a 48-hour race. If ever there is something unpredictable, unforgiving, and ruled by chaos, it’s an event like that. 

Who knows, maybe I am better prepared than I imagine.

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When It’s Good Enough

I had an unusual experience at our last race a couple of weeks ago. We were participating in an 8-hour race in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The premise is you complete as many miles as possible in 8 hours on a 6-mile course. 

We have competed in timed events before, but a 6-mile course was the longest to date. The reason this matters is that a 6-mile loop is long enough that there is some considering whether you can make another loop around in the time remaining. And this is the circumstance we found ourselves in with about 2 hours to go. I know 6 miles in 2 hours seems incredibly doable. And it was at 6 am. By noon, the climbing and the heat were beginning to wear, and I wasn’t so sure I could do it. But more than that, I felt something I don’t know if I have ever experienced at a race. It felt good enough. I didn’t have the desire to wreck myself or leave it all out on the course, as they say. 

Before this race, John reminded me that this wasn’t my A race of the year or even my B race. He was right. It wasn’t, not even close. This race, if anything, was a challenging training run. We were going to continue after this race for a few days of much-needed vacation, and I just decided that I was good with ending at 6 hours. I didn’t need to grind it out, and for maybe the first time, I didn’t feel like I had something to prove. 

We had plans to hike in Shenandoah National Park for the next few days, and I wanted to enjoy that. I didn’t want to be so beaten up that I couldn’t appreciate it. You can call it quitting. You can call it stopping. You can call it anything you want. 

The phrase I heard in my head and felt in my body was: Good enough.

And it, maybe for the first time, it was.

Before you think that I am done pushing the limits, I am not. But I am finally learning that every event doesn’t need to be a trip through the grinder. Sometimes they can be only for the fun of it, for the joy of it, the camaraderie. This most recent race was one of those. 

I am, for those interested, back at the training for our next race in late October, and this one does matter to me. It’s a 48-hour event, and it’s my version of easing into a 100-mile race. For a little backstory, I have wanted to complete a 100-mile race for a while now. Probably every runner who runs long has this as a bucket-list item, and I am no exception. 

John and I participated in a 47-hour race in March 2020, and within that race, I complete 100 miles. At that time, I thought that was going to be my year. I was starting it with big miles and fully intended to capitalize on that feat. 

Much like everyone else, at the beginning of 2020, I had plans. Oh, the plans!

And you know what happened!!!

The 100-mile focus got a little fuzzy as races were canceled, training hard began to lose its draw, and we all fell under the spell of Netflix and cocktails at 5 pm. 

When I get to October 28, 2022, I will officially be back on track, only 3 years later than I planned. But seriously, aren’t we all 3 years late at just about everything?

It’s not all bad, though. I am smarter, I am much stronger mentally, and hopefully, by October 28, I can tell you I am stronger physically. 

Gabrielle Bernstein likes to say that obstacles are detours in the right direction. That is true for me in this instance. Getting derailed on this running goal has given me time to appreciate what running provides me and to inch closer to holding it more loosely. Often my rigid approach to training has sucked the fun right out of it. I feel hopeful and optimistic that during a race, I could arrive, organically, at a place of good enough. It means, to me, that my identity and self-worth weren’t wrapped up in it. 

Getting sidetracked for a few years means I am that many days more experienced. I know myself that much better. And let me tell you, my last experience with 100 miles was brutal and one of the best days. I still remember being upwards of 80 miles, and I was, in a word, miserable. Everything hurt, and I was exhausted. I was beyond any pretense of caring what people thought of me, and so I was carrying on a conversation with myself out loud. What I remember saying to myself in my bleary-eyed pep talk was, “You say you want to do 100 miles, Angela. Well, this is what it feels like. This is what it feels like to get there.”

That reality took me to the finish line. Nobody knew I was arriving at the end of a personal quest except John. The race still had a few hours left to go, but this was the end for me. As I got closer to the inflatable start/finish line, I got a burst of adrenaline. I was entering a space that had only ever lived in my mind, in my better dreams. 

Then the tears came with relief, elation, and more than a touch of disbelief.

I want to get back to that place. Good enough feels nice but going the distance is epic.

