sarahsmiles

by Sarah Overpeck

Runner:
Oiselle Volée (www.oiselle.com), team nuun (www.nuunlife.com) Reader. Pet lover. Coffee/beer drinker. Part adventurer, part homebody.

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Space and Grace

Last year I decided to train for and run my first ultra because I needed to snap myself out of what felt like a running funk riddled with comparison and expectations of linear progression. I had fallen into a dangerous (and really really dumb) trap of checking my splits for a workout from the previous training cycle before I headed out the door for the same workout in the current training cycle. And worst of all, I cemented in my mind all sorts of ridiculous correlations about those splits, convincing myself that I had to run the workout with faster splits if I wanted to run a faster marathon time, and that if my splits were slower this time around then all my hopes were dashed and I should prepare for a terrible race (even if the race was still weeks or months away). I think I was aware of how flawed my reasoning was, but I couldn’t quite get the monkey off my back. So I decided to

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Courage

Thirteen years ago, I spent the summer studying in Spain. I lived in a 4th floor apartment in Alicante with three other young women, whom I’d never met before I set foot in our temporary digs. We took classes, we went to the beach, we drank wine, we traveled.

Sometimes I think back on that time and it startles me. How did I find the courage to fly to another country and navigate public transportation, grocery shopping, and school in a new place with new people, and in a language that I didn’t speak quite fluently yet?

But then I remember other times…

…joining the rowing team as a freshman in college, without a lick of experience in a rowing shell or even a real concept of what one looked like.

…changing careers after almost five years as a teacher and coach, and settling into an office environment not scheduled by tardy bells and school buses.

…driving to northern Michigan last

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On Effort

In the darkness before the dawn, on a path that was quiet save for a few bike commuters and the slapping noise of my running flats hitting the pavement, I remembered.

I am not here to look peaceful.
I am not here to be fancy.
I am not here to take in the scenery.
I am not here to make running look effortless (because getting faster is anything but effortless).

I am here to work.
I am here to sweat.
I am here to breathe hard.
   Harder.
      Harder still.
I am here to make my legs more efficient and my capillaries more functional.
I am here to train my mind as it tries to wander, as it leans toward doubt.
   “Just one to go until one to go.”
      “You are strong.”
         “Last one fast one.”
I am here to feel the rush of relief when I finish the last interval with a loud “HUHHH,” and throw my hands overhead as my chest heaves a gasp for air.

There will be days to take in the

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Saying Yes

As 2016 turned to 2017, I reflected on the past year as I always do, and I thought of how much I learned and accomplished that hadn’t even entered my mind as a possibility a year earlier - rock climbing, ultrarunning, backpacking, attending a running camp with a bunch of women I’d never met. It made me wonder what 2017 would bring. What hadn’t I considered yet as a goal or opportunity to learn and begin something new? Sailing? Career change? New race distance? It occurred to me that the way to find new hobbies and joys is to simply say yes. Yes to adventure. Yes to being a beginner. Yes to feeling vulnerable. Yes to challenging tasks. Yes to some risk. Yes to the discomfort zone. Yes to unwavering support of those who have also chosen to say yes.

So I suppose it’s not surprising that I said yes to the women of Oiselle and the idea to take on The Speed Project, before I even

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Thoughts From a Winter Run

Everything is sharper in the cold.

I inhale, and the air pokes at my lungs like Pop Rocks.

My motions are more terse - there is less dawdling, less wandering. My plans for getting from Point A to Point B are more firm, and this translates into each step. My feet strike the pavement, and I hear the squeaking of snow, the crackling of ice, the crunching of salt. Even the dirt and grass is hard. With each landing, the hardness reverberates up through my feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips. My core tightens in response. As my body temperature rises, I remind myself to relax my shoulders from their protective tenseness.

