When we do things that scare the crap out of us, good things usually follow… At least, that’s what I’m telling myself leading into my first ultramarathon (ultra).
Previously, I never would have dreamed of running that far. I scowled at marathon runners who spent countless hours pounding the pavement thinking how bored they must be.
But perceptions shift and situations change. Over the last 18 months, mine certainly has as I’ve gone through an emotional and spiritual transformation.
It’s lead me to a few places, and this weekend it leads me to something I thought was impossible.
This phrase is quickly becoming my mantra. We get one shot at this thing, and to settle for mediocrity is truly a shame.
It is far too easy for you to be content with the status-quo.
You have the potential to accomplish amazing things, but it is on you to ultimately get there.
Lately, I’m writing about my physical journey, but this applies everywhere. Why are we content with being average when we have the capacity for so much more?
Never settling is about challenging yourself, and that is what I’m doing on Saturday.
I’m treating this experience as a day of adventure. I know a few things: it’ll be way hotter than I’m used to, longer, and hillier than anything I’ve run before as well.
This scares me, but I know we’re amazing creatures. Our ability to adjust to the unknown is what makes us unique. The conditions are extreme but so what?
There’s no pity party for our obstacles, so let’s have some fun and enjoy new experiences.
Part of the reason for partaking in this ultramarathon is because I know many are not crazy enough to do it.
When you take risks you are sometimes rewarded in different ways. What I’m doing gives me no tangible reward which is fine. I’ll gladly forego anything tangible for personal growth.
We’re constantly evolving and searching for new qualities to define us.
Our society shoehorns us to take comfort in certainty. We feel good when things move smoothly and we’ve traditionally avoided risk because we’re conditioned as such.
The funny thing is that all major breakthroughs in your life and mine come from taking risks… however hard it may be.
I routinely get caught up in the comfort of just ‘being.’ Then I remind myself that everything good in my life has come from doing things that scare the shit out of me.
If you take a sec and think back, I think you’ll agree. Now I try to embrace fear and uncertainty. It’s a risk for us, but one worth taking.
When we push our boundaries and risk failure, amazing things happen.
I get goosebumps thinking about my first ultramarathon on Saturday. I’m fuelled by passion. Passion to complete something meaningful.
Whether it’s physical or in everyday life, playing it safe isn’t worth it, so get out and push yourself.
Push past that mental block, curb your excuses and you’ll be glad you did.
Photo by Bohari Adventures
Theres a flood of emotions and questions through the last couple of strenuous weeks of prep for my first ultramarathon.
I liken the training to stoking a fire as I’m pushing myself pretty hard before starting the taper. With the taper ahead, lets look at some of the fun stuff.
I hadn’t covered anything close to marathon distance since early May, so My first longish run actually went better than expected. 38 km with about 4000 ft of elevation change in around 4 hours. The body was definitely tired and a bit sore after this one.
To make things worse, I literally rushed back to my apartment after the run, showered, stuffed some food down before getting picked up to go to a wedding and overnight adventure.
I ended up on my feet for the majority of the rest of the day — but felt surprisingly… decent.
My training week has two weight sessions and four running days. The running days vary in length and intensity — some days are hill repeats at a local park, others are tempo runs, others are long steady state runs.
The ultramarathon I’m running (Grey Rock) is basically three long climbs and descents over 50 km — this is causing me to really hone in both uphill and downhill running.
After the marathon – it’s glaringly apparent that downhill running hurts. After the long downhill, my quads were shredded and I could barely walk down stairs for two days after.
I don’t think this will be the case in July.
Forward momentum is something I spend a lot of time thinking about. For whatever reason, I need that constant feeling of progress – the reassurance that I’m not wasting time, not moving backwards.
Moving forward is about never settling with where you’re currently at. Why should I settle when there is so much more out there? Bucket lists, careers, and living a life worth living.
I’m starting to contemplate how you only get one go at this thing. Why waste time on anything? Those 2 hours wasted online, that hungover day laying in your room with fans blowing in your face – whatever it is, you’ll never get it back once it passes.
Time is without a doubt your most valuable commodity.
For me, I relish the present moment. I find myself more content with just being – not worried about the past, and not looking forward to the future.
