By Brie Staker
As I write this, my 40th birthday is in a little over a week. I am excited for 40, I’ve been looking forward to it for months. I really can’t put my finger on why but I just have this feeling that my 40s are going to be something very special and I will be issuing them in with something very special—my first 50-mile race. On Saturday January 18th, I will attempt my first ever 50-mile race. Several years ago, I set a goal for myself to run a 50 mile ultra before I turned 40, and I will be just barely getting it in with less than week to spare before I embark on my next decade in life. When I signed up for this race it was all about just completing that goal- the race. The idea of the 50-mile race was born out of a desire to start off 40 being my best-self, in the best shape of my life and to kick 30-year-old me’s butt. I can certainly say I’ve achieved that and I do think I am better now than I was at 30. However, as I’ve spent months training for this it has evolved into so much more than just the day of the race and so much more than just physical fitness. The journey of the past few months in training for this race has been so special, so hard, so gratifying, and truly transformative inside and out. It has challenged me, surprised me, and shaped me in ways I could not have imagined when this all began months ago.
If you’ve followed this newsletter then you know I’m no stranger to ultras or trail running, and this past year I even completed the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, a 42-mile adventure. I’ve been working with Coach Michele for a few years now as well, so training for an ultra and training with her is not a new thing for me. The training for this 50 was new to me though. It was a harder schedule with more weekly hours than what I’d done in the past and much longer long runs. I work full-time plus have my husband, home, and dogs as well so getting it all done was more of a challenge than what I had faced in previous trainings. Given this, sometimes things had to slip. My home was not always clean, meals were sometimes thrown together at the last minute, sleep was often cut short, and forget anything getting done on a Saturday (my long run day)—absolutely nothing other than running got done on a Saturday.
It was often stressful (all self-imposed stress by me) for my box checker mentality when I had to let things go and be firm in saying no to the beckoning of my overflowing-to-do-list. You see I set an intention with this training early on: No Excuses. I vowed that unless I physically could not or should not do the training, I would find a way to get it done. And I did, even if it meant a 5 hour long day on the treadmill (yeah that happened) or running through deep snow, or running aimlessly through town on pavement for six hours because the only other option was the treadmill, or getting a workout late in the day which is my not my best time, or letting other things fall apart—being ok with not always checking the box so I could get in the workout. I did it. I fully committed and those green dots piled up on Final Surge (the app Coach uses for us to log our workouts). I went through a period of feeling incredibly selfish and down on myself for the neglect that was inevitably happening in other areas of my life. My husband was the sweetest and most supportive husband throughout all of this training and I sensed that the commitment and dedication he saw me put in time and time again made him proud of me. My little guy, Cecil (my golden retriever) was up for whatever Coach threw at me in my training plan. He slugged along right beside me just as happy as could be.
Mentally, I started many training sessions not sure I could do it or sometimes just not wanting to do it but I always did. There were some runs that I was just miserable through all of it- not physically but mentally. Running through rain or hours on the treadmill, so many runs with cold wet feet. I took advantage of these runs, as best I could, to practice how to overcome the negative mindset and stay positive. I surprised myself time and time again by accomplishing runs that I just wasn’t sure I could do. This training journey has taught me to let go more, it’s taught me that I need to make the time to rest and relax because that’s just as important, it’s taught me to be ok with being behind and accepting that I’m just not always going to get everything done all of the time, and that’s ok, and it’s taught me to say no and disregard my people-pleasing-mindset that is clawing at me to say yes. I also think it’s brought my husband and I closer together- his supportiveness and cheer leading of my training has touched me deeply and has been an expression of great love to me. It’s bonded my dog Cecil and I closer together as it’s just the two of us side by side for hours on end. The results of this training journey have truly been so much more than physical, and that surprised me.
I am purposely writing this about the training and not the race because I think it’s time the journey to the starting line gets the glory and the victory. The months of effort, the sacrifices so humbly offered by others so that the training can take place deserve their due, honor, and respect. I’m honestly not sure that the race itself could come close to being as special as the training journey has been, time will tell. A very good friend of mine gave me a piece of advice that really hits home: consider the race to be the victory lap to cap off and celebrate the beautiful journey of the training. So, here’s to my victory lap and here’s to turning 40 and a whole new decade full of adventures!