Running by the Numbers

Runner’s Math.  It is a thing.  If you have not heard of it, before, you have, now.  If you have not heard of it before, perhaps you’re now wondering, “what, exactly, is runner’s math?”

Runner’s math is an activity that many of us engage in, during long training runs or, for me at least, especially during races.

Remember back in elementary school when you would be given a number, like 100, and the teacher would ask you to create as many different multiplication equations as you could that would equal 100?  So, you would have 1 x 100, 2 x 50, 4 x 25, etc.

Runner’s math is similar, but involves breaking down the distance of the current run or race into as many different shorter runs as mathematically possible.  It somehow helps, at times, to make the longer distances feel more do-able, and less overwhelming.  And it helps keep our brains “occupied” during longer runs.

For me, it started when I ran my first half marathon. The half-marathon is 13.1 miles, or 21 kilometers.  The first time I toed the starting line for a 13.1-mile race, it felt daunting.  But I had been told to “break the race into smaller, more manageable, sections, and take them one at a time.”  So I did.  And it worked.  I told myself to “just run a 5K.”  Then, when I got to the 3.1-mile mark, I knew that I j needed only to double it to get to a 10K.  At that point, I could tell myself I was 6.2 miles in, and almost half-way.  On the last half of the race, I would do a similar line of thought – “just 10K from here to the finish.” Then, “just 5K to the finish.”

For those whose minds get quickly bored with the distance-based runner’s math, there is always the alternative, which would be time-based runner’s math.

In time-based runner’s math, I might think to myself “OK, that first mile was 10 minutes and 45 seconds.  If I average that for 13.1 miles, it will take me…. 13 miles x 10 minutes =130 minutes, and 13 miles times 45 seconds is…. (long pause while I try to do the math in my head) … 585 seconds.  OK, 585 seconds, divided by 60 (to convert seconds to minutes) is 9 minutes and 45 seconds.  Add that to the first 130 minutes for a total of 139:45 to run 13 miles.  Now we need to also add another minute and a half or so for the final 1/10 of a mile, which all adds up to a total of 141 minutes and 15 seconds.  So, I should be able to finish this race in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 15 seconds.”

By the time I have done all of that, in my head, another few miles have gone by, I look at the elapsed time, again, see that I ran subsequent miles faster or slower, which changes the whole equation…  and so, I start the process all over, again.

As with any form of math, however, runner’s math can get complicated.  For example, just 8 days ago I completed my first 100K race.  Runner’s math came into play quite a bit during that race.  After the first 10K, I told myself (and friends) “Hey, I am a 10K in!”  I thought it would feel like an accomplishment.  But, somehow, it didn’t. The looming 90K left, at that point, felt daunting by comparison.  Looking at it as having completed 10% of the race felt slightly better. But ultimately what worked for me during that 100K distance, was to count down the remaining aid stations.  There was 3.5 to 6.5 miles between each one.  There were 11 aid stations between the start and the finish.  So, I focused on conquering and counting down each aid station.  In between the aid stations, of course I reverted back to more basic runner’s math to mentally address the distances between each of them, especially during the 6.5-mile sections… those were a 5K, then halfway there, then another 5K and the station would be in sight.

So, there you have it.  The next time you see someone running miles on end, you will no longer have to wonder what they can possibly think about to keep their mind occupied the whole time, because you know there is a good chance that they are working their way through some version of a runner’s math equation.

Speaking of numbers… the Outlaw 100 is now 102 days away.

Between now and then I will run more than 875 miles in training on ~85 days of work-outs.  On 35 of those days I will follow the run with strength training that will have me doing several thousand squats, lunges, crunches, chair dips, bridges, leg raises and push-ups.

Today was my first official day of training – 6 moderate miles followed by a 30-minute strength work-out. It felt good to run again after taking so much time off.

Only 869 more training miles to go….

With a Little Help From My Friends

OK, so I have to admit…. it wasn’t “only” Tracie.  It was Brandi, too!  That’s them in the picture – Brandi on the left and Tracie on the right.  They are awesome.