The tricky part is that there is a fine line with this thinking. If you’re satisfied with being present, then how does ambition fit into the equation?
Ambition means planning and thinking big, and part of thinking big is positioning yourself for the future.
Running my first marathon was the single most rewarding thing I’ve done in the last year. I look back on that morning and I’m pierced with this urge to get that feeling again.
Leading into it, I planned on taking it fairly easy for the rest of the summer because the time commitment is such a sacrifice.
Choosing to stay in on a Saturday night because of the impending 35km Sunday morning stroll is fine… but enjoying the fruitful Vancouver summer is a top priority as well.
The timing was perfect: I could bang out the marathon in early May without destroying my summer activities. But something happened.
After a month or so ‘off’ and taking care of a nagging knee issue from the marathon, I’m getting another itch. Life without challenges is boring.
I want to compete… to keep pushing my body and mind.
To satisfy said itch, I’ve decided to run an ultramarathon (ultra) this summer. Ultras are anything over the standard marathon (42km or 26 miles).
Setting goals is important. You know that so I won’t get into the kumbaya swan song because you’ve heard it before. What I will say is that I put a lot of thought into my personal and professional goals.
I regularly write them out and share them with those who’ll keep me accountable.
With that, I’m setting the goal to complete two ultras by the end of October. The reason I share this with you to keep me accountable (please do).
It’s easy to think big to yourself – much harder to let others in on your dreams and the accompanying uncertainty.
So over the next few months, in addition to my other musings, I’ll share everything associated with my lead up to run an ultra.
I’ll give you a snapshot of the training which you’ll be interested in because it is a bit different from the traditional schools of thought.
The training plan is still being put together, but I’ve consulted a couple of ‘experts’ and literature. We’re going fine tune this machine.
I have some unique challenges in preparing given that I work a lot (who doesn’t?), am currently without car (makes it difficult to access local trails), and also love going to the gym. All of these potentially make things counterproductive.
The gym one is interesting because I’m stubborn and refuse to give it up. The feeling of lifting weights in therapeutic and stress relieving for me.
I also don’t want to shrivel up and turn into some malnourished looking marathon dude.
Another challenge is social activities through the summer. Thus far, I’ve been out of town on weekends for music festivals, stags, and weddings.
After I stopped playing field hockey competitively, I told myself I would never sacrifice experiences for sport. Life is too short and I already sacrificed too much.
These make training pretty difficult given that weekends are the logical time to get in the long, hilly runs that I’ll need to prepare my body for a long slogs through the mountains.
We’ll see how things play out, but I’m confident I can find a balance between getting my body ready without ruining summer festivities.
You’ll find out over the next month if I can indeed have my cake and eat it.
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Since I started experimenting with a mindfulness meditation practice six months ago, my perspective changed. So today I’ll share how you can reap the benefits of meditation by being more mindful.
I’ll preface this by saying if you haven’t read my thoughts on meditation, here are the cliffs: I started with sitting in a dark room – observing my breath, clearing my thoughts, and noticing any sensations in my body.
Now six months in, the differences in my personal well being are a plenty.
Your perspective shifts after you teach yourself to become more attuned to your thoughts and sensations.
Basically, you take your learnings from meditating and extend it to all aspects of your life. Some people call this informal meditation.
Dedicating yourself to being in the present moment takes a ton of practice.
A certain diligence with catching yourself thinking is pretty tricky to get the hang of, but if you make the conscious effort, you’ll notice the benefits – it is an empowering feeling.
But, like everything else, it takes practice… no shortcuts here, friend.
I’m now realizing how absurd it is to dwell on the past. Something you have no control over is not worth your thoughts.
That mistake you made at work, or botched encounter with some girl or guy is history: move on.
Thinking about the future is a bit different, but the same premise applies. The future is exciting for some but anxiety provoking for others. My advice is to come to terms with what it is.
Instead of looking forward to things, focus your energy on what you can directly control, the present.
I started by learning to notice the present throughout every part of my day. Previously meaningless sensations I now notice and embrace.
Despite my inability to walk afterward, the feeling of crossing that line and finishing my first marathon is difficult to put into words.
It’s an adrenaline rush like no other. Everything slowed after crossing the line. Although I was a bit lightheaded and could barely walk, to finally enjoy that moment with the roaring crowd is thrilling.
