10.3 miles on a september evening

I had planned on doing my long (”long”) run this morning, but when I woke up I was pretty hungry and also I ended up having plans at 11:30, and I’ve found that my runs aren’t very good if I go immediately after waking up, which I would have had to do. So, with some uncertainty, I opted to run later in the day. Now, we all know that when we postpone a run for later, there’s a 50% chance it’ll actually happen – if that. So I got some chores done and watched some tv and ate mac and cheese and was feeling sleepy and content, but only about 50% content. So with some snapchat motivation I headed out into the glorious end-of-September evening and had an excellent run.

I did a 10.3-mile loop that covers a mix of trails, dirt roads, and regular ol’ pavement. I’m sorely (pun!) in need of new shoes, both road and trail, as I’ve been running in the same 1400s for quite a while now and my knees are starting to notice. Plus, running downhill on trails is terrifying in them – they’ve got shallow tread to begin with (being a road racing flat), and I’ve worn out all but the tread under the arch. I brought a light but didn’t need it, except for extra visibility on the last stretch of road. I brought water but didn’t need it; it was weighing me down so I dumped it with about three miles to go. My pace dropped below 9s for the last two miles; I felt like I was flying. I felt new. And I felt like my old self again.

With this run under my belt, feeling as good as I do about it, I’m beginning to feel the tickle of a 50k in my heels sometime before the year is up. No race in particular, just me and the trees. I think this is how it needs to happen. After these past few years of injury and illness and doubt, I think I need to run 50k alone on the trails to prove to myself not only that I physically can, which will be a feat in of itself, but that I can do it without external motivation. To be successful at ultras – not winning, just completing – the drive first and foremost has to come from something within you. External motivation can help, obviously, but if that core nugget is absent, then you’ll be in trouble.

I’m still approaching cautiously, since the threat of a flare is constantly hovering around me, so playing it at safely as I can while making progress is the line I need to toe… for the foreseeable future. But as long as I stay on the healthy side of the line and can run, I’m happy.

– b

PS. Hit 25 miles for last week, highest since in June, before I got sick over the summer. Aiming for 30-35 this week.


In which I officially start grad school

Today marks the first day of the rest of my life. (Again.)

It didn’t start auspiciously – I went for a terrible, short run without my contacts in and ran into a tree, plus discovered that I have some poison ivy, then I was too hot and grumpy to pack food for work AND the cats had dumped a shelf + plant onto the floor overnight, so there was dirt all over the carpet, AND THEN at work I realized that I had forgotten my laptop charger so the day was basically a lost cause. Oh, and the evening prior, this happened:

The truly ironic part: the guy from whom we got the couch worked for a company that – get this – does 3D modeling for fitting things into tight spaces.

…so when today rolled around, I wasn’t feeling excited or even like today was anything out of the ordinary. Just another day in lab, except that a dozen things had gone wrong already and I had to go to class for the first time in a while.

I chose to stay on at Michigan for a reason – it’s an excellent school in a town I quite enjoy, not to mention the fact that the benefits here are head and shoulders above the rest – but it’s been too easy for me to fall into a mental trap of feeling that everything is the same. I’ve been working in the lab that will be the site of my graduate study for a year and a half already – which is great, research-wise – and I’ve spent roughly five years on this campus already. I have to work a little bit to get myself out of that mindset – to allow myself to be excited about this new phase and, perhaps most importantly, all the new people who have just joined the department. Over the past year, I’ve watched pretty much everyone from my class move away and on to other things, and have been looking forward to the influx of new faces for a while now. But even with this, it wasn’t until after I got home from the (four hour) orientation session this evening that it kind of hit me – I’ve just begun a four- or five-year academic journey. That’s not inconsequential. And it won’t be the same as my time here as an undergrad.

Today, I officially start my PhD program. By 2021, I will either be a Dr., or I will be living in a van by the mountains. Or, if all goes exceptionally well, both will be true.

– b