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Hell’s Hole

Photo by Lori Brown

It turns out that if you wander far enough, you might find yourself in a place called Hell’s Hole.  Now, you might ask yourself why anyone would wander off to a place with such a name on purpose and all I can say is that we had been in the vicinity before and who doesn’t want to say they lived to tell the tale of a place called Hell’s Hole?  

A couple of weeks ago, while in the mountains, we were looking for a hike that might not be so busy.  I’m not sure what happened during the pandemic, but a lot of non-hikers became hikers during that time and now they won’t stay home.  Our trails are slammed and not nearly as peaceful as they were prior to Covid.

So, as we perused the Alltrails app, we looked in an area called Chicago Lakes.  We did that trail last year and it was beautiful.  When we stumbled upon Hell’s Hole, we laughed and thought, “who in their right mind would do a trail with that name?”  Then, in our infinite wisdom, we decided it would be the perfect trail to do with our pups and Alltrails confirmed that while popular it wasn’t crowded.

We were a little apprehensive so we texted our girls the departure time and where we would be since we were going to be off the grid for a while.  The last time we were MIA past our allotted time, all three of them were ready to send search and rescue.  We gave them strict instructions not to send a search party for at least 12 hours knowing it was only going to be 4-5 hours.

Anyway, as per every single “moderate” hike in Colorado, it was a two thousand foot elevation gain in 4 miles with most of it being in the first two miles.  In total, it was an 8 mile out and back hike with a little bit of everything.  The first few miles were pretty rocky and steep and then it leveled off into some open forest and fields of wildflowers before cresting over the glacier cirque known as Hell’s Hole. 

I could ramble on about it, but the pictures really tell the story best.  Also, don’t let the name fool you.  It could just as easily be called Heavenly Hole.

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Pull-Up Progression

Do you remember when I said it might take me a year to do a singular pull-up? After a few weeks of working on my lat strength, I have come to realize it might take me longer than expected. I’m not sure what the takeaway from these last few weeks might be, but here are a few thoughts that keep running through my head:

Do I even have lat muscles? 

Did I wait too long to attempt this challenge? 

Do I just have too much body mass to actually pull myself up off the ground?

Suffice it to say that I am still doing the wall pulls, which were step 1 of learning to do a pull-up. I can do 3 sets of 25 without any issues. I have ventured into Step 2, which is horizontal pull-ups. Basically, your feet are out in front of you a little bit, and you pull yourself upright while keeping your body straight. The progression is to continue starting at a more horizontal position with each stage. It’s difficult to explain, so I will just show you the videos that I am following.

In conjunction with this instructional video, I am also working on my push-up game, lat pulls, etc… Don’t call me to talk about overtraining my muscles. There is zero chance of that happening. The truth is that I’m just not as strong as I thought I was, and to be clear, I didn’t think I was that strong anyway. 

I will continue to keep you updated on my progress each month, and just in case you are wondering, I have tried to do a pull-up every day. It’s as if I think that the last set of wall pulls was the magic bullet, and now I can do a pull-up where yesterday, I could not. I mean, it’s going to happen at some point, right?

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Can You Pull Your Weight?

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

One thing I haven’t been able to accomplish since the elementary school playground is doing a pull-up. If I am honest, I would be happy with just being able to hang from the bar for more than 5 seconds. It’s hard. Have you tried it recently?

Well into my 20s I could still easily do the monkey bars with my kids, but not a pull-up. Nowadays, I don’t think I could even do the monkey bars without tearing something or significantly injuring myself. 

So, this weekend I was thinking about my age, my strength, how I want to feel, and of course, how I want to look as I get older. Our culture instills the idea of quick fixes and overnight success stories. Let’s be honest, nothing gets fixed quick and nobody succeeds overnight. I’ve decided to go with the long-game strategy of what I do today affects how I feel tomorrow. So, every day that I choose to get stronger is only helping me in the long run.