After a day or so to reflect, I’m still blasted by a ton of emotions. Mainly I’m appreciative for having the ability to train and last through an entire 42 km’s.
My body held up and for that I am fortunate because I know there are a ton of people out there who would kill for the ability to run without discomfort.
There’s another rarely talked about feeling: gratitude.
I’m grateful for the amazing community of friends and family who supported me through the journey.
Whether a message, text, or tweet, these words of encouragement make a huge difference. I appreciate every single one of you.
Beating a bongo drum and toting an ipod stereo, these two yelled and encouraged us the whole way, making jokes and entertaining other runners.
People ask if this is a one-off accomplishment. My answer is probably not. While I realize this is quite a feat in and of itself, I want more.
I’m wired in such a way that I always crave the next thing. Call it ambition or stupidity, but the point is, I’ll never settle for where I’m at now.
The saying that ‘the journey is the reward’ doesn’t hold for marathon training. But, that is not to say that the journey is not a fulfilling process. Let me explain as I’m two weeks to marathon completion.
Marathon training over the past month certainly is a journey. Reward? Not sure about that one yet.
The fulfilling part is pushing my personal limits, both physically and mentally. You’d be surprised what thoughts creep into your mind three hours into a run.
Things from questioning my sanity for subjecting myself to this, to how fortunate I am in having the ability to run outside with such beautiful surroundings enter my thoughts.
The ultimate reward is accomplishment. Finishing my first marathon on a 42 day condensed training plan certainly is a nice feather in my cap.
Anticipating the finish continually cross my mind. As I’ve come to understand, your first marathon is about completing the 42 km slog.
It may sound a tad arrogant, but I already know I’ll finish – I have no choice in the matter. My mind won’t let me not finish.
If it were up to me, race day would be tomorrow. I’d finish the run, and plan out the next physical adventure.
Do you have any suggestions? I have a few in mind, but please leave a comment with yours.
My legs go through weird cycles of fatigue and soreness. Through training for this thing, I’ve changed my running style a bit to accommodate the monotonous grind of 3+ hours on pavement. Don’t you worry, I won’t run barefoot or in Vibrams anytime soon.
The other interesting thing happened after the last long run. We set out on a brisk Sunday morning. Things went swimmingly aside from one hiccup at the end. We miscalculated the route, and ‘finished’ 6km short of the target (damn you google maps).
You can imagine the feeling: basking in the glow of accomplishment, only to find you are not done yet.
Cue the kick to the midsection.
Nonetheless, we tacked on the 6km to meet our milage… much to the chagrin of the wobbly legs and meandering minds telling us the contrary.
Walking home post-run felt like a dream. My mind wandered in this semi-conscious daze – my head was literally in the clouds.
Before you play doctor and chime in, I do realize this was a combo of fatigue, glycogen depletion, and low blood sugar. Nonetheless, I embraced the state.
The biggest takeaway from my meditation is how mindful you become throughout the rest of your endeavours.
Everything was so vivid, things literally slowed to a crawl.
Now with under two weeks to race day, most of the hard work is over. I guess it’s time to enjoy the rest of the short journey.
Image cred: Wallpapers
Cooking a fluffy stack of pancakes after my Saturday morning run, I got to thinking about all of the ill-informed eaters out there. This is something I normally stay away from – what you eat is your choice. I couldn’t care less what you throw down your hatch.
What I do care about is when people push their dogma on others as gospel.
Now some of these folks base their eating choices around new diets. I’m all for trying new things and experimenting, especially with anything pertaining to your personal body.
What better way to figure out what works for you than self-experiments?
Between meditating and reading, I spend a lot of time thinking about peoples perceptions and points of view. What do I stand for? How does this differ from what you or someone may believe?
Personal diet philosophy is the perfect way to compare individual perception, beliefs, personality, and temperament. You’re passionate about what you eat whether it’s Big Macs or Kale.
Worldview’s are stable beliefs you and I maintain and our wiring is such that we hold strong worldviews on certain things.
For people interested in diet and exercise, these two things are at the heart of their strongest worldviews.
