As it stands, I am no more than a mediocre distance runner.
I am a better than bad distance runner who has made friends with some really good distance runners, and has subsequently been caught up in the exciting culture of the ultra marathon. Ultra marathoners, especially ones of the barefoot variety, are these fascinating, motivating, awe-inspiring and infinitely friendly people – who will tell you without a doubt that you can do what they do. Even if you have inadequate training and you are a mediocre distance runner like me. They are like running salesmen, and they’re really good for your self confidence.
And if you love to run, like I do, the ultra marathon culture is catchy. Every day it seems like a new person signs up for a 50k after having never run, for example, more than the distance of a half marathon. And these guys make it look so darn easy, which is why I signed up for a 50k, in a moment of sheer go-big-or-go-home insanity. Jason tells me that it’ll be easier than I think. Vanessa tells me I can finish it no problem. Pablo tells me that the training for his first 50k was no more strenuous than a few back-to-back 8 mile “long” runs, and he did fine.
I think the problem is that it’s easy to overestimate someone else’s endurance capacity if you’ve never run with them.
Here’s what I mean. Yesterday I ran 10 miles with Heather and Brad. They’re much better than mediocre distance runners. It’s an eye-opener when you’ve always done your long runs alone or with someone who is on your endurance level, and then one day some friends take you out on trails (when you’re primarily a road runner) that beat the shit out of you by mile seven, while they’re still floating uphill like gazelles. And they’re older than you.
Today I am seriously considering dropping down from the Pinelands 50k to the 25k. And not because I don’t think I could do the 50k. I probably could, simply because if I’m signed up to run 50 kilometers that day, I’ll finish if I have to crawl across the line. But I may not enjoy it. Pineland, Heather tells me, is 100% steep, rolling trail hills. Just hearing that makes me think of being totally unprepared last year for the Great Bay Half Marathon, because it had these ridiculous hills – and I’d only ever trained on flat roads. I finished just the same but it was so emotionally defeating that I didn’t run for almost a month afterward.
Despite the fact that I would love to become an ultra runner and be part of this culture, I think perhaps I’m just not ready yet. There are some hard, inevitable facts in my way. The first and biggest one is that I am overweight. The same effort it takes me today to complete 10 miles could probably get me to 16 or 18 miles if I was at the correct weight. Actually, forget anything else – that’s really the only thing holding me back. If it was easier for me to train, then I’d be less afraid of bigger distances and back-to-back long runs. I honestly believe I have the same insane drive as everyone else, which is why I fit in with them so well. I just don’t have the fitness to back it up.
And that’s what it really comes down to. I signed up for the 50k because I want to run it, because I love running that much, and because I’m the same kind of person as all of my crazy ultra running friends. The only difference between me and them is they’re not overweight and I am. And until I’m as fit as them, I’m just not going to be able to effortlessly make the huge jumps in distance that they routinely do.
I hope nobody takes this as me being self-depricating. It’s really not – this is way past a self-esteem issue. This is simply a logical conclusion that I am at a performance roadblock, and I must get past it if i’m ever going to become a better than mediocre distance runner. I am sad about the thought of setting aside my 50k goal, it feels like giving up and I almost never give up on things I want.
But I also don’t ever settle on being mediocre.
February 20, 2012 at 3:00 PM
I totally understand the fitness thing. I would enjoy running so much more if I just lost those last 15-20 pounds…and training wouldn’t be so damn difficult. Wishing you all the best in reaching all your goals!!!
February 20, 2012 at 4:05 PM
I think you’re doing just great, Mrs. Trophy Wife! I look forward to reading more about your marathon training.
February 20, 2012 at 5:56 PM
I’m with you…. I get all excited reading posts from those running Ultra’s, and I just want to go do it.. but hah, this Saturday’s 10K will be my longest run.. lol. My plan is to keep extending the distances, but I already know that I gotta get lean and mean to have any kind of shot at a marathon or longer. I managed to get rid of 40 lbs over the last year.. but this last 30 is proving to be tough. But, I already know that every pound makes a huge difference… we’ll get there for sure… 🙂
February 20, 2012 at 6:00 PM
Girl, everyone has self doubt. Hell, I doubted myself for 20 years and never even attempted a half-marathon during that time not because I was overweight, but because I had injuries and issues with my body that didn’t allow me to run very far. Our stories aren’t all that different because they are both problems that can be solved.
