179 Days – My 2009 CrossFit/Ultrarunning Challenge

It was a cold morning, colder than Southern California usually sees. The mountains behind our CrossFit facility were painted with snow from the storms that we have had the past few days. Coach LeClair sent us out for our warm up and I opted to run. I was out the door quickly, following another strong runner in our class. Being the ultrarunner in the group, I couldn’t let him beat me around the block. I stayed on his heels, but he was fast. As I rounded the last corner, I felt my air passages start to close up from the exertion as well as the cold air. “Crap,” I thought. “asthma attack.”

I have a tendency not to tell my coaches or those around me that I have asthma, but I should have known better than to think that Eric would baby me. I couldn’t stop coughing and when I finally told him, he nodded and said “No problem, cough all you want.” It was a refreshing change from the people in my life that have consistently told me to stop what I am doing, sit down, rest, don’t continue. I know my body. If I’m about to pass out, then I will stop. Okay, maybe that’s not completely true, but I don’t like to get special treatment because of it. As a compromise to myself, I will start bringing my inhaler to class. I have a feeling that won’t be the last time that I need it.

Today was challenging for me, as it always is. We had 5 rounds of 3 snatch grip dead lifts, 2 power snatches, 1 overhead squat, bear crawl to the gate and sprint back to the bar. Two minute break in between, and repeat. I was hurting by the halfway mark. Not only were my muscles wearing down, but my hands were tearing up from the cold, hard cement.

I was on my 10th bear crawl to the gate when I thought everything was about to give out. Shannon and Kellie, two very strong CrossFit women were right in front of me. “Don’t settle for being in the back, Summer,” Eric yelled. “Pass them.” My arms and hands were screaming at me, but I knew that the faster I went, the quicker this would be over. I put his words to action, pushed ahead and sprinted back to finish.

I’m not a natural athlete. I never have been. I’ve never really been given any guidance in ultrarunning other than hearsay and I have completed some events by pure stubbornness, not by good training and nutrition. So here’s my question. Given the proper tools such as training and correct fuelling, the types of things that I can get from CrossFit, how far can someone like me, plain Jane, middle of the pack runner on a GOOD day, take this sport? What tools do the top athletes in this field have and what do I need to do to get them?

I will still run ultras to have fun. I will still run with friends and choose a comfort level suitable for both of us and help pace others in their 100 milers. But there are races this year where I will not accept mediocracy from myself anymore. This is not a New Years resolution. I do not believe in them for a multitude of reasons. However, it is my year to get better, stronger, faster. Now is the time for curiosity to win, for fear to fails and to find out exactly what I am made of.

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