Wake up. Brush my teeth. Wash my face. Take a shower. Get dressed. Sign up for 10 races. Grab a coffee. Freak out. Ask myself WTF did I just do. Pour Devil's Springs Vodka into coffee. Rinse, wash, repeat.
I've done my share of relatively dumb shit -- I'm not sure if I'd count my race calendar as one. To people who aren't ultra runners or enjoy the stark feeling of dancing with death by blisters may look at me rather strange. After fixing up this website to make it look like an adult who cares about their life actually blurbs here, I realized that I signed up for a shit load of races this year -- some that's not even on the website calendar as of yet. I'm looking at a minimum of ten marathons, a 50 miler, one TransRockies Run that total 120 miles with a 20K climb over the course of six days and yeah, I'm massaging the thought of signing up for a 100 miler. Perhaps I did fall short on a special sort of stupid but I love it. It doesn't stop me from asking myself what the fuck did I just sign up for each and every time.
From Feeling High to Nauseatingly Sick
Between race entry fees, the cost of traveling and lodging at a different location to figuring out how will I navigate an unfamiliar place, the last thing that I should have a meltdown about is questioning whether my body is ready to see through a crap ton of mileage. Honestly, this is a legitimate fear -- and the drainage from my bank account counts as scary too.
At some point, you trusted yourself enough to push the button on the screen. Whether you're an overzealous runner who don't have friends that's willing to take the keyboard and mouse away from you during down times to embarking on a brave moment to try something new, each person encounters that fearful moment of wondering if their body or minds are capable of moving whatever daunting distance you desire to pursue.
To some onlookers that fear shouldn't resonate within me because I've knocked down 15 marathons in almost four years. Frankly, I'm always running scared at every distance. Perhaps it's a tactic that keeps me humble to the pavement and trails or my slightly pessimistic self talk that's constantly worried that I'll fail. When I encounter moments of burying myself in tumultuous rambling sessions induced by fear, I question my doubts.
Remember to ask yourself if any of the things that scare you are slightly obtuse or if they stem from something logical. Being worried about seeing your ex at this event holding a sign asking you to take him back with a Freddy Kreuger mask on is just irrational (and neurotic). Worrying about being the last one on the course because you're too slow is something that you and an endless amount of runners worry about regularly. If we dare to explore the realistic example of being the last runner on a course - if that's your fear - ask yourself why would you worry. Are you conditioned to believe that everyone is frustrated because they're waiting around on you? Do you think you're not qualified to be a runner if you're DFL (dead fucking last)? Fears of people laughing at you for being last?
Oh honey listen -- someone's gonna be first and last. This is going to happen at every event. Do you know what else happens at almost every event? People don't show up because they let their fears get the best of them. If you allow your insecurities to drive intoxicated behind the wheel, you are most likely going to find yourself in a world of hurt and nursing wounds dressed in bandages medicated with doubt.
Whatever reason you chose to sign up for insanity - from 5K to 150K - commit to it and see it through. Your pockets will thank you. And if you happened to be one of those lucky SOBs who lucked up on a free entry, volunteered for a shift or happen to be an ambassador for the race of your choice, you have more of a reason why you should come on board. Exceptions to this rule would be risking your health, livelihood or abandoning responsibilities simply for an event. Otherwise, smile bitch and pop some Imodium.
'I Have __ Races & __ Obligations' -- Now What Am I Going to Do
Now that you signed up for the race, see it through. This means paving the pathway for your success; you have to train consistently to get the results you desire. The easiest and hardest part of a race is actually showing up. Sometimes we get so psyched up about a particular thing that we talk ourselves into the impossible and run away from the execution. And if we took the time to simply tackle the impossible, layer by layer, we would know that the impossibility of something is only limited and bound by our own imaginations.
For running, cycling or any endurance sport - even speed events - being consistent with your training is critical. If you take one of two days off, it's not the end of the world. If you abandon your training for an entire month, then yeah...you might not be able to execute a course to the best of your ability. Nobody should expect you to magically wake up and be exceptional at something. Even the 'naturally talented' people have to put in work to upkeep their performance.