I have to be dynamic but deliberate, especially on the ice. Gaining sly speed by overstriding is not an option. Lean too far forward, and my feet will slip behind me, sending me cartwheeling. Lean too far back, and my feet will slip out from under me like a

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I Was Born To Do This

At the end of the workday on the day before I left for Illinois and The Hennepin Hundred 50-miler, I chatted with my boss about my pre-race mindset. I thought of the moment earlier in the week when I had stopped briefly during an easy run to pay attention in the stillness - to notice the fitness gained in training, the freshness of my body and mind from my taper, the damp autumn air, the sharpness of my senses from the extra rest I’d prioritized over the past week, the emotional satiation that comes from a training cycle well-executed and well-supported by friends and family. I told him, “My hope for Saturday is that I can really take it in. I don’t want to miss out on enjoying the race.” He said, “It sounds like you’re ready.”

While my nerves got a little jumpier over the next 24 hours or so, I tried to focus on all the preparation that preceded my arrival in Colona, IL for the

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#realrunning

This post was inspired by a poem from Lauren Fleshman.

File_000 (1).jpeg

These two photos were taken a split-second apart.

The first captures my body as it was lifted off the ground by my left leg. You can’t see my feet in the photo, but I can guarantee (based on the knowledge gained from years of critiquing every photo of myself from every race I’ve run) that the toe of my left shoe is just barely touching the ground. Maybe it’s even lost contact with the ground, giving the impression that I’m floating. Certainly my spirit was floating in that moment. I don’t know if you can tell, but I had just broken the finisher’s tape when the photo was taken. It was the first time I’d won a marathon, and it was also my fastest marathon by about four minutes. I share this photo all the time. The race was in February 2015, but I’m still so very proud of this moment and all the hard work that went into it.

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Hennepin, Here I Come!

This post originally appeared as a guest post on the Hennepin Hundred blog: http://www.hennepinhundred.com/runnerstories/

I made it official a few months ago by registering, and I started training shortly thereafter, but this is the first I’ve written about my next big running adventure: an ultramarathon! Even though I’m blowing right past 50k to the 50-mile ultramarathon distance, I still feel like I’m easing into the ultra world by running a fairly flat race on non-technical terrain - The Hennepin Hundred on October 1, 2016. As I’ve shared my ultramarathon goal with people - coworkers, friends, family - a few common reactions have emerged, so I’ll share my responses:

50 miles… all at once?
Yes, all at once. But there are aid stations to refill hydration systems, get more food, manage first aid, etc. And I might walk for parts of it!

That’s crazy.
A lot of people think marathons

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Stepping Into My Capability Zone

Five weeks ago, I was preparing for one of my favorite marathon workouts: 8 x 1-mile repeats at lactate threshold. I love this workout because each repeat feels controlled, but the cumulative effort is massive. Every ounce of energy is slowly squeezed out of the tank, and what remains is an incredible mix of exhaustion and a weirdly immediate sense of fitness gain. It’s awesome.

But my feelings about the workout on that particular day were somewhere between anxiety and dread. For the previous 10 weeks, I had prepared for each workout and long run by looking back at the result of the same workout during my training cycle for the Mercedes Marathon in February 2015. The timing and my fitness level certainly lent themselves to comparison. I followed the same training plan for that race, which was just one week later in February than the LA Marathon is this February. I ran a big PR at

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Expectation and Hope

In typical runner fashion, I am trying to make sense of my race today and why it didn’t go as well as I wanted. I finished the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in 1:25:04, and was the 25th female across the line in what has become an incredibly competitive race the last few years. Certain aspects of the race are specifically catered toward runners making attempts at the qualifying standards for the US Olympic Marathon Trials - pacers for the blazing fast qualifying standards, cash bonuses for Americans achieving those standards, and well-organized pre-race accommodations. Because of the talented and deep elite field, I wasn’t expecting to be a top finisher today, but I was expecting to run a PR (my previous PR of 1:25:26 is from early 2012). If you’re following along, then you’ve realized that I did run a PR, and you’re maybe wondering why I am even a little disappointed

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