If you have ever been exposed to an ultra race before, you have seen an event that stretches the participants physically as they attempt herculean distances. The Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic, a tradition in our area, involves runners attempting to complete either 50 miles or 50 kilometers (around 31 miles) before a time cut-off.
I’ve been to the TUDC many times. Usually, I was there to run one of the loops (around 6 miles), to get a run in for myself and also to encourage the “real” ultra runners. Sometimes I was volunteering (checking off runners as they completed their loops, for example).
Lo and behold, due to COVID, the event was virtual this year and participants had a MONTH to complete it (I think the regular cut-off was eight hours when the race was run in-person).
Participants this year could choose either a “200-mile journey virtually between Weeki Wachee Springs and Wakulla Springs during the month of December” or “100 miles virtually back to Wakulla Springs during the month of December.” (I chose the 100-mile option and I live about 15 miles from Wakulla Springs, so a little lenience needs to be given to the “100 miles back to Wakulla Springs” idea,” but it’s still nice to have a goal.)
I saw the notice about the opportunity to sign up on November 29, two days before the event was to start. I signed up for the bargain price of $10. In retrospect, I should have gotten the T-shirt.
How things changed
I had been walking a mile per day — virtually last thing at night — once everything else was done, with the exception of one or two times I walked a 5K for a favorite cause, since I moved to our new house in mid-February.
Prior to that, I couldn’t really tell you when the last time was that I made it a point to exercise.
I had gotten into a major fitness lull, and that is not at all like me.
I rallied briefly in the summer of 2018, when I wrote this blog post about exercising again after a health setback.
But I hadn’t quite made peace with the fact that running was off the table, as it has been since probably early 2016. I did run again briefly after being diagnosed with a tachycardia in 2015, but eventually, even being on a constant dose of a beta blocker didn’t keep me from having a dangerously high heart rate when running.
Fast forward to signing up for the 2020 version of the ultra race.
Spoiler alert: I did the 100 miles (yay!).
I hit the 100-mile mark on December 29. Apparently, your “place” in the results depends only on when you crossed the 100-mile mark, NOT on how long it took you to do it. I’ll take being 29th out of the 58 participants. (Also, ELEVEN people completed the 200-mile race. Big congrats to them!).
A few takeaways:
I still love the running community
I know this is an extremely naive thing to say, but for all the time that I was a runner, it felt like running transcended all of our other differences. A race Saturday was a race Saturday. A training run was a training run. We may have talked about politics, life or work challenges, but there was a sense of unison.
That died for me in November around the election. I know the divisions that bubbled to the public surface were there all along, but (in my view), they took over for a few weeks. I unfriended someone on social media who I had spent countless hours with, both running and socially. Obviously, the onus is on me because I did the unfriending, but it’s still something I grieve.
I’m really not sure how 29 days of walking 2 to 6 miles a day by myself healed something about that, but it did. People encouraged me (virtually). I somehow got back in touch with the concept that we do what we can — and that is an accomplishment in itself, whether it meets someone else’s standard or not. As long as I got to 100, I deserved to be there as much as anyone else. With my people (virtually).
Don’t get hung up on gear and appearances
Somewhere in the process of “Operation Downsize” (our move from a 2700-square-foot house to a 1600-square-foot house), I got rid of lots of my fitness gear, including the logical pants to wear for walking in the winter (sort of a nylon workout/elastic waist idea).
No lie, except for the days it was warm enough for shorts, I did this whole challenge in jeans. And in layers that didn’t match. As long as I was warm (because many of the days were cold for Florida), I didn’t care. Black jeans, navy turtleneck, green overshirt — who cared? Oh – and hot pink gloves. And on the days it was raining a bright orange poncho that I kept secured with a magnetic binder clip.
I never was a workout fashionista, but much of my workout life was at an organized gym, so I did put a little more effort into looking put together. As a runner, again I wouldn’t be on any magazine covers, but I had gear — Garmin with a chest strap and heartrate monitor, decent running bras, quality running shoes and an entire gear bag with all the stuff I needed — body glide, hydration belt, etc. etc. etc.
I don’t really recommend jeans for workout gear, but they probably kept me just as warm (or warmer) than the nylon. They worked. It’s a pandemic — even if I did run into someone on my walks, it’s not like they wanted to get within six feet of me to inspect my attire, right?
A jump start to what’s next
It would be unwise to announce, “I’M BACK!” Because I’ve committed to being back before and failed to live up to my promise.
I know it matters to have a habit again. I replaced the “last-thing-at-night” walks with “first-thing-in-the-morning” walks and was reminded that what we prioritize gets done. Yes, it was cold. Wet and rainy sometimes. Windy others. I was tired. But I always felt better afterwards.
I may be buying into an old wives’ tale, but I’ve been exercising on beta blockers long enough now to say that nothing quite feels like a “workout” anymore. But walking has to be good for me (even if it feels somewhat mediocre). I know the time out in nature, the time letting my brain unwind a bit, are both things I have needed.
For now, the plan is to keep walking two miles a day and to add some other activities to broaden my physical activity plan and exert myself more. (Hopefully, yoga is on deck as well.)
I’m already signed up for the 140 over 90 Year-Round Challenge. I’m still figuring out exactly what my goal will be, but I don’t need to figure out how much it helps to have an accountability goal/cause. In this case, the cause is supporting women with preeclampsia and raising awareness.
If you’d like to join me, visit this site. You can get $21 off the price of the year-round challenge by using the code NEWYEAR2021 between now and January 5 (while spaces last). If you’d like to support my goal of raising $250 for the Preeclampsia Foundation, visit this link.
What’s YOUR “December 100-miler”? Tell me what you need to do for yourself in the comments.
Note: I usually do my SmartBrief wrapup the first Sunday of every month. Tonight, I wanted to write about the 100-mile activity, so I’ll have my December wrapup next Sunday.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.