As you might guess, sitting at home by yourself all day is lonely. I’ve always been the kind of person that needs some alone time to unwind. But I mean more like a couple hours, not months and months. In an effort to relieve that sense of isolation, if I’m having a good day we might try to go out to dinner with friends, or stop by a brewery. Most of the time I just sit there, trying to follow conversations and being overwhelmed by all the people, noise, and lights. To most people that don’t know me well, I probably seem normal. Here is my little secret–I won’t try to do anything for most of the day if we are planning to go out. I’ll nap for an hour or two before we go. I wear earplugs (they drop the decibel level about -12dbs) and special tinted glasses (to counter the terrible color and cycling of lights). Then I’m usually totally spent by the time we get home, and often completely miserable the entire next day. But sometimes it’s worth it to try to be social, to go out and see friends and be “normal”.
At the beginning of April, I started working with a running coach – Cindy Stonesmith of Ultrarunner Training. With the goal of a 100 miler, I knew a coach was the smartest way to go. After a long phone consult this winter, Cindy told me she was willing to take me on as a client, but only if I was willing to stop if she told me to stop. Obviously, I have a lot going against me in this endeavor. Having a coach looking out for my best interest, and not simply focusing on my goals, was exactly what I needed. It has been amazing. Not only has it totally transformed how I’m training, but it has allowed me to meet new running friends and that has been invaluable. After months of isolation, I’ve been able to get out for group runs on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and I don’t feel quite so alone. There is something so peaceful about being out on the trails just after sunrise, maybe it is the light or the stillness. It is easy to forget about all the things that are going wrong and just enjoy the moment where everything feels so right…until about the 5th hill interval when I wonder why I’m not still in bed…ugh. Anyway, during these morning runs, we focus on speed intervals or hill work, and my coach makes me push myself harder than I ever would on my own. The training group is full of very supportive people who have been willing to drive me to the workouts when my husband can’t take me, or even pick me up to get out for weekend long runs. Since I can’t drive myself to trailheads, without their help all of this training would be much more complicated. For the 60-90 minutes we train together I do pretty well. I try to avoid running behind anyone wearing bright clothing, but otherwise, it has been okay. I’ve tried joining one of the longer group runs (15 miles), and by halfway I wanted to vomit. All of the different conversations around me were way too much to handle for that length of time.
In just 6 weeks since I started training with URT, I’m amazed at how much faster and stronger I’ve already become. I’ve realized how much harder I am capable of pushing myself. Ultrarunning is kind of a metaphor for everything I’m going through. An ultra can be a long, painful slog, with some highs and some very low points. But if I just focus on getting to the next aid station it will be more manageable that looking at the race as a whole. One day at a time. One mile at a time. I’m stronger than I think I am, and I’m not alone. I always look forward to the next Happy Hour when for that window of time (as we all suffer together) everything is perfect. Go URTies!
Next up – Sage Burner 25K this weekend and two weeks until North Fork 50K!