A friend and I aim to do an adventure each fall. For 2017, we decided to up the ante and find a destination trail race. I succumbed to finding one with a variety of distances: 100+ km for her (yes, such a badass); 25 km or less for me. I had finished a half marathon before, but anything above that was, I thought at the time, a road not worth exploring.
A few weeks later, she called for reasons completely unrelated to our autumn endeavor. By the time we hung up the phone, however, not only had we identified a race but had both signed up for one: her for the 100 km and somehow, myself for the 50.
Staring at my registration confirmation (after, admittedly, continuous yells of both denial and disbelief), I was completely unaware that I had just hopped aboard an emotional roller coaster. With just under four months to go and some extra kilometers under the belt, I’m no less optimistic but I am a lot less naive.
The ride has finally led me to a land of acceptance, but it definitely took a while (and, albeit with a few stops along the way).
Step 1: The Pre-Registration Intrigue
Also known as the “wouldn’t it be interesting?” phase. That period of time when you don’t precisely know what an ultra entails, but the seed has been planted and is beginning to take root. Both curiosity and enthusiasm are running high.
Timeframe: From concept to confirmation. One to two months leading up to registration.
- Spending work hours scrolling for races (‘those pictures are so beautiful!’);
- Daydreaming of being on trail for extended periods of time (there is such renewal in the outdoors);
- Noting that the itch hasn’t gone away regardless of how much it has been scratched (‘should I actually do this?’).
Prevalent Emotions: Anticipation; excitement; wonder.
Step 2: The Post-Registration Naivete
Also known as the ‘shiny black box’ phase. That period of time when, regardless of what warning labels have been placed on the day, the word ‘fun’ keeps coming to mind. The box looks inviting, yet you still aren’t quite ready to know what’s inside.
Timeframe: As long as the high lasts. Four to six weeks following registration.
- Nodding profusely to the select few who find out (‘You’re crazy.’ Nod in response. ‘Aren’t there risks involved?’ Nod in response. ‘How long is that going to take you?’ There is no good answer. Just nod);
- Avoiding anything that contains the words ‘running,’ ‘ultramarathon’ and ‘trail’ (this means frequently changing topics of conversation and quickly bypassing posts on social media);
- Buying books and magazines to start a detailed and regimented training plan (and then letting them set up camp, unopened, on the coffee table).
Prevalent Emotions: Confidence; self-assuredness; blissful ignorance (if only these would last).
Step 3: The Deep, Dark Depression
Also known as the ‘the moment your friends have been waiting for’ phase. That period of time when you’ve heard an ultra runner recount their first 50 km race and reality sets in. Like, really sets in.
Timeframe: As long as it takes to get your ass in gear. Anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.
- A mind reeling with a thousand questions (‘How did I think I could do this?’ ‘Why did I sign up for this?’ And of course, most importantly: ‘Why didn’t anyone talk me out of this?’);
- Seeking solace in your closest friend (because they’re there to tell you you can do it, regardless of whether or not they actually believe it’s possible);
- Some tears. I definitely held back some tears.
Prevalent Emotions: Fear; defeat; despondency.
Step 4: The Comeback
Also known as the ‘it’s time to kick ass’ phase. That period of time when you say ‘—- that, no one’s putting Bobbi in a corner’ (…or equivalent, of course). Adrenaline kicks in and all of a sudden, you’re ready to take on the world.
Timeframe: Just enough time to get back on your feet again. One to two weeks.
- Sudden mental strength (‘of course I can run an ultramarathon!’);
- The development of what you think is a sick new personal mantra (example: suffer more now to suffer less later);
- An actual training plan (it’s about damn time).
Prevalent Emotions: Excitement; authority; renewed confidence.
Step 5: The Realistic Stoke
Also known as ‘the acceptance’ phase. That period of time when you’re ready to accept the challenge and face it head-on. The concept of an ultramarathon has been grasped – finally.
Timeframe: With all hope, all the way up until race day (I do, however, have a feeling that’s post-acceptance naivete talking).
- Asking questions of those with experience (they will give you informative and honest answers);
- Researching proper preparation techniques and identifying potential risks (awareness is key, after all);
- The development of an individualized, tangible plan to get to the end game (for me, this came in the form of mini-goal setting).
Prevalent Emotions: Enthusiasm; dedication; ambition.
With some sufferfests in the works, I’m sure the ride is far from over. But at the very least, I am committed to seeing it through.
Kentucky Cloudsplitter: Just 16 weeks away.