Tuesday, October 23, 2007

High school newspaper

A few of the runners on Mike's cross country team are writers for their school newspaper and they asked me to write an essay about myself for the paper about ultrarunning. This is what I came up with and Mike said I should put it on my blog, so here it is:

A Day in the Life . . . of an Ultrarunner

Zig Ziglar once said, “People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing. That's why we recommend it daily.” That’s something to think about—and that is what I try to remember every day while striving to lead a passionate, motivated existence. Ever since I was old enough to comprehend it, my life has been an exciting adventure, and I have chosen to make it so every day. From showing up to school in a genuine Dolly Parton wig at age 10 (just to be goofy), to following my Dad up my first mountain at 14, to hitch-hiking solo on the other side of the globe at 19, to ripping the back seats out of my VW and calling it home at 20, to my climbing my first big wall (El Capitan) at 21, to marrying the man of my dreams at 22 . . . and to running my first ultramarathon at 24—my life has been intentionally passionate.
I was forced to begin running when I was 11 years old, “training” my Dad called it, “to keep up on the weekends”. We spent every weekend exploring (on foot) the amazing Montana scenery where I grew up, and my Dad was sick of waiting for me. So, I begrudgingly started running three times a week. Little did I know how it would shape my future. I continued to run through junior high and high school on the track and cross-country teams, and completed my first trail race on my 15th birthday. It was a tough 15 mile mountain run in which I was the youngest competitor by about 10 years, and I actually did okay. I think I realized then that I might have a talent in endurance, and started to feel inspired to run even when I didn’t have to. Yet, I never imagined I would be able to double that distance for a marathon. That race planted a seed in me that grew for almost 10 years before sprouting.
I have always had a true love for the mountains—trails, lakes, flowers, bears, all of it. When I discovered trail running, I realized I could cover long distances without carrying a backpack, and the soft path didn’t hurt my joints like the roads did. Trail running became what I called “my daily dose”, or my elixir for the challenges of life. One day in college, a girlfriend and I decided we wanted to try to run a marathon. So, we found a 26 mile long trail and went to run it. We spent the night in her Jeep at the trailhead, got up early the next morning, and ran our first “marathon” in almost 8 hours. (For those of you that don’t know, that is extremely slow.) We were at once both exhausted and elated upon finishing. Four years later, I competed in my first trail marathon as a race and finished in the top 10. At that race, there were two options for runners—one lap or two—but a lap meant 25 miles. I ran just one, which was a huge accomplishment for me, but my husband ran two for a total of 50 miles. I watched him walk the last 15 miles of the race in misery, vomit at the finish, and deal with head to toe muscle cramps—and thought that would be the last thing on earth I would try. That year, I ran a few more marathons and discovered that I just didn’t feel all that tired after finishing. 13 months after watching him suffer, I ran my first 50 miler in just over 10 hours. Working hard to ready myself for that race was not always easy. It was a process of deciding every day to live deliberately and strive to meet a goal. It was running in crappy weather, when I had a million things to do, and staying focused even when a 5 miler felt like it would never end. I made myself go out for a long run every single week, longer and longer each time until I could do about 30 miles. And it worked! I finished that race feeling great—not sick, not even completely exhausted, just proud. I never even took a day off, but was out running with friends the very next day. That race set the stage for what will probably be a life of ultrarunning (I have some big goals on the books for the coming year!).
In my opinion, everyone needs to find something they are passionate about in life. My passion just happens to be running, and lucky for me it keeps me in shape. Living passionately is not about wealth, a fairy tale existence, or having it easy. It is about enthusiastically setting goals and working through storms on the way without hesitation. It is about deciding every day to utilize talents you’ve been given and to learn, love, and grow. Each of us has the power to make our lives something great—we just have to get out there and do it!