Ultra Marathons for Mere Mortals

The sport of ultra marathoning, i.e. by technical and literal definition any race that is longer than the established 26.2(ish) miles of a marathon, has grown quite rapidly.   In no small part it’s my firm belief because let’s face it these it’s a little cooler to say “I’m going to be running my first [50K, 50Mile, 100K, 100Mile] that there are a greater number of people who are attempting these distances.

But after purchasing and reading multiple books on the subject of ultra marathoning I find there is lack of information for folks like myself.  The published training plans are aimed at doing well in ultra marathons.   At finishing in the front pack, not the mid or back pack.

And a 100 mile ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.

Websites with how to run your first 100 mile have anecdotes like “marathon time of sub 4” which frankly for a lot of us isn’t even a dream.  You can train for endurance, anyone barring physical disabilities can train to ‘go long’.  But to go fast requires a certain amount of physical ability.   To endure a 100 mile race that does not include a high level of vertical and technical terrain and do it in under the typical 30 hour cut off only requires an average of 18 minute miles.  A fair number of people, not me, can sustain somewhat easily a sub 18 minute walk.  Me, my walk pace is closer to 19 minutes.  So for me to do a 100 mile in the 30 hour cut off I have to run some portion of it.

For us mere mortals let’s ‘do the math’ and see what we have to accomplish in order to finish a 100 mile race purely from a moving pace perspective.  I think it’s not as bad as you might be assuming if you’re just looking into the crazy notion of moving 100 miles without stopping.

For me, let’s choose a moderate pace assuming some levels of moderate vertical and technical terrain.  A 6 minute run at 12:00m miles and a 4 minute walk at 20:00m miles is an average of 14:17 minute miles.  That’s a sub 24h 100 mile.   Granted that’s not possible for anyone to actually be able to finish at as there’s no AS breaks, potty breaks, food breaks, scenery appreciation breaks etc.  But still that leaves 6 hours for all the breaks.  (Again assuming a 30 hour cut off)

Drop the run pace a small touch so you average 15:00m pacing and you still have yourself a 25hour 100 mile.  Based on a 6/4 run/walk schedule that’s a 12:52 run pace and a 20:00 walk pace.

Which oddly enough a 12:52 is exactly my average pace for the very first 5K I did 2 years ago this month.

So for those of us who merely desire to do the distance these numbers should be of some at least small inspiration in that yes we too can aspire to completing an ultra marathon of even the bigger distances.

Many of the books and online guidance do have it right I believe, an Ultra, especially once you get past the 50k distance is going to be a combination of two factors.  Time on feet because our bodies, especially our feet, have to be prepared to be upright and mobile for these increased time frames.   And mental endurance to sustain the discomfort, boredom, fatigue that our minds will suffer from being upright and mobile. These are both very much trainable.

My ability to do boring things for extended lengths of time has greatly increased thanks to our long runs.  I can sit through 2 hours of kids choir concerts a lot easier now than I could 3 years ago.   You learn/gain the ability to speed the passage of time, an analog mode organic based time machine if you will.  While it passes at the same inexorable rate it always does, you no longer are part of ever tick.   Think of it like using an Acceleration Wand in Minecraft, except in reverse.  You’re decreasing your own ‘tick rate’ so that the world speeds up in relation to you rather than speeding you up in relation to the world.

Time on feet becomes more and more important in my opinion the larger a runner you are. Yes I speak from personal and painful experience.

It’s quite simple, more weight equals more impact because gravity is a bitch.  More impact is more stress.   So the larger you are the harder on your feet and every impact absorbing component of your body it is.  This physical stress is a lot more difficult to remediate. You can ‘will’ it away to some extent and medicate it away to a larger degree but the human machine that you are does have a point of failure.   I recently hit that this last weekend in fact where I started cramping bad from pushing things too hard over the course of a long day in my calves and shins.

Mental stress has more available remediation.  Simply finding someone else on the trail and hanging with them if they’re amenable can be a major boost for most runners although it’s my observation that ultra running tends to be a solitary sport to a larger degree than street running. Listening to audio of some kind, music, podcasts, books on tape can also help.  Or simply zoning out of everything but your focus on where you’re going to place your next 10 steps.   Just don’t zone out in general as that’s the fastest way to take a dirt nap.

