Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Check Your Vanity

This is it!  This is the first race report that I ever wrote after my first ultra in Moab, Utah.  It was published in UltraRunning magazine's July 2009 issue and I've been passionate about running and writing ever since.  I thought I'd share, because it was one of the best experiences of my life!  I want to go back one day!

Check Your Vanity
If I learned anything at my first ultra, it would be that the types of runners that participated in these events check their egos, insecurities and vanity at the starting line. There is no shame in this game. Farting, public urintaion (and defecation), profanity – are all glorious characteristics of this sport. I have never cared lessa bout what I looked like in my life! Quite frankly, when you cross the finish line after running 50 miles or more, you feel so good about yourself that your true character and spirit are the only things that people see. They see a winner, no matter what place you come in.
I also learned that the small community that is ultrarunners is quite possibly the most amazing group of people you'll ever meet. We come from all walks of life, from all over the world. Most runners will give you a friendly nod or an encouraging "You're looking good, keep it up."
The 24 Hours of Utah was my first-ever ultra, prefaced by one marathon, a few 8ks and several 5ks. While training for this particular race, I worked hard, gave up boozing, went to bed early and stuck to a fairly healthy diet. My friend, Sam, who also ran the Moab ultra, was my "trainer". He e-mailed me workouts every week and we often argued about scheduling and finding time in an average day for a three-hour workout on top of school and work. I was looking forward to getting this race over with, to return to my "normal" life – that's what i thought.
Upon arriving in Utah, I quickly realized that the terrain that I trained on – mostly asphalt – and the terrain I was going to be running on – mountains and trails – were quite different. Too late now. The coarse was mainly uphill, climbing a gorgeous desert mountain and galloping down the slick rock on the other side. The bottom halves of the trail were thick sand. After the first 5.37-mile loop I realized how difficult this feat really would be.
Watching the sunrise and sunset while running was surreal. As I set out on my final loop, my crew memeber, Dani, walked with me a little and noted that I looked like a mall walker, swinging my arms as hard as I could and putting as much power into my strides as possible. Muscle fatique paired with mental exhaustion had finally overpowered the Mountain Dew I had enjoyed earlier. Journeying on up the mountain, the night sky became increasingly dark. My headlamp did not provide enough light to stay on course; it was difficult to see any trail markers in the dark. I tripped over a rock and the muscles in my calves squeezed up into balls of tension as my face hit the slick rock. As I struggled to find the makers, I heard the sweetest sound in the distance, "Lu, is that you, buddy?" Dani had come out to find me and guide me back to home base. I had done it, 53.7 miles, just over my goal of a double marathon.
When the sun rose again in the morning, I had not come down from my runner's high and was wide awake. I was dirty, I stunk, I hadn't slept in over 26 hours but I had taken second place in the female solo 24-hour category and I will tell you – I've never felt better in my life. I stayed up to support Sam through his last grueling laps of the 100-mile race. Ready to collapsel, he mustered whatever he had left in him to jog across the finish line. Almost everyone had packed up and gone, so only a few of us were cheering his success, but it didn't matter. We both accomplished our goals that day.
As the aches, pains, blisters and bruises fade, my pride, self-confidence and the sense of self-worth that I've gained remain as I return to everyday life.

Also, check out the video that Sam put together after the race.  I still watch it to this day and it makes me smile!

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