Just three months ago, I was out of shape, heavier than I’d ever been, and seven miles was definitely a long run.
Over the weekend, I ran my first official ultramarathon since September 2019 at the Monument Valley 50 Mile and it couldn’t have gone any better. I covered the 51 miles in 8:57, constantly moving up in the field during the final 30 miles, and running strong through the finish.
How’d I get there? Well, it was anything but a Type-A, hyper-focused, planned-to-the-minute training schedule. So, what was it, then? Well, there were two key factors that I nearly included in my article Power, Not Pity: How to Take Control of a Suboptimal Life in January that have continued to guide my path:
- Meeting myself where I am.
- Taking the good and bad as it comes.
So, what do I mean by, “meeting myself where I am?” I mean walking when I want to walk, even in short training runs. I mean accepting running slow due to lack of fitness as well as running uphill … on snow … above 9,300 feet (2,800m) elevation all winter. I mean limiting the load on my Achilles tendons when the snow is deep and limiting the load on my quadriceps when I do go steep. It means trying not to judge myself against my past nor even my future, as well as against others.
Overall, it’s being accepting of me, where and who I am at any given time. It’s hard to accurately reflect back years and decades to see if this is a trait I’ve newly cultivated in myself; but whether or not it’s completely new, I more intentionally reflected upon and developed this acceptance more than I have in the past.
Even three months into my stepped-up training, I still think about meeting myself where I am. There are days when I can run up the short but steep hill a mile and a half up the Animas River from town … and days when that’s not in the cards. So be it.
In last weekend’s 50 miler, I tried to meet myself where I was and, in the end, I think I did a really good job of it. I started the race with one of my college teammates, who was running his first official 50 miler. Objectively, he’s much better trained and fitter than I am at the moment.
We hoped to run some early miles together, but I was forthright from the start that I needed to run within myself for as long as I could. We ended up running the first 13 miles together. At that point, we hit a long downhill on a smooth road and he took off. I continued to cruise along at a roughly nine minutes/mile pace, which felt like — and ultimately was — a sustainable effort.
Likewise, I was moving up through the field at 20 miles into the event and, feeling strong and with good energy and emotions, tempted to pick up the effort along the way. However, I knew giving even a few percent more in my first 50-mile outing in two years meant risking failure of my Achilles, calves, or hamstrings during a race from which I hoped to recover quickly. I strode on confidently and securely to the finish, plenty happy with my effort and performance, and knowing that I’d be back to light training by mid-week.
As for, “taking it as it comes, good and bad,” that tends to occur on the level of daily runs, but it occurred — even if a bit more uncomfortably — for the majority of the month of February.
On the smaller scale, I’ve had plenty of runs the past three months where I knew within a mile that for whatever reason — physical, mental, or other — I just didn’t have it that day. On plenty of those days, I cut my losses, wrapped up a couple-mile run, and headed home, only to successfully take on the run I’d planned and hoped for a day or two later.
Other times, I’d scrap a planned runnable long run and, instead, switch into a vert day, adding in a factor I rarely train for in the winter, but which I’ll need for the Patagonia Run 70-kilometer race in Argentina next month.
On the larger scale, I had a surprisingly positive outing in running 44 miles at the Silverton Whiteout the first weekend of February. However, I failed to log another runnable long run for the rest of the month.
Outside of that event, I didn’t manage to really run more than a single 11-mile outing the entire month. Admittedly, this wasn’t always easy to accept, but I could remain happy with that 44 miler and know that I was already ahead of schedule in terms of building up long-run distance ahead of July’s High Lonesome 100 Mile.
Whether it was at the Monument Valley 50 Mile, at the Patagonia Run 70k, or another training run along the way, I’d wait for … and have another strong long run. That happened last weekend. I’m both thankful for that performance in and of itself as well as for having taken February’s training as it came and, in its own way, prepared me for and allowed for success at the Monument Valley 50 Mile.
Call for Comments
- How are you at meeting yourself where you are with your running?
- How about taking the good and bad as it comes?