In terms of training most, even perhaps all, of the plans available on the internet are created by and aimed at front packers.   Front packers are just literally the folks who will finish at the front of the pack.  They’re the ones who have the physical and mental resources to travel 100 miles in under 20 hours, in most cases well under 20 hours.

These leaves a gap for those without their level of abilities, i.e. the mere mortals.  When we try to do their training plans we end up injured, burned out or find out we can’t hit those 70-80 mile weeks and those 30+25 back to back weekends that we simply cannot do an ultra marathon.   And I believe that couldn’t be further from reality.

It makes for an easy rationalization to pull back to the safe distances we’ve done and if we need that rationalization / opt-out then there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  You do you as the saying goes.  But you’ll never know how far you could have gone if you don’t push yourself.

If you’re still with me then I think as long as you can achieve the following with an average pace of under 17 minute miles including all breaks and recoveries then you can be an Ultra Marathoner.  Granted for the typical cut off times you just need to average 18 minutes but realistically you need to allow for a little slack for unexpected events, terrain etc that might cost you some time so I feel an average pace of 17 is a good value to shoot for as your upper edge-

  • 50K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 20-26 mile long run.
  • 50Mile – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100M – 4-6 weeks prior to the race having done 50 mile long run.

Is this a very simplistic rule of thumb?  Yes of course it is.  It’s yet another one size fits all kind of blanket statement.

Now to get to the above long run goals then you need to build your training plan based on your own abilities.  The “I’m an elite and this training plan is how I train” plans are unlikely to work for most of us, at least in the early years, especially the first year.

You can obviously pay to play and hire a trainer and there’s certainly value in having an experienced open minded trainer helping chart your path to your first or 100th ultra marathon.  Unless you live in a small town it’s likely there are plenty of runners out there in your area who can offer thoughts and recommendations on trainers.

If you’re going to roll your own plan then take any online plan with a big dose of salt and skepticism.  Unless the author goes at length to indicate it’s aimed at someone of your current ability then assume it’s going to be a good plan for the upper 25% of ultra runners.  If you fall into that category then no issue but if you might not be there yet then I’ll offer the following recommendations based on my own experiences.  Much like every other plan and guidance out there come at it with salty skepticism that it will work for you (this assumes you have at least the ability to do a 20 mile long day).  If you can’t do that much yet then jump on any of the 3 to 4 day week, 4 month marathon training plans out there.  You don’t have to race the marathon, just have the ability to do the distance –

  1. dial back the weekly mileage to something manageable (you’ll have to judge this for yourself but a reasonable guidance might be start with 20 miles a week and peak at 50 not withstanding the race week in #10 below)
  2. have at least half the weeks with 3 or 4 runs instead of 5 or 6 and potentially average 4 workouts a week.
  3. weekday runs should in general be speed runs (400’s/800’s, thresholds, intervals etc) to improve your VO2 max and running efficiency.
  4. restrict your double long run / back to back weekends to 2 per month
  5. do not increase your total mileage per week by more than 10%
  6. do not have a long run more than 30 miles in general, exception one 50 mile long run a few weeks out if you’re doing a 100 mile race.
  7. do not have a back to back weekend of more than 50 miles
  8. do not have a same day back to back runs of more than 30 miles
  9. one recovery/light week a month at the start of the plan with one recovery week every 3 weeks as you hit your peak mileage.
  10. Add in a race if you can manage it in that 3-6 week time frame of a lower distance before your target race.   So a marathon before a 50k, a 50k before a 50 mile/100k, a 50 mile before a 100 mile.

After the last year of training to move from a half marathon to something bigger these are my personal truths based on my own abilities right now.  I’m a 27m 5k, 60m 10k, 2:15 half, 5:30 full runner.   I’m 6-3 and currently 238 lbs as of this morning.

And a 100 mile Ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.

What not to do…

I’ve been reading race reports of 50+ races and last night I read one that was filled with ‘do not do this’ kinds of events.  The runner started out well but then a litany of things went wrong leading to a decision about 2/3rds of the way of whether to even try to finish or not.  Much less placing like the runner had planned on at the start of the race.

Several runners apparently had to be hauled off by emergency services due to the heat and dehydration so that’s not a great thing.

