A few weeks ago, Valerie Hunt, my good running friend (who, conveniently, happens to be a coach for both POSE Method and CrossFit) dragged me across the country to pace her in the first half of an ultra-marathon. When she first told me of the plan to run the American River Endurance 50 Mile Run in Sacramento, CA, I put my hands up to my ears as in “la-la-la, I can’t hear you.” I thought either she was teasing, dehydrated and in a delusional state, or perhaps a little more masochistic than I realized. But my initial displeasure didn’t faze her one bit; you see, it’s not the first time I’ve dug in my heels when called to go outside my comfort zone — that scary place on the other side of “what I THINK I know. “
For example, when she first instructed me in POSE Method to improve my running mechanics, I cringed, I bitched, I belly-ached. All those “falling” and “pulling” and “fore-foot” landing drills felt foreign, awkward and, quite frankly, unnecessary. After all, I KNEW how to run, I had been running for 15 years at that point — and quite well, thank-you-very-much. Oh yeah, except for those times when I was sidelined because of ongoing foot, ankle and hip injuries. Eventually, I let her coach me through the principles of POSE and we checked in on form at least two times a week; now the movements are as natural to me as “the old way” and I run injury-free with more efficiency and less impact than ever before.
This entire example of KNOWING (make that NOT KNOWING) what is good for me in running mechanics was almost entirely replicated with my debut into CrossFit almost two years ago – only the running drills were replaced with functional WOD exercises and my objections were even more on the defense. I’d tell my friend, “I DO strength train, you know, I sit there in the gym and do bicep curls and leg-extensions – but nothing too hard-core, I don’t want to bulk up.” After her eye-rolling, Valerie took off her POSE coach hat and put on her CrossFit coach hat (although actually, the two hats can be worn teamed up together!)and patiently began taking baby steps with me, teaching me the basic movements used in CrossFit. On those mornings after, when I awoke too sore, I would conveniently “forget” about CrossFit and focus on my running.
However, the realization that I needed to marry the two together forever came when she took me to CrossFit Endurance Camp a few months later. Because “endurance” was in the name, I figured I’d be a natural because, after all, I was a hot-shot runner and therefore a stellar athlete (insert sarcastic tone). Who cares that I could only do one pull-up and thought a “Good Morning” was a yoga position. However, after spending a weekend at camp getting one-upped in everything from pull-ups to presses, I was humbled enough to admit that maybe I DIDN’T KNOW what was best for me, my body and my running.
And, that’s when I committed to making it all work together, the CrossFit and the running and the being good to my body. And, today I’m happy to report that I didn’t bulk up (in fact, I am leaner than ever), I have broken all my previous Master’s PRs in every distance from 5k to marathon, and have had virtually NO injuries to speak of. Even when I was much younger, one of my biggest aches and pains after a race would be my lower back; well, no more ! But probably most impressive thing to me is that I feel like I’m prepared to do anything, at any time.
Yup, you guessed it! After agreeing to pace my friend and coach, Valerie Hunt, and CrossFit Games star, Carey Kepler, for 20 miles during the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run, I decided to make my own go for the finish line. Lets’ do this; why not? I was about 18 miles into the run when I decided it would be no big deal to just complete the whole thing. Who cared that I had never run a step past 26.2 miles and my latest long run in ages had been just 13 miles? With no training, no special preparations, no pre-race worrying, I was free to just run and enjoy. As the three of us picked up the pace on our final miles to the finish, we looked and felt strong. We reveled in the cheers from the spectators and high-fived our awesome friends who jumped in for a few hundred yards after crewing us the entire way along the course. These were uphill miles and very few participants were still running at this point. While my legs were dead tired at the end of the day, I finished the race easily and recovered quickly enough to place high in a 10 mile race the next weekend.
I have no doubt that it was the combination of all-over functional fitness (from CrossFit) and efficient running mechanics (from POSE) that gave me the wherewithal to run 50 miles on a whim. Because CrossFit is all about “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement” and POSE focuses on moving your body in a series of efficient positions (hello, POSE is not just for running it can be applied to any human movement), the two team up perfectly to keep me prepared to do nearly anything that comes up on the spur of the moment – like running 50 miles – without too much trouble! I don’t know if I would ever run 50 miles again, but it is a thrill to know that I could at any time!