Birmingham,  Running,  Ultra Training

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

“Happiness is pushing your limits and watching them back down.” – New Balance ad

This morning marked another trail running first – my first night run. This took my inexperience to a whole new level, because not only have I not build up my trail legs yet, but now I was going to tackle technical trails in the dark. I looked for excuses not to go on the run and stick to my regular route on roads instead. It’ll be too dark out, I’ll be exhausted after staying up for the election, I’ll fall, I’ll slow the group down, I’m not in trail running shape yet. Like with anything in life, you can come up with excuses until you’re blue in the face. It’s much easier to stay complacent than venture into the unknown. But that doesn’t mean that you should listen to that voice inside your head telling you no.

The run was creepy at first, I’ll admit. It was unnerving to only see a small portion of the ground right under my feet and nothing else. Greg thankfully took the lead and I just had to follow in his footsteps. My worst fear happened less than a mile into the run – I tripped over a rock and faceplanted into the dirt. That fall shifted everything for me; I faced my fear, realized it wasn’t so bad, and then was able to relax and enjoy my surroundings. I loved tuning in to my other senses – hearing the animals waking, smelling the wet earth, and then watching as the sun slowly rose over Birmingham.

Sunrise at a lookout point

My fear holds me back fitness-wise at times – I’m afraid of pushing myself to the point of discomfort. It was difficult mentally to want to run past 6 miles at first, because I was afraid that I’d get tired or need to stop. My current fear is speedwork. I know in order to get stronger and faster I need to sprinkle speedwork into my runs, but the thought of running fast and feeling short of breath makes me balk.

Fear, or hesitation can apply to any type of workout; people are scared of physical discomfort. Sure, most people can physically run a marathon if they train properly for it but it won’t be easy or comfortable, which is why most don’t even try. You can simulate a race by fueling and drinking like you would at water stops, but you still don’t know how your body will react, and that unknown is what throws people off. But once you’re willing to take that risk, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. And say you don’t meet your goal, that’s ok. You either learn from your experience and try again, or choose a different goal to work toward.

An ultra running friend I met on Twitter, Dan, asked if I wanted to train for a 50 miler in March. My immediate knee-jerk reaction was hell no!  I’ve never run a step over 26.2 miles, how would I ever run 50? After pausing and thinking about it more I realized that I shouldn’t dismiss the thought so quickly. Yes, 50 miles may not be realistic right now, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t train for a shorter race.

The same applies to everything in life. Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean that you should avoid it. Branch out, try new things, make mistakes, and have a good time doing it.

Is there anything holding you back now because it’s out of your comfort zone?

Sunrise on the trail
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    • tlsylvan

      I need to replace the batteries on my headlamp and get a handheld as well. More lighting = less chances of me breaking a limb. I hope. Have you ever fallen on a rock? That’s my new fear…

      • vegbarefootrunner

        I have actually been very fortunate and when I’ve actually busted, I’ve never hit a rock. However, I have kicked a rock while running wearing my VFF SeeYas (the thinnest one they’ve got) and subsequently fallen on my face. I had a nice bruise on the bottom of my foot, but did not hit any others on the way down! Overall though, the benefits of trail running definitely outweigh the fears and actual dangers 🙂

      • tlsylvan

        Ouch, that sounds painful. I’m looking at different trail shoes now and New Balance Minimus and 110s keep catching my eye. Do your feet get beat up on trails in minimalist shoes?

      • vegbarefootrunner

        Actually quite the contrary! If I’m wearing really cushioned shoes, I can’t feel the trail, so I end up losing proprioception and turning my ankles on every thing! In minimalist shoes, I have much more ground feel, so my feet can respond by gripping the roots/rocks/sticks or whatever there may be. That’s not to say that it doesn’t take some getting used to, it was definitely strange at first. The soles of your feet will toughen up just a bit, for sure. That’s the only time I’ve ever beat up my foot, was when I kicked that rock in just the right place! But otherwise, trail running in minimalist shoes has been the best gift I’ve ever given myself, there’s nothing like feeling the ground beneath your feet!!

      • tlsylvan

        That makes a lot of sense when you explain it. I prefer walking barefoot whenever I have the opportunity, and run barefoot when I find a nice, smooth road with few rocks. How technical are the trails you run? I think I need to start shopping around for a pair of shoes now!

      • vegbarefootrunner

        I would say “fairly” technical. I say this because the main trail I run on is called the Wildwood Trail in Portland, and the trail itself is over 30 miles long!! There are some parts that are fairly smooth, some gravelly areas, and some rockier/roots areas. I’ve run on most of it now, and it just varies where you are. I’ve run on several hiking trails in the area though, ranging from wildfire ash smooth to extra ugly and rock jumping in boulder fields. All wearing VFF or barefoot 🙂

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