  • Went out too fast
  • Didnt use the aid stations
  • Didn’t carry enough water (temps were 90’s)
  • Didn’t carry fuel
  • Missed route markers
  • Race had no water or ice at the finish line

Obviously the runner had no say in that there wasn’t any water or ice at the finish area but the other things were something he could have changed.

My very first 25K is where I learned do not trust aid stations being there.   There was supposed to be an aid station around mile 3 / 12.   Temps weren’t super high but they weren’t cold either.  As a result there was a 6 mile stretch between the last aid station and the finish.

6 miles doesn’t seem like that much.  If you had planned on that.  As a result I wasn’t hydrating properly and ended up overall pretty severely dehydrated and a case of rhabdo.

It was that race that showed me that always plan for issues.  In the race above the runner got lost and ended up with an extra 40 minutes or so of trek and then had to take a bit of a lie down which added even more time before he was able to get water.

In a local race put on by our zoo, this was driven home to me again.  We ran it carrying just a small flip bottle (10 ozs) assuming the aid stations would be there.  We came back around on the second loop of a section and they’d already packed up that aid station.  And we were still well in front to mid pack, not trailing the pack by hours.

So now, I always carry at least two bottles for any race longer than 5k.  For a long run >20k I always carry a bladder although I may not fill it at first. But I have it just in case.

I think the race report drives home the fact that some lessons are hard learned.   For me it took two instances of missing aid stations, a case of rhabdo, a dangerous level of dehydration that I now don’t assume everything is going to go smoothly at a race or in a run.

A little preparation can make the difference between a finish and a did not finish, it can make the difference between a back pack finish and front pack finish.

Ginger

While ginger is a great thing for both runners and #notarunner s alike and has many benefits I’m actually referring to another ginger right now.

I’m not sure why she didn’t come up in my feed before but I came across Wild Ginger Films youtube channel while doing a search for packing for an ultra marathon.

I think she has a great perspective on running and especially ultra-running and her channel has a number of good videos, videos that I’ve found directly relevant to my training and planning for running.

Because she currently has a lower number of subs than many bigger channels this I think keeps her from showing up in suggested/recommended lists and that’s a shame.

I highly recommend you check her channel out and if there’s something there that you find useful then go ahead and sub to the channel.

To the pain

“To the pain…” is such a great quote don’t you think?  From a movie filled with great quotes.  “To the pain and beyond” is how I deal with running.  I was having a talk today with someone who runs 3 to 5 miles and she says after mile 1 and until that last mile running is fun for her.   I had to acknowledge it’s not quite that way for me.

The first half mile for me is running through the minor aches and pains of getting things moving again, ankles, shins, knees, abductors, glutes, back or whatever.  At any given time there is something or somethings bitching for attention and complaining about being forced to move at all, much less move at a pace faster than a slow walk.

It’s a whole lot of boring painful foreplay for each singular, brief happy ending.

And after I beat those into a dull murmur then I have the effort of moving my large forward on a continuous basis.   At no time have I had an experience that was ‘effortless’ where I ‘felt like I could run forever’.   The runners high is a lie to quote Portal.

Yet I continue to do this an average of 4.2 days a week over the last 2.5 years.  Why do I do it?  Because of the sense of satisfaction I get out of doing something I didn’t think I could do and that the vast majority of people will never, ever try to do.  It’s a whole lot of boring painful foreplay for each single, brief happy ending.

And in reading race reports and books and blog posts and talking with runners that seems to be why most do it.  To take everything they have and haul it up to that giant wall of pain and then punch through it.  The pain doesn’t get any less, it doesn’t go away, once you break down that wall and you may get hit by falling bricks and you claw your way through the hole but for most of us just getting through that wall, even though we know another wall is coming up, is enough.

The end justifies the pain so to speak.

A note about Anchors

I have run well over 1000 miles with Trex, including during my (our) most triumphant and worst races thus far in my (our) running careers, and from my perspective he is most definitely my Anchor.  On this we agree. It’s just we don’t quite agree on which particular definition of the word applies to our partnership.   While Trex has this nagging feeling that he is dragging behind and slowing me down he is anything but that. So allow me to set the record straight.