Find a plan that's tailored towards YOUR NEEDS, not the expectations of the world. For instance, when I started off my running adventures, I signed up for my first half marathon on a whim. When I hit the button, I was not only scared but never ran a race a day in my life. I never tackled a 5K or did any of the prerequisites that many opt to pursue before this point. My running expertise was vociferously limited. I admired this older gentleman who ran on the track backwards some days sporting brightly colored headphones and would do sprint intervals. What I did want to do was match his joy. Each and every time his feet would shuffle, I'd hear him singing lightly. Years later, I realized that not only was he enjoying the music, he was testing how hard he was pushing himself. He never wore a watch and was super old school. When talking to him two years ago on a whim, he said he loves 70s music but use the beat as his gauge of how fast he's moving. His motto was 'if you can sing, you're not moving fast enough and if you're barely able to hold a conversation, you're pushing yourself.' Whilst I don't disagree with his tactic, it doesn't work for everyone -- but it works wonders for him.
If following a specific plan doesn't make sense, recruit help. I linked up with a local chapter of Black Girls Run in my first few years of running. As I ventured off into ultra running, I'm not able to attend meetings as frequently as I desire. At times, a 7AM meet might be considered too late for me to do a long run. As a back of the pack runner averaging around 13 1/2 - 14 minutes for a half marathon pace, not only do I need more time but have to start earlier than some others. And because I'm super extroverted and busy in my daily life, I crave alone time on training runs to get a decent dose of quiet time. As a typical DFL runner at a trail race, you learn how to listen to your inside thoughts, even when it gets uncomfortable. During my 100K, I spent great stretches surrounded by the sounds the of the wilderness and at times, absolutely nothing or nobody. The time on my feet was taxing but not as much as it was on my brain. Bearing this in mind, sometimes I start hours earlier than a meet up, go out alone or split my long runs into two. When training for distances beyond a 26.2, I have back to back long run days and when possible, I'll use the shorter long run day to buddy up with a friend. Thanks to my crazy schedule, I find myself either crafting up my own plan or networking with other ultra runners to pick their brain on how they juggle chaotic schedules similar to my own.
Being a freelancer, mother and a wife is a marathon of its own. Some weeks I'm able to pull off 40 - 50 miles; other times, I'm scratching the surface at 25. For an entire month, I've struggled getting myself outside thanks to my evolving schedule, battling seasonal depression and my son being a teenager. There are days where I swap out a short run with a workout routine and incorporate one to two miles on the treadmill. Other days, I'm left annoyed because the temperature is 5 degrees and I like pretending to be the contents of a burrito with my blanket. I have a Red Lobster endless supply of legitimate and b/s excuses but I navigate around them. Instead of doing a long run on the weekend, I might push it to a Thursday morning before my family is awake. I pull out workout clothing for an entire week and place it by my phone. My phone has quiet hours programmed for random hours of the day so I don't get distracted by emails or social media. Cross training happens in my living room if I'm truly not in the mood to leave. And just because I'm human, when I burn out, I stay the hell home.
Breathe Into The Paper Bag & Relax
Screw the naysayers, especially the one one that exist in your head; you're committing to a race or ten. Hold yourself accountable, not captive by fear. Show up. Take breaks. Practice, fail and succeed at every training. Be forgiving. Do the damn work.
Some of the newer races on my calendar will be the Cleveland Marathon (save by entering LS2019 at checkout), Humana Rock n Roll New Orleans and Tokyo Marathon. I have some of my familiar yet challenging contenders on the list like the Finger Lakes 50 Miler, contemplating on the Vermont City Marathon and my classic NYC Marathon and Chicago Marathon. If I do it afraid, I'll be signing up for the Javelina Jundred once again, making it a second year of doing a crazy distance one week before NYC.
When it's all done, ask yourself again WTF did you sign up for. Personally I signed up for a new challenge; how about you?
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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