Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A marathon, a half marathon and an ... ultra?

Counting down the days (12!) until the Chicago Marathon. Run that, then count down the days to the Nike Women's Half Marathon a week later. Run that, then count down the days until -- well, maybe nothing. But maybe my first ultra.

I've been wanting to try an ultra (just a 50k, about 31 miles; I'm not totally insane) for several years and had set my 55th year (that would be now) as the time to get it run. I don't have much choice for ultras because I'm so uncoordinated. Most ultras are run on trails and I'm unable to even keep my footing on pavement. It would be disastrous for my skin, bones, muscles, tendons and sanity to even try to run on trails. That leaves the few local ultras that are on roads or asphalt paths.

There's a legend in the ultra world by the name of Helen Klein. Now 86 years old, she didn't even start running until she was my age. She discovered that she's a fast, efficient runner and loves distances. She's completed over 100 marathons and close to 150 ultramarathons. Yikes! She's set age records all over the place and although she's slowing down now she continues to run ("slowing" being relative of course; she's still faster than most people). She was the speaker at the Leading Ladies Marathon back in 2006 and I found her to be highly inspirational. She and her husband also put on a little race each year called the Helen Klein Ultra Classic, this year set for October 31st.

Early this year I set my sights on this race, feeling that Chicago would be a perfect test of my running ability and a perfect training run for this ultra. Of course, early this year I had no idea that my family situation would cause such upset and turmoil and lead to the cancellation of most of the plans I've made. I decided not to tell anyone since that would be a commitment, right? I didn't want to announce my plans and then (like almost every single plan I've made for the past few months) have to cancel. I can't reschedule a race like I've rescheduled the visit of an old friend (hi Carol!).

I think I'm in good enough shape to run the ultra (except for that whole tripping and falling thing) (and the breathing thing) (and the not-enough-time-to-train-properly thing). It's a perfect race for a beginner and even more perfect for a slow beginner. It's on a bike path for most of the distance, it's well supported, it's open for 10 hours for the 50k, some people walk the entire thing and the weather should be ok. I'm pretty sure I could do it in about 8 hours (give or take an hour).

What's the problem then? Same as it's been all summer. Just when I thought it would be safe to register, my mom's doc told us that she feels my mom will be ready to move from the dementia facility to a less restrictive assisted living facility at the end of the October (yes, she's doing that well). The race is October 31st. There's no way I can go away for a couple of nights, exhaust myself in the longest run I've ever completed, and still be available to help my mom.

Could I register at the last minute? Yeaaah, but with my propensity for planning ahead that doesn't sit well with me. I like to know what's coming up, what I need to prepare for, where I'll be and what I'll be doing. I've had enough of last minute changes this year, enough of being unsettled, enough of being on edge and not knowing what comes next. That isn't about to change so I hate to put my leisure activities (heh! running an ultra is a leisure activity!!) in the same unsettled category as the rest of my life.

So what will I do? Hell if I know.

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