Spinach.

Ancient Oaks 100 was an incredibly successful learning experience for me..
One thing that I took from it was that I need more “spinach”. Let me try to explain-

During a long talk at AO100 with my friend, Jen, after running well over 100k, I guess I confessed that I was genuinely “in love” with running far. I explained to Jen that I had issues with racing, because I cannot control my need for adrenaline during my training. I push myself constantly, because I’m never satisfied with just barely pushing myself. I told her if I could harness my power during my workouts, I would probably not have as many near death experiences!
Jen expressed just how important she feels cross training is in keeping things balanced- to which I responded that I push myself just as hard cross training, and I can’t seem to just take it easy. I love the pain too much.
Jen replied with something along the lines of this: “Let me explain it differently, I love ice cream. Right? And Ice cream is great- but you can’t have too much icecream because it’s not good for your health. You have to eat spinach too, and be disciplined to eat it enough that you stay healthy. Running is like your icecream. You can’t have it all the time because you are hurting yourself. Like after this hundred… You need spinach.” —

I realized during that conversation what I have always known to be true- my form of therapy & self expression is to put my body through intense pain via running and training. At other times- its been drugs or alcohol. I’m happy my “icecream” in adulthood is of a much healthier variety: but regardless of it’s health benefits-I will push myself with it close to death. I have zero concept of what is acceptable in the pain tolerance department. I am numb to it – and I enjoy it. Masochism at its finest and most destructive.

Since Ancient Oaks, Jen has sent me a couple reminders to “find my spinach” and take it easy. I definitely implemented lots of cross training after the race, but still hit several long runs at threshold pace. And while I haven’t hurt myself, I did start to notice fatigue and lack of motivation this past month- which is a big overtraining symptom. If someone obsessed with icecream doesn’t want to ice cream- big red flag.

So I thought long and hard- and decided I gotta “find my spinach”.

At first thought-I knew it couldn’t be in training with Daniel.. Because I’m almost as obsessive in that area as I am with running.

I love kayaking, and thought maybe I’ll take that up a little more.. but it’s not that quick and easy for me to do on a regular basis.

Daniel suggested that I try mountain biking with him. I told him I might like to try- but didn’t think I would really enjoy it too much. Regardless, we decided to ask our friend at the local bike shop if we could borrow a bike for me to try during the weekend. He agreed. I didnt think too much of it- but looked forward to it anyway.

So Friday came, I didn’t run, and decided to hike up stone mountain with Brooklyn. We do this all the time. And it’s very special to us. She finally is able to run almost all the way to the top (which is a mile) and we’ve been working on it together since she was 2, and she’s made huge improvements. I love the time I spend with my kids. They teach me things.

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When we got to the top, we sat and talked for awhile, and I told her I was going to test out a bike, to which she responded, “but you’re a trail girl, mommy bird. Can trail girls be bike girls?” (Yes my pumpkin refers to me and her daddy as “birds”.. Don’t ask.. Long story)
I told her, “I think trail girls can be trail bike girls and still love running the most. We’ll see.” And Brooklyn said, “Well you will be a great trail bike girl mommy bird. If you try hard like daddy.”
She smiled and that was the end of it and we hiked back down the mountain. But after our little talk, I started to wonder if I would like biking (or spinach?) at all. I’m such a die hard ultra runner. I’ve biked before- road bike- and done a little bit of mountain biking. But not the real deal crazy mountain biking like Daniel does.

But maybe little bird was right- if I tried hard maybe I’d like it. After all, I hated running the first few months of it. I had to force myself to love it.

Anyway- this is getting long.
Saturday came, and with it the bike. But not just any bike….

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It was the bike shop owner, Bruce’s girlfriend’s bike.. A very expensive Gary Fisher.. Cadillac of the trails type thing. (scared)
I reluctantly hopped on, and followed Daniel until we hit a very difficult trail- one that I run often, but biking it made it feel new. The instant we hit the single track, I felt scared and out of control; Daniel was flying and with both of us being extremely competitive in nature, I was a little ticked that I couldn’t keep up! I hit my first drop and screamed bloody murder and told Daniel to take it easy, because I wasn’t good at it. He just kept laughing saying, “What’s wrong with you Miss Adrenaline??” implying – don’t be a pansy.

