Monday, April 27, 2020


Back in February I was training for Boston.  I was also battling wicked plantar fasciitis in my left foot.  It's an unpredictable and incredibly annoying injury that plagues many of us and that, despite my many, many, assorted efforts, I can not seem to get rid of.  Naturally, I was training right through it because I'm stubborn and impatient and admittedly addicted to running.  There, I said it.  I feel it's worth noting here that I did cross train for a month to try and give it a break and when I eased back in to running it came right back.  If time off the road wasn't going to cure me then, screw it, back to training I would go.  I was, however, going to PT twice a week for some graston work, ultrasound and massage therapy and doing tons of mobility exercises on my own in an effort to minimize the pain.  With all this, things were actually going pretty well as I was stringing together a few runs in a row without major discomfort and operating under the assumption that I would be lining up in Hopkinton despite the situation.  Perhaps I wouldn't be able to run my best but damned if I wasn't going to give it a shot.  And then, due to the Corona Virus, everything changed.  All races were canceled.  Schools closed.  Businesses shut down.  Life, as we know it, was put on hold and moved inside.  For a couple weeks, at least from a running standpoint, it was business as usual for me.  I was doing my long runs.  I was doing my speed work.  I was taping, icing, stretching and rolling my foot, which still hurt but I didn't really care.  I just wanted to train.  I needed it.  For my sanity.  And for some normalcy in my life which was becoming less and less normal by the day.  And then it was April.  And my motivation to work hard was dwindling for obvious reasons.  I could feel myself spiraling down a bit mentally because I had no big goals on the horizon and no job to keep me distracted since our spring track season was now canceled.  It was not good.  By some struck of luck, or more realistically because I've been scrolling social media more often than usual these days, I stumbled on the Aravaipa Strong Virtual Race series.  So, I checked out the web site and I liked what I saw.  Registered participants could choose their race distance (5k-100 miles), pick a day within the required window to get it done and submit results to make it official all while supporting the Aravaipa race company, which I felt good about because they had to cancel all of there events this spring.  And on top of that, they would also be giving a percentage of the registration fees to Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. This seemed like a no brainer to me.  But, if I was going to do it, I was going to go big.  No 5K for me.  I was going for the 50k.  Because it was time for something new.  And I needed to set some different goals.  And because why the hell not?  I instantly texted my coach.  Note - it was April 7th.

Me:Lowell! Can I sign up for a virtual 50K and be ready to run by April 26th?
Lowell:I need a little more info here.  What is the motivation?  Are you willing to drop quality work to make sure we keep you healthy enough?
Me:Sorry. A bit random.  I know.  My motivation is boredom and a desire to try something different.  And to have a goal that's new but not too stressful.  And did I mention I'm bored?  I don't know.  I just saw it and looked like a fun challenge.  But maybe it's too much?
Lowell:Doing any faster running this month and trying to run farther than ever is a recipe for disaster.  You can do one but not both.  What calls to you more?
Me:Well, I love the faster work but it really sets me back a few days due to the pain in my foot afterwords.  Maybe it makes sense to switch gears a bit.  That said, I don't want to lose all my speed.
Lowell: You don't lose it.  You just put it in hibernation.
Me:So can I do it and then have time to build back up in order to run fast again for Boston in the fall?
Lowell:Yes.  That is *IF* Boston happens.
Me:Do you think it's crazy/stupid/other?
Lowell:You aren't new to this sport, Rebecca. You've been training and racing hard for a long time. You have to chase goals that keep it interesting and exciting. Doing the same thing season after season because it's what you're used to is fine but only if that scratches you where you itch.
Me:Right.  Maybe I need a new itch to scratch right now.  I think I want to try it.
Lowell:Done. I will take a look at your plan and see what adjustments make sense.
Me: Go team.

Fast forward to this past Saturday.  For the two weeks leading up to it I'd managed to squeeze in a couple 20 milers along with a steady string of easy days with more "off days" than usual sprinkled in to give my foot some extra rest leading up to race day.  Ready or not I was going for it.  As always, I laid my gear out the night before mainly just to get fired up and make it all feel legit.  We've had a pretty crappy spring here in Boston with low temps and lots of rain but I woke up to a beautiful, sunny, dry day on Saturday.  Lucky me.