Back to the idea of pulling my own weight. Can you be strong without doing a pull-up? Absolutely. Do I still want to be able to do one? Yes, I do. So, I did what everyone does when they don’t know how to do something. I tried it first to be certain that I actually cannot do a single pull-up and then I went directly to YouTube to ask the powers that be for a step-by-step instructional video on how to do one. Let me be clear, I know how to do a pull-up, I am just incapable of doing one. The first video that popped up was called, “Help! I can’t do one Pull-up.” He GUARANTEES that I can go from no pull-ups to 5 pull-ups in 22 days. Now, this guy is likely in his 30s and I am pretty sure that when he made this bold statement, he wasn’t thinking about a 52-year-old woman in average shape trying to do a pull-up, but here I am. I am under no illusion that in 22 days I will be able to do a single pull-up, so I kept scrolling until I found another video called, “You CAN do pull-ups, my friend.” It just sounds positive and friendly, doesn’t it? Hampton, from Hybrid Calisthenics, doesn’t give a timeline, he just gives easy-to-follow exercises that will continue to move me toward my goal. Maybe it will take me 6 months, maybe it will take me a year, but I want to be able to do a pull-up. Okay let’s be honest, one is going to feel like a huge accomplishment, but I want to do at least 5. There, I said it out loud for everyone to hear it. 

On Monday, I started with wall pull-ups which were easy, so I moved on to horizontal pull-ups or inverted rows. Still doable, but I am going to work on these for a bit to keep building up my strength. Also, for just a little test, I hung from the bar and lifted my legs out in front of me so my feet were off the ground. I made it 5 seconds. This is going to be a journey, but I will keep you posted on how it’s going.

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The Long Game

I am playing the long game when it comes to running these days. Maybe it’s because I have gotten just old enough that I hear people my age say things like “I am getting too old for this,” or “soon I probably won’t be able to run marathons anymore,” and my personal favorite “running is bad for your knees,” as well as  “most of my running days are behind me.”

Now I am not interested in getting into this conversation with anyone but myself so what follows isn’t a challenge, a critique, or even the slightest invitation for an argument. Mostly because I don’t care all that much about someone else’s approach to their running career and moreover I am a conflict avoider in most cases. I am not someone who seeks out arguments for the fun of it. I don’t like to debate or play devil’s advocate unless it’s in the tamest of circumstances. 

With that disclaimer firmly in place and expectations set that we are only talking about me. I have no intention of giving up before my life is half over (I know, I gave myself a generous card there). I do not plan on considering myself old any time in the near future. I have seen far too many runners well into their 70s and 80s showing me how it’s done to think that I am somehow close to the end.

I am not a naturally gifted athlete in any arena so progress and improvement seem to come slowly or maybe I simply haven’t been that dedicated. Who knows. Earlier in the year, I took a new approach to my training and the condensed version is that on my easy days I am committed to truly running easy and on my challenging days it’s an all-out effort. Call it 80/20, call it zone 2, call it common sense but the overall gist is that the adaptations seem to come slowly. Learning to slow down to improve feels wrong, it feels weird. In all honesty, it feels too easy at times. Except when it’s an intense effort day and it feels way too hard. I have said many times this year to my husband, John, my mindset guru for all athletic adventures, that I am playing the long game.

It’s a challenge sometimes to feel like you are moving backward in order to spring forward. It’s tedious to trust the process. What’s worse is that I just got back to running after two-plus weeks off after a dental procedure. I feel more awkward and unfit than normal. I feel like everything is making my heart rate spike and that I will never accomplish anything. For clarity, all of that came in one 3-mile run. What can I say, I may not be naturally gifted in athletics but in overthinking and catastrophizing I am, well, a natural.

What also comes into play for me in this approach is taking genuinely good care of myself. One of my commitments in 2022, I mentioned before, is that I am committing to rest and recovery with the same fervor that I am training. What this means is doing all the stuff we don’t want to do. Going to bed on time, getting up on time, stretching, drinking water, eating the fruit instead of the Froot Loops. Side note: Am I the only one who just noticed the weird way that cereal name is spelled?).

I have every intention of running for a few more decades. I have every intention of living by my own rules. Not to mention I have seen far too many impressive feats to think that I need to hang up my shoes anytime soon. Bob Becker at the age of 74 ran 230 miles in the 2019 A Race for the Ages. (In this event you get the same number of hours as your age to compete). Just this past weekend Rupert Romero at age 58 won the San Diego 100-mile race in a time of 19:19:18. 

