Wow! It feels quite rebellious to take a 2 hour nap AND run 7 miles AND spend extra time writing all in one day. Not quite sure how I managed to do all of that ! Rebellious? Doesn’t exactly sound like the word most people would use. However, I’m not used to taking that much time to focus on what I want to do. My wife and I lead a nonprofit educational organization, which is pretty much like running a family business. My sister lives with us, who is disabled and needs some help with daily living tasks. And two of our children are home from college. So, it did feel rather delightfully rebellious and irresponsible!
The 7 miles is the longest run I’ve gone on in about a month or more. Lately, with the holiday weight gain, it’s been a struggle just to get out and shuffle 4 miles or so. But today, the miles just clicked off! It was a beautiful day, temps in the mid 60’s, with a northeast breeze about 10-15 mph. Started out south on the beach and headed back into the wind — but on the road. Felt great physically and made me remember why I continue to persevere in this activity.
I posted yesterday on how I’m in doubt about plans for future ultra events. However, there’s another take on this subject, or for that matter, any other physical challenge. This attitude is, “do what you can with the body you have!”
Now, this attitude is not original with me. I read this somewhere, and I can’t remember where. But it makes sense. Rather than trying to diet, slim down, and get into “better condition,” whatever that may mean, do what you can now. And push yourself to do more.
The idea here is that physical perfection is probably beyond most of us, So we use this mythical ideal to hold us back, rather than enjoy what we can. So, do what you can with the body you have ! And enjoy yourself!
I’ve put December 31 as the day to decide on which ultras to enter for 2015. I wish it were so easy. But in reality, I’ll decide later than that.
I really enjoy the sport. I see each event as a day away from the cares of normal life. Each event is a new adventure. The course, the other participants, the travel, the atmosphere, battling fatigue, and pushing myself to new limits all make for an epic challenge. However, I’m taking some medications that have the unpleasant side effect of weight gain. So, I’m almost at my peak in terms of weight. What this does is that it presents the spectacle of a 230 lb. man trying to run 30-plus miles. Plus, the downside of each event is what it takes away mentally, physically, and emotionally for days to come. I’m not sure I have those reserves to draw on.
While nearly every day I look at ultrasignup, I’m postponing any decision making until I get healthier and I can train consistently.
Well, I completed the 50 mile event Saturday! Great experience and wild success! It took me 13 hours and 20 minutes, which I was greatly pleased with. I was able to enjoy most of the run. Surprisingly, the most difficult portion was from about miles 13-21. It’s been my experience in doing these longer events that there is a “barrier” that one has to push through. I haven’t quite been able to define what it is but it seems to have something to do with giving up the illusion of having control of the outcome of the event. At some point, a mental and emotional surrender takes place and what appears to be obvious is finally accepted — that I am going to be out there for a long, long time. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that pain and discomfort is going to increase. There will be times of feeling better and worse, but overall, once that barrier is pushed through, the majority of the event turns out to be an extremely pleasant experience. I’m actually thinking about upping the ante and attempting a 100 miler later this year! I’ll keep you posted.
Before every event that requires alot of planning and preparation, it’s worth remembering that there are multiple possibilities for successful outcome. During the planning, preparation, and the event itself, it’s worth thinking through what these outcomes may be in order to stay encouraged and motivated.
A big life lesson that I’ve learned through my brief career in ultra running is not to view success/failure as an either/or. Most of our “big projects” in life — starting and running a business, following a career path, raising children, pursuing interests — are done with multiple intentions and purposes. Yet, we tend to evaluate the “bottom line” if we are evaluating success or failure.
I think back to some of the reasons that I began to prepare for the 50 miler that I mentioned yesterday. Some of them have been: improvement in my health (I was quite overweight and had sky high blood pressure — now I’m only moderately overweight!), fitness, increased sense of well-being, enjoying the outdoors, having time to think, releasing endorphins, meeting interesting people, and accepting a challenge. Most of these benefits have been fulfilled through the process of accepting this challenge and preparing for it.
I read somewhere that it’s important to distinguish between the process and the product, and to find joy in the process of what we are doing. Too often, people live only for the product. If we consider that life is probably 99 percent process and 1 percent product, it makes sense to find as much joy as possible in the 99 percent rather than living for the 1 percent.
Make no mistake. I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits of the habits I have sown. But it’s also a great time to think through how a successful outcome may be measured in ways other than “the bottom line.”
