In 1999, Suzi Cope created the Grasslands Trail Run not long after moving to north Texas from California. As a pioneer in women’s ultrarunning – she was the first woman to complete the Grand Slam – it was important to build a stronger trail running community in her new home state.
You don’t often see the words “Iowa” and “ultrarunning” in the same sentence. The Hawkeye State has no mountains and little gnarly single track to attract hardcore masochists. But, there are a few ultras scattered around the state, and they have their charms. The Hawkeye 50K is one example.
It’s inevitable these days, a debilitating race anxiety hits that’s so overwhelming it’s actually scary. Heartbeats pound strong enough I feel as if my chest will shatter. Night sweats drench my pajamas. And a stomach twisted with nervous energy ensures the probability of getting any solid food down is next to nothing. Tackling new distances seems to exacerbate things, as I step into the unknown.
Aid stations are a critical component of ultras. They serve as not only the lifeline for many runners, but are also a telling reflection of a caring community. They are composed of volunteers giving hours and most importantly driving energy to runners intent on achieving what to many may seem ludicrous.
“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.
It’s universally understood that there’s nothing easy about running and racing ultra distances. The mastery the headspace is more important to cultivate than the training miles that we put in in pursuit of ultra glory. If we come up short, we sometimes think that had we trained more, or harder, then maybe our outcome might have been better, when what really mattered was our mental and psychological approach to the task.
Long-time RD and Texas ultrarunning insititution Joe Prusaitis recently announced the sale of his well-known and highly regarded ultra races, including the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler and the Bandera 100k to new owners Chris and Krissy McWatters. We asked Joe if he would be willing to share a bit of his story with us.
Four ultramarathoners occupied a $200 /month, rundown apartment. They shared one bathroom and one dream: They loved to run the long ones, the ultras. They pooled every thing they had – food, Nikes, part – time jobs, friends, and trails. Life was simple because there were no non-essential personal possessions to care for or to use.
It was Easter Sunday in March 2008, and he was unable to fit into the restaurant booth at a family gathering. Bill Clements was nearly 30 years old, and this was his wakeup call. He had always enjoyed being in nature and the idea that he was physically fit and able to enjoy himself on various outings and adventures, but now, with 250 pounds on his 5 foot 9 inch frame, he knew that something had to change. Two years later Bill completed his first 50k
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.
Sure, runners can get snarky in the heat of the moment—at race officials or at their own crew and pacers when things don’t go their way. But this has more to do with the stress of the event, and having their needs (however illogical or self-entitled they may be) properly met.
Paralyzed from the neck down, his head supported by a stainless steel band with pins penetrating his skull, Richard Dinges sat immobilized in a wheelchair last year still planning to run in the 1984 Catalina Marathon and Western States 100. “The doctors were pretty noncommittal,” Dinges said. “They just didn’t know what the outcome would be.”
This was my third time running the Hilo to Volcano 50K, as I had also participated in the 2004 and…
Some runners may be sensitive enough to their body’s rhythms and needs that they will instinctively know when it’s time for a walk. They are fortunate, and I don’t want to change their successful methods. Many of us, though, are fairly new to the game. and we don’t have an established sense of pace. However, it is not hard to plan and execute a race when a few simple calculations are made.