My Final Thoughts on 100 Miles

This weekend, I am running the Rocky Road 100-mile race. It will be my first 100-mile attempt.

I’m at a point now where all the training has subsided, and there’s nothing left to do other than try not to feel anxious and take each day as it comes.

At this point, I’m more excited than nervous. I feel this is a race that could really validate me as a runner and help put me on a level where I feel I belong.

I’ve been impatient with the progression of my races. I can’t shake the feeling of restlessness, knowing that I have more in me. One more push, one more mile, one more sprint that I never got the chance to leave on the trail. There’s a mild frustration, knowing I’m holding on to potential the world hasn’t seen yet. Faster. Longer. Stronger. I’m ready.

Across the Years had a strong effect on my psyche. I saw so many unlikely runners put up jaw-dropping distances, including my baby sister. It really made me realize that I have been holding myself back. Not because I’m injured or because my body can’t handle it, but because I know I’m not “supposed” to be running that well. Because I haven’t followed an acceptable slow, cautious progression.

I went from running in shoes to barefoot/minimalist almost overnight. I went from only street running to only trail running from one day to the next. I went from zero elevation in Toronto, to almost exclusively elevation runs in the mountains from Day 1 in San Diego. My first day on a mountain, I ran 20 miles. I had never been on a mountain in my life. I’ve broken all the rules.

These past few weeks I’ve been fueled by great company. I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with great runners such as the Robillards, Paul Hasset, and I’ll be driving up to the race with Rachel Spatz. I can’t imagine a better possy to fuel a belief in myself. These are all runners who “weren’t supposed to.”

Paul was more than 300 pounds when he found running. Jason’s “authority” as a runner was questioned when he started writing a book. Shelly just keeps knocking out ultras quietly in the background and don’t even get me started on the awesomeness of Rachel who is the youngest and most inspiring 100-mile finisher I know.

These are the Honey Badgers I need to be hanging with. The people who don’t know they’re not supposed to run with extra weight, not supposed to write a book, not supposed to try a barefoot 100-miler, not supposed to recover so fast. So they do.

And now I’ve registered for my first 100-miler. Less than 12 months ago, this was a distance that seemed like a dream. Shacky and I even discussed at one point: What would we do after we run 100 miles? What else is left?

We imagined that at that point, we’d be near-elite status. We’d be at the peak of our physical conditioning. We’d be strong beyond belief. What other challenge could possibly be harder?

But now I know better. I know that 100 miles is not a distance that belongs to the elite. One hundred miles is just ground and earth and mud and space. It is all the things that I already know, and it belongs to all of us. We can walk it, we can run it, and with enough time we can cover it. It’s public domain.

Earth and space and time will always be there. What’s after 100 miles? More miles. In different places and in different ways. Each mile better than the last.

Some have questioned the wisdom in attempting this 100, and I get that. The same questions were there when I ran my first marathon. When I ran my first ultra. When I ran a marathon the day after an ultra. My point is, those questions will ALWAYS be there. And I hope I’ll always be around to answer them with, “Yes, please.” Because we don’t say that enough. If we did, there would be more 100-mile finishers in this world.

Coming from a background where I frequently heard negativity about how unsuccessful my running career would be, these are actually the comments that light a fire under my ass. They’re the attitudes that drove me to run in the first place.

Back in Toronto, it was a constant fight to convince those closest to me that I could be a runner. I knocked out my long distances, often running 26 miles around the neighborhood on my own, fueled by the anger and doubt of others.

Since moving to San Diego, I’ve been smothered in support. I’ve blossomed in this environment as well—feeling encouraged and welcomed into a community that I didn’t know I could be a part of.

But anytime I cross a line or take on a new challenge, there are skeptics. And hearing skepticism again this week, I’ve felt that familiar old rush of motivation to “prove them wrong”—more powerful than any of the encouragement I’ve received. I’m ready to start running NOW.

I try to internalize that motivation because I don’t want to come across as cocky. I know that each race has a mind of its own. Anything can happen out there and there’s always a possibility, due to injury or other reasons that I MAY not finish. But like Paul says, “I’m not afraid to fail.” Trying is just easier that way.

And yes. I CAN do this. I believe I will. When I do, I’ll be that girl who didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to.

(Note: I went on to finish my first 100-miler in 29 hours. Read the report here.)

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24 responses

  1. GREAT blog entry! Awesome job!! Good luck this weekend and I hope you write a book someday because girl, you’ve got talent!! Keep up the great work and I will be here cheering you on every step of the way! I’m signed up for my first 50-miler and I am nervous about that! This blog was the encouragement I needed! Thank you!

  2. Well written post Vanessa. I really enjoyed reading. Go out there and run your race. We only have the day and the step in front of us and it’s all what you make of it. Your attitude and tenacity will get you to the finish of Rocky Road.

  3. You can do it. You have made up your mind. Check out how much prolonged energy you can get with “Chia Seeds”, It could make a difference. Have fun!!

  4. What’s left after 100 miles? I’d say whatever the hell you want! :)
    Keep proving all the doubters wrong – just shows how much of our limitations are strictly in our minds, doesn’t it?

    You will rock it this weekend – I’ll see you out there and I know you’ll have a smile on your face :)

    Here’s a song I really like – it picks me right up and gets me to the point that I’m ready to go – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LNeMUaJEac

  5. Sometimes I wish you could take a person’s words and wear them in your shoes, write them on your hands and hear them in your ipod – because without words like yours, I may not be where I am now. Thanks for writing this.

  6. I can’t believe you mentioned me ^_^ I feel honored. Very well written. I’m excited to see no matter what happens, the adventures that await.

  7. Love it! You have a fire and it glows through out your words and your actions! I can’t wait to witness you out there on your journey to achieve another goal. Putting one foot in front of the other on the same Earth and soil we all share – only some of us are willing to use that soil to achieve what others think is impossible.
    This is going to be an Epic weekend! I’m all “GIDDY” for you! Go out there and give it your all!

  8. I always think that a human being running 100 miles really means something. We need people doing that, just like we need people walking on the moon, and people singing with voices that can be heard over an orchestra without a microphone. It’s part of demonstrating that there is much more to us as people and that we can go beyond the way we’re using ourselves right now, that our bodies are truly amazing. Very cool that you get to be one of the demonstrators. I hope you enjoy yourself immensely.

  9. Thanks for putting this out there. You’ve got that natural ability to understand your own body and the drive to push it. You aren’t reckless, but definitely striving for the next level. That seems to be a common thread among the truly ultra people I’ve met. Kind of an introspection about what they can do and a constant urge to push just a little more because of the joy in the pushing. My target this year is a marathon or two in minimal shoes. I’ll book mark this post and read it for motivation. Thanks!

  10. I’d change the word “attempt” in the second sentence to something that implies you’re going to finish.
    Good luck and have fun!

  11. I’d wish you luck, but luck has nothing to do with it. Have a blast. I love having runners like you on the edges of my life, because it keeps me thinking I really need to step up my game :)

  12. Loved this!! My favorite part was “One hundred miles is just ground and earth and mud and space. It is all the things that I already know, and it belongs to all of us”…such beautiful words! Will be thinking of you this weekend! :)
    Sarah

  13. I just read this as I’m getting ready to go for a jog. This blog has inspired me to try running again. It reminds me that the most important thing an athlete can bring is courage – and you’ve got that in spades!

    Rock that hundred Vanessa, and know you’ve got fans inthe stands.

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