It’s that time of year. You’ve seen the posts and heard people gripe about those overly ambitious New Year’s Resolution makers taking up space at the gym—crowding classes and maybe even taking their favorite spin bike. They drop by the wayside in droves after a few short weeks.
I admire these people. I admire them for daring to dream big. For having the courage to acknowledge that they want a change and then going for it.
What if a your encouragement helped someone stay on track? A smile or a kind word? A shared moment of camaraderie at the water fountain: “Whew, been awhile since I’ve done yoga,” “Don’t worry, it will feel easier next time,” “Boy, that is going to hurt tomorrow,” or “I remember the first few times I tried to run. It was tough.”
Do you remember your first run? How did you keep going? How did you stay motivated?
I know. The reality is that many of these people will get discouraged when they fall short of a goal that was too big, and most will give up. But what if something you said helped someone stay on track for another day, another week, or maybe until they reached their goal? What if your encouragement during their first run (and check-in with them the next day) kept them going, and they discovered a love of running? The generosity of your kindness costs little.
I know I’d rather be in that camp than the one that rolls their eyes, shakes their heads, and waits for them to quit.
Take a page from the book of New Year’s Resolution makers.
Golden light of late afternoon
Tiny sweet gum seeds raining on the book I’m reading
[When I’m not dozing, anyway]
Nearby, a squirrel gnaws an old bone
Cozy inside my sweatshirt against the slight chill
A pot of turkey bones turning into stock on the stove
The Old Glory Ultra was my first 50 mile race. I’m still surprised that I completed it and that it went so well. I ran for hours, I had a great time, and I learned a lot of things that I want to remember. However, rather than writing an endlessly long and boringly detailed race report, I settled on a set listicles. Listicles are hot–Buzzfeed-worthy–and I teach millennials, after all. In the end, my plodding, story-telling self became annoyed by the sound-bite format, so if you want a real story, ask me on a long run sometime (by then, the story will be good, though the percentage of truth will undoubtedly decrease).
Pre-race silly shenanigans at the Foxfire Country Club. One of many reasons I love doing races with these guys.
The race was the Old Glory Ultra, held at Foxfire Village outside of Southern Pines.
This was my first 50 mile race. It was in an 8-lap format.
The course had 2-3 miles on trails at a nearby park, plus grass/cart paths on the golf course.
I ran 5 laps with Danny, then a lap with Karla, then a lap by myself, then a final lap with Karla.
Jon also ran the 50 and Carolyn paced him for 4 laps.
Karla was 2nd overall female in the 10 miler, and 4th OA!
Running is a team sport. I would not have arrived at the start, much less crossed the finish, without the encouragement and support of my husband Andrew, my kids, Stephen and Simon, and the many miles logged with my Runnerpeeps crew. Y’all rock.
The course was a bit dark at 5:30, 30 minutes before the start, but the starry sky was incredible. Glow sticks lit the way on lap 1.
50 miles = 8 laps x 6.25 mi loops
10 hours, 11 minutes
12:13 min/mi pace
I was 6th of 13 female finishers, 24th out of 37 total finishers.
5 friends = 177 miles total
4:47 for the first half; 5:20 for the second half (not sure where the extra 4 minutes went)
25 mi = my longest training run to prepare. 50 miles was my longest weekly mileage. I wish both of these had been better, but lost 2 weeks of training because I was sick. But you don’t need crazy mileage to run ultramarathons.
5 species of oaks: turkey (Quercus laevis), blackjack (Q. marilandica), water (Q. nigra), post (Q. stellata), and scarlet (Q. coccinea).
Lap 3 done! Danny and I are 18.75 miles in. Weather was perfect for running all day. Photo by Karla.
8 Answers to Questions You Might Ask Me
Yes, 50 miles.
I did it one mile at a time.
Yes, Dad, you have to pay. Fifty-one other people did, too. Don’t ask how much. I got a really nice t-shirt and earned a medal.