Again, as always, I got up early and sat and had coffee with Clover by my side.  It was only 35 degrees out, so we didn't sit on the porch as we usually do.  But, it still felt good to stick with tradition.  I felt a little bad as Clover thought we were getting ready for a walk, since I sit on the steps each morning before I take her.  Little did she know that I was leaving and would be gone for over four hours.

I ate a couple waffles, drank some NUUN, stuffed my toolbelt roga pockets with fuel, said goodbye to my husband (my girls weren't up yet), and headed outside.  And that's when it hit me that I was taking off for a thirty one mile run.  Wait...what?  This was new territory for me.  I've never run farther than a marathon.  I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous about this undertaking.  But I was also really excited for the adventure and I knew it was what I needed to shake things up.  Yes, I wore my bib.  And, yes, I'm a total dork.  Don't care.

Not to worry, I'll spare you the thirty one mile play by play and try to stick with the highlights.  My first ten miles flew by.  Literally.  I was taking it nice and easy, just enjoying being outside and feeling very relieved that my body felt good and I wasn't feeling any pain in my foot.  I got started around 8:00am so there weren't many people out which was nice as I wasn't feeling stressed about needing to keep my distance.  I had to stop and take a photo of these kindness rocks around mile seven.  I don't believe anyone who says they can see this and it doesn't put a smile on their face.  The collection used to be about six rocks and has grown substantially over the past couple months.  I love the messages which include things like, BE BRAVE, BE WELL and most importantly, DON'T COUGH ON ME.

My husband met me at mile ten with water and more fuel in case I needed it later on.  He brought the dogs and I couldn't help but feel like they were cheering for me as I came in to the stop.  Clover could have cared less but Enzo is a mama's boy and was likely wondering where the hell I'd been and if he could get out of the car and come with me.

Fully hydrated and fueled, I thanked Jeff and headed back out.  My running bud, Steve, who I've been getting out with at a safe distance since this whole thing started, had agreed to join me for twelve miles or so which I knew would be a very welcome and much needed distraction for those middle miles.  We met up around mile thirteen and I was still feeling pretty good.  Though I always tend to forget that Steve only has one gear and it's not slow, so most of the miles in this section were a bit faster than I'd planned.  The benefit of his company far outweighed the fast pace, but I knew I'd be paying for it the next day.  I made a note when we hit 26.2 miles, first because I was pretty proud of my marathon time but also because from that point on I'd be embarking on this knew ultra journey which felt pretty damn cool.

Steve ran with me for about fourteen miles.  By the end we were flying, ticking off 7:20 miles.  I was doing my best to hold on knowing I'd be able to dial it back when I was on my own again.  I gave him shit about his inability to pace himself or me, for that matter, to which he responded, "Sorry, Trax.  It's just, when I can smell the finish I just can't help myself."  I mean, I get it.  But still.  Pace aside, I was super grateful that he had come along for a large section of my run.  I owe him big time.  We signed off with a virtual fist pump at mile twenty seven and with only four miles to go I knew my first ultra was in the bag.

I put my music back on and took off for the final stretch.  It was warmer at this point and I was coated in salt but, surprisingly, I still felt pretty decent all things considered.  I was so ready to be done that I maintained a nice, swift pace as I headed back toward home.  Swift for me, mind you.  Not McKenna swift.  A true 50K is 31.1 miles so I was actually done before I got to my house.  But, due to all of the extra dodging and weaving I'd had to do during the second half in order to avoid other people who were outside, I'd tacked on about a half mile which I still ran because I, too, could smell the finish.

And that, my friends, is the story of my first ultra.  Yes, I loved every minute of it.  And yes, this is likely the first of many.  Because I felt something different with this distance.  A new freedom in running just to run.  No strings attached.  I love marathon training and racing to get faster.  But I feel like, after twenty five marathons, I might be ready to embark on a new chapter of sorts.  Later that day my coach checked back in with me.

Lowell:BOOM! You feel good about delving into the shallow end of the crazy ultra pool?
Me: Yep. I might be hooked.
Lowell:Safe to call this experiment a success?  Sounds like this might be just the beginning....
Me: Yes. And yes. But, I'm guessing you predicted this.
Lowell: I am not at all surprised.

And so it begins.

Listen to this:

1 comment:

  1. The only thing more surprising I can think of would be me doing an ultra. Of course, now you have me thinking...