why an ultra?

12 Nov

For the past year or so, I’ve been thinking about running an ultra marathon.  Really ever since we went to see Krissy Moehl speak at Medved, it’s always been in the back of my mind–what if I tried that?  Any time I’ve mentioned this to non-runners, I am usually met with questions or blank stares.  You want to do what?  Why?  In particular, now that I’ve been so vocal about our mutual desire to have a baby, people seem to think that running should be shut down, that my identity as a runner (which I’ve finally just started to really embrace) should have to take a back seat.

I don’t believe that.  I think running and pre-parenting and parenting can all co-exist together.  I guess my latest obsession of an ultra (I have done quite a bit of research now and am comfortable calling it an obsession) has a few different reasons.

1.  OK first and foremost, you get to eat some pretty kick ass food at ultra aid stations.  M and Ms?  Check!  Coke?  Check!  Peanut butter sandwiches?  Check!  Cookies? Check!  Salt potatoes?  Check!  I started running because of the Breuggers Bagels 5k–run 3.1 miles for free bagels?  Sure why not.  It seems fitting to move on to testing my limits by picking something that also involves food as a reward.  I see this meme online all the time about how “you’re not a dog, don’t reward yourself with food.”  I say if it gets you through a 30+ mile race, reward yourself with whatever you want.  In my case M and Ms.  And maybe some wine…

2.  When people tell me I can’t do something, I get very frustrated.  My whole life, I was told I can do whatever I want if I work hard enough.  I think that’s probably pretty standard in a white, middle class family (at least it was in my family).  So why does that message change as you become an adult?  This idea that you can’t simultaneously parent and maintain your own identity, or parent and be fit, is obviously not true–there are so many parents out there proving that.  And yet this myth continues, and I don’t get it.  I have every intention of running/exercising throughout my pregnancy and again as soon as I am medically cleared to do so.  It is amazing to me how many people think that exercise during pregnancy harms a baby and/or mother–we have forgotten how many women in the world still work all the way til labor and delivery and go back to work right after because there is no other choice–their family’s livelihood depends on their working.  I don’t delude myself into thinking that my running will be the same as it is now–it will be slower, it will be easier, there will probably be more walking mixed in.  But nothing about sitting on the couch for 9+  months is appealing to me.

3.  I have spent a lot of time over the past 3 years thinking about what my body can’t do.  Motherhood is very defining in our culture–as a woman, it’s an expectation placed on us by society.  Throughout this journey, I have repeatedly asked myself if my desire to have children and the devastation that comes each time I realize it’s not going to happen (yet) is just a manifestation of that cultural expectation.  I am positive that being a mom is something I want for me.  But it still doesn’t eliminate the cultural expectation, and so the negative, deficit thinking goes on (even though I am working hard to curb it at every chance I get).  Those thoughts still creep into your head.  Running an ultra would be another way to test what my body CAN do.  And I am positive that my body can do it–it’s just a matter of proper training and toeing the start line.  Even if I get pregnant before I complete my first ultra, I will complete my first ultra to prove to myself that my body is capable of so much more than I ever would have dreamed.

4.  For a long time at the beginning of our journey to have a baby, I found myself planning future life events based on potential pregnancies.  I would look at races and say no because “I have to be pregnant by then, right?”  Marathon #2 was actually put on hold based on this type of thinking, and only happened when we decided to take a much-needed break from trying.  In the months after the marathon, I have found myself again thinking in terms of “what-if” and scaling back miles and eliminating races from my calendar based on the possibility that I might be pregnant or even that I should be pregnant.  If you’d have asked me back in May (when we decided to seek more intense/invasive/medical treatments) if I thought I’d be sitting here still unpregnant, I’d have said no chance.  I purposely didn’t pick a fall 5k until the last minute, convinced that I would be pregnant this fall.  I didn’t train hard in large part because I thought for sure that I would be, so there was no point.  A few weeks ago, I realized that my mileage had dipped to 15ish miles a week with virtually no cross training.  And no baby.  What was I waiting for?

It’s not healthy to live life in a what-if mentality, thinking about the possibilities of the future and letting them dictate your now.  I have to live in the present, and I have to make decisions  based on what I want now.  Those decisions may, of course, have to change if I should (miracle-of-miracles) end up pregnant.  But if I do not, then I can say that I lived my life and have no regrets.

So I have done some research and have a new training plan made.  I am building up miles again, slowly so I don’t get hurt.  I am training for an ultra–at this point, I think I am looking at Highland 1,2,3.  A 30 miler, 3 laps of 10 miles each, close to Rochester, low key race, and I can register later in the year (closer to race day, just in case).  I will be training for this race either until I toe the start line or I find out I am pregnant.  It seems like a reasonable compromise to me between hoping for the best but being realistic about the possibility of failure.  I am excited to start training and see what happens.  And I am excited to someday run my first ultra–either pre-baby or post….



3 Responses to “why an ultra?”

  1. nomeatbarefeet November 12, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Damn straight, Sheila. Parenthood, pregnant, and ultra marathon should not be mutually exclusive terms. Find what is best for you and do it. Live life, not in a what-if mindset—though it can be tough to rid yourself of those nagging what-if thoughts. I am trying to live that way despite the fear of uncertainty. One step in front of the other.

    • shmeruns November 13, 2013 at 2:25 am #

      word. thanks for the comment, and keep up YOUR good work! show those what-ifs who’s boss! 🙂

  2. Julie November 13, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    It’s not so much that you can’t do those things once you’re a parent. For me, at least, it’s that your priorities change. I only have between 2 and 3 hours on average with the Munchkin after I get home from work and before her bedtime. We need to fit dinner, occasional errands, play time, baths when needed, and other random stuff into that period. I want to maximize the time I have with her, so I choose to be with her for nearly that whole period. After she goes down, it’s time for maintenance housework, and that leaves about an hour leftover that I’d prefer to spend with Eric to wind down our night. Sure, someone else may choose to run or do another hobby then, but I’d rather spend time with him most nights. It doesn’t mean my way’s any better than someone else’s, they’re just my priorities. I think those who are telling you “you can’t” are oversimplifying the issue or not actually saying what they mean. You’ll set your own priorities and make your own choices on how to spend your free time. A benefit is that you both get out of work earlier which may allow you more flexibility as a family and as individuals.

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