Yes, it did hurt after a while. Especially my feet.
I enjoyed the course far more than expected. It was pretty, with lots of visual variety and a couple miles through the woods on dirt—OK, sand—it was in the Sandhills.
The terrain was easy but the course was hilly. So, neither easy nor difficult.
Sure, I’d do it again. I might even run farther.
I enjoy the physical and mental challenge as well as the journey. In the midst of a very busy life, and one that has experienced some stress and sadness lately, I appreciate the luxury of spending a day focusing on a singular, relatively simple task that brings me joy, plus the time to reflect and feel grateful for all that I have.
Star Wars chicken noodle soup. Because everyone needs The Force after 30 miles of running.
8 Things I Ate
1. Uwharrie cookies
3. Coconut chocolate chip Clif bar
5. Gummi bears
6. Salted caramel Gu (2)
7. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
8. Star Wars chicken soup…and more.
8 Lessons or Items that I’ll Remember for My Next Long Run
Sunglasses really helped—have had problems in the past with blurred vision and goopy eyes at the end of long runs (and for hours afterwards). I love the pair I have but they’re very dark—would love a clear pair.
Thinking ahead about what I needed to do at the aid stations helped me be more efficient. I *wasn’t* efficient, but it moved me in the right direction. I might even make myself a checklist for a run with a similar format.
At times I found myself enjoying the conversation and the miles but then suddenly realized I needed to drink water or eat something. The flow is wonderful (and having no concept of elapsed time is a true gift in these kinds of endeavors), but I need to remember to pay attention.
Love my lucky running hat from Ann. I love that she gave it to me, and it’s really excellent. Lightweight, shades my face, reflective, hides my gray hair.
Vaseline. Soooo many uses. No chafing or blisters.
Gin gin ginger chews. They really helped settle a queasy stomach.
Wet washcloth in a ziplock bag. Loved wiping the salt and grime off my face after many miles.
I didn’t like my water options for a multi-lap format. The Fuel Belt was comfortable and I liked mixing one bottle of Nuun and also having plain water, but I grew annoyed trying to fill 3 bottles at the aid station. I switched to a single bottle belt but it was not padded and would not stay put—kept riding up and spinning around. I’m thinking about a belt that is wide and padded and holds 2, 12 oz bottles. With laps, it didn’t make sense to wear my 70 oz. hydration pack.
Packing for a long distance race. I packed 5 hats.
8 Things I Wore
1. Pearl Izumi fly shorts
2. Saucony long-sleeve shirt
3. Baleja hidden comfort socks
4. Brooks Glycerin 11s, size 10
5. Moving Comfort rebound racer sports bra
6. Dirty Girl gaiters
7. REI running hat
8. Tifosi sunglasses
Jon and his star pacer, Carolyn, getting ready for another lap. These races are like a tailgating party. Photo by Karla.
8 Stories, 1 per Lap
Jon says he’s going to run with me and Danny today, then disappears off the front. One guy sprints around everyone on the cart path near the start, yelling “Playing through!” You have to love long distance races—people are always so much fun. Danny and I get lost in the dark woods with two other guys, but we were not as lost as Jon. He appears behind us around mile 4 with some speedsters. Hilarity ensues.
Drop off head lamps; eat Uwharrie cookies, split a banana. Realize that we were idiots for getting lost and bicker about whose fault it was and how much extra we ran. Nickname one woman we keep seeing “Whinypants” and feel sorry for her friends.
Danny continues to introduce himself to fellow racers. “My name is Danny. I’m a Libra. I like long walks on the golf course.” I claim I found him hitchhiking on US 1 and can’t get rid of him. I can’t believe that we’ve run 20 miles already. We get back to find Karla getting ready for her 10 mi race. Carolyn is out pacing Jon. We know he’s been there because there is half a can of chicken and stars sitting on the ground.
