Thursday, October 18, 2018

Too Much GRIT To Quit


Too much grit to quit.

Have you ever been caught in an especially tough race, training run or competitive/endurance event? Were you able to dig deep and persevere to the finish line? Did you have enough grit to keep that proverbial white flag from flying?


Very recently (like last weekend), I found myself in such a situation as I made my way through a hilly and rather difficult 26.2 miles at the Cannonball Marathon (Greensboro, NC).  Although I made it to the finish line (recap HERE),  it was tough (physically and mentally) battling all the frustrations of the race. Ultimately, though, I came out victorious and crossed the finish line.

Ironically, I can honestly look back at this marathon as a great experience. That's right. Even though I crossed the finish line a good 30 minutes longer than I was hoping, the feeling of euphoria in finishing that race was like none other. I proved to myself, yet again, that I'm one tough cookie when I need to be.

I have had races where everything fell into place... the weather was optimal, my energy was on-point, the race course wasn't especially hilly or difficult. And, there have been many other races that took more work than usual to stay on course (no pun intended). These were challenging races that forced me to tap into my "grit reserve." Here's some of them:

Route 66 Marathon (recap HERE)
Another especially tough marathon was Route 66, a marathon famous for non-stop rolling hills through numerous scenic neighborhoods in Tulsa, OK. I knew this course would be hilly, and I knew there would probably be some wind. What took me by surprise on race day, though, was a strange hip/groin pain that persisted from the 2-mile mark all the way to the finish line.  I spent most of the first 13 miles considering stopping at the 13.1 finish line. When I chose to keep going, I spent another five miles debating about turning around and going back to that finish line. Thankfully, I was well-trained (possibly over-trained), so my endurance was spot-on. I was able to run at a decent pace, but had to keep taking walk breaks due to the persistent pain. It really was a fun and festive race course, so I'm glad I was able to push through all of the pain and frustration...and nearly cried at the finish line because I was so exhausted, yet proud, from the battle in getting there.

Fight for Air Climb-Chicago (recap HERE)
A favorite event I have done every year, since 2013, is the Fight for Air Climb (in Des Moines, IA). When I was offered the opportunity to do the Chicago Climb, I was all over it. So what if it involved the four Presidential Towers and encompassed a total of 180 flights of stairs (45 flights in each building)...I was up for the challenge! The Des Moines venue (at the time) only had 66 flights of stairs...so when I had finished the first Presidential Tower in Chicago, I really wondered if I'd be able to climb three more towers of equal height because my legs felt like over-cooked pasta and I was so out of breath. I'm a strong believer in "go big or go home," though, so quitting was not an option. Each tower seemed more difficult than the previous ones, but I just kept climbing. I took periodic breaks on some of the landings, and I drank plenty of water. I finished all four towers with a time of 35:44, and felt like a champion when they handed me my finisher medal.

Christmas in July 12-Hour Ultra (recap HERE)
In 2015, a group of Facebook/blogging friends (and myself) met up and ran the CIJ 6-Hour ultra (recap HERE) in Lisle, IL, and decided to reconvene a year later and take on the 12-hour race (again, go big or go home LOL). The race began at 11:00 p.m. and ended at 11:00 a.m. the following morning. Yes, we ran all night long and most of the next morning as well. The course was a 1-mile loop around a lake. Some of those loops were run with others from the group. Many were run on my own. There were intermittent loops of walking. There were lots of laughs and chit-chatting. There also was total silence. When the 12 hours had ended, I had 37 miles done, which is a 60K. Oddly, I never felt tired, but my mind did get a little loopy at times. That 1-mile route got repetitive, but was oddly comforting in that we knew there would be a spread of food and drink right before the timing mat (that would record our laps each time we crossed it). I was giddy with endorphins at the finish and didn't actually sleep until a good 12 hours later. Truth.

Flying Pigs Duathlon (recap HERE)
Always looking for a new adventure, I took on the challenge of a duathlon a few years ago. Why not? This took place in Washington, IA a few weeks after my 6-hour ultra (early August 2015). As if riding a borrowed bike wasn't scary enough, there also was the challenge of staying on said bike for 20 hilly miles (my longest ride ever)...through the humid Iowa air (on a hot day) with several pig farms along the route. The 5K before the ride was a piece of cake, but the 1.5-mile run afterwards was like a death march. My legs did not want to move and I could barely lift my feet off the pavement. Several racers were walking; the ones who were attempting to run looked like zombies with no muscle control (myself included). But, my goal was a 2-hour finish, and I crossed the finish line in 1:58:28. Mission accomplished.

