Going into long races, I’m understandably bombarded with questions about how ready I feel and if I’m excited. But as anyone who routinely runs races that are more than 20 miles can tell you, there is 1 universal truth…ANYTHING can happen out there.
I never start a race – least of all an ultra marathon – thinking that it’ll go according to plan. Call me a pessimist if you want but it’s reality – when you toe that line, expect 30+ miles of every possibility. To this day, it still surprises me just how many random things can occur out there.
Yesterday, I was ready to rock, the weather was awesome and everything was going perfectly … until it wasn’t. Yesterday, it was a nosebleed.
Now, if one of the athletes I coach would’ve said to me – prior to yesterday – that a nosebleed made their run miserable, I would’ve raised an eyebrow and wondered what REALLY went on in their head to make them struggle. But, it turns out, that spending 7 miles trying not to choke on your own blood as it drips down the back of your throat is no joke.
So there I was cruising along, feeling strong, and moving well when, just after passing the 26 mile marker, my left nostril spontaneous began to gush blood. I’m guessing it had something to do with how unusually dry the air was out there.
Anyway, I stopped running to try to get the bleeding under control. Once it slowed, I continued on … only to find that if I ran for more than 1/2 mile at a time the bleeding got bad.
But the nosebleed itself – while annoying – wasn’t the real problem. As blood began to find it’s way into into my windpipe, I began to choke. Then, as the blood made it’s way into my stomach, I began to get really queasy. Around mile 31, my poor, sensitive, Gu-filled tummy could no longer take the metallic taste and well … forced me to pull over to deal with the problem – if you catch my drift.
Not a pleasant experience at all. Needless to say, this silly little nosebleed slowed me down quite a bit from miles 26 to 33 which was super frustrating since my body felt strong enough to keep on trucking.
Still, despite the struggle, I finished strong and the nosebleed stopped shortly after I crossed the finish line. I was greeted by my wonderful husband Chris and great friend Lauren (who is only 3 weeks away from having a baby). I cannot tell you how happy I was to see their faces! It was a struggle but I made it through and I’m insanely proud of what I accomplished yesterday.
I’m asked all the time why I do these distances. The truth is that I continue to run these long distances because I truly love them – probably because of how much they teach me about myself. So far, I’ve never had a race of marathon distance or longer that has gone completely to plan but that’s what makes me so resilient. I no longer get anxious or fear starting lines because I have full faith and confidence that I’m able to tackle anything that could be thrown at me.
But these races also make me a better coach – every experience, good or bad, that I have on a course grows me and develops my knowledge. Most importantly, I’ve learned that training my athletes’ brains is the most important thing I can do – the rest of training is the easy part.
Bottom line: there’s no way to predict what each journey will hold – whether we’re talking about the next 33 miles or the next 33 days – it’s not up to us how it all goes, but we do get to choose how we handle it.
I’m getting better at going with the flow – in running and life. And I’ve found that it begins with confidence. Once I began to truly believe in my own strength, I was much more willing to let things unfold the way they were meant to – knowing that I can endure whatever awaits me out there on the course.
So that’s another successful ultra marathon in the books! Next ultra is already scheduled for April 24, 2016 an I’m looking forward to what lessons are in store for me there.