So, here are some possible successful outcomes for the Iron Horse 50:
Get To Starting Line Healthy: I signed up. paid my money, did some preparation, didn’t get lost on the way to the event, and didn’t wimp out!
Manage to run between 1-32 miles: Nice supported run (snacks make everything better!). Great day out in the woods doing something I enjoy. Seeing a place I have never been. Meeting new people and encouraging them.
32 miles plus: All of the above, plus running farther than I ever have before!
50 miles in 12-14 hours: Wild success!
Completed 50 miles and survived: Everything I set out to do!
When I tell people about my goal to complete a 50 mile endurance event, the “why” question seems to be always stated or implied. I think this is a sensible question, especially for the “weekend athlete.” After all, isn’t the marathon (26.2 miles) far enough? The marathon is the classic distance for endurance sports aficionados who want to “overachieve.” So, why do more?
For me, it wasn’t that I wanted something “more,” it was that I wanted something “different.” I’ve run two marathons. The first one I was completely undertrained for and was a miserable experience for the most part. I ran another one for two reasons: my daughter wanted us to get in shape and complete a marathon, and, I needed to conquer the demons of the previous effort. My daughter and I succeeded on both accounts.
After this, I really wanted to take on a challenge that was bigger than I really thought I could accomplish. I really wanted a challenge that would have a goal that was intimidating enough to get me out the door so that I would train every day. I wanted to see what I was made of. I wanted the challenge to change me as much as I wanted to meet the challenge.
There’s a real possibility that I may not finish. My training has not been great since the first of the year. Any number of things could go wrong that are not related to my fitness. However, even if for some reason I have to drop out at the first aid station, this challenge has transformed me during this past year. I have accomplished a number of things because of this goal that I would not have without setting this goal. So in my case, even getting to the starting line is a measure of success and beyond that, will only be a greater measure of success.
I’m signed up for an event this Saturday called the Iron Horse 50 Mile Endurance Run. Why I’m doing this is a subject for another post. If all goes well, I’ll be moving slowly through the piney woods of Northeast Florida for about 12-15 hours Saturday. However, my thinking in terms of this post is, “if you had to boil your life down to survive for one day, what would you take? What would you leave?
There are aid stations every 5.5 miles so I don’t have to carry enough food and water for 50 miles — only for 5.5. There’s also a drop bag point at 25 miles to pick up gear that will be needed for the rest of the journey. So, it’s not nearly as extreme as it could be. Yet for some who is fifty years old and 220 lbs., this will be quite a test of mind, body, and will. Weather-wise, the low is supposed to be around 55 F and the high about 78 F. So, here goes:
For Event Itself
Patagonia tech shirt
Pearl Izumi infinity shorts
Hoka One One Stinson Evo 12.5 (yes, they look like clown shoes but they feel really great!
Wicked Skins Sleeves
Ultimate Direction 2 bottle pack
Dirty Girl gaiters
Visor or headband
4 gels or so
small vial of bag balm
Watch (maybe — could stress me out! Also, I’m slow enough that a calendar might be more useful)
Safety pins (for number and to pop blisters)
For drop bag
Bag Balm container
Short sleeve tech shirt
long sleeve tech shirt
Headlight (yes, I will be out after dark!)
Ipod (questionable — I don’t usually run with music, especially on trails, but it may get me through!)
Before and after
Change of clothes
I am an ultrarunner. That means that I have run events longer than a marathon. I say this rather tentatively, because I don’t look like an ultrarunner and I don’t train like an ultrarunner. But I did run two 50k events during 2012 and finished them both.
The way I got into this was that I had this idea when I turned 50 last April that a suitable goal for the year would be to run and complete a 50 mile event. So, in 2012, I ran a marathon and two 50k events as well as a few assorted other events to work up to this goal. After the first 50k, I signed up for a 50 mile event, which is in two weeks.
However, ever since the second 50k, which was in December, nagging injuries have kept my training limited. I haven’t had to lay off completely, but there has been a curtailment. I mention this because I ran my longest run today since the last 50k — a 9 mile run. I realize that 9 miles is a long way to run. But I also realize that compared to 50 miles, its not very far. But I set my goal, I paid my money, I put it on the calendar, and I’m gonna go for it. And I’m really hoping that I can finish this, because I don’t know if I’m foolish enough to sign up for another one.