…and those I haven't met yet.
You're running an ultra this summer. A mountain ultra. Whether it being your first, your second, or your twenty-fifth. You're running an ultra. And you're mildly intimidated by the elevation profile/course map/cut-off times.
I've been there, believe me. I have. Although this whole 'getting into shape post pregnancy and realizing your pelvic floor isn't the sturdy one you had pre pregnancy and your belly will probably never look the same' thing makes me feel like a pathetic excuse for a runner, I do still feel the ultra love. As far as running goes, ultras have my heart. As far as life goes, my heart is in the hands of a now 3 months old boy. Yeah, I know, enough already with the proud new mom talk.
Post pregnancy hormones aside. You are running an ultra, and you are mildly intimidated. Does that quite sum it up?
Well, again, I have been there, and I am not even close to being a speedy or expert runner, but I did run some mountains - during races or just during me time. Those mountains truly are something created by the hand of a higher power. At least, that's how I feel. The views, the sounds of cow bells in the distance, marmots whistling, I'd take those mountains over a tropical beach any day.
But they are intimidating. The weather can do a 180 on you within minutes. The trail you ran yesterday, can look like a completely different trail today. Twice as challenging. Those mountains change by the hour.
In 2011, after my first 50 miler at the Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos, Switzerland, I read on Janina's (a German ultra runner) Facebook page, that you are only a guest in the mountains. And I find that true. You are a guest and should act accordingly. Respect those mountains, but feel honored to be allowed to visit them. To spend time with them. Feel blessed to be up there. Breathing in that fresh mountain air.
Do set a goal of finishing pre race, but don't be too set on doing so. Some days a 50 mile race, just turns into a 30 mile trail run. Or a 5 mile long chat with friends. Don't beat yourself up over not crossing that finish line. Instead, enjoy having run some trails.
If you plan on running under XX hours, plan accordingly, but accept changing conditions. Weather, an upset stomach, that amazing view you'd like to enjoy for a couple of minutes. Honestly, no one will think less highly of you for not finishing or finishing slower than you'd hoped to. At least, no one with their sanity in place.
And yes, your legs will probably hurt. A lot. But the good thing about ultras is, your legs will hurt to a point where you think you can't take any more, and then the pain just doesn't get worse. Also, ultras are a chain of rough patches and easy breezy moments. That's the beauty of them. And no matter how hard the climb, the view will always be worth it.
[To all the ultra running moms: yes, your legs will hurt, but honestly, it's not child birth. And most definitely not natural and unmedicated child birth. Uh huh.]
Plus, in the end it's just a mountain. A mountain that has seen more people succeed than not.
So, promise me this - set a timer, on your phone, watch, whatever you have in your pack. For, let's say, every two hours during that ultra you're running. An when that alarm goes off - stop. In your tracks (obviously while taking note of other runners while doing so…uh huh). Close your eyes. Inhale. And exhale. Smile. And open your eyes. Look around. Truly look around. Take in your surroundings - no matter if it's snowing/raining/night time. Look around. And breathe in those mountains. It will make all the difference. Trust me.