Anchor leg
anchor leg is the final position in a relay race. Typically, the anchor leg of a relay is given to the fastest or most experienced competitor on a team. The athlete completing the anchor leg of a relay is responsible for making up ground on the race-leader or preserving the lead already secured by their teammates.[1] An anchor leg is typically part of a running relay, but may also be part of swimming, skiing or skating relays.[2][3]

Having swam competitively in HS, I was often the anchor swimmer on relay teams. I can still hear the voices of my swimming sisters yelling my name as sprinted past the other swimmers, cheering me into the wall, and shouting how much they loved me at the moment we all realized we had just earned first place on the podium and qualified for State at our first regional meet.  It was a proud moment in my life and has always stayed with me.  Coming from behind, and over taking my competition was something I thrived on. Ask my family or friends and they can attest to my fierce competitive nature. I love to win.

But a few years ago, while serving as the captain of a Roller Derby team, I had my first daughter and I came to realize that there wasn’t enough room for the fierce competitor in me and the nurturer. This was a hard day.  I realized that in order to be the mother I wanted to be that I had to make room for myself to grow in this capacity. At the time it meant I had to retire my skates because I knew I wasn’t strong enough to balance both sides of my nature. Frankly I am still not, which is why I don’t really compete with anyone but myself in running. Instead I take pride in the fact that I constantly work at balancing being a wife and a mom, with having a full-time (stressful) career, and run long distance. This is no easy task and for me it means keeping my competitive nature in check.

So today I am part of a two person team, and we are our own competition and I am more than okay with this. There simply aren’t enough me hours in the day to let my raging ram loose on the course (I am an Aries btw). While she is in there I don’t have any more time or energy available to do what it takes to complete with the likes of runners such as RAbbit or other women, who dominate the course in my age group, without paying the price of missing out on my family life or falling behind in my career.

So frankly I don’t give it my all, I give it what I can, day in and day out, saving enough for the rest of my life. Sure I most definitely have it in my veins to go faster, but at a serious cost. I have to keep this drive in check to maintain balance. I am my own boat anchor {1}.

an·chor
ˈaNGər/
noun: anchor; plural noun: anchors
1.  a heavy object attached to a rope or chain and used to moor a vessel to the sea bottom, typically one having a metal shank with a ring at one end for the rope and a pair of curved and/or barbed flukes at the other.
2.  a person or thing that provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain situation.

It is because of my natural tendency to want to take off and race to the finish that I have needed a little help learning to stay grounded with running. It has been a learning process and I am more than grateful for Trex’s influence in this area. I have never known anyone as steady like a rock (or an anchor as the case may be) as Trex.

To start, if it is a run day, he runs. His words, not mine. If it is 1 billion degrees outside, raining flaming locusts, and it’s a run day, then he inevitably has some gear for just this occasion, pulls it out, and he runs.  Yes that is a tad bit of an exaggeration, but the analogy holds. I don’t know anyone who is as thoughtful about preparedness, and who is as dedicated to finishing what he starts as Trex. I have adopted this same credo to help maintain a place for running in my life. My family and co-workers understand that running is important to me so if it is a run day, I run; perhaps not as fast as I am able, but I run. Period.

During my runs I have also come to rely on Trex’s metronome-like rhythmic foot falls to keep a steady pace and structured form. This has helped me steadily improve my running and most likely prevented numerous injuries and has ensured I have enough fuel left in the tank to complete the ever increasing distances we have tackled over the past year.

Anchor
A person or feeling one uses to keep his or herself grounded or in a calm state when things are not well. He’s my anchor. You know, he keeps me calm on days everything seems to go wrong.
#anchoring #helpful #anchors #anchor #kind

Lastly,  there have often been days when my busy life has left me feeling like a one arm juggler in a circus, and when my emotions threaten to devour me like the hungry lions perched around the ring. Running has helped to be an outlet for times like these, when I feel, quite literally, like I have to “run off the crazy”. On those day’s Trex is more like my very own #luckdragon helping to pulling me out of my emotional storm by the sound of his steady rhythmic pace, his friendly optimism, and his calm demeanor.   I count myself lucky to have such a running companion.

So I guess in the end Trex was right. He is my #anchor and for it I am #better.

