The Ultra 3/5 (Challenging Pride)

Running has been extra challenging these last few weeks. It has not just been ridiculously warm here, there is also humidity and the smoke coming in from the forest fires. After my experience with my eye, I am not particularly inclined to feel that pressure from running in heat. I still manage between 10-15 km a day (combinations of walking and running) but I am apprehensive about pushing it beyond that.

That being said, I’m less than a month away from The Ultra. I am nowhere near where I want to be in training and although I do see people running outside, I have no idea how they do it or what they are doing to their lungs. The smoke itself makes me lightheaded when I’m walking, I can’t imagine pushing myself at this point to run. I could fall, I could injure myself (externally or internally) and that is absolutely not what I want to have happen.

In the meantime, I have been reading some absolutely amazing books about runners and athletes who came back from injuries or fought through discrimination or tried new sports. It’s inspiring to read their stories. Some of them are Olympians and some of them are athletes because they love moving. Some of them do it casually and for some it is a career. Those things don’t matter though when you have a heart attack while running, or fall of the ridge of a mountain, or are physically tried to be pulled out of a race. Reading the stories shows the depth of the human spirit and the dedication not necessarily to extreme excellence but to personal achievement.

This has brought me to a personal decision about the upcoming event: I would rather start The Ultra and need to stop because I am not ready than injure myself in a way that prevents me from running for a longer period of time. I can swallow my pride. If I start The Ultra and have to stop, that is not a failure. That is an acknowledgement of what I can or cannot endure at that moment. That is knowing that I didn’t risk my safety or health by running now just for the sake of going. Not being extra-trained may mean it takes me longer to do The Ultra, but I’m not putting my well-being in jeopardy for it.

Speaking of well-being. Not being able to run doesn’t mean that I don’t have a ridiculous amount of energy welling up inside me. Watching television doesn’t cut it. I don’t like being still. I love reading and I love getting coffee and I love writing and painting and all the things, but regardless, stillness is not for me. So I’ve started yoga again.

I used to volunteer at a yoga studio. I did that for a couple of years and I was attending practice 3-5 times a week. I would go before work or after work or weekends. It was interspersed with running and I loved both. Since I moved (and obviously the pandemic) I had to stop. Now that studios are finally opening up again with smaller classes, I’ve been looking into it. I’ve found a few studios near me and I am trying the first one out currently. Most places have unlimited 2-week or 30-day passes for a cost but it’s a chance to experience their practice and even just to see if the scheduling is fine. The one I am currently trying is lovely.

I am also terrible now at yoga. I used to be really good. I could balance, I could twist, I could relax my muscles or engage them as required. Since starting up again, I realize how much of that I lost. I don’t have the range of flexibility that I used to. My balance is terrible. Engaging my muscles (depending on which ones) is possible but relaxing them is nearly impossible. I was shocked after the first practice. I thought I would go in and pick up where I left off. Even just focusing on the moment was hard, because all I could think about was how bad I was doing. I was judging myself on something that I was trying when I always tell people it’s important to try things!

While I had to realize my newness to yoga and that I wasn’t at the level I had been previously, I also learned a huge thing for myself: It’s okay to be bad at something. Everything about my Triangle Pose was terrible. That doesn’t mean I won’t go back. Regardless of not looking like what I visualize a perfect pose would be, the stretch felt amazing. Being active was amazing. Being terrible was amazing because it reminded me that it’s not about being great that is important: It is about ensuring you are enjoying it. It brings you peace. It helps you reach your goals. It is motivating and inspiring and challenging.

Already, The Ultra has taught me one thing. My pride is swallowed. My next yoga class is tomorrow and when the winds blow the smoke away, I will get back to running but I know I will keep practicing yoga. One day, when I am comfortable with it again, I will add something else that challenges me. My struggle now is to not start imaging the options that are out there.

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