Daniel has a way of making me work hard that absolutely nobody else can do– he intentionally makes me feel like I can’t do something, because he knows I will push harder to prove that I can.
His trick worked. As usual. After about 4 miles, and two epic and painful falls, I was right on Dan’s tail mastering every switchback and jumping like he was. I refused to let him totally smoke me on the bike. With each jump, twist, turn, and near fall, I felt a rush of excitement and adrenaline that I usually only get through running. And my quads were feeling the climbs……
In other words….
I loved it… and I was actually pretty freakn good at it!

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An hour later and I told Daniel I FOUND MY SPINACH!
I don’t know why I never focused on mountain biking before, but I’m sold!!! I LOVED IT. Almost sold enough to consider biking over running, shockingly.
I think Daniel loved that I loved it even more- because he’s buying me my own Trek this week! He was all pumped this weekend saying stuff like, “Baby, let’s go get you a bike. We can go get you some shorts too, and whatever else you need.” ……fo real?
Dang. So yeah. I’m getting a bike! I’m pumped! I can’t wait to dish on my first real accident.:)
But the spinach fun isn’t over yet…

Our good friend Bruce that we became close to during the Fort Clinch ordeal was in town from Florida for an ultra, and wanted to meet up with Dan and me. We talked about things we could do, and came up with indoor rock climbing at Stone Summit in Atlanta. Stone summit is the largest indoor rock climbing facility in the nation, and I’ve always wanted to check it out, but haven’t gotten the chance. So I was excited to go, and to see Bruce and his family. When we got there, it was packed and there were no more belaying class spots left. Unfortunately, they won’t let you climb with out lots of previous belaying experience, or a class first. Though I’ve done a little bit of climbing- I’m no expert belayer. So we couldn’t climb the walls, and I was bummed:-/ not for long though…
As we watched the expert climbers make there way up the huge walls.. Daniel and I looked at each other with a look we both know so well- the competitive glare. I knew what he was thinking- and he knew what I was thinking- we would both be incredible at climbing. Daniel and I both possess some pretty sick upper body skills and strength. Daniel especially, as he also masters mega pulling strength.
So I didn’t hesitate for a minute in what I did next: I signed up for belaying classes. SPINACH PART 2! I take my first class this Wednesday:). I don’t want to do indoor climbing though, I want to climb outside. So I’m going to learn the skills I need, and then I’m partnering up with my brother (who already has the skill and gear) to do some climbing! I’m really really looking forward to it.

Bruce and I had a good long chat at the climbing place, and it was so good to hangout with a like minded individual. Bruce encouraged me to do some more hundreds this spring, which came at a funny time because I’ve been debating that- if you read my last post you know what I mean. But- I actually -for once- stuck to my guns, and told him I was planning to tackle the marathon distance instead… and to my surprise, Bruce decided to race it with me! So knoxville 26.2 will be a fun race with a great friend!

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But after that 26.2.. I’m getting right back to the 100’s. I’m so addicted and I know it. :-/
Earlier this morning I wrote Jen to tell her I found my spinach, which resulted in some mega praise in my direction which then- ironically- turned into a long string of emails concerning ultra running and marathon talk. She asked me if I wanted to do a certain ultra with her, and then we chatted about meeting up and doing some long training runs this spring together. Haha!

So for once I’m not thinking only about running.
but I’m still thinking about running:)

I love running so much. I would hate to not love it this much.
But I’m happy that I’m finding some things appeal to me other than running. That lets me know I’m not a complete nut job. (not a complete one anyway!)

So I reckon you can’t take the ultra out of the girl….

But at least I’m finally gonna eat me some spinach.:)

Have a great week, guys!

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