Oh. My. God. I Just Signed Up For My First Ultra

My hands shook as I stared at the “confirm” button on the computer. Was I really doing this? Was I crazy? I hesitated, then clicked the button.

I had just signed up for my first ultra. It was also my first trail race.

A double whammy of scariness.

Somehow I had managed to corral two of my closest running friends, Heather and Hari, into running it with me. Heather only wanted to run the 20K but I talked her into the 50K.

It’s only five miles longer than a marathon . . .

I haven’t run a marathon in over a year. I’ve hardly run on any trails.

Sepulcher Mountain Trail

My first trail run was down Sepulcher Mountain in Yellowstone at the end of a twelve mile hike. It was impromptu, and we ran because we were cold. It felt like flying.

My next trail run was in the Tetons with my daughter. Leaping over the rocks was like running an obstacle course. I told her, You could break some bones if you fell on these rocks. Tourists gaped at us as we ran past. I felt invincible.

I fell half a mile from the car. It happened so fast I didn’t have a chance to break my fall. I cracked three ribs.

The Grand Tetons

My only other trail run was in Norbuck Park, part of the lake where I run. It has a killer hill where runners like to train. I had just run my last marathon, in Death Valley, and I felt strong and ready to try something new.

After that, I wasn’t willing to drive so far outside the city to run on trails. I told myself I would run trails when I moved to Oregon, or Wyoming, or Montana.

I was kidding myself. That day might never come. All I have is today.

People have told me for years that I would love trail running, that they’re more fun that marathons, more laid back. I know they’re right. My favorite places on earth are outdoors, in nature–forests, mountains, and deserts. Of course I would want to run there.

But I have to admit, running a 50K scares me.

It’s something I’ve never done before. Did I feel this way before I ran my first marathon?

It sounds hard. 31 miles.

Last night I dreamed of running in Palo Duro Canyon. It was beautiful, and the sky mirrored the rocks. I ran on a trail.

Gasp. I’m running an ultra.


    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thanks for your vote of confidence. I have to admit I felt a wave of panic when I woke up the morning after I registered. I just keep telling myself I have more than four months to get ready.

  1. kjb11

    I really admire you for this! I’m just starting to get into running and its always a epic mental struggle for me. I know my body can go further, but my pesky brain gets in the way and complains that its bored or my body is tired.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I know exactly what you mean. It’s almost a cliche, but running really is 90% mental. My only advice is to work on not listening to your brain. I struggle with it myself, especially in the summer when it’s hot and my brain tells me it needs to stop and walk. You’ll get mentally stronger the more you run, but try not to beat yourself up over it. Every runner struggles with it at some point. Huge kudos to you for deciding to be a runner!

  2. SeniorRunner

    My one and only ultra was a 50K in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2010. It was relatively cool, almost all pavement, and had only one modest hill. In short, it was a far cry from what you will encounter at Palo Duro!

    My first running experiences were on the trails of Northern California in the early ’70s. It was the perfect antidote for the soul-numbing tedium of an uninteresting government job with a long commute.

    Trail running usually pushed me away from my thoughts and into the “now” of the senses. Failure to heed this “push” sometimes resulted in a fall.

    The memory of my worst fall is still crystal clear, even though it was over four decades ago. It was on the north slope of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, California.

    I bounced up almost as quickly as I’d gone down. Before even noticing the blood oozing from my knees and elbows, I looked around, hoping that no one had witnessed the event.

    Funny thing, ego!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Taking a bad spill on the trail is my biggest concern. I tend to be a klutz anyway, so paying attention and getting rid of my “marathon shuffle” will be my biggest challenge.

      I wished I lived in Northern California. I have to drive pretty far outside the city just to find a decent trail to run on–and it’s not really that scenic, especially compared to Northern CA!

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