This past Thursday was the first "teaser" run in a series leading up to the Mountainback Ultramarathon (50 miles). The Nittany Valley Running Club offers the "Tussey Teasers", not races, so that runners can get acquainted with the course prior to running the race--either solo or as a relay team.
Thursday was Leg 1: 3.2 miles up the mountain; 3.2 miles down the mountain. I ran this leg before and when I finished, I could barely walk. My quads were totally spent. I remember folding myself into the car slowly and then taking three times as long trying to get out of the car when I made a stop at the grocery store. I shuffled through the aisles. The next two days, I had a great deal of difficulty walking and going up and down stairs.
This year’s run was still a challenge. A little over a mile into the race, I was feeling its affects. My legs were beginning to tighten up and I was carrying some tension in my shoulders. I shook my arms out and walked a short distance. Those nasty, little negative thoughts were starting, “Whew, don’t know if I can make it. I’m falling behind; I’m going to be last. I’m going to be hurting tomorrow.”
Then I made a decision. I could (1) complain the rest of the run, (2) quit and turn around, or (3) put on my happy face and have a good time. The first and third choices were real options; the second was not. I chose option 3. I read a daily blog, “Living with Flair” that brings sunshine to my day. It starts my day in the right frame of mind and it’s a reminder that we should strive to find the good, the unexpected, the “flair” in everything we do. It’s always there, but it might take a little soul searching to find it. So, I decided to find the flair in this challenging run.
It really wasn’t difficult. It was a beautiful evening, the road was shaded, the forest was lush, birds were singing, I was having a shared experience with 30-40 other runners, I'm strong and healthy, and as I got closer to the top of the mountain, the sunset was promising to be spectacular. And the best flair moment—noticing that everyone who was now running down the mountain was going fast and had a huge smile. They had earned their reward for working hard and conquering the mountain and they were having fun.
When I reached the summit, two other runners were there catching their breaths. I took a moment to say hello, exchange a few remarks about making it to the top, and then I headed back down. Running fast, but not too fast, watching that I didn’t slip on any loose gravel.
Unfortunately, about two thirds of the way down, my calves began to cramp. I didn’t have enough Gatorade. I slowed down a lot, but had to walk the last quarter mile to keep the cramps from getting too severe. I was disappointed, but I didn’t lose the flair. It was still a fun run and I loved the challenge.
I finished in 1:20:18. My reward was an ice cream cone and a large diet Pepsi on the way home—not the most nutritious dinner—but a very satisfying one. My legs didn’t cramp on the way home, but as soon as I got into bed, they started again. I drank Gatorade and water all night long--they cramped until 3:30 a.m. Between the cramping and running to the bathroom every 30 minutes, it was 4:30 until I fell asleep. The Flair: reading several more chapters of The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and Runners World magazine, and falling asleep just as the birds began their morning songs.
Other than the leg cramps, I had very little soreness. The lower body workouts at the gym are definitely helping to build strength and endurance. The quads didn’t even know they had had a workout. Some more Flair!!!
In everything you do, find your Flair.