Late last year, I was pacing the leader of a 100-mile race when we went off course at mile 75. I had joined her at mile 68 and she was naturally tired and feeling a lot of fatigue and pain, but she was still cruising in the twilight about 12 hours into the race. She was no longer focused on just securing the win – she was now after a PR and the course record of just under 19 hours
Do everything that you humanly can to get up on the game before you take on the course. Recently, I participated in a very popular 50k, and as one would expect, the usual accolades, comments and a few complaints came rolling in after the fact. One guy emailed that he’d showed up for the race 24 hours after the fact, thinking that the race was that morning. When he came to the realization that he’d had the wrong date, he decided to make the best of the very sobering awakening and he ran the course anyway, unassisted.
We recently had a “strategic planning retreat,” which in our case really meant that four of us got together in a fun setting (Sunriver, Oregon) to do some running, eat good food and hang out with local ultrarunners. Oh, and also deal with all the stuff that built up and we put off for the past year or so.
Like many utrarunners, Colby Wentlandt is motivated and inspirational. What differentiates Colby from the rest of the ultra-gang, though, is that at 14-years old, he has accomplished more than many will accomplish over their running careers. To date, Colby has completed over a dozen ultramarathons, including a handful at the 100-mile distance.
Could it be that our strong hearts keep us filled with gratitude? A recent study by U.C. Davis showed that ultrarunners on average, are a healthy bunch of folks. With the median age in the study being just above 40, there were very low occurring instances of high blood pressure, stroke and cancer. Those statistics translate to fewer hours of sick time used at work and lower medical bills, but also mean we have less ailments than most. Something to be grateful for, no doubt.
At age 62, having just completed a grueling 100-mile mountain race in which he finished first in his age group, Fred Brooks died suddenly when his car crashed on an interstate highway just hours after the race was completed. He was in the second year of a comeback to ultrarunning after a six-year hiatus.
There sat 17-year-old David Hedges, smack in the lead pack at the Twisted Branch Trail Run, a 100k race on the Bristol Hills Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail in NY. As he ran, surrounded by veterans of the sport, past winners of ultras and consistent hometown favorites he patiently waited.
Two days in a row I couldn’t find the trailhead I was looking for.
The first day I wasted almost two hours driving around looking for one. When I parked and thought I found the beginning of a trail, I ended up hiking a figure-8 around my car, wasting another twenty minutes down promising yet misleading paths.
Here at UltraRunning, we get all sorts of race reports, and they have always been a key part of the magazine. Amongst our team, we read and edit each one at least five times in all—so we really appreciate the good ones. The stories that entertain, inform and educate.
We want to bring the races alive for you, and inspire you to get out there and get after it yourself—to overcome challenges and have life-changing experiences you can only find at ultras. Nothing fits that bill like a great race report and photos.
I’m not an avid reader of poetry, but the words in this Dylan Thomas poem have always resonated with me, and I think they express what I’ve done and what I continue to attempt to do in my ultrarunning. At various times over the years, my best friend has admonished me about my approach to my running and racing, and has pointed out an old adage: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If that bears fruit, then I guess most, if not all, ultrarunners are insane, or damn close to it.
Long hours with sweat in my eyes, salt on my lips and the pain of the run have taught me a lot. As a high schooler in a town where “running” means a few laps or a track meet every now and then, I have found that it’s hard for people to understand why I love running. Most people hate it or see it only as a way to lose weight.
An ultrarunning adage says that after you start the sport, you improve for seven consecutive years. Your body and mind need that much time to figure it all out and go from “just” completing the distances to racing them at peak levels. For me, this has held very true—2010 was my seventh year, and that’s when I had by far my best races at all distances, with personal bests in all six of them.
Of all the important relationships in life, my relationship with the trails is one of the most complex and profound of all. Some days running the trail is like a magic carpet ride—every step easy and flowing and I’m one with the world. At times like this the trail allows me to connect with nature, know myself and be truly present. But other times the trail is a punishing taskmaster, with every rut, root, rock and impediment a massive hurdle.
“Since when is running 40 miles in under 6 hours the mark of a failure?” my wife asked me — for about the fifth time. I didn’t respond. I was sitting in our hotel room in a sort of depressed fog, the product of cramped hamstrings, blistered feet, mild heat exhaustion and a strong case of self-commiseration.
“When the race is 50 miles,” I finally answered.
What am I doing here? And why did I decide that this was the race to “go for it?” Now I just wish I were at home between my own sheets with hyperactive bladder and bowels and cold sweaty feet and hands. Most of all, I wish that tomorrow held something other than an early rise and a day of exceedingly painful effort. Ah, well. close the eyes, breath deeply, and please, please, go to sleep.
When I was facing a huge life decision, my mom encouraged me to choose my destiny over my fate. I really didn’t know what she was talking about and when I looked the words up in the dictionary they were basically synonymous. More research revealed that the differences are subtle, but huge.
A recent Wall Street Journal article looked at the use of marijuana to mitigate the challenges of ultrarunning and enhance performance. The point was that THC is a banned performance-enhancing drug, so to use it during competition is cheating. Of course it is. Thank you, Rupert Murdoch.
Ultrarunning is growing. Growth is good, but growth can be painful. With the rapid growth of trail ultrarunning, there is a confluence of forces: on the lands that support us; on race directors who balance the needs of the trails, the volunteers and the runner; and on the runners themselves to commit, train, prepare for and ultimately execute what everyone tells them will be a Zen-like, transformational experience.