As a quick bit of background… (OK, let’s face it, I am long-winded, so this will NOT be quick)….

I started running in January 2017 as part of “Run the Year” by Run the Edge.  If you’re looking for an excuse to get active, #Runtheedge has it.  Seriously, they changed my life for the better.  Anyway – In January 2017, I signed up to run the year in miles, 2017, with my daughter, Elizabeth and son, Quentin.  I started with a Couch-to-5K program and progressed from walking to running.  Elizabeth and I did our first 5K run in March 2017, and we did a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in April 2017.  In between those two races I ran my first trail race, a 12K in California, and I was hooked!

I turned 51 years old in March 2017 and another runner in Run the Year (RTY) named Jenna was doing 40 races for her 40th birthday.  She was doing epic races – marathons and longer.  She was a badass and her idea stuck with me.  After my trail race I knew I needed a goal…. I was 51.  I would be 52 in a year.  There are 52 weeks in a year.  Bazinga!!  I would run 52 races, of any length, in the 52 weeks, before my 52nd birthday!

And I did it!!  But I can’t blame Tracie for that.

Jump ahead in time and I realize that as much as I like 5K and 10-K races, I like half-marathons more.  And I am not fast, especially not as compared to the extremely high caliber of runners that run me “local” races.  Living in SE Wyoming means that “local” races are in Colorado, and most are a 2.5 to 3 hour drive away. But I have endurance.  The idea of the longer races intrigued me, and I decided to try a marathon.  In February 2018 I ran my first marathon at the Cowtown races in Fort Worth, Texas.  I absolutely LOVED it!

Well, somewhere along the way, and within the RTY Facebook interactions, I was lucky enough to meet Brandi and Tracie.  Brandi lives in Wisconsin and when we first “met” it was to put together a team for a Ragnar race in Wisconsin in September 2018.  Tracie lives near Detroit, and I think she and Brandi initially met through RTY and then later I was fortunate enough to get drawn into their circle.  The subject of a 50K (31 miles) run came up and Brandi sent us the link to one near her – The Ice Age Trail 50K.

The day that registration opened, Tracie and I signed up for the Ice Age Trail.  Just barely.  The race filled within 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, Brandi could not run it with us because of other obligations, but she offered to send us recon info on the area, which she did, and when race-day came, she played a very gracious host, showed us the local area, went with us to race check-in, and made sure we had all we needed for our race.

I could write several blogs on the Ice Age Trail and events since, but suffice it to say that the three of us have plotted and schemed and planned a lot over the last year.  Tracie and I did the 50K together in May 2018 (it was the first 50K for each of us, and she finished on a broken foot!) and then on September 8, 2018, all three of us embarked upon our first 50 mile race, together, at the Hawk Hundred in Lawrence, KS.  (By the way, if you ever want to run a 50 mile race, do it at the Hawk.  The Race Directors are amazing and the running community, there, is like family.  I truly believe that the Hawk has spoiled us, as runners.)

In the meantime, on the RTY 2018 page, there are a lot of interactions, a lot of races posted, and a lot of fun banter is exchanged.  Tracie was raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a part of her plan to run the Chicago Marathon and then 2 weeks later she planned to run the Detroit Free Press Marathon.  In the months prior to those races, she recruited a lot of people to join her at both races.

In March 2018 we started seeing photos of the huge medal from the Little Rock Marathon, and several of us in RTY decided we should run it in 2019. But in all honesty, out of all of us in the RTY group, I truly believe that Tracie has recruited the most people to run the most races.

Over time, someone began the #TracieMadeMeDoIt movement within the RTY group.  So that has become a common theme that many of us revert to when we need to blame someone, anyone, for our race addiction, our late-night Ultrasignup race entries, and numerous other related running-related shenanigans (Ink ‘n Burn purchases and Starbucks selfies to name a few).

So, now that you have the background information, I can finally tell you about my next adventure, which is happening “with a little help from my friends.”