What all of these events have in common is the joy and pride in finishing a tough race. Sure, there's a great deal of satisfaction in running a "fast and easy" race, but what is there to learn from it? Gritting it out in tough conditions, at least for me, is far more rewarding because nothing is taken for granted. Having to fight for the finish makes crossing that finish line even more sweet.

How about you? What's the toughest race you've ever run? Have you ever done a tough event and looked back on it as a great experience?

  I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0. 

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32 comments:

  1. Wow! You DO have grit. Those are some tough races. I love the timed ultras. Unfortunately, the one I like the most is now defunct as of this year. I am doing a 3 hour timed race in January here in PA. When hubs and I did it last year, the starting temp was 0 degrees F and the course was snow covered! I love the diversity of the races you have run. That is so cool!

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    1. Thank you, Laurie! I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of "tough" races, or at least, events out of my comfort zone (ummm...that 20-mile hilly bike ride in the du LOL).

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  2. Are they ever easy?

    Or am I getting older?

    Running 13 miles in the cold pouring rain.

    Finishing a half that was cancelled due to heat

    Running a bucket list race in the heat with little water.

    I could go on and on.

    We runners are tough. And you are one of the toughest.

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    1. Well, maybe not any race is "easy," but some are certainly easier than others LOL

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  3. I'm pretty sure I'd never pair the word "easy" with a half or full marathon. I'd never be so arrogant to call either of those easy. However, the better trained I am the "easier" a race tends to feel.

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    1. I definitely agree. Some races certainly feel a lot "easier" depending on the day (weather, terrain, state of mind, training, etc.). ;-)

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  4. Wow! a 12 hour ultra. And I thought my 50 miler was a lot when I finished in 9 and half hours. Can't imagine 12 hours. That 1 mile loop I bet was boring after that many rounds.

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    1. The 1-mile loop got a little mundane, but also it was a great mental "break" in the final hours knowing there were only XX number of laps remaining.

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  5. I would say the triathlons I have done have been the hardest races I've done. For me, switching back and forth between sports is quite challenging physically and mentally. I actually think I am lacking the "grit". I have tons of passion and discipline but maybe not grit

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    1. Oh, I bet there's a lot more grit than you're aware of! But, I can totally relate to the switching between the sports being tough. I have never done the swimming - to- biking thing, but doing the biking/running in my du was so T.O.U.G.H. #humbling

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  6. You do take on some challenges! Usually the toughest thing for me to overcome is my own exercise induced asthma. If you can't breathe, you can't run very well!

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    1. No argument there! Breathing is pretty crucial ;-)

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  7. I'm not sure what to make of your comment about "fast or easy" race. I've run some fast races but I'd never call them easy. I've learned lessons from every race I've run. The most difficult thing I deal with now is the inevitable decline in my performance from aging. Every finish line is a victory and to discount any of them as easy is a disservice to everyone who trains for and finishes a long distance race.

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    1. We've all had races where everything came together (optimal weather, great training, ideal terrain, etc.)...maybe not "easy," but certainly not demanding as much physical/mental mojo to do our thing. And then there are those races where nothing works in our favor. The especially tough races, that we have to fight much harder than usual to finish, are the ones that I'm highlighting here because they are the ones I've gained the most integrity from.

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  8. You very certainly love s chalk and have a Mack for rising to them!

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  9. Oh man, haha. I'm not much of a runner so all of these would be suuuuper challenging to me! Many props to you! I've only done two races in my life, but the first one I did was a half-marathon in a very hilly SF, so I was definitely happy/proud that I managed to finish it!

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    1. Oh gosh...say no more!! SF is SOOO hilly! That's a major victory in running there ;-)

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  10. My toughest race was WDW 2014 half marathon since my ITBS was at its worst. I had to walk the whole way, and I threw myself a 13.1-mile pity party. That medal though is one of the best I have, and it reminds me of how stubborn and resilient I can be.

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    1. Good for YOU!! Those tough races, like I said, totally suck at the time...but are so rewarding to finish.

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  11. I have done a lot of tough races. Very hilly, very windy, cold (in Las Vegas -- still my coldest half on record, very hot.

