Wednesday, July 08, 2009


A few months ago I said that I wasn't ready to state that I couldn't train for a bodybuilding competition and train for ultra marathons simultaneously. Not just lifting a few times a week, but really going at the muscle building, diet, etc. I believe it was Keith Krone who stated that if he was training as I, he would have had an aneurysm. My runs were becoming difficult but I wasn't ready to say UNCLE quite yet. I found that by adding calories in the way of even more lean proteins, shakes and by making sure to take in a pre workout shake, BCAAs during workouts and nutrition immediately post workout things were OK, for a while.

UNCLE. U N C L E. UNCLE UNCLE UNCLE UNCLE. Loud and clear. Uncle.

I no longer wish to train for a bodybuilding competition and ultra marathons simultaneously. I am not sure that both can not be done simultaneously, but for me, I am no longer experimenting with that goal. I am choosing to no longer train for both a bodybuilding competition and ultra running.

As I look back on the changes I have made since beginning this journey in December I wonder how it all began? Couldn't I just lift a few times a week without deciding I should try a show? I has happily building a bit of muscle and maintain it as I was running 100 mile weeks. I guess that would be like me running a few miles a day without deciding I should run a 100! Ha, that would just not be Me.

I learned so much about myself. I learned that I am driven by goals. I love to set a goal and reach a goal, to come short of a goal, learn from the experience and try again. Sure, I love to just run a five mile route with Topaz each day..but I do love to see progress in my times, in my races, just as I like to see progress in other areas of my life as well. I won't get too deep here into those other areas such as mental, spiritual, etc. at this time. Running is physical, mental, spiritual, cleansing, meditative and joyful. That will be another post.

I learned that it is very difficult for me to train for two disciplines that seem at such odds with one another. When I first realized I was having difficulty running long and gaining muscle I went to the forum boards at Precision Nutrition and asked if there were any ultra runners training for a body comp and if anyone felt I could train for both and be successful with both. You can probably guess what the responses were. No no and no. I wouldn't give up quite so easily. I still tried to do both and was able to for a few months. I have built a few pounds of muscle and dropped fat but it has been plenty difficult to do.

I think that after injuring myself at McNaughton it was a bit easier for me to go the bodybuilding route..I never thought I would actually think of bodybuilding first and ultra running as a second, but I did for a while. Then Topaz became sick and couldn't run with me so it was even easier for me to delve deeper into bodybuilding.

As I began to run less I noticed I wasn't as happy. I didn't feel joy as much as I usually did, I felt antsy, like I had all of this time and what should I do with it; I would think about a race and then poo poo it, telling myself I was moving on. I think I was becoming a bit depressed. Not only the lack of endorphins, but more than that. I didn't have goals to reach for weekly, monthly, summer wasn't filled with a morning run with Topaz, an afternoon roller blade with the boys, a night track session or run around the lake during baseball practice, a few weight workouts. I am used to training 2 or more sessions a day. Lifting 45-60 minutes a day with a 20 minute 'cardio session' really was not doing it for me.

I wanted to feel as I do when I spend a day at the ski hill, repeat after repeat..the feeling from a hard track workout, a 25 mile training run..the feelings of joy, of being in the moment, of working hard and feeling pretty darn proud of myself for getting in the hard work.

A few weeks ago when Alicia asked me to join her at Afton for a midnight run I at first thought no, not in my training scheme. I kept thinking about it. I told Steve that they were meeting at midnight and I'd like to go but I probably shouldn't. He looked at me like I had a third eye. Why not? We don't have anything going on, do we? Yeah, like we have something going on midnight on a Friday night. Not. Troy had a baseball game that would be finished at 9, it was perfect timing for me. I would be back home before they even awoke. I told him about the bodybuilding and that hours on the trail wasn't conducive to this. He couldn't believe it. Julie. This is what you love to do. Do what you love to do. I did. I loved it. I missed it. I missed running. I missed moving my body forward, breathing heavily, feeling joy in the moment, laughing, I missed my friends.

As Kevin and I were running down the trail, in the deep woods, in the dark, I said it. I said it and I yelled it over and over. UNCLE. UNCLE.UNCLE.UNCLE.

I am an ultra runner. I love to run. Running gives me such joy, it has become a part of my life, a good part of my life and I now know how much it means to me. I now know how much I missed it and I will miss it no longer.

I know some will say 'oh, so you need running to be happy, how sad.' Well, I have no answer to that. All I know is yes, I love to run and yes, it does make me happy, it makes my soul happy.


Anonymous said...

i am glad you are not giving up running! to be perfectly honest though i was hoping you would prove them all wrong! :) i figured if anyone could you could. i guess that means that if you couldn't then indeed it can't be done!! i don't think i could give up running for body building either. i have always wanted big muscles too, but if it meant i had to part with running...i wouldn't do it either. even though i swore off anything over a 50k and don't do hundreds (one was enough) what running i do do makes me happy too. some people just don't get that, but those are usually the type that choose food and tv for comfort.


Steve said...

Welcome back, Julie! So glad to hear you aren't going to give up ultra running. You've been such a great inspiration to runners, myself included. Have a great time this weekend up at the SHT!!! Wish I was going, but I'll have to settle for a nice long and cost-free run at Afton.

Londell said...

Some people need to smoke, some need to drink, some neat to cheat in a relationship, some need the thrill of crime, some race cars, etc to find happiness... You have one of the better, healthier things in life to make you happy. Kudo's and continue to enjoy life..

Matthew Patten said...

I fear a new JB on the horizon.

Hell hath no fury like a motivated Julie Berg.

The crowd outside of the ultra community will not understand, but they didn't understand to begin with.

I get it.


Helen said...

Yeah - Julie's BACK!!!!

I for one absolutely NEED running to be happy and I think that is perfectly OK. Actually, it's more than that... it's a GREAT thing. Heck, when you know what makes you happy you can never be unhappy, right?! Well, until we get injured... but even with your 'low' level strength training that won't be you!

Looking forward to a fun weekend up north.

Anonymous said...

Julie, I love your blog! I think it is AWESOME that you realize what it is you want and you changed your course. Good for you!

Damon said...


I'm about where you are as well. I have been saying for 20 months that after I finished WS, I was going to retire from ultra. I really love my training time in the gym as well.

But, after not getting to race last year when I was in great shape, and then not running well this year while fighting an injury, I still feel that desire to keep at the running. Maybe if I'd finished WS finally, I'd feel differently. But, for now, I'm going to continue to run and to lift, and hopefully do OK with my running.

SteveQ said...

Great post. You define what you do and don't let what you do define you. I thought the malaise in running you felt was from lack of progression - there's not much longer than 100 miles you can run and you can do those handily, and doing more and more 100s gets ridiculous after a while - so I expect you're starting to think in terms of (shudder) racing faster. Welcome to the dark side!

Travis said...

Funny how sometimes we have to fall out of love with something before we realized how much we really do love it. Looking forward to crossing paths again!