Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Testing My Soul...yet again.

The prize:  Rocky Raccoon sub-24 hour buckle

This weekend I get to yet again toe the line at a 100-mile endurance trail run.  Rocky Raccoon down in Huntsville, TX.  This year’s edition is extra delicious with an amazing field.  Runners are registered from at least 35 different states and 8 different countries at last count.  Top talent abounds this year.  Jurek, Krupicka, Meltzer, Gingerich, Koerner and many others will set a blistering pace in the men’s race.  Connie Gardner and Liza Howard will definitely be mixing it up with the boys.  Sort of a mini-Super Bowl of trail running in our backyard here in Texas

At 3% body fat, Dean is a lean machine.

While the star power is bright this year, it always comes down to me alone on the trail testing the limits of my soul.  Dean Karnazes can draw a mixed response from many in the hard-core trail running community.  Some say he is too much about self-promotion.  I tend to disagree.  Anyone I have ever known to have met him has always said to a person that he is extremely gracious and genuine to everyone that he meets.  I greatly admire Dean and the message he spreads about living a healthy, fulfilling life full of adventure.  The following quote captures the essence of what I relish about doing extremely long and difficult Ultramarathons:

"As for why I continue to push the limit, I believe the modern world might have things a bit confused. I think we have become so comfortable, we’re miserable. Personally, I never feel more alive than when I am in extreme pain and discomfort, when I’m pushing my mind and body to the absolute extreme. This is when I feel most whole and in touch with the universe." -Dean Karnazes

Here I am feeling whole and in touch with the universe after a 50-mile race before vomiting for 6 hours.

Over the past few years I have dug deep within myself and extracted the true essence of myself by pushing beyond all of my previously-held self-imposed limitations.  Physical and mental.  As I fill the gaps in my physical capabilities and extend the distance and effort levels I can sustain, the mental horizon is ever-expanding.  I continue to be amazed at the raw power of one’s own mind to carry someone beyond thresholds thought to be unattainable or impossible.  Impossible is nothing. 

This weekend running 100 miles will present numerous, obvious physical challenges.  The course may be pretty sloppy from rain.  In the later stages of the race this gets magnified.  Nutrition and hydration strategies can always go awry.  It will be cold.  Many of these factors combined can conspire against you being successful on any given day.  This causes severe discomfort and pain at times.  It will be uncomfortable and downright painful at times.  That is a given.  Whether or not I am miserable is up to me.  This is where I get to smile and embrace the difficulty that I have purposefully sought out and find the fortitude to persevere. 

David Goggins:  One hard individual.

Mental strength is the single biggest factor in whether or not I will be successful on this day.  I am resolved now to persevere through any hardship.  That is easy to say right now while I am sitting snugly in a Starbuck’s watching the snow swirl around on a day where the wind chill is -2 degrees.  Doubt is the great enemy of the mind that allows weakness to sneak in.  Will I have the strength to win that battle so I can win the day? 

The course at Rocky Raccoon consists of five, 20-mile loops.  There is a certain mental challenge to doing loops.  My plan is to very conservatively run the first 3 loops through the daylight hours.  The fight with doubt, uncertainty, and weakness will occur on the fourth loop.  Once you leave the start/finish and begin the fifth loop you feel as if you are on the home stretch and you will crawl if you have to.  At the beginning of the fourth loop I will be facing about 8-10 more hours of running after already having covered 60 miles.  It will be getting dark and the temperature will plummet.  The biggest drop in energy levels happens during this time.  Physically and mentally.  Glycogen stores are getting pretty depleted overall and brain function diminishes.  Doubt senses this vulnerability and will jump at the chance to infiltrate this chink in the armor. 

Every man dies.  Not every man really lives!

I am putting Loop 4 on notice right now.  The fight is on and I am taking it to you!  We are throwing down and you are going down!  If I would not sweat it off so quickly, I would paint my face blue, don a running kilt, and give blood-curling cry of Frrreeeedddddoooommmm!, and run you down Loop 4!  I will return from this fight with my shield or upon it.  And when I turn the corner and begin Loop 5, I will smile and enjoy every step of that final loop.  Relishing in the fact that I am running through the woods on a blustery winter night reaching new depths of my soul as my spirit carries my along the trail.

I am generally very Zen-like in my approach to running and life in general.    But when Loop 4 starts all that goes out the window.  For this loop I am adopting David Goggin’s mantra of “Show no Weakness”.  The battle lines have been drawn.  I will emerge victorious.

Lisa Smith-Batchen completing a leg of her 50-miles in 50 states in 2010.  She personifies Courage and strength.