Running 100 km thru the mountains seemed like an unfathomable task – a goal so far away and unreachable that the thought was a mere mental whisper. Could I do it? Was I crazy to even try?
I had just celebrated my 39th birthday and wanted to achieve something big in my 40th year. I wanted a goal that was only for me, about me, something that would force me to push myself so far beyond my comfort zone, to see what I could achieve, how hard and far I could push my body.
Webster's defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide." This is what I needed if I was going to ever dream of running 100km. Someone who would be able to plant my feet on the ground whilst pushing me beyond my conceived limits, but also someone I could trust to keep me safe, someone who could get me back on track when the eventual self doubt crept in and someone who would personally understand what I was going thru with the training.
I was already training with Steve when with some trepidation I brought up the idea of signing up for an ultra marathon. I knew I would never be able to do it on my own, having only ever run a half marathon, I really didn't know how to even begin to build up towards that daunting number, but Steve was instantly on it. He said we would need a year and that it would be grueling and that I would want to give up but that he wouldn't give up on me so quitting wasn't going to be an option.
We set our sights on the 125 km North Face Canadian Death Race 3 weeks after my 40th birthday. He wasn't wrong. There was a lot of sweat, a lot of swearing, some blood and many days where Steve had to literally pick me up off the floor crying. Each time he reminded of why we had started this journey together. Who I was doing this for and that no matter what – I had the strength and I had the courage to keep going. Each time I believed him a little bit more.
The training runs were done, the miles were plentiful and it didn't seem to take very long until I was standing on the starting line with over 4500km under my belt, awaiting the gun shot that signaled the start of the race. It was a typical Canadian Prairies day, early morning chill burning off to a blazing afternoon and then the worst possible situation – hail, rain and thunderstorms. The muddy conditions had wreaked havoc on my feet and hypothermia eventually put me out at 103km, 22km from the finish line. I had failed, but I had given everything I had and we learned the lesson that no matter what – Mother Nature has the last laugh.
I came home and Steve and I talked. My feet were in rough shape but my training had held up and I felt good. I knew I had the distance in me and I wanted another shot at finishing. We decided that I would sign up for the Lost Souls 100km race 4 weeks out and just hope my feet would have time to heal. Steve put together a program to keep my body in form but also give it a chance to recover. I poured over the course and switched gears to training in the heat of the day. We went over my nutrition plan and how I was going to deal with staying hydrated when parts of the course would be well about the 30 C mark. Again it wasn't long before I was standing in the early morning chill awaiting my second chance.
It was a tougher course than I had thought and when thunderheads started to threaten in the distance I had moments of panic, not wanting a repeat of the hypothermia I had experienced before. But Mother Nature held her tongue and the clouds at bay and with a time of 17 hours 39mins at just after 1:30am I crossed the finish line of my first 100km ultra-marathon!
Today the unfathomable isn't just a crazy whisper, or whimsical what if. With Steve, I know that I can complete anything I pour my heart into. I know how far my body can go, how far I can push my mind and I know it is limitless what I can achieve.