Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ultra Anxiety

After 3 months of training, anticipation and dread, Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 miler is just hours away. As I write this, rain is pouring down onto last weeks snowfall, prompting a flood warning for the entire area. At this time tomorrow:
  • I will be waist deep in an ice cold stream
  • Being pelted by wind, rain and snow
  • Still be at least 8 hours from the finish line
  • Trying to figure out which direction to go in a vast unending forest.

WHY? What does this even have to do with running? Why would any sane person subject themselves to such misery? I would like to say that I am hardcore and love a challenge, but that's not true at all. So, mostly for my own benefit, here's a time line of how I got here, about to run my first real ultra marathon.

Two years ago: Shannon and I volunteered at the Umstead Endurance run 100 miler to witness an ultra marathon for the first time. We were at an aid station with an amazing selection of food: Grilled chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, soups, fresh fruit, etc. Runners casually streamed by the buffet, chatting, laughing, socializing. It was a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere, almost like a party. Everyone appeared to be having such fun. We had only run marathons, but we thought we might like to try an ultra.

January 2009: Shannon and I run the Frosty 50K (31 miles), which took us 4½ hours. It was the longest and farthest we had ever run. Shannon did awesome, somehow running faster and faster the further she went. It took everything I had to keep up with her. While 50K is technically an ultra marathon, this one was fairly tame with a flat, easy course.

September 2009: We sign up for the April 2010 Umstead Endurance run, 50 mile option. Running around my favorite park on a nice sunny day? Sure! Why not? Yes, 50 miles is insane, but it was so far in the distant future and it was easy to be daring.

November 2, 2009: we sign up for the Uwharrie 40 miler too.
We thought the Uwharrie 40 would be a good stepping stone to from 31 miles to the Umstead 50. And we had heard such good things about the Uwharrie race, about how it fills up so quickly, that we just had to see what it was all about. How hard could it be?

So that's how we ended up signing up for it. Since then we have done 3 training runs out there, and have discovered that Uwharrie miles are not like regular miles. Stream crossings, rocky climbs, getting lost. Uh oh.

Well... I have to start packing for tomorrow, so I have to end this here.
I guess my next report will be the Uwarrie race report.