The fun thing about worldviews is that when yours are challenged, you batten down the hatches and they get strengthened. You tend to shut out alternatives more than usual.
Let’s call it stubbornness.This is a shame, but reality.
I want you to approach the things you eat with a more open mind… Let me explain with an example – let’s pick on gluten.
The current gluten free fiasco is causing a mass exodus from products containing wheat, and a host of other tasty grains.
Gluten free eating is great! It serves a noble purpose for those who have legitimate gluten allergies or medical conditions like Celiac Disease.
If you fall into this category, please avoid gluten at all costs!
The crowd I’m talking to are the ‘thinkers.’ You know, the ones who either think they have a gluten intolerance, or think gluten free diets are healthier than the alternative.
This crowd swaps their rice for quinoa and counts the days to waste shrinkage… Still waiting?
Two and a half weeks into full on marathon training, one question keeps popping up: am I doing it right? Honestly, I have no idea. I knew nothing about marathon running or training until about three weeks ago.
Luckily, the age of the internets makes things easy and cheap to learn about. A few articles read, the marathon plan is in place.
While my knowledge is still limited, one thing’s for sure – I’m inspired to give it my best shot.
You’ve probably gone through something similar, where, although you may second guess yourself at times, something just feels right. This is sort of what is going on with operation marathon.
What follows is essentially a brain dump of self-reflection regarding my marathon training.
Since starting to meditate, my mindset is shifting quite a bit. I’m starting to enjoy things for what they are.
Let me explain. Previously I would dread running – I saw it as monotonous and boring. Meditating allowed me to shift perspective and truly enjoy and savour the moments I get to run.
The ability to run outside is a privilege; being healthy enough to pound the pavement regularly is something which I am fortunate for, and now now I enjoy every moment of it.
Speaking of enjoying things, talking about this far-fetched endeavour is a good conversation starter. To say I’ve received some interesting reactions from people would be an understatement.
From armchair commentary, repetitive advice, to forewarnings and wisdom, I welcome all the advice with open arms.
The supporters remind me how lucky I am to be in a position to try this, and the naysayers inspire me shatter their perceptions.
One trend which keeps coming up concerns how much ‘harder’ a marathon is than a half marathon: “just worry about finishing,” they say. People keep telling me that I’ll hit a wall at some point on race day. This seems arbitrary to me.
Personally, when I have my mind set on something, I won’t stop until it’s done. This is one case where having an addictive personality is a gift and a curse.
The thought of committing to completing something, whatever it is, and not following through is ludicrous to me.
In the case of this marathon, not finishing simply won’t happen. My ‘will’ (not sure what else to call it) is too strong.
If you’re not moving forward, then what are you doing?
This is something I continually ask myself. Whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually, I like to think that I’m continually moving forward – working towards something and creating progress. This is part of the reason I decided to run a marathon.
I’m confident you might get similar feelings – you know, that awkward itch where you know you’re ‘spinning your wheels’ on something, but you’re not sure how to change it.
You may not even know what that ‘thing’ is (I sure as hell don’t). It’s fine if you can’t pinpoint the specifics, try changing small things one at a time and see if the feeling goes away. Focus on things you can control.
I like to feel as though my days aren’t wasted. This may sound a tad corny, but at the end of each day I love the feeling of accomplishment and continuous improvement, no matter what I’m doing.
Part of continuous improvement for me is finding new challenges. These things keep me guessing.
Maybe you decide to seek out a creative solution to a problem at work, or commit to that new fad diet to shed a few lbs before beach season. The specifics don’t matter. What does matter is your decision to commit to the challenge.
The constant here is that you’re pushing yourself. Don’t ever settle for mediocrity because you deserve much more.
The day I’m not challenged at work is the day I quit. The day I’m not challenged physically is when I know I need to switch things up.
Upon returning, we mapped out a training plan, and did a test run (about 25 km or 15.5miles). Both feeling like greek gods, we immediately registered for the BMO Vancouver Marathon.
I’m not sure if we were both hyped up on some post run endorphin-fuelled runners high, but we’re now committed. The one catch – race day is May 5, giving us 42ish days to train.
I plan on sharing more about the training game plan, updates on our progress, and random thoughts through the next 40 days leading into the marathon, so definitely check back for that.