The Year is Up

by nomeatbarefeet

This post is a month overdue, so please excuse the tardiness. Most of you know that the impetus of this blog was to document our journey of running at least one race a month for a year. We started our year with the 2011 Runnin’ of the Green and we recently ended it with the 2012 Runnin’ of the Green. Here is the list of all the races that comprised our year:

  • Runnin of the Green 4m
  • Parker Trail 5k
  • Rabbit Ramble 4m (Jon; Katie in Colorado)
  • Cherry Blossom 5k
  • Spring Run Off 10k
  • Freihofer’s Run for Woman 5k (Katie; Jon is not a woman)
  • Rebel Race 5k
  • Father’s Day 5k
  • Colonie Mile
  • HMRR Two Person Relay (3m each)
  • HMRRC Hour Run (Jon 6.9m; Katie 4.25m)
  • Indian Ladder 15k
  • Dynamic Duo Pursuit Race 6m (3m each)
  • Tawasentha XC 5k #2
  • Tawasentha XC 5k #3
  • Monster Half Marathon
  • HMRRC Anniversary Run 5.9m
  • Downtown Burlington 10k (Jon; Katie hates pavement)
  • 1st and only Jonathan Auyer 30th BDay 30k
  • Great Pumpkin Challenge 10k
  • Fall Back 5m
  • After the Leaves Have Fallen 20k
  • ARE Adventure race 5.5m
  • Winter Series #1 3m (Jon; Katie knee pain from Adventure Race)
  • Hangover Half (Jon; Katie sick)
  • Winter Series #3 10k (Jon; Katie moved to Vermont)
  • HMRRC Winter Relay (Jon 10.99m; Katie 9.73m)
  • Runnin of the Green 4m

So how far did we run in all of those races?

Jon ran 166.19 miles

Katie ran 139.08 miles

In all of this running have we learned anything? Have we grown, or gained some sort of wisdom—something we can share with the people who read this blog? We believe that we have.

(1) Jon has talked at length about how he never was a long distance runner when he ran track in highschool—anything over 800 meters was way too far. Katie is one hell of a swimmer, but she has often said that she never really felt like a runner. But last year we ran our first 10k, 15k, 20k, and 30k. We have grown to really enjoy what we call the “sweet spot”—the distance between 10k and half marathon—but in pushing yourself you begin to discover what you are capable of accomplishing. “Wow, I can run 18 miles.” It is a nice feeling hearing the little runner inside you saying that after a run. The change in mental attitude can be sudden and it can be life altering. Whereas before we thought, “Can I do that?” now we am thinking “What’s next? What can’t I do?” The upcoming races that we have planned for this year will only prove that we have matured and developed significantly from this past year of running.

Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.

This is a quote, from William James, that Scott Jurek would stick at the end of his emails.

(2) At the same time that we are pushing our bodies, running new distances, and moving outside our comfort zones there is a truth that ALL runners (especially trail runners) need to hear—in fact, tattoo it on your brain: ITS OK TO WALK. In fact, its ok to stop and look around. Pick your head up, look at the trees and the little animals scurrying around. Take a drink of water or a bite of food. Katie channels the spirit of Born to Run when she says, “If I can’t see the top, I’m going to walk.” This is really good advice, because while Jon is often chugging up the hill Katie will be walking—and the majority of the time we reach the top at about the same time. Funny the way it is, huh?

When you are running trails there are simply times when you need to walk. Sure, when out for a short run you can plow up that hill, reveling in the quad busting pain that hills bring you—but remember that when out on that long run there is no need to ascend that same hill as if your life depended on it. Take your time; find your inner power walker!

(3) Everyone should know and recite this: running should be fun. It should be like play: “play is doing an activity without any real end goal in mind.” This is how running should be. I found a great quote by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella over at The Natural Running Center:

“I think when all the needless shoe debates are over we will ultimately get at the real message of Born to Run and the Tarahumara. Running is play. Dr. Stuart Brown sums it up: ‘Play is purposeless and all consuming. And most important its fun.’ Play is disconnected from outcomes. You are in the moment. In a scientific data driven world, play resists all efforts to analyze it.”

This is what running should be about. You can work hard, suffering and enduring the pain of the run—but at the end of the day if you are not having fun then you need to reconsider why you are running in the first place.

(4) After a year of running a race or more a month, our hearts and nearly barefoot soles have landed firmly on the trails.   For Katie, the desire to spend all her time on the trails came early in the year of minimal running.  By the end of the year, Jon had arrived at that conclusion as well.  We would often discuss the love of trails on long rides to races.   We discussed reveling in the beauty of the country around us, the road becoming more of burden and something neither of us looked forward to.  This is right around the time we discovered and owned #3 as mentioned above.  If you don’t love it, if it isn’t fun, why do it?   Bounding, leaping, stream crossing became our joy.  In Born to Run, McDougall talked about the evolution of humans as runners.  That we can out run a horse at long distances.  The trails just felt natural, like that is where humans evolved to run—dirt, rocks, grass, not concrete.  This is what early human running was, and it felt more than just what the human animal should be doing—it felt what we should be doing. We felt increasingly at home on trails, roads seemed foreign.  For us, trails are where we want to stay.

(5) Finally, it should be abundantly evident that one can be a runner and a vegan. We can humbly offer a wide variety of other examples besides us as evidence for this fact. You can do some crazy feats of endurance, subjecting your body to all kinds of pain and suffering—and you can do it all without animal products. Here is a small list of vegan athletes offered by the ultra-endurace athlete Rich Roll:

MMA/UFC fighters like Mac DanzigJake Shields or James Wilks.  Cyclists like Dave Zabriskie and Ben Bostrom. Triathletes like Brendan BrazierHillary Biscay or Rip Esselstyn. Ultramarathoner extraordinaire Scott Jurek. Or undefeated boxer Timothy Bradley, Jr. who is about to go toe to toe with Manny Pacquiao. They will all tell you the same thing:  rather than steak, milk, eggs and whey supplements, opt instead for healthy plant-based protein sources like black, kidney and pinto beans, almonds, lentils, spirulina, quinoa, spinach and broccoli.

While few of us will ever want to subject our bodies to the events that these athletes do, they offer examples of the possibilities of a pure-vegetarian lifestyle. So when you are unsure whether it is possible just know that it is. Know that you can do it.

There is always more to come.

Be good to yourselves. Be good to the trails. Get out there and run, más.

In memory of Caballo Blanco, we are signing this post with our Spanish Running names:

Cabra Montés y Crepa Pequeña