Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Pace of Nature: Pre-race Thoughts on the Tahoe Rim Trail 100

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Walking into the yoga studio at the Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center is like walking into a room full of calm. The empty room feels slightly warm with leftover energy from the previous class. Bare feet connect softly with the smoothness of the bamboo floor, and yoga mats are quietly rolled out toward the center of the room. This is my favorite part of cross training, and an essential part of my taper. My yin yoga practice is the savasana (final meditation pose) to my season of training.

In Monday’s class I was struck by a number of comments from the instructor. These are the same remarks, more or less, that he makes in every class, but this time they seemed to me to hold a sharp relevance to the act of running a hundred miles.

In yin practice, the postures are very passive and held for several minutes at a time. Thus, it takes special effort to contain the mind, to keep it from wandering, to stay present. My teacher spoke of the freedom of presence. It struck me as odd at first that something so challenging—staying present—could hold freedom, until I realized that staying present simply means letting go of everything else—all the other cares, worries and responsibilities that are outside the current moment. That freedom was something I also found in the last, painful miles of my previous 100 mile run at TRT. It was a fearful way to discover how to appreciate the moment, which I’m certain is what made it so rewarding.

He also spoke of having acceptance, no judgment, and of simply acknowledging what is there and allowing it to be. These may not sound like important ideas for running, but I think they are critical to dealing with things like pain and fear—things I’m certain to encounter when running a hundred miles.

Last month, when I came crashing down on my ankle and everything else subsequently crashed down around me, I spent the long limp home doing some serious thinking. I thought about what was really important in my life, and asked myself what were the things I wanted most desperately. It turned out, running a bad-ass 100-miler wasn’t even on the list. It was a good dose of healthy perspective.

Sometimes though, it feels like the only thought on my brain for the past six months has been what will happen this Saturday. I realize this is in large part because it is much easier for me to focus my thoughts and actions on an attainable goal rather than on the more difficult questions of life.

So, as Saturday approaches, I am still asking myself what I want out of this experience. Why am I going to this race? Is it for a challenge? A sense of accomplishment? Always, I hold this sense within me of needing, wanting, pushing for something more. Something. Sometimes I think I know what that something is, and other times that’s the whole point—to figure it out. At least running is one something that I know how to do.

I’d like to take some lessons from the past year and focus a little less on the concrete goals contained in numbers—numbers that tell time, splits, pace, place. Numbers that tell good or bad. I’d like to focus a little more on the abstract this time around. I’d like to be present, without judgment or expectations. I’d like to accept my best effort for whatever it is. I’d like to experience the freedom of letting go of everything but the run itself. I’d like to channel the calmness of the yoga studio, to bring that meditative state to the trail and balance out the excessive motion of running—the perfect harmony of yin and yang.

In a positive state of mind: TRT 50M 2009


  1. Most people I know go a little crazy during the taper. You? You find clarity! It sounds like your body and spirit are in perfect harmony. May it hold for every one of those 100 miles this weekend.

  2. Funny thing is, I went to yoga last night, since a long time hiatus away from it. There is something bad going on with my hamstring, for a long time, but now it's at the point I can't deny it or pretend it's minor. At the yoga studio - it was like I remembered why I loved it so much. It was wonderful...I, too, question myself often "why". Sometimes I find answers. Some of them I really don't like. Some of them are more or less clear. Sometimes I feel there is more, but I am yet to word it in my head.

  3. Anne - Well, I've had my crazy moments, but mostly, yeah, I feel pretty good. Thanks!

    Olga - Seems like it's the nature of yoga sometimes to make us introspective. I think if we weren't questioning ourselves, we might be missing the point. Hope your hamstring is okay. See you soon!

  4. Does this mean you are going to run without a watch? ;-)

    Looking forward to seeing you out there tomorrow.


  5. I saw you twice during the event (hard to miss those pigtails!) and you looked fresh and strong...even when coming up from Red House Loop. Congratz on your 28:21 finish!

    I took a couple of pics of you, but you were going so damn fast that I didn't get a good one, haha.

  6. Scott - Great to see you out there. Glad you came early to see the start of the hundred. Congrats on your 50K! Epic day out there ...

    Michael - Thanks. Nice job on your finish as well! Glad you made it out there, and good seeing you on course.

  7. Super G- Chatted with you coming out of RedHouse while I was going in to the loop. I asked if you were really you, I read your blog, and told you to have a nice day. Congratulations on your outstanding finish!
    bobby k.

  8. Gretchen, I found your blog by accident! I love your posts and am so glad we keep seeing each other at races. congrats on your TRT100, you looked amazing out there!!!!! cheers, JoAnn Ellero
    PS: "if you're not first, you're last!" hahahahahahaha
    PPS: are you on Facebook?

  9. BobbyD - Hey thanks for saying hi! Those "hellos" coming out of Red House were so awesome. It couldn't have come at a better time. Good seeing you out there and I hope you had a good day on trail!

    JoAnne! It was so great to have you at Tunnel Creek all day and night. Thanks again for all your help, and to Andy too. The blister surgery was totally professional! :) Glad you found my blog. Looking for you on fb now ...