Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thinking Like An Ultra-Runner

A few years ago when I started running and trail running, I had just finished my first half marathon trail run and was bloody and satisfied. I heard people talking about finishing their recent 50-miler and thought to myself, wow, that seems so daunting and impossible to me, I WANT TO DO IT! I love running on the trails, especially with my dog, and I love challenges, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to satisfy both of those desires. In 2008, I finished my first 50-mile trail run. I checked that off the list and could only think, what next? What other runs/races do I want to do? As I was meeting more and more people in the ultrarunning community I saw my chance to pace a friend in his first 100 mile run. I ran the last 50 miles with him and when he finished, he looked so elated I could only imagine the satisfaction he was feeling. I thought to myself, could I do that? Could I run 100 miles? Well, it's definitely worth trying. Another challenge, another opportunity to push myself physically and mentally and see where that takes me. I have had my doubts, but deep down, I know it is something I want to experience. No time like the present.
In February, I signed up and got into Cascade Crest 100 miler. It seems like these 7 months of training have flew by and now, in less than 2 weeks, I will have my opportunity to run 100 miles. It seems like a natural progression to me, it seems like a worthy goal to have, it seems like a sane thing to do and it certainly sounds good to me.

I realise this is not an endeavour that everyone wants to take on and that is respectable. Some people might say that running 100 miles or even more is extreme, but I don't see it that way, I simply see it as a challenge in which I want to put myself to the test.
The ways in which I have noticed that I have changed my thinking from being a casual runner to a runner who has been training for a 100 miler have recently become more apparent. Some are funnier than others, but none-the-less, I've noticed a few things. Among my ultra-running friends, these things seem normal but to some, it's not something to think about because they have other aspirations. For example, last Sunday I went to Discovery Park with my friend Jeanine do run a few loops. When we were done, she was meeting up with another friend there to walk around Discovery Park. Her friend, Maggie, is married to a very accomplished ultra runner. I was talking to her about trying to find these hand held bottle holders that I wanted for the 100-miler. She told me about these hand held bottle holders that hold 4 gels, and easily. I'm thinking; WOW! 4 GELS! And you don't have to cram them in either! That sounds magnificent!. She says, 'It's funny the things my husband gets excited about, he called me into the kitchen and was so excited to show me that he could fit 4 gels into one bottle holder with ease. He really was very excited about it.' I had to laugh at myself because I thought that was exciting news too. Then she went on to say that she was at an aid station at about mile 80 in some 100 miler and this guy approaches the aid station just continually puking for the 15 yards leading up to the aid station. She thought he'd probably drop as he was puking, but no, he continued AND he finished the race. He was driven. I thought to myself, yes, I would have kept trying too, that makes sense to me. When I was pulled out of White River last month on a medical, I was disappointed because I would have kept going, I would have just tried to recover and move on. But, the medical people there thought otherwise. And maybe that was a bit nuts of me, but in the moment, I just didn't want to stop, I wanted to finish. But I have learned that in long distances, being successful can mean a lot of things. It can mean being fast with a PR, it can mean finishing despite many setbacks or it can mean knowing your limits that day and respecting your body and mind.
Yesterday at work a co-worker came up to me and said, 'hey, I hear you are a runner. Have you heard of a running race that is 135 miles and takes place in really hot conditions, something with a "bad" in it?' Oh, right, I said, Badwater. Yes I've heard of it. And he says, 'would you do that? I mean that is just crazy and it is not healthy. Those people who do that are out of their minds.' Well, I said, lots of people do it and they live to tell about it. Then he says, "these are the people that we should be sending to Mars, and if they don't come back, well, then...and he just shrugs his shoulders. Imagine that, my co-worker thinks that people who run Badwater are so crazy that they can be sacrificed in the name of research. He went on to say that if I got any crazy ideas about running Badwater, he would most certainly talk me out of it. I didn't reply, just went back to work. I was speechless.
So what does all this mean? Well, it means that I am excited about Cascade Crest. It means that I have found my niche in doing what I love to do and that trail running is one of the things that brings the best out of me.

I am looking forward to running through the night and watching to sun come up. I'm looking forward to seeing where this experience takes me physically and mentally. I am a little nervous too...I admit.