I just turned 48 and as far as I am concerned I have nothing but open trail and miles ahead of me.

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Obviously, if you have followed us at all, you know that our physical health is something we are always striving to work on.  The last few years have been more difficult for me.  Perhaps, it’s my age, the medication I have to take, a slower metabolism, or a combination of the three, but things just aren’t as easy as they used to be.  That being said, I haven’t been as consistent with my healthy eating or working out as hard as I need to.

A couple years ago, I tried a new program called, FASTer Way to Fat Loss.  I signed up because my middle daughter had been certified as one of their coaches.  It’s a program that you can honestly do for the rest of your life.  It involves intermittent fasting, carb cycling two days per week, counting macros and working out 30 minutes each day.  It sounds way more difficult than it actually is and they even give you a grocery list, a menu, a daily food plan, app and workouts which consist of two HIIT, 3 strength and 2 active recovery workouts each week.  

It’s about committing to a lifestyle change of consistently eating healthy, allowing treats in moderation and working out.  In my first 6-week session, I lost 15 pounds and kept it off until I stopped being consistent, overindulged, and got lazy.  I follow a lot of people on Instagram who do this program and it works, if you work.  It involves eating whole foods and making sure you are getting plenty of protein, carbs and fat each day.  They ask you to eliminate gluten and dairy during the first 6 weeks because they cause inflammation, but you can add them back in moderation after that time period.  

This weekend I started the program again.  I was tempted to wait until Monday, but I didn’t.  I did leg day on Saturday and yoga on Sunday.  Why wouldn’t I want to eat healthy, exercise, fit comfortably in my clothes, have more energy and sleep better?  I don’t have an answer for you other than it’s easy to be inconsistent.  It’s easy to fall off the wagon.  

What isn’t easy is starting over, but here I am. 

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Off Your Rucker

There is a conventional, or maybe not-so-conventional wisdom that says the universe conspires in your favor. All of us at one time or another have looked for signs to know we are on the right path. We have maybe even visited a psychic, polled all our friends, or flipped a coin to determine what the next best step is. 

One of the ways I often make decisions or know that I should pay attention is when a theme is recurring. If I keep seeing the same car, keep hearing about the same book, whatever the sign may be, it takes a few appearances but I start to catch on. 

A similar preponderance of signs was collected for me earlier this year about the value of rucking. If you are new to this term; rucking is a low-intensity exercise in which you add weight to your back while walking or hiking. 

In the vernacular it means you wear a backpack, throw some weight in it and get moving. You walk outside, on the treadmill, do step-ups or other relatively low-speed activities. Let’s not, however, confuse low-speed or low-intensity with ease, my dear friends. I will take this moment to gently remind you that this month, we are talking about endurance. 

Rucking began showing up everywhere. I do not recall the exact chronological order of events but it showed up in my Instagram feed with Melissa Urban, co-creator of Whole 30 (which by the way I have not done) proclaiming the virtues and powers of rucking. Then it started showing up in running articles as a way to cross-train. Then my husband alerted me that a friend of ours has signed up for a 48-hour rucking event. 

Uhhh what???

I need to break this down for you. It is a 48-hour event where you carry 30 pounds in your pack if you weigh more than 150 pounds. From my perspective, I want to ask what fully grown adult doesn’t weigh more than 150 pounds but that’s another blog and also something that I probably need to consult a therapist about. I digress.

Back to my explanation. In this event, before you consider carrying water, your body, food, or even a light jacket has 30 pounds at its core. Most people would consider this some sort of fresh hell to which they would not like to be invited much less volunteer. But not our friend, Kathy, she is by all standards a badass. There really is no other word, unless you’d like to add badass boss. She has completed a variety of races that require a level of fortitude, grit, and unrelenting mental capacity to continue.

In fact, I did a training run with her once. May I stress once? That is all I could handle. She is fierce to put it in a word. I knew that when she tripped, fell face first, and landed in the controlled pump of a push-up I was no match for this competitor.

But rucking for 48 hours with 30 pounds on your back, even for her, seems otherworldly. 

