On 12 December 1998, fueled by bananas and Mountain Dew, I won the Arcata to Willow Creek 40-mile ultra-marathon in 5 hours and 58 minutes. It was the only race in my life that I have won. The race was the culmination of eleven years of training—one solid year of training in 1998 which included a half marathon and marathon, six years of training with the Arcata, CA Six Rivers Running Club, four years of high school cross country and two years of track and field (I was never a big fan of running in circles).
When I crossed the Arcata to Willow Creek finish line, I was emotionally and physically spent. Tears of exhaustion, amazement and joy flowed down my cheeks. Years of effort had gone into that one race. After I recovered from an agonizing week of soreness, I wondered what my next running adventure would be.
What else could I strive for? At the time, I didn’t have access to the internet. I used a word processor so I couldn’t access the internet to research races or other grandiose possibilities. I didn’t know about Ironman triathlons, 100 milers, or 365-day running streaks. Even if I had known about these events, I was a penniless Humboldt State University graduate with no money for race fees.
In the years that followed, I competed in a few smaller races, and ran while in the Army, but I did not pursue any wild goals. Without anyone to say or encourage me to do otherwise, I concluded that I had reached the pinnacle of my running career. The Arcata to Willow Creek race was my Mt. Everest. Picture Forrest Gump after three years of running. One day, he stops, turns around and says that he is going home. That was me! The journey was over.
Twenty Year Comeback?
Prior to New Year’s Eve of 2016, I considered making a come back. Why don’t I run that same race in 2018 twenty years later? Surely, my forty-year-old-something-self can outrun my twenty-year-old-self. I had a bad habit of comparing my older self to my younger, more adventurous self. Never fear… Mind over matter!! I could do this! I will do this!
I have always been challenge-oriented and love goal-setting so I wrote out my goal cards and started cross-training (running, biking, swimming) to get back in shape knowing that it would take at least two years to get my older, mom-body back in shape.
I signed up for my first triathlon (Monticelloman), chose a triathlon plan from the Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-week Training Guide, and began training. Five months later, in May 2017, I became a triathlete. Check! Next on the list… run a half-marathon, marathon in 2017, repeat the same races in 2018, and then run the Arcata to Willow creek ultra-marathon in 2018.
As my mileage increased throughout the summer of 2017, the strangest thing happened. I had this nagging feeling that I didn’t want to run long distances anymore yet I stubbornly refused to give up. As I continued to train harder, my body told me that I was doing too much. My hips and knees began hurting and I was getting sick more often. After a particularly fast 16 mile run during which I felt amazing (I was on a runner’s high the whole time), I knew I had overdone it. I hurt. I was on the verge of a serious injury. I reluctantly stopped training for a few weeks to recover.
The full marathon I planned to run in December 2017 was out of the question, so I downgraded my race entry to the half marathon. If I couldn’t do the full marathon, surely, I could do the half marathon even if I had to walk. It was 23 degrees the day of the half marathon. It was brutally cold, my heart was not there and I was miserable. Running long distances didn’t make me happy anymore. I knew that I had to adjust my goals and pursue another journey. A few weeks later, I scratched the ultra-marathon off my bucket list and started a more manageable yet equally challenging journey. In November 2017, I began my 365-day-one-mile-per-day running challenge! I am so happy that I adjusted my goal.
Almost six months later, I am still running every day and appreciate running more than ever for what it does for me. It keeps me healthy, helps me keep stress at manageable levels, and gives me a sense of accomplishment every day.
What My Journey Taught Me
Below are some realizations from this experience:
- Do not compare your current, wiser self to your younger self. If you can’t run 40 miles, try something different like a 365-day-one-mile-per-day running challenge. If you aren’t a runner, consider other challenges you can undertake that will give you a sense of accomplishment.
- There is no shame in adjusting your goals. If you have to adjust your goal, you are not a quitter. Consider the reason you are making the adjustment, decide on a new plan as soon as you can, and don’t look back. Go for it!
- Do you really want to relive a previous journey? Why not focus on a new adventure?
- Enjoy the journey! When I was training for my triathlon, I really enjoyed my training workouts. I loved how energetic I felt. I was thrilled to loose seven pounds while training and I felt a sense of accomplishment everyday because the workouts were challenging. I got more out of the journey than I did the race.
What have your life’s journey’s taught you? I would love to know!
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. ~ Lao Tzu