It all started with a beginning running class for women that I took in my upper 20s. It was in that class I finally learned how to run. And we were all beginners, so it really didn't matter how fast I could run. I quickly realized I could never win races. I'm just not fast enough. Believe me, I've worked on it. I've tried to be fast. It's just not the way I was made. Endurance, however, is another story. I can't run or bike the miles fast, but I can run or bike a bunch of them.
Within a year of that running class I had signed up for my first marathon. It was the Ridge Runner Marathon in Cairo, WV. It was 26.2 miles of hills. I ran it with my friend, Cheri. And by mile 18 we were struggling. By mile 24 we felt like we were near death! As I crossed the finish line I swore I would NEVER run another marathon again. EVER! By 6pm that night I was wondering which marathon I would do next.
That's the cycle of an endurance junkie (at least in my experience). I've done six more marathons (and numerous relays and halves) since then. And each time as I struggle through miles 24 – 26 I swear I'm never doing another. Two years ago I ran the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, at the end of that marathon, my knees made the decision for me. “Enough is enough!” they said. So I had to cut back. For a year and a half I did very little distance—maybe a five-mile race or a 5k here or there. I've slowly been venturing back, seeing how my knees are going to handle it. We did a ten mile race in June. And I plan to do a half marathon in October.
Now my husband and I are training for a Century ride (100 miles) on our bikes. I took two years away from endurance. I gained weight. I slacked off on my workouts. Basically, I lacked focus. I need endurance in my life. If I can't get my fix running, I'll get it on my bike.
This will be my second Century ride. My first (much like my first marathon) was a crazy hilly ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains. At one point during a particularly harsh climb around mile 79 my quad muscles seized up on me. I would pedal a few rotations, then have to get off the bike to stretch out the cramps. I think it took me nearly an hour to get up that hill. It was hateful at the time, but looking back it makes me giddy.
This Century is a little more sane. It's mostly flat with just a few rolling hills. It's also for a charity that's very near and dear to me (M.S. Pedal to the Point), which makes it a little more meaningful.
The thing about my addiction—it's very time consuming. I mean the actual ride or race you're doing takes hours (for some of us it takes more hours than for others). But preparing for the actual event takes a real time commitment. Mark and I have been building up our biking miles for five weeks now. Which means one of our weekend days is spent on our bikes. Sure, the 40-miler didn't take too much time—maybe three hours. But yesterday's 85-mile ride literally took up our entire day. And it physically hurts to bike for that long. But the pain is where the junky tendencies come to play. The whole basis of my addiction is pushing my body physically beyond where I think it's capable of going. It hurts at the time. It's hateful at the time. But when you push past that point...past the point you feel your body can go, you get a serious high.
Endurance is my drug of choice. It keeps me focused. It keeps me trim. It keeps me strong. I'm not recommending it for everyone. It's hard on your body. My own mother thinks I'm crazy. She's a yoga instructor and feels that any time your body feels pain, you are pushing it too far. She has a point. At 39 I have the knees of a 65 year-old, and I see a chiropractor every week (if I could afford it, I would see a masseuse too)! But it's my addiction and I'm not ready to give it up yet. For me, the benefits outweigh the costs.
What's your addiction?