And yet on a spring day in March, that is exactly what she did. She covered 102 miles in a little less than 48 hours and all I could think about was her shoulders carrying what would have to become a punishing pressure all that way.

When my husband, John, and I shared with others about her upcoming feat it boggled minds and frustrated consciousnesses. Why on earth would you do that? What’s the point? These were some common questions.

My question is how? How do you carry that? How do you get your mind right for something that surely must be daunting before you ever arrive on race day? What makes someone ask, I wonder if, and someone else wonders, why the hell?

We are built so differently and yet we all carry heavy loads. All of us. Every Single Day. Full Stop. Recently, my sister Lisa asked me what distance would essentially be enough. I didn’t have an answer because I don’t think of it in distance as much as I consider it in what am I capable of. I am interested in the fringe, in the periphery, in the out edges of life. The places that are fuzzy and foggy and feel unimaginable and yet you find yourself… you know… imagining. I am not going to lie, ever since I heard about Kathy’s adventure I have pondered, could I do that? I haven’t even gotten to do I WANT to do that?

In yoga, we talk about playing your edge, which is that space where you are challenged in all ways and yet able to maintain inner and outer calm and balance. You might call it the sweet spot. Others may call it flow. Even weirder folks may call it Type 2 fun. 

I think all of us have these inner nudges, or callings, to reach for experiences just outside our grasp. Part of life is about exploration and yet sometimes we confront circumstances that wear us out and leave us fearful. Before long we stop seeking, we stop stepping out because it feels too risky. But those ideas, those dreams that were whispering to us don’t go away. They never leave us. 

As we, fingers crossed, are moving out of this season of contraction and separation maybe it’s time to lean our ears closer once more to those whispers and turn our attention to those ideas that once captivated us. Maybe just maybe the universe still is conspiring in your favor.

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Distance is a Mental Game

This blog has also been recorded for your listening enjoyment 🙂

A couple of weeks ago I went on spring break with our younger sister and her daughter. One night while we were lounging around we came upon the topic of the blog and I got a fair amount of feedback from my own personal focus group of two. 

My niece, who shared her thoughts with the candor only a 17-year-old can pull off, offered that my blog writing style is not as conversational as she would appreciate and that I don’t write the way that I speak. (Duly noted 🙂 )

My sister, on the other hand, offered up that there are parts of long-distance running that she would like answers to, things she would like to know more about. 

She asked me if I have a mantra when I run. In short, no. However, on many occasions when things are dire. When everything hurts and I really, really want to stop, I have muttered over and over to myself, “I am strong. I can do this.”

If for no other reason, repeating something quasi-positive to yourself drowns out the unending chatter about how good it would feel to sit down, how bad you feel, how tired you are, how hungry you are but also how you may throw up.

Here’s the deal, from my perspective, distance events are not entirely physical. I mean, yes, they are but what goes on in your mind for 5, 6, 12, 24 or even 48 hours can break you mentally far before you break physically. 

“You run the first half with your legs, the second half with your heart.”

There are many variations on this running motivational quote but the underlying truth is that nobody ever finishes a race of any distance just with sheer physicality.

Let’s use a 24-hour race as an example since Lowi and I are in a slow countdown to race day.

If you start out a 24-hour race thinking about it lasting for a full day you will be toast by 11 am. In my experience, enduring anything for an extended period involves breaking it down into bite-size pieces. As the self-help gurus say, chunking it down. In recent years, I have started breaking 24-hour races into 4-hour increments. It helps make it more mentally manageable because I only have 6 blocks to consider. That doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Each block I know how many miles I want to cover. I know what’s too fast and what’s too slow. I know when to eat, when to walk, hydrate etc. And maybe the two most difficult challenges of all: don’t think ahead and stick with the plan.

I break each of these rules to some extent every single race. The amount of time I spend straying from the rules will determine its impact. 

Last year, for example, I had a plan for keeping the calories going in. I did well for about the first three hours and then I did what I have done many times before, I got stupid. All of the sudden on race day you decide to abandon your plan for no other reason than, you feel like it. Or more accurately, you don’t feel like it. You don’t feel like eating. You don’t feel like running slower. You don’t feel like sticking to your pace because everyone else is running faster and you’ve devolved into reasoning like a 7th grader. 