If you perceive its your fitness that’s getting in the way you can do something about that. In fact, I would venture to say that if its your fitness that’s getting in the way of your goal, that’s a much easier hurdle to overcome than the injury hurdle, and getting fit and running definitely work together. You can become a better runner by getting fit, and you can get fit by becoming a better runner.
The biggest hurdle though, is the mental one. I wish I hadn’t doubted myself for so long or I would have done something to get my goal a long time ago. And what I found is that as soon as I signed up for my first trail marathon it was game on in my head. I still doubted myself like you, but what got me through that was knowing that on Oct 15, 2011 I was going to run my first trail marathon and I had better damn well be ready because I wanted to enjoy it, not suffer through it. So every interval and workover I did before that day I put 100% into it and tried my best to stay on my schedule so that when that day came, even though I still had my doubts I would know that I did everything that I could to get myself there.
I totally believe you can do it. Believing you can do something will get you 80% there, the rest is just hard work.
February 20, 2012 at 8:40 PM
Wow, Krista. I almost got a little misty there, reading that. Thank you for saying all that. Perhaps I should have written this entry out differently; I maybe have two roadblocks, and the second one is that I have a hard time believing in myself. Usually I have no problem on that front: I was mostly excited and totally confident about my half marathon. Something about the ultra distance makes me feel like I’m an imposter, an intruder into a place that’s reserved for people who are better/thinner/fitter/more experienced than me. It’s such a contrast in feelings that I am definitely doing this shitty job of handling it. I’m reaching out for opinions from everyone else and using their words to prop up my confidence (or let it down, depending on which way they lean) – because I’m too scared to have any confidence of my own. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared of anything in my life. For real. So yeah. What you said there really kinda means a lot.
February 20, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I really like this. As you know, I’m contemplating my own plunge into ultra-land, and I think you make a really good point — not about your fitness or self-doubt, but about knowing yourself. The fact is, none of our on-line running buddies really KNOW us or our fitness, and if there is one thing running has taught me its to listen to YOUR body. I’m not saying “run” or “don’t run,” since I have no idea what you are currently capable of, but that’s the point I think you are making. The hard truth is ultra’s aren’t run on good intentions and wishful thinking, or else 30% of the starters in Vanessa and Robert’s 100 miler wouldn’t have dropped out. It reminds me of a post that Katie wrote a few months back, about what is possible — everything is possible at some point, but maybe not now. Could I have run a 50K five years ago? No way in hell, not with all the self-esteem in the world and BOTH Robillards cheering me on. Can I now? Maybe, I’m not sure — that’s one reason I think I am going to run one, just to find out. But I think it’s within my reach. Is a 50K possible for you, right now? There’s only one person who can answer that, and that’s you. Of course, there’s also only one real way to find out . . . 🙂 Good luck with the decision. The good thing is, 50K or no, these crazy barefoot runners will cheer you on.
February 24, 2012 at 3:01 PM
I’m so glad you’re contemplating your first ultra too. It feels good to be surrounded by you guys.
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February 24, 2012 at 2:24 PM
Please don’t drop back to the 25K.
Just like you, I follow those nutty ultra runners and think about burning my shoes and wearing skirts and compression socks and running for days in a row. The longest I’ve run is 30K. It took me three hours. And in my head I’ve signed up for 2 ultras this year (online reg isn’t open yet).
I’m a good 15 lbs over where I’d like to me for these races. Sure, it will make it harder and I’m working on getting it off.
True story: last fall I rode my bike 100 miles. I’d only ever ridden 40 in a row. I was slow. I was the last one in. I was even heavier then than I am now. And it was awesome. And I’m going to do it again this year. I forgot about all of that mental stuff and just rode my bike.
You and me, we just need to run.
February 24, 2012 at 3:00 PM
Thank you for saying that, Jennifer. I don’t know if you got the chance to read any of the follow-up posts to this one – but I’ve decided to keep on with the 50k. I know I can do it – eventually. And Pineland will be my first attempt. Having encouragement (and discouragement too, for that matter) is good for me. I’m excited. 🙂
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