Okay I know, enough with the hashtags already. #whatever

Week 7 Road to 50 Status (The P entry)

Early Morning Carl

So… Week 7 of the training plan has come and gone.   Tuesday was a 12k trail run where we did our usual Snake / Pink trail out on Turkey Mountain.  Thursday was a M/E run with a 8K in the morning and an 8K in the evening.   Saturday was a 25K LSD which we ran the first 6 miles and then did a R/W of 7/1 (mostly).   Sunday was supposed to be a 25K as well but we need the vertical so we spent the morning going up and down on Carl over and over.

One thing I’m concerned about, at least in the heat of Oklahoma summers is I sweat faster than I process water.  I drink water and drink mix (currently Ultima sugar free) over the course of the run continuously but after 15 miles my need and ability to urinate ‘dries up’ to make a bad pun.   Today for example I drank 96+ ounces of water.  For those doing the math that’s a gallon and a half of water.  A gallon and a half…  And by mile 12 I had no desire/need/ability to urinate.   I didn’t pee until about 2 hours after the run.  During that time I consumed another 36oz of pedialyte and coke.   So 2 gallons of liquid consumed and during that time I urinated maybe 8 oz worth.

It’s normal for me to go on a long run during the summer and come back 4 to 8 lbs lighter in spite of drinking 6 to 12 lbs of water on run.   That means I’m literally sweating out up to 2 gallons of water on a hot run.

Over the distance I’m getting more and more dehydrated and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.   I drink enough that I end up with sloshy belly syndrome by the time I’m done but it just backlogs in the system and meanwhile my sweat glads are working their collective asses off trying to cool me down to the detriment of the machine.

Its kind of like having a 2″ hole in your radiator but you’re filling it from a 1″ hose.

 

Random Musings on A Thursday

Today is a split run day, 8K in the morning, 8K in the evening with the run being a 2K warm up, 4K fast, 2K cooldown.   One of the things I’ve tried to do with my training plan is have T&T runs mix it up and be more focused on faster shorter runs.  For a number of reasons, one I don’t want the whole day tied up with work and running.  Two speed builds economy of form.  Three it stresses lactate waste systems so they work better. Four I still like to run 5K’s and see if I can beat my existing PR (27:45) so speed running helps.

But then you always remember your first time.

Of course I can’t help but find it a little… funny? that a 5 mile run is a short run these days.  I remember very clearly the first time I successfully traveled for 3.109 miles without dropping to a zombie shuffle at any part of it.   But then you always remember your first time.

This mornings run went a lot better than Tuesdays, 3 minutes faster pacing and I was in zone 2 most of the way, fluttering around the edge of zone 3.   It was also 23 degrees cooler.  And 2 days more recovery time from the big Saturday run.

I do note that Bunny ran her training run 45 seconds per mile faster.   See what happens when she doesn’t have to drag a old dinosaur around behind her?

I was also able to confirm the calibration for my Stryd foot pod,  at both the 6K and 8K mark my watch started beeping about 8 steps away from the line and marked the distance at 4 steps away from the line.  Over the course of 8000 meters it was 4 meters off the mark at measuring the distance exactly.    I was on a 400 meter track this morning that I use most of the few times I have to get up early and run during a weekday.  It’s just down the street from my house and the sidewalks in the neighborhood aren’t in the best shape for dark running so it’s just a fast safe way to get my run in.  And it lets me check my calibration.

If you’ve looked at Stryd in the past but the price tag was off putting then they did release a cheaper option in the last few months.  It’s literally the same footpod they just have all the metrics locked behind a license but if you just want pace and speed there’s literally nothing else out that will give you this level of accuracy.

It really depends on just what you’re looking for in training and running and racing if a Stryd or your watches GPS or just trail markers are enough for you.

This has been a 150 mile month with longer ones to come.   Let’s hope I survive it.

Cumulative Stress

Stress pipe…

There are tons of articles online about stress and accumulation of stress and over stressing and over training.  That’s one of the reasons I’ve cut our Wednesday cruising run, is to try to reduce stress load.

The tricky thing is stress is very much a single bucket that is filled from all kinds of sources.  Those sources might be just an annoying drip in the night because you wake up 3 or 4 times or it might be a fire hose of impending job loss that threatens to wash you down the street.

Stress from your professional and personal relations and environments, stress from the daily commute, the volumes of bad things going on in the world, the 28 miles you ran over the weekend, insomnia, health issues, running conditions, hydration levels, weight changes; none it is singular and it all impacts our abilities to ‘do it’.

