The Simple Life?
One of my goals for this year was to live and run more simply. When I first started racing at 8 years old I ran in the only pair of running shoes I could find in my size, Nike Pegasus', and cotton shorts and t-shirt. I didn't even own a running watch for the first three marathons I ran, much less a GPS watch. And my high school coach never allowed us to wear headphones because he was always afraid someone wouldn't hear a car coming or we wouldn't notice something like the guy who followed us for a week. I grew up racing without fancy gear or gadgets and that's all I knew so that's what has carried into my running even today. Well that's what I thought as I started writing this...and then an Amazon box arrived and I began to look a bit more closely around the house and at my running routine.
When Dan started running a few years ago he was drawn to all the gear and gadgets. He has since given me several GPS watches, hand held running bottles and my first new pair of shoes in nearly 15 years. I couldn't believe how amazing the newer, lighter, lower drop style of shoes felt compared to my clunky, old trail runners. And I certainly have a love hate relationship with my GPS watch. It's been such a great tool for my running; however it's hard for me not to get disappointed when every run isn't a PR. I make it a point after a big race to run without any watch for at least a week...and its so freeing.
Even while I added new gear to my collection I continued to believe that when I raced all it came down to was running. Last year as I planned out my Leadville run I tried not to get caught up in what gear I'd have in what drop bag. As long as I had my gel I'd be good. Sure I knew I needed to pick up my pack, trekking poles and headlamp, the headlamp being the most crucial piece, but I didn't obsess about which headlamp I had in which bag. My theory was focus on your running and that will get you to the finish. I have learned from ultra running that a certain amount of preparation and gear planning is necessary, but it is honestly my least favorite part. It's interesting watching Dan and I prepare for the same race. He meticulously plans exactly which piece of gear will be in which drop bag, the precise amount of gel he will consume every hour, the exact pace he will maintain at every mile...and it will all be spelled out in an excel spreadsheet.
I think my plan of focusing on running has worked well for me. I know one of my biggest downfalls in racing ultras is my aid station time. I could probably cut down my aid station time if I planned them out a bit more, but I'm more worried that if I get too caught up in my gear I will completely fall apart the moment I don't have what I expect. My biggest obstacle is my own head and knowing myself I know I can't get too dependent on my gear.
With that said...a quick walk through our house reveals no less than four piles of running shoes, a massive sized tote filled to the brim with various water bottles, another tote filled with packs, tape, charging devices, extra drop bags, headlamps, gaiters, gloves, hats, Buffs, watches, GPSs and jackets, a bag filled with more gaiters and microspikes, four drawers stuffed full of running gear, bulk containers of gel and electrolyte mix, a tote labeled "food" filled with various gels, s-tabs, energy chews, ginger chews, two different sized foam rollers in a corner, a foot roller and leg roller under the coffee table and our latest investment the Thumper, the box indicated its a sports percussion massage something or other and it is amazing on sore legs. This leads me to believe that my simple running lifestyle is maybe not so simple. I like to think when I go out for a run that I just throw on a pair of shoes, grab and water bottle and head out the door and while that is pretty much what I actually do it's not as simple a process as it sounds. I take into account the terrain I'll be running, trail conditions and length of the run when choosing shoes, screws, spikes and gaiters. I triple check weather conditions to determine which layers of clothes I need, which gloves, and a beanie or Buff. I've established such a routine that most of the time I make these decisions without even realizing what I'm doing.
I love the feeling of running with no strings...no watch, no phone, no music, nothing but the shoes on my feet and my handheld. That's when I feel like I'm running my strongest and having the most fun. Does all the gear we have make me a faster, stronger, better runner? I'm not sure. Better shoes have given me a better feel for the terrain, rollers have helped my legs heal faster, the assortment of food we've tried still hasn't helped my stomach issues and I have yet to find a water bottle that doesn't bruise my thumb after a few hours. The one thing I do know is no matter what fancy gadgets we continue to amass around the house the bottom line is it's me running. No amount of gear is going to do it for me, there's no miracle cure for injuries or stomach issues. I have to do the training, log the miles, work on nutrition. And I'm the one that's out there on race day. These things might make my body feel better while I'm out there, but it's still just my legs turning over across the trail and up each mountain.
Miles Running: 51.3
Hours Hiking and Running: 9.0
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