Thursday, August 28, 2014

10 Steps to being an Ultra Runner

About a year ago, I declared "I want to be an Ultra Runner"

This was after witnessing my lovely wife and friends tackle the Iron Mountain 50 mile trail run.
I had only done the 16 miler. Two and half hours of trying (and failing) to run fast, tripping, falling, beating up my legs, and puking my guts out. 
Meanwhile they had gone on an all-day adventure, with stories of drop bags, thunderstorms, hardships, triumphs and exotic places high on the mountain with names like "Skulls Gap".

I wanted that. So I made a goal to run it this year.


But 50 miles is a long, long way. Even when I was in great shape, that was a high mileage week. So I had to learn to run far.

This past year I tried to craft, mold, chisel... hack myself into an ultra runner. Here is my 10-step plan to becoming a successful ultra runner.

1. Start with a solid marathon

So last October I ran the Detroit marathon. I had trained all summer and had high expectations.
By mile 16 my legs completely fell apart. Overtrained? Undertrained? Freight-trained? I don't know. I walked/hobbled my way the last 10 miles. I did stop for beer.

2. Learn the "Ultra Shuffle"

I decided to start my ultra training with the Croatan 24 Hour race.
I obviously had to slow way down to run for 24 hours, so tried a very slow shuffle/power walk.
My legs were really not used to this at all, and I got a horrible pain in my hip flexors by mile 8.

3. Never give up

Less than 3 hours into Croatan, I gave up.

4If you can't run, support your fellow ultra runners.

After quitting at Croatan, I was bored and wanted to go home. So I told Shannon that her knee pain was very concerning and that she really needed some Korean soup. And wouldn't a nice warm bed be better than running around a swamp all night?
It took a lot of persuading, but I got her to quit too. Crewing ain't easy.

5. Push through the pain!

My next big race was the Uwharrie 40.
I thought I paced myself pretty well, doing the first half about 20 minutes slower than my previous attempt in 2012. Still my legs were wrecked by mile 21, and I was in a lot of pain. I could have sucked it up and tried to finish, but I am a huge wuss. I dropped out and got on the bus of shame.

6. Drink a lot of beer

All Day IPA now comes in 15 packs!

7. It can't hurt to try! DNF is better DNS

Next I was signed up for the Umstead 100 for the 5th time.
That is not a joke. I have signed up 5 times for the Umstead 100. I have only started it once, and that time I dropped out after 50 miles. The other times I was too afraid to even try.

It is practically right in my backyard, and I have dreamed of doing the 100 since I first witnessed it many years ago. But once again I was having trouble running 100 miles in month, so 100 in a day just seemed too ridiculous. I took another Umstead 100 DNS, and ran the Medoc Spring Races instead.
DNF may be better than DNS, but 7 miles is way better than 100.


8. Get some ridiculously cushy shoes


9. Run long

I managed to get in some 20 mile training runs in Umstead and one 50k to durham.
As a tune up for Iron Mountain, I ran the Grand Island Marathon in Michigan.
My legs fell apart at mile 16 again and I had to walk it in. Gigantic mosquitoes came swarming to devour my weak and sickly body and I almost died from blood loss. Luckily I was saved by a torrential thunderstorm.

10. Learn from your mistakes

So it has been a successful year of training and racing.
I am now ready to be a true ultra runner and tackle the Iron Mountain 50 miler this Saturday.