I wish I could tell you that I am exaggerating but I am not. “I don’t feel like it” has become the profoundly ignorant reason for my hiccups and utter implosions many, many times. As I was sharing with you, last year at 3 hours I got off track because I was channeling my inner 13-year-old and by hour 5, I was nauseous. For me, that’s typically a sure sign I haven’t eaten enough. (Ugh, which is why you had a plan for fueling!! Remember?) See how logical and simple this is and yet, race day can make you stupid. 

Weirdly enough later in the race, I tend to get more competent. I have less adrenaline pumping and I have long since settled into a rhythm. John, my husband, likes to say it takes me a good 4-5 hours to knock the rust off. What he really means is that I finally calm down; or as my sister likes to hear me say, I get a tighter rein on my horses. 

As the energy starts to plummet but the difficulty and pain increase this is where my mind can be my ally. The reality is you can go much further than you think you can. We like to think about it by the David Goggins 40% rule: the feeling that you’re completely tapped out actually comes when you’re only 40 percent done; you still have 60 percent left in the tank.”

I know this to be true. I have felt awful at mile 20 only to be born again at mile 35. I have felt amazing at mile 35 only to crash at mile 37 and rise like a Phoenix at mile 64. 

It ultimately comes down to how bad do you want it? I would add in a healthy sprinkling of remembering how much time and effort you have put in to get to this day. You have gone to bed early, eaten well, abstained from sugar and/or alcohol. You have gone home early from events and spent Saturday evenings home on the couch after a long, hard training day. There is sacrifice in training and race day is your celebration. Don’t leave the party early!

What is always important for me to remember, or for John to remind me, is that it always hurts. The purpose of training, in my estimation aside from improving, is how much further can I get into the race before the wheels begin to tremble. How much further yet can I go before there is a distinct shake. How much further before the wheels threaten to come off. Every adventure has moments that feel impossible to overcome and they don’t last. Feeling good doesn’t last and feeling bad doesn’t either. 

What does last, if I am lucky enough to get to the finish, is appreciating how difficult it was at so many different points and that I still made it. I never make it to the finish alone. I have never once completed a big feat without all kinds of help along the way. There is all manner of small and big kindnesses that happen on the trail that help to propel you forward. Distance is a mental game but you also gotta have some heart.

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Accept or Decline?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Check out the audio version of our latest blog on the Outrun. If you would like to follow along, the original blog is below.

Friends, I know it’s been a long two weeks of waiting and wondering if I received “the email.”  Let me put your minds at ease right from the start.  Yes, I received the much anticipated/dreaded email from UltraSignup on March 9th.

The email congratulated me on being selected to participate in the 2022 Outrun24 and asked me to Decline or Accept the invitation.  I am not going to lie, a big part of me wanted to decline.  After all, there is some poor soul out there training their heart out for this race and just praying they get in while I am half***ing my training and debating whether I really want to do it.  Of course, I also had G and Johnny Armani anxiously awaiting this very moment.  In fact, the day before G had sent me a screenshot of a post on the Outrun Facebook page that indicated that two people were withdrawing from the race.  We all knew in that moment that it was just a matter of time before my official invitation was in my inbox.

As my finger hovered over the decline/accept buttons, I knew I was going to accept.  Not only was there no graceful way out of this, I found I was little excited or maybe that was just the nausea setting in.  Either way, I was in.  

After accepting and confirming my registration I quickly sent it to G to let her know I was officially doing the Outrun again.  I think we are both excited to be going back to our old stomping ground together even if we do have different goals this time.

My training has been going better since we last spoke.  I’m just trying to get miles in most days and spend more and more time on my feet.  I have 6 weeks until the race and I would say I have an easy breezy attitude about the whole thing.  I have 24 hours to walk/run as much as I can and while I have no illusions that I can pull out another 50 miles, I feel pretty confident that I can at least do a 50k.  For those of you who don’t want to do the conversion that’s 31 miles. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty and make no mistake, it will HURT.

On that note, I will continue to train and keep you posted on my progress.  

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Suffer for your Art?

