Have you ever experienced the feeling of accomplishing something that you thought was out of reach? The story that you are about to read helped me to make my decision to become a health coach and personal trainer. After achieving what I never believed was possible, it became my goal to help others reach their highest potential.
It was almost exactly four years ago that I ran my first half marathon. I remember my sister telling me that she wanted to run the Denver Rock and Roll half marathon for her birthday that year. I had only recently started running and had never run more than five miles at a time. That race was a turning point in my life.
I learned a couple things from training for that race. The first was that I actually kind of like running. It was a great way to relieve stress and spend more time outdoors. The second thing I learned was that running made my lungs feel better. This one surprised me because my entire life I had been told that I could not run because I had lung disease. My only goal for that first race was to run the whole thing and not have to walk.
Two weeks before the race I was diagnosed with pneumonia, but by race day I was feeling better. I had to run the race with my mediport (a port placed in my chest for IV medications) accessed. Although I finished slowly, I finished. I didn’t walk…I had accomplished my goal.
It was this feeling of accomplishment that made me register for my next races. Over the three years following the race, I completed three more half marathons, a 10k, a 5k, and four full marathons. I was totally addicted! It was after the completion of a couple marathons that my sister and I decided we would train for our first ultramarathon. It was a 55-mile race that started in Fairplay, Colorado. The average elevation for the race was 11,000 feet, and it had almost 11,000 feet of total elevation gain. The training for this race was a lot more fun than I expected. I spent a lot of time with my sister doing long hikes and even longer trail runs. One of our training runs that stands out most was a 37-mile loop through the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. We ran up a 13,000-foot mountain, followed by 2-12,000 foot passes. This run was the hardest thing either of us had done in our lives. It was an incredible experience.
Ultramarathon: Attempt Number One
When it came close to race day, we knew we should have done some things differently. We started training only six weeks before the race. We had done so many rocky trails that we both had injured feet. I also had been on IV medications for the four weeks leading up to the race for my lung disease. But we decided to give it a shot. We woke up that morning and gave it all we had. Ultramarathons are like a roller coaster of emotions. Both of us experienced ups and downs throughout the race. Having my sister to help me during my lows and being there to help her for hers was essential to the race. After one bad fall, barely making multiple time cut-offs, freezing cold temperatures, and wind and rain, we went out at mile 47. I was incredibly proud of both of us for making it that far, but I knew that I had to learn from our mistakes and try again.
Ultramarathon: Attempt Number Two
We decided to sign up for our next ultramarathon only three months later. We had talked through all the things that we could have done differently or better. This time we were going to run a 53-mile race in Cuba, New Mexico. This race had even shorter cut-off times, so we definitely had our doubts. We both did a couple of other races during those three months to help with our training. The day before the race we drove down to New Mexico, it was hard not to have feelings of doubt after being unsuccessful only three months earlier. I tried to remember all of the things that we talked about, our strategies for completing this race.
The morning of race day was cold and dark, we knew it would be a long day. We ran for the first hour and a half in the dark and then watched an amazing sunrise over the canyons we were running through. It seemed surreal. The running felt easy at that point. And, the sunrise was incredibly beautiful. It seemed like no time had gone by as we approached the aid station at mile nine. We were much faster than we had planned and my worries about finishing were beginning to fade. From mile nine to mile 27 things were much harder, somehow it seemed like everything was uphill, of course, it seemed like it was uphill on the way back also. When we hit our half-way mark, I was feeling pretty tired, but it felt great to be at the turnaround. From the turnaround to mile 45, running was becoming harder and harder. I knew that if I didn’t push myself as hard as I could, I would regret it. Mile 45 was our final time cut-off before the end of the race. As we ran to the 45-mile aid station the sun was about to set, we made it! I knew from that point, we would finish. The last eight miles of the race were cold, dark, and quiet. As we were nearing the finish line, we could hear people cheering. It was one of the best feelings I have ever felt. As we crossed the finish line, we were greeted with hot apple cider, a campfire, and of course, our finisher’s medals.
I guess the moral of my story is that just because you fail, doesn’t mean you should give up. Learn from your mistakes and try again…and again.
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