Whether it’s at work, play, in bed or on the trail, stress can and does have major impacts on our lives and potential.

Personal reference point, yesterday’s run, not that great, 2 minutes slower than an identical run last week…

————

Weekend 6 was a high volume week with 28 miles done on Saturday followed by Sunday and Monday being off days from running.

Yesterday was the first run after the long day with a 12K run scheduled dividing into a pyramid of 4K zone 2, 4K zone 4, 4K zone 2.   That was the plan anyway.

And it’s only going to get longer. That’s what she said…

When the plan met the dirt it kind of fell apart.   Bunny was at Zone 4 for the first part while I was in Zone 2.   For the Z4 stuff my push fell apart and I ended up hiking a fair bit of it instead.

It was also roughly 100 billion degrees Kelvin out.  Or a 100F.  One of those two is correct.

I also wore my slightly too short Lone Peak 3.0 size 13’s.  They’re a quarter inch shorter than my Escalante Size 13’s.  FGS Altra the sizing ridiculousness is just… ridiculous.  They’re okay for shorter distances but the heat accelerated my foot swelling so by the end of it my toes were just touching the end of the shoes.  I guess I’m going to have to retire them permanently.

Intellectually I know this failure was in large part due to just accumulated stress from the weekend, that it was OMFG hot, but emotionally it still feels like a bit of a failure.

The loop we were on, the Snake aka Pink trail, at our nearby trail refuge of Turkey Mountain, where I’ve never seen a turkey but I’ve seen several bobcats, rabbits, snakes, frogs, a bazillion mosquitoes and spiders from hell, measures right around 3.5 miles, at least the route we take.   There’s a small loop on the way back to bring it up to 3.5 miles and as we were coming back the second time I was sorely tempted to bypass that loop and just be short but Bunny wouldn’t commit to doing it so as always “when it’s a run day you run”.

We still ended up about .33K short of our planned 12K distance but I deemed it good enough, the heat and W shape of the elevation was enough to make up that slight lack in distance.

Tomorrow is another double morning and evening run, just 8K each for a total of 16k.  “Just 8K”.

It’s interesting how what things change over time.  I was thinking about that on the way home yesterday, how when I started my Couch to 5k plan, my first sessions were 20-25 minutes long and maybe 2k to 3k total.  Now any run less than 90 minutes / 15k is now considered a “it’s just xxx”.

And it’s only going to get longer. That’s what she said…   At week 6 in a 18 week long plan, the long days and weeks are only getting started although we do have a 2 week taper so really it’s 16 weeks that we have to ‘worry’ about.

 

Tearing down the Wall

I have written a bit before about what it’s like to face my personal walls while running, but I encountered an interesting experience during our back-to-back 30K/15K and I feel it is worth a few lines to describe it as it seemed rather significant and useful for future use.  At least to me, myself, and I anyway.

As T-Rex mentioned in his report, I have had a bit of knee pains the past week or so. I don’t think it is my shoes as I am alternating between 4 pairs of shoes and don’t quite have enough miles on them to be the cause. As such that pretty much leaves strain due to weakness & overuse, sooo I am going to have to up my PT game a bit. I have done band exercises (mostly) on the two days a week, that are our only non-run days, but I guess I will have to do them more fervently and frequently.  I would rather not have to do all this work only to bench myself as a result of injury.

Anyways I have had a bit of extra pain while running. Who doesn’t really? So after we started our second long run for the day my knees complained loudly. My right knee especially using rather colorful profanity from the beginning threatening to force me to turn around. The right had griped a lot after our earlier 30k, so during the day I iced it and applied liberal amounts of Biofreeze gel. I don’t know that any of this helped but it made me think I was doing good anyhow.  So not one to listen to “a bunch of b*tchy little [knees],”  I willed them into submission by running long enough for everything to warm up and loosen up. Thankfully this only took about 15 minutes. Bunny 1, knees 0.