I’m not going to lie, training is not going well for the Outrun.  I have done nothing, but travel and take weekend trips over the last month.  I don’t know when we have had so many things on the calendar.  I know logically that traveling does not need to hinder training.  Plenty of people sneak in early morning runs before their friends wake for the daily festivities, but I have never been one of those people.  Nope, I just immerse myself completely in the decadence of the weekend and forget all about what Monday is going to bring.  

This past weekend, our friends had read the blog and peppered me with questions about running 24 hours and 50 miles. They couldn’t believe I was going to attempt it again and neither can I, if I’m honest.  Let’s get something straight right now, though.  I have no illusions of running for 24 hours or of doing 50 miles.  It’s not even on my radar.  My plan is to do the best I can on that day and I am not above walking as far as I can.  This has to be my plan because the most I have done is walk/run 7 miles.  I think I just haven’t felt the inevitability of this race yet and apparently, my name being at the top of the waitlist is not enough pressure.  It should be because someone is going to drop out over the next two months and I am going to get an email from Mr. Zack Johnson congratulating me on making it into the great Outrun24 of 2022.  

This is where I have been mentally over the last month; vacillating between motivated and not caring because I know I can always walk the course if needed. I shared my frustration with G about not being able to get myself motivated and she encouraged me by saying I could accomplish a lot in 2 months, etc… I lamented the fact that I had even shared it with all of you and then she said something that changed my perspective completely.  She said, “we do strange things all in the name of suffering, for our art.” 

The truth is that we, as in G and I, have done a lot of ridiculous things over the years and part of the motivation and joy we have received from doing these things has been found in sharing our adventures with all of you.  No, it’s not why we sign up for things, but knowing you are there wondering how our training is going, and supporting us makes a big difference. 

So, I am on the training wagon, and rest assured there is plenty of suffering happening here.  Training for anything is always difficult, but when you are at a place where you feel like you can’t quite make it over that initial hump, it’s hard to stay motivated.  I am trusting all of you to keep cheering us on and rest assured you will be the first to know when I get that long-awaited email notification.  Until next time, I will just be over here continuing to show up and suffering for my art.

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Transformation, Stardust and Going to the Well

Outrun 24 in 2014 with Jill, G, Mary and Lowi

In our last installment (you can check it out below), Lowi shared with you her accidental, possibly drunken, registration for an upcoming race. This can happen. We remember the euphoria (read: delirium) that comes upon us after completing an epic distance such as 50 miles. The relief of being done and feeling allowed to finally sit down to drink in the thrill of completion and possibly a beverage of choice is exhilarating if not straight up intoxicating. And that my friends is all we remember. We forget about the cold winter training runs when nearly everything we have on is wet against our skin. We forget about the days when everything feels hard and we question whether we can do this big task we’ve set before ourselves. We forget how hard it is to say, we have to go to bed early because we have a long run on Saturday and Sunday morning. We forget all that and what we are left with is the joy of finishing. Far few of us ever taste the sweet nectar of winning or even coming close. But trust me there is tremendous satisfaction and elation in doing something that you weren’t quite sure you could, especially when it’s arduous. There is an all-consuming high that comes with conquering something that takes every bit of your mental and physical fortitude that is matched only by the residue of pain and muscle soreness and wonky toenails that may never be the same.

This is what happened to Lowi. Her body bathed her in the sweet dopaminergic wine that makes us feel good, makes our memories feel good, and talks us into doing, well, just about anything. In fact, if I remember correctly that’s partially how I got Lowi into the original Outrun in 2014. 

Now, however, all she is remembering is how hard the training can feel; how inconvenient it is at times. (and trust, it is). She may be recalling the moment when we were close to reaching 50 miles when the blister that had been plaguing her for miles mercifully burst but first there was the pain. We even still get a good chuckle out of Lowi and Mary claiming that one of them had the flu the morning after the O24. They’d simply had a flu too many miles.

However, what she may be forgetting is the quiet, calm yet unmistakable transformation that experiences like this bring. These are the moments that happen when you are alone, often days after the event when you pause and realize that you actually ran/walked 50 miles in one day!  In those moments, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because you are the only one who was there in your body for those miles. You and you alone know just exactly the cost that this adventure exacted. You are the only one who truly knows just how deep in the well you had to drill on that particular day. This is what I mean by transformation. After an experience like this, there is a part of you that never forgets. As they say, nobody can tell you nothin’.