Last weekend I “ran” the Javelina Jundred K in Arizona.  It was 62 miles of fairly flat trails in McDowell Park, near Phoenix. Prior to Javelina, I had planned to run my first 100 mile race in March 2019 at The Pistol Ultras in Alcoa, Tennessee.   BUT… as luck would have it…  a couple of very nice, supportive, and awesome people we “met” through another online running group called Running Off the Crazy (ROTC) on Facebook decided they would start up an inaugural event in February 2019 called the Outlaw 100.  It will be in Robber’s Cave Park in Oklahoma, and will offer all distances of races, from 5K to 100 miles.  I wanted to support the new race but also knew it would be harder than the planned first 100 miler at Pistol.

Thanks to FOMO and a desire to support these awesome folks in their new venture, I told them that if I was able to finish Javelina (which I was under-trained for due to an ankle injury) then I would sign up for their 100 mile event in February.

As luck would have it, I did finish Javelina. It was hard and hot and I hurt and I let it get to me, mentally as much as physically, and after the race I sent a text to Tracie and Brandi, lamenting the commitment I’d made to run Outlaw and whining about the fact that I had absolutely no business ever running 100 miles, especially not over the same sort of rocky and rooty terrain we had run at Hawk.  I was torn between the need to live up to my word and my belief that I was an idiot for believing I could run that far.

Then I got home.

I rested.

I got hugs from my husband and cuddles from my dog,

I texted Tracie and Brandi and talked about how I was feeling overall and the heat and the under-training, and as time passed, a phenomenon known as race amnesia set in.

And I started to reconsider.

Maybe I really can do 100 miles, I thought to myself.  After all, I get to run with bib number 12, which is my daughter, Heather’s, favorite number.  She has had a hard go of it for the last few years.  Her strength inspires me.  (I will write about her another time.)

While processing these thoughts, I was continuing to bounce thoughts off of Tracie and Brandi and seeking their input.

In the meantime, I also realized that one of the biggest issues I had at Javelina was being there alone.  I knew I would not be alone at Outlaw, if I ran it, because the folks on the ROTC page are a lot like those at the Hawk race – like a big family.

By Monday night I had “come to my senses” (or lost them all, depending on your perspective) and decided I should go ahead and run Outlaw. It was only a month earlier than the planned 100 miles at Pistol, so it would all be OK.  Right?

And THAT is when they told me the news…

Apparently, as soon as I had said I would run Outlaw if I survived Javelina and I had asked the Race Directors to reserve bib #12 for me, Tracie and Brandi had decided they would travel to Oklahoma to crew and pace me for my first 100 mile race!!

Unbeknownst to me, they were working on travel plans and accommodations while I was running that first 100K.  I came away from Javelina with a renewed and heightened appreciation of my husband and friends who have been at my races.  It matters. It matters a lot.

But they were planning and scheming all of this before they even knew how lonely I felt at Javelina.

These two awesome, wonderful, supportive and crazy friends were planning to be there to support me before I even knew for sure I would be going.  I was floored. Flabbergasted. Speechless. And so very thankful for their love and support.

So there you have it. I will be running my first 100 mile event, with a little help from my friends.

Thank you Brandi and Tracie for your unwavering support, your brutal honesty when I need to hear it, and your crazy sense of fun and adventure.  I am excited to see what lies ahead for the three of us!

And to make the upcoming race even better, my Handsome Hubby, Corey, will also be there!  It’s going to be an epic weekend, and I already know I am going to succeed.  I will finish that 100 mile race, with the support of my Love, Corey, and with A LOT of help from my awesome friends!!

For now, since I am recently unemployed (reduction in force at my international former employer) I have time to write.  And I love to write.  So I have decided I should chronicle this journey to my first 100 miler….and maybe beyond.  I plan for there to be quite a few running-related posts, but also a lot that are not, because I am a grandma and a wife and I love to write.

I hope you will join me for my journey as I run toward both my first 100 mile race, at the Outlaw 100, and also toward whatever other fun that this life chooses to throw at me along the way.

PS – Also, keep in mind that if/when you need an excuse for something, whatever it may be, you should rely upon the tried-and-true excuse that we have all come to know and love… #TracieMadeMeDoIt.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton