The female sex is so often guilty of comparing ourselves to others. It’s a known phenomenon among Kardashian followers, Instagram models, Pinterest moms, and I’d argue it’s probably true of a lot of us Trail Sisters. We know it’s silly. Still, we open up Instagram and see Anna Frost’s adventures in the lower hemisphere, we watch Krissy Moehl (one of our own!) lead lucky women across snowy mountains with her adorable herding pup. I personally stalk my coach as she journeys from Italy, to Alaska, to Mont Blanc, to HutRunHut. I cheer when she posts a video of her first running steps after a full tib-fib snap. For us Weekend Warriors, we spend our Monday through Friday living vicariously through world-traveling Insta-runners, while we pack 3 school lunches, fold laundry, chop vegetables for the crock pot, attend board meetings, finalize lesson plans, grade papers, plan professional development for fellow teachers, attend conferences, attend another meeting, talk friends off metaphorical ledges, move cows to a new pasture, feed chicks, check for eggs, tend to dogs and cats, listen to teenage love drama, go to the grocery store for the third time because we still can’t remember to buy friggin orange juice… Or, you know, whatever it is YOU do as a working gal runner.
I am a vehement proponent of supporting other women. I love watching a powerful female dominating something she loves. When we want to be, we are all Gal Gadot with that golden lasso. But, for us mortals, how do we balance that “2.5 and a white picket” with our need to crush the trails and feel that sweet burn in our lungs? I will admit, I am the worst at being consistent in my training. I am a back-of-the-pack runner who walks a lot, and has a few DNFs under my belt. Still, I sign up, I lace up, and I smile. And I tell every person that passes me (or, rarely, I pass) that they are doing a bomb ass job.
Here’s what being a weekend warrior looks like to me:
1. Waking up at 4:45am to go to bootcamp a few days a week. There are a few who would disagree, but most runners with whom I’ve spoken suggest cross-training in some capacity. My time is limited, and I find bootcamp to be the best bang for my schedule-buck. Having a strong core, sturdy back, firmer arms, and a booty that refuses to fit in jeans has greatly improved my running. I’m working on getting my pace back up, but my endurance, and recovery from longer runs, is night and day from when I was running only.
2. Running when I can, with who I can. I run with a mentoring group for youth. We meet twice during the school week for shorter runs, and on Saturdays for longer runs. Our goal is to train kids to complete a half-marathon. It is, sadly, the norm for this to be my only running opportunity for the week. These miles are spent focused on another athlete, staying in tune with their pace, their hydration needs, their mood, etc. It’s taught me to be more aware of small signs, and I can translate that to my own body.
3. Teaching, momming, wifing. I like to call teaching “time on feet”, as I get around 13k steps a day, just pacing my room and walking halls. Teaching also allows me to work on extended periods of hyper-focus and staying one step ahead. Ultras are so much a mental game. I try to turn my daily life into ultra lessons as much as I can. If running mirrors life, then the reverse can also be true.
4. Food. Ugh, I am not a natural planner, but I make sure to pack all of our lunches every day. I try to cook most nights, but there is probably more pizza and restaurant food in my life as compared to a healthy runner… I also enjoy energy drinks and Starbucks. At 4pm my blood stream is usually 78% caffeine and I start seeing sounds. Plus it doesn’t help that I’ve probably skipped lunch… you know, the lunch I packed and ran out of time to eat…
5. Knowing my body, and my goals. I’ve DNF’d a few times now – and I don’t regret those DNFs at all. I would have regretted a DNS, and I would’ve regretted an injury or severe hypothermia or heat stroke, but I don’t regret the DNFs. I learn from them. I am grateful for the time to camp, and unwind, and hit the roads and trails, and the opportunity to try. I go out, give it my all, constantly assessing my body and health, and keeping my running future in mind. I ask myself, “Do I want this race enough to sacrifice my health, or my next race?” – sometimes, the answer is no. And that’s ok, especially when it isn’t your A-Race. Be honest with yourself. Honor your body.
6. My kids and husband are my whole world. I have to find a balance in my desire (need) to run, and taking care of them. Luckily, my husband understands that I am a better mom, wife, friend when I run. I am blessed to have support in this “hobby” of mine. My kindergartener has already finished his first 5k. My teenager is Cross Country Captain, and has raced distances up to 25K on both road and trail. We are runners. We are also lucky enough to have a “live-in-Pappy”. If you have an opportunity to adopt a third parent, DO IT! My father-in-law is probably the greatest gift I have as a mom. He is amazing, and allows me to be the weekend warrior I am. Thanks Pappy!
Here is how I’ve made racing and running fit into my world:
1. Low mileage training. All of my races have been completed on sub-par half-marathon training. It’s not pretty, but it’s doable. I’ve finished three 50k distances, three full road marathons, and many many 13.1 on the road and trail. You can be successful on less training than you’d think, if you just have the mental endurance to keep going.
2. Summers off. As a teacher, I have summer off. This summer I got to explore the Rocky Mountains, and become one of those Insta-runners with beautiful views. It was awesome. Go see whatever part of the world you can, when you can.
3. Coach. This summer, I got a coach. It is worth it, at least in my experience. Of course, my coach is probably a lot cooler than your coach. She’s mine. You can’t have her. Summer is also when I can actually run almost daily. I still have kids and husband to take care of, but my 150 students are with their own families, and I can breathe a bit. It’s been so awesome opening my computer and having workouts all planned for me. I’ve fallen in love with track work, which always seemed scary before. There’s so much advice out there, and we are all so busy, so having a coach has been nice because I can just do what I’m told by one person. She listens to me, she’s patient, she adapts the workouts to my crazy life. Totally worth it. Thanks Jenn Shelton; you’re the bestest coach evah evah.
One day, I’ll win the lottery and do nothing but travel and run and have great Instagram pictures. For now, though, I’ll do my best. I’ll overextend myself, I’ll miss sleep, I’ll be jealous of the elites, and I’ll cherish my time on trails. Because I’m better when I run.
Additional Reading: Ode to the 13 Minute Miler