Because now you have a truer inkling of what you may be made of. When you hear humans are made of the same elements as stardust, you remember your feat and think, hell yes!

And if Lowi and Mary and Jill have forgotten, let me remind you, in your own words, your own voices even, just what an epic trip this was and what you discovered about yourself on a random April weekend in 2014. 

Outtakes of what Lowi and Mary had to say about Outrun 2014 after the race.

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Outrun24 2022 Edition

Check out the audio version of our first Mind and Body installment. If you want to follow along, the original blog is below.

Returning to the Outrun 24

Last October, while attending wedding #5 of our fall wedding tour, G started talking to me about the Outrun 24. Not sure if you were following us back when we did that little run the first time or if perhaps you need a refresher, but you can click here for the full story.

I’m not going to lie, I was feeling optimistic in the midst of all that hope and love and when G started talking about how much fun we had in 2014 on the trail. In fact, I let the memories sweep me away. I let the idea of running on that trail again wash over me like a sweet salve that would take away the darkness of the last 2 years. 

No, just kidding. I had one too many glasses of wine in Sonoma and I was feeling invincible. That’s usually how these things happen with G.  Anyway, on this particular Sunday evening sitting on the balcony of my California hotel room, I decided that training for the 2022 Outrun24 sounded like a brilliant idea. Before I could talk myself out of it. I logged into my Ultrasignup account and registered for the race. 

Lo and behold, I quickly realized AFTER signing up that I was waitlisted. Guys, the relief that swept over me was palpable. I had been saved by God, the universe, or whatever you believe. Now, I could tell G I signed up, but sadly it wasn’t in time. She was obviously disappointed when I told her and I’ll admit I was also a little sad, but it was temporary because now I didn’t have to train for a long-distance race during the winter. 

A spent the next 2 months working out, dabbling in a few miles on the treadmill here and there wondering where I might be on the waitlist, but not concerned enough to hunt down the answer. 

As luck would have it though, one day in the middle of January I mentioned to G that I couldn’t find the waitlist. Like a dog with a bone, she hunted down that information while we were on the phone. I have to admit that I really thought I was probably number 150 on the list.  Now, of course, any logical person would probably realize that people aren’t clamoring to run a 24-hour race in Kirtland, Ohio.  Turns out there are only about 30 people who didn’t register in time and guess what?

I WAS NUMBER 3 ON THE WAITLIST!

The reality sank in quickly that my number was going to get called. It was only January and the race isn’t until April 30th. There would be at least 3 people who dropped out of this race due to injury, other plans, or I don’t know…lack of training. A mix of fear, nausea, anxiety, and a tiny bit of excitement rose inside of me. 

I needed to get my butt going on my training.

That was two weeks ago and due to some unexpected circumstances, I had not yet begun my training.  In fact, I was in Michigan this past week for a family funeral when I got the news from Johnny Armani that I had already moved to the number one coveted position of the first alternate. I was literally standing with family when my watch alerted me that I had a text message and I’ll admit I was a little alarmed that it was my brother-in-law as he never sends me text messages. I stepped outside to read his message and I believe my exact words were, “Oh crap.”

You guys, I’m going to get in this race.  

My first day home I jumped on the treadmill and did a baseline run for 30 minutes just to see where I was.  It wasn’t bad, but also not like, hey, I should sign up for a 24-hour race. What was I thinking?

Needless to say, I will be training in some capacity every day for the next few months. John tells me my goal is 100k. He clearly doesn’t understand the shape this 51-year-old body is in.  Sixty-two miles is a long way.  I’ll be happy to reach 6.2 at the rate I am going.  

If you want to follow my progress, I will continue to update my journey to the Outrun24 on our website. Also, I am sure G will have a response to this blog as well as her continued updates on training for the Outrun24. As I write this blog I just finished skiing for the day and she just finished her second day in a row of long runs. I didn’t even bother to ask her how far she ran. I already know that it was further than I have gone.

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