    There is only one that I regret -- it actually was perfect weather and a very nice course -- but I was injured and never should have run it at all. I just didn't realize that. I did finish; so far I've never DNF'd -- but no, I don't look back at it as a good experience at all (but I did get experience from it).

    And quite frankly my last half, although I finished, wasn't the best experience either. Because I just didn't feel good due to the heat (and probably some mild dehydration). I wasn't disappointed (much) with my finish time -- actually one of the better ones for me in a hot race.

    It's always going to be tough, it will probably always "hurt" at some point, but some races just aren't fun -- to me. I feel like I can't quite explain what I mean!

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    1. Well, most of these weren't super fun while they're happening LOL, and many took a few days of reflecting to realize the tough battle(s) rewarded me with more good than bad. Fighting through, and finishing, a tough race is quite a victory (at least it is for me) ;-)

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  12. It takes so much to be an athlete, and runners are no exception to that. You’ve withstood some incredible obstacles, but each time come out on top. You didn’t mention it, but your recovery from your surgery last year also demonstrated how committed you are as well. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Thank you, Kathryn ;-) We've all had really tough races to battle through....those finish lines feel pretty good when it's all said and done.

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  13. I guess it's like all life's experiences... the tough ones in which we need grit make us stronger! Also, it makes us appreciate when things go well even more. I'm glad you finished and feel good about it. Never underestimate a woman with GRIT!!! :)

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    1. Exactly!!! I certainly appreciate the "easier" races so much more now days than I did years ago.

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  14. I have to say that while I can "just run" a half marathon, I don't run them anymore for time. In fact nothing is fast or easy for me, except for training runs or races at or under 10K. With the chronic pain in my foot I have kissed PR's goodbye. Occasionally I get a fast 5K somewhere but I am just not fast not matter what I do. If I lose weight or train hard, my foot pain always seems to get in the way. Or rather, my thoughts about the pain get in the way. I have figured out that my mental strength is not on par with my physical capabilities. I don't trust my body these days. I think that definitely makes me a runner with grit. Unfortunately I did not have enough grit 2 x this year - I have now DNF'd two races, a half and a full marathon. However, I too have too much grit to quit in general. Maybe in two situations I had to call out, but giving up completely is definitely not an option :)

    It's great that you share these experiences Kim because people need to know the honest truth about what hard races feel like - there are enough people out there who aren't 100% genuine about what they share! You are inspiring and I truly appreciate knowing that even you struggle but you dig deep and keep going!!! Don't ever stop!

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    1. Thanks so much Dear Friend ;-) I desperately try to keep it real, even if the cynics and critics think my optimism is an act (believe me, they're out there!). All of us are gonna have tough races (and nasty training runs). Not every race is on flat terrain or in perfect weather conditions, and some days our bodies just aren't feeling it. Some days, our minds aren't feeling it either LOL Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction in overcoming obstacles ;-)

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  15. Those are some tough races! You so got grit!!
    One of the hardest races I've run was Paris-Versailles (16k) last year. It is notorious for a monster hill from 4k-8k, then rolling hills after, including a steep descent. I first ran it in 2012, but I was not "racing" it, and the hills did not seem "that bad". I didn't run it again until last year, it was a goal race, but the impression that it wasn't that bad had stuck, and I did not train specifically for hills. I also did not study the profile and had completely forgotten about the rolling hills in the 2nd half. Um, it was "that bad". I was completely spent at 8k, but thought oh at least it's mostly flat now. Hahahaha. Somehow I got through it, on sheer grit and determination.
    I will do it again some day, with proper respect of the course and hill training!

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    1. ha ha ha...we've all been there! Those hills keep us humble, right? There have been some races I have done repeatedly...and my memory blocks out certain details, too...like the steepness of the hills, or the frequency of them... ;-)

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  16. Just re-read this post after my horrible race yesterday, lol. Yes, it definitely took so much grit to finish but now I'm feeling so mentally exhausted. Races take a lot our of you!

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  17. Digging down deep is so important during those tough races! My first half was a doozy, super hot (even in late Oct) and it was a loop course, with 3 loops and hills. I was not really mentally prepared, but I finished and that was the best feeling ever!
    My last half was probably my worst as I got injured and had my first ever DNF. It was SO hard and I felt like a failure, but I knew I had to stop or I would get further inured.

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