Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Baker Lake 50k - don't stop, do smell the roses

Our capability to adapt to challenge continually amazes me. 

The sport of ultramarathon; running 50km+ distances over challenging, mountainous terrain, scaling 1000’s to 10,000’s of feet of elevation with hundreds of other people, may just sound like a sport for the crazy folk...

Yes, there may be some degree of legitimacy with the crazy, but my personal enticement with the sport of ultramarathon is the process of searching for that human limit and then witnessing the remarkable ability of the human body and mind to cope, adapt and surpass that very limit.  This applies to so much more than just the sport, it relates to life... 

It is like meditation in movement… finding peace in the battle between the body and mind as pain and fatigue set in.  I have learned to cope by finding the rhythm of my breath and the lightness of the gait while dodging and bouncing over roots and rocks and scaling stunningly beautiful mountain terrain.  Fueling my body with gratitude for the surroundings and fueling my breath with fresh crisp mountain air, I love the feeling of my heart pumping so vigorously up to my ears that I feel so alive. 

It is not all fun and games  - it is certain that adversity will strike in this sport.  Thus far I have raced anywhere from 5 ½ to 11 hours 50km to 80km with 4000ft - 10,000 ft of elevation gain.  I have fallen, had shooting sciatic pains from a slipped disc, ran through huge bleeding blisters, bruised toenails falling off, muscle cramping so bad that even just walking feels awkward.  My gait has turned from light bambi-like prance to and elephant stomp - the effort to keep moving forward has felt like that bad dream where you try to run but you cannot. I have cried, I have stopped and sat in the middle of nowhere, even worse, due to injuries I have even stopped a race.  What I have learned is that mistakes made more than once are a decision.  The body will cope, if not today, it will adapt in time with work.  

Gratitude for the beauty of the process is by far the finest fuel for the long run.  As we all know, that goes for many things in life, not just running.  Running is just a great way to practice.

This is the only way I can explain what happened last weekend at the Baker Lake 50km ultra marathon.  After Boston Marathon in the spring, I spent May-July with little to no running with an ugly broken pinkie toe (silly klutz move and then I actually re-broke one month into healing). 

Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the break from running, this was the first time I really took a long physical break in decades (minus my bike accident 10 years ago).  I kept pseudo-fit without a car and commuting a small distance to and from work by bike.  When I got back onto all 10 toes, after 2 months completely off running and most activity, the first few runs were pretty rough -  I felt like I started entirely from scratch - but very surprisingly, I got it back quite quick, making smart decisions (initially). 

A little over one month ago I came back to BC, and was simply so happy to run in the mountains again.  Gratitude, good company, and muscle memory fueled three long runs a 34km, 36km and 47km on consecutive weekends (that completely breaks most rules of training with a massive increase in training load but after the first, second, and even third run I felt more than fine, I felt alive)….  I couldn’t understand how I felt so good, since I really had little recent running under my belt, 

I can only equate this with a little bit of muscle memory from the past 4 years of training and a whole lot of gratitude.

Baker Lake 50km last weekend was one of those epic days.  My body and mind were at complete peace, running on a spectacular trail along Baker Lake.  The volcano glistened beside us under perfect blue skies on a crisp fall morning.  I even took the 20 seconds to stop and take this picture....how could I not??!! 

With a ridiculous smile on my face, my heart happily raced, averaging 165 beats per minute for 5 hours and 44 minutes.  Most of which time I focused on my footing with plenty of wet, mossy bridges, fallen leaves and roots and rocks over an undulating mountain terrain.  I placed 2nd in my age group and 5th women in the race, which for me was a solid achievement.

Not every run will be like that, but if I can continue to appreciate the process this much, perhaps that is possible.  My goal in the future to have the confidence in my body to actually race the entire distance....

I am now back to searching for that same meditation in motion on the pavement - next stop – Seattle Marathon November 29th with my personal goal of racing under 3 hours and 30 minutes.  

Happy trails!!