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Note: Along the way the Becoming Ultra runners will be contributing regular written and video posts.
One: Growing up was the most deceptive trick I’ve ever fallen for.
Two: I breathe like a rhinoceros when my body accelerates above 2mph.
Because let’s face it, my brain becomes a very shallow bowl when I’m sacrificing those precious calories our ancestors dealt like poker chips before the desk job and the drive through were invented. I can typically juggle just a couple of thoughts at a time when I go for a run (as an extreme over-analyzer this is a major selling point).
On one stream of thought I have observations that are caveman in nature, probably staples for humanoids that were either running at or away from something. My feet hurt, that runner looks angry, that tree is shaped weird, ah cute-guy! Stop flailing like a fish, oh geez is that a skunk? I can smell it, but I CAN’T SEE IT!
And on the other stream is reserved for the crowned jewels of our evolutionary journey, so overly complex tangents that the animal kingdom would shake their heads if they knew the time we spent dwelling on them. What is my purpose here? or I wonder how many more human lifetimes the world will see until it explodes, or Remember that horrible girl from second grade who put gum in your hair, what was her problem anyway?
The thoughts from the first pot become the meaningless chatter of my runner brain, but they come one at a time, in sequential order, so I can finally close the twenty excess tabs left open on my mindscape during the day. And whatever perplexing reflection emerges from the second pot spreads out and becomes the muted background of my run, like a quiet meditation. I am a zen monk in motion.
And what a beautiful way to boldly flip off the horrid fixations of this modern age, the stressors thrown at us a hundred miles per hour, the dreaded task of becoming “successful” in whatever capacity society deems for that week: To just shrug it off for a half hour and escape.
Today I’m running through puddles, which seemed like a great idea a few minutes ago when I was romanticizing the juvenile stuff we do as kids. But I learn quickly that after running through those puddles you may as well strap bowling balls to your feet from the water weight. Crud.
Oh well. All I know is that I can run again and it feels great. There’s an obvious drop in my endurance after the break for my ITBS rehab, but it doesn’t even faze me. I guess because I know I’ve been here before, the place where just a few miles hurts like hell, but I know it gets better.
Nerd moment: It’s sort of like playing a video game and getting really far into the dungeon or whatever…then you lose the saved data and all of your progress is erased. And you get up and you throw the controller across the room and rock in a fetal position for a few days. You swear you’re never going to play that dumb game again…it would take too much time to start over…
Then you remember how awesome it felt to play, how gorgeous the graphics were, how confident you felt when you finally wasted that really difficult boss on level 20. And you mope around for a few more days and give in. You sit down, plug in, and begin…Once more your character is at pathetic level UNO, and you’ve got wimpy weapons, and you have to endure all of the trivial quests you’ve already done.
But see you’ve done them. And so it stands to reason that you can do them again, maybe even better the second go around.
This time you’re going to be smart and regularly save your game—or in this case wear good shoes and listen to Michele and stretch that pesky IT band that reminds you every once in a while to back off a bit instead of flying downhill like a semi-truck sans brakes.
I spent the first half of my injury time hating everything about it, cursing fate and feeling sorry for myself. I bet some of you can relate.
But even in this short amount of time, my injury has forced me to make a decision about my attitude. Throw the controller across the room? Or breathe and control my frustration. Once I stopped whining and started choosing the latter the process became remarkably easier. I just let things be as they were going to be and relented in any attempt to force anything out of my control.
I think that mental practice is essential for the trail I’m going to tackle in July…because when your shoes get soaked and you get a muscle cramp and you start obsessing about rabid bears and you realize you lost one glove a mile back and your phone dies…you can’t escape any of it. You can only decide whether to keep going or tap out.
I got a great message from Jules the other day (She’s a spectacular person if you haven’t already noticed).
She said, “The trails will always be waiting for you no matter how long your body needs to be ready!”
Well, she’s right. Isn’t that the beauty of it.
“Those who escape hell however never talk about it and nothing much bothers them after that.”