We joke around with the race photographers—the results should be good. My stomach is growling. We see hole #15 6 or 7 times. We look for Karla on the 10 mile run and figure out that some of those runners skipped the section through the woods. Eat Star Wars chicken noodle soup at the halfway mark and hope that the Force will kick in soon. I carry so much food out of the aid station that I’m dropping it on the ground.
Danny drags me away from the food table to start another lap–5, I think. Photo by Karla.
Neither of us feels great, but Danny thinks I should go ahead. I agree but can’t run fast enough to actually lose him, though I try 3 separate times. Laugh at the ridiculousness of a looping, hilly course. Turtle trying to outrun a fellow turtle. Who cares if I finish the loop 3 minutes ahead? I sure don’t. We are finished with 50K at the end of the lap! Danny says he’s going to take a longer break at the aid station to see if he can get his energy back. He doesn’t fool me.
Karla goes out with me on lap 6. She takes my mind off feeling sick by telling me about the 10 mile race and filling me on how Jon is doing. At the halfway aid station I open my bottle and realize I’d accidentally filled it with blue Gatorade and hadn’t noticed for over an hour. Water has never tasted so good. My shoes are feeling tight, but the conversation makes the lap go by quickly. We finish the lap to find Danny drinking beer. Neither Karla nor I is surprised.
I start the lap feeling horrible, but suddenly, I’m euphoric. I feel great! Can’t tell if it was the bathroom stop, the Fritos, the ginger chew, or some kind of spiritual transcendence. It was my 4th fastest lap, so I’ll take it. There are fewer runners out on the course, since many of the 50K people are finished. I appreciate running solo for a bit to mentally re-charge. I think about the many special people in my life. Then, since I’m in the Sandhills, I start identifying trees. But I can only remember the five species of oaks I saw, plus longleaf pine.
I return to the aid station for the last time but can’t think of anything I want to eat. I know I should eat something. Danny is asking what I need and I honestly don’t know. My feet hurt. Finally I look up at him and the aid station volunteers and say solemnly: “The. DOGS. ARE. BARKIN’.” I grab some Fritos, I think, and Karla and I head out. Just as we’re about to make the turn into the woods, we see Jon and Carolyn who’ve looped back out of the woods, about 20 minutes ahead of us. We cheer at them and head on. I started out feeling excited about finishing, but now I’m just dog-tired. We make the last turn to run by hole 15 and I know the end is near and pick up the pace a tiny bit. I see Jon, Carolyn, and Danny standing at the finish cheering me in and wonder if everyone else has left. Woo HOO! Fifty miles done! The race director hands me a medal and I thank him for a great race. We pack up our stuff and hit a Ruby Tuesday’s for dinner. Jon, Danny and I all order exactly the same thing: bacon cheeseburger with fries and a pint of Sam Adams’ Octoberfest. What a great day with great friends!
It catches me unexpectedly, missing you so.
The fog creeps in, sometimes for days.
Yet I’m grateful for the depth of our friendship
And the chance to honor it.
I run alone through the woods for miles
Missing you quietly.
Click on the thumbnail to scroll through the photo gallery. Photos are roughly in chronological order, July 20-31st, 2015, for the 9th class of Forest Ecosystems of the Southern Appalachians at the Highlands Biological Station.
On our last day of class, we climbed the section of the Bartram Trail toward Scaly Mountain. We hiked up into the forest and stopped. “What’s the story here?” was the question of the day, and indeed, of the whole Forest Ecosystems class–the question we answered for every site we visited. This time, however, Julie, Alan and I were quiet, while our students looked around, dug into the soil, assessed the canopy, measured the slope, counted the herbs, identified dead trees and conferred with each other. They were seeing the story of this forest for themselves.
Rhiannon’s aster (Symphyotrichum rhiannon) may only exist at the Buck Creek Serpentine Barren, a small and unusual serpentine soil habitat managed by the US Forest Service in Clay County, NC. Small preserves like this one are critical to conserve plants and animals that require specialized habitat–in addition to the aster, four species of butterflies also call Buck Creek their only home in the world.