I am experiencing déjà vu.
I am standing at the crossroads to another epic challenge. Earlier this year, I just barely conquered The Apu Ausangate Trek of Peru, to be honest, I just squeeked by the most prestigious mountain trek in South America, and perched enlightened (that I made it in one piece!) atop Machu Picchu, one of the most famous man-made wonders of the world. I have powered through a year of progressively intensifying training milestones, earning PB’s (Personal Bests) along the way. Starting the season off with a solid 1:21 Burlington Chilly Half Marathon time, a proud 2:00 Hamilton Around the Bay 30km, a steady Goodlife Toronto Marathon as a first timer Pacer Bunny (3:15 pacer), and my first ever Ultra (any race longer than a 42.2.Km marathon) at the 56km Muskoka Limberlost Trail Ultra Marathon where I finished 3rd Overall. These race experiences accumulate as part of a long recipe necessary to complete such a daunting 100km distance. I have strategically signed up for them in that order to progressively build up my mileage (and my confidence!). I had set these milestone goal races early on to keep me honest and accountable. It worked. Goal setting was the first trick.
I knew early on that 100km would take my body to a place that I have yet to push, so I put together a training program that would provide the pillars of a generic running program, which includes hills, intervals, tempos, short and long runs, and pair them with my previous year’s duathlon training of brick workouts, which is a combination of cycling and running back to back in one training session. I brought everything together with my career as a personal trainer and fitness instructor in mind by forcing myself to be on my feet the whole day, practicing the principle of “time on your feet”. Finally, I knew that I could not build my mileage of my long runs up progressively from 42km to 100km week to week, so I decided to pack in the mileage I ran into a specific number of days. The ultimate goal is to run 100km over the course of 1 day. So I started with running 100km over 5 days. Then 100km over 4 days, then 3 days, then finally, two weeks ago, I ran 100km over 2 days. Strategizing was the second trick.
I have one more trick up my sleeve, a two part trick, dieting and mental training. Reading about the ultra world through the eyes of Scott Jurek, in his book Eat and Run, gave me specificity training. I had a good idea of what he had to do mentally and physically for the “run” part, but what helped me most was what he did for the “eat” part. For the majority of my life, I have been a certain weight, never fluctuating. After my Peru trek, I have found myself at body weight 10 lbs lighter than I have always known. I have maintained this lean and clean weight with what I am most proud of amongst all of my training developments; implementing vegan and vegetarian days. I am not an extremist, I have not fully converted, I may or may not ever fully convert, but going from eating meat with every one of my meals, to eating meat once a day, to once every other day, to once every week, was quite the habitual challenge. My leaner and cleaner diet decreased my recovery time, increased my energy, and boosted my immune and digestive system ten-fold.
Although Scott Jurek is a tall, lanky, and unassuming guy, he has proven to the world that he is tougher than the biggest, broadest, and most macho of them all. I tried my best to empathize and vividly imagine his pains and weaknesses, and how he shielded himself from them with his strengths and determination. The limits of our physical body are dictated by the limits of our mind. I knew that trekking the Ausangate was going to be hard, and it was, but didn’t know how beneficial it would be for my training. Two weeks after Peru, I competed in my first Ultra marathon. I astoundingly finished in 3rd place. I can say my mind was filled with ammo, tones of it from my trek, that the ultra was much easier than I thought; I shot through it with a smile. I am reading about the art of Zen and practicing Yoga every night before bed. It calms me down, forces me to breathe deeply, and slows my mind. I have learned about awareness, mindfulness, openness, oneness, and how boundless and limitless our minds can truly be. I feel like I have only touched upon a raindrop size amount of information as it pertains to the ocean size of Zen, Meditation, Buddhism, and Yoga. But I can honestly say that even a raindrop into this world of mental training and teachings is enough to help guide me through this life changing event as it has already changed my life.
The year of 2012 has been the most boundless and limitless year of my 25 years on earth.
It is not the dark that we fear, it is the light. It is not what I cannot do; it is what I can do. My potential, my capability, my boundless and limitless future is what I fear. I am afraid of how far I can run. I am afraid of how hard I can push my body. I am afraid of how deep I can push my mind. I am afraid of how high I can climb this ladder of success. But should I be afraid? Or should I simply be proud? … “I am proud of how far I can run. I am proud of how hard I can push my body….” Or should I just be grateful? … “I am grateful for how far I can run. I am grateful for how hard I can push my body… I fear because I don’t know where the end is. We fear the unknown. But we should not fear what we already know. We should be proud and grateful of what we know about ourselves. I am proud and grateful of my present day boundaries and limits. I am proud and grateful to have lived 25 years.