So as the pain subsided I found the 7-min/2-min run/walk cadence helped me get into a decent zone faster for the first half of the run. I agree with T-Rex, our runs have improved with the return of the run/walk repeats.  But one problem I have with this pattern is that towards the end of our longest runs I hit a point when the stop/restart of running and walking becomes extremely painful and it feels better to just simply trot than to change gears. So painful in fact that at the restart of the last run of the night, after an extra-long walking bit, both T-Rex and I, in unison, belted out four letter expletives at our discomfort. The pain was real my friends.

It was during the last 3-4 miles or so of our run/walk that I felt my wall beginning to form. Brick by brick. And not the Yellows kind either.  Perhaps it was the hypnotic atmosphere created by the dark, mingled with the strong light of the high full moon, (or the delirium brought on by the pain and late hour), but somehow I was able to consciously observe the construction process in an almost disembodied state which gave me the opportunity to deconstruct the wall before it could form a solid obstacle.  This disconnected deconstruction process struck me as rather remarkable, and as it repeated itself over the last half run cycles, it allowed me the opportunity to meditatively experiment with my thoughts over my state of being. It went something like this….

Muscles: “Everything hurts, we are sooo done with this sh*t.”
Brain: “I concur, this sucks. F@#k it I’m out.”
Conscience Observer: “Wait a minute, we’ve totally been through this before guys, remember? Let me remind you that we have twice this distance to cover in a few months so cut this moaning crap out and let’s finish strong!” (Rocky theme begins to play)
Muscles & Brain: “But it hurts! And it’s hot. And we are tired. And this sucks. And it HURTS!”
Conscience Observer:  “Ya ya heard it all before, shut the hell up, we are just fine and we are damn sure not quitting. Here think of this…. We are half way from finishing our first 50k and the end is nowhere in sight, we are in the middle of the high desert with no aid nearby and, did I mention, we sure as hell aren’t quitting now? So what would we do then?” (Duh duh duuuun)
Muscles  & Brain: “Sh*t.”
Conscience Observer: “That’s what I thought. Now shut it, we’ve got a long way to go.” (Whip crack sound effect)

I know what you’re thinking… but as Sheldon would say “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

The not-crazy-like-at-all thought cycle continued to roll through my brain, and each time I would conjure up the idea that “we” simply were in the middle of a much longer run and, in fact, had no choice but to carry on. I basically tricked myself into thinking the end wasn’t near and it worked!   Well that is until the next time my muscles and brain tried to unionize and strike, forcing me to remind them of their ‘At Will’ contracts as I cracked my proverbial whip. (cue Devo song).  In those moments I somehow, not through the use of hallucinogens, stepped outside of myself and talked some sense into my brain and body. It was a rather surreal experience. But I am curious to know if other runners have a similar trialogue with themselves, or if perhaps insanity is creeping in with stress and age. Probably the latter. Hoping it’s the former, for Trex’s sake.

While I can’t say that I didn’t struggle with the wall, I can say I learned how to not allow it to form solidly, gaining me the clarity and abatement of the pain needed to reset mid-run. It also gave me hope that I have what it takes mentally to finish Ultra distances.  Or I am mental. Either way as long as I can keep my machine from giving out on me I intend to give it a try.

Week 6 Road to 50 Status

Yesterday was the end of Week 6 of my training schedule for our 50/50 training.  This week ended in a double long run day.   We did a 30K in the morning and a 15K in the evening.   The 30K went better than I was expecting, we cut 2 minutes off our last pace times for a measly 25K.

Now with that said, we did a 7/1 run walk today for the runs.   One of the things I’ve experienced which backs up like a bajillion other folks who’ve tried it is that my average pace goes up in a significant way when I intentionally run walk.

I tried a new fuel today, crunch peanut butter+Swerve+cocoa powder+ginger powder and coconut oil as well as a new drink mix, Ultima in Orange and Raspberry.

I’m not sure if it was the experimentation of different fuels, but for the 30K and around mile 10 the heat got up to 90 and kept going and the humidity was off the chart but by mile 15 I was feeling pretty queasy which is pretty unusual for me.  I don’t do queasy much.

Bunny is having some issues with her knee, might be time for new shoes or less running or more core exercises.  I’m always having issues so it’s just par for the course for me.

Overall we’re keeping up with the schedule with only a few minor issues.  I pulled the Wednesday run out of the schedule as it just didn’t add anything and the extra recovery day is useful.

Barring major catastrophe we’re going to go to Dead Horse and see it through to the end.