Monday, January 1, 2018

2017: Lessons in Perseverance

It's January 1, and 2017 is in the books. For me, it ended up drastically different than it began. A year ago today I was having an incredible extended weekend in Grand Cayman with my wife. Now I sit alone, in my apartment trying to figure out how I got here.

I run almost all of my miles alone and without music, as it's my time to meditate, be present, and clear my head. 2017 was my biggest mileage year ever. Over the course of the last 365 days I logged 2,500 miles (that's a lot of head clearing).

One of the frequent questions that get asked of ultrarunners is, "why?" 'Why would you ever think of running 100 miles?' 'Did you lose a bet?' 'Did you actually enjoy freezing your ass off?'

During my frigid run this morning in sub zero temps, one of the reasons or benefits that became so obvious was the lesson of perseverance. In April of this year, I ran the Canyons 100k and suffered through more than 8 hours of walking (my quads were shot half way through the race) and vomiting (my stomach was unable to process calories due to heat and exhaustion). In September, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease the day before the North Face 50 Wisconsin race and despite feeling a lack of energy and vomiting the last 20 miles of the run, I dug deep to levels I didn't realize existed and gutted out a respectable 23rd place finish. The day after Thanksgiving, I joined a group of runners and traveled 86 miles by foot as part of an ALS charity event. The 14 of us ran through the night and raised over $5,000! On December 30 at 4:30am, I ran 26 miles (the first 13 were solo) in -25° windchill along the snowy Military Ridge Trail. And these are just the highlights and don't take into account the hundreds of hours of training (372, actually) and soreness that came with conditioning the body and mind to undertake these feats of crazy.

Most miles are not fun. The legs never feel more fresh after a run than they did prior. Making time to fit the workouts in around family, work, and adult responsibilities is always a challenge. However, every time I get back from a tough run or work through adverse conditions my mind is stronger than before I started. These efforts are always as much or more mental than they are physical. In both of my races (The Canyons and North Face), I found a way to persevere and learned things about myself that only ultrarunning has been able to teach me. The mind, body, and spirit are all capable of persevering though adverse conditions more dire than we think possible.

A friend just recently reminded me that I'm of Norwegian decent and that Norwegians are tough people. My ancestors endured brutally hard winters and sailed the seas through storms with minimal hope of survival. Not only am I Norwegian, but I'm a badass ultrarunner. 2018 is going to be great, in part because of hardships endured in 2017. As the saying goes, what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger.