“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair [. . .]” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
Last year I wrote the review (below) on the Zero huaraches I fell in love with. Unfortunately,
the Xero’s had a problem that make running on trails in the hot, humid Texas summer difficult: they lack surface texture necessary for keeping feet from slipping around in them. I like the Xero’s, I really do; however, I just cannot run well in them with my sweaty wet feet sliding around as I run. I turned to Barefoot Ted’s Lunas, the Leadville Pacer, which are made the monkey grip technology. The surface of these huaraches are textured for better traction. These huaraches are make running with wet feet much more manageable. I’ve been running trails in these sandals since last October and haven’t had one problem with my feet slipping around on the sandal’s footbed. For people who run in climates that don’t generate a lot of perspiration glow when they run, the Xeros may work just fine. For the rest of us, however, the Lunas’ monkey grip technology is necessary to prevent the slippage of sweaty glowing feet!
If my toes could sing, they would have been singing with joy when I wore my new custom-made Zero huaraches on an inaugural run on the unpaved trails at Eisenhower Park. Since that day seven years ago when I took off my running shoes and threw them away (well, actually I donated them to Good Will) to finally liberate my toes and feet from their culturally-imposed imprisonment, I’ve worn nothing at all on my feet when I run on paved surfaces. My feet are always joyful when they move me, unshod and unfettered, along streets and sidewalks. I do love to run unpaved trails, as well, and my trail running makes my feet, and thus my trail runs, a little sad. These trails in Texas are technical, with rocks, sticks, tree roots jutting up everywhere from the dirt. Running these trails barefoot is hazardous (although I know a barefoot woman in Boerne, TX, who does run some of them without any foot covering at all). I have run some trails in mountains in states other than Texas and because of the more gentle nature of those trails, I can run them with bare feet very easily. Here in Texas, however, I simply have to wear a little something on my feet when I run unpaved, technical trails.
“Well, after three days you are not completely fresh, you know” he says, “but it seems the exhaustion is not exponential.” (Gregoire Millet, qtd in “When Running 200 Miles is Easier on Your Body than Running 100”)
A few years ago, I was finishing a trail run at Eisenhower Park when two women getting out of a van parked next to my car spoke to me. They were interested in my Vibram Five Fingers, in which I ran on unpaved trails at the time (I have since switched to $4.99 water shoes, soles pulled out, that I buy from Academy). One of the women, Rosy, explained to me that she was training for a 100 miler, and her friend had decided to train with her. As we talked, Rosy told me that she had never run a race under a 100 miles in distance. Judging from her appearance, I would guess her age as late thirties. She had started running a few years before, but decided to go straight for the 100 mile distance for her first race. She told me that she had run several 100 milers since her first race and usually finished near the bottom. A couple of times she had actually finished last place; she explained that she didn’t worry much about her pace. She just loved the experience of the 100 mile ultra.
I admire this woman, still, and since that time I’ve come to realize that perhaps she was wise in choosing to go for the 100 mile ultra for her first distance race. Over time one realizes that marathons are difficult because of the pace one keeps for 26.2 miles, not so much for the distance of the race itself. Once a runner has finished her first marathon, she usually thinks of any longer distance race as unimaginably difficult. If 26.2 miles feels so difficult, how can anyone consider running 50 or 100 mile races, she may ask herself. If, however, a novice runner jumps into racing by starting with an ultramarathon, she probably doesn’t have the same preconceived notion of its difficulty as a runner who has run 26.2 miles as her first race distance. Of course elite ultra runners are under pressure to keep up a fast pace for 100 miles, and they seem God-like in their ability to finish a 100 mile ultra with a six or seven minute pace – including the time they spend at support stations – which means that top finishers are running an even faster pace while they’re moving. The slower runners, however, aren’t under the same pressure. To finish under thirty hours requires tenacity and training, but not the same need for speed. To finish a 100 mile race, though, is a daunting and awesome feat for any runner.
I’m thinking about Rosy today and her decision to run a 100 miler as her first race, ever, because Phillip brought my attention to an article about ultra running in Popular Mechanics. The article, “When Running 200 Miles is Easier on Your Body than Running 100,” explains that when people run races longer than 100 miles in distance, they run at a slower pace, which taxes their bodies less; therefore, the 200 miler seems easier than the 100 miler to the ultrarunner who undertakes that distance. I’m thinking now that perhaps, instead of making my goal a 100 mile race, I should just go for broke and try a 200 mile race as my first ultra . . . . but I may have to chew on this idea a while longer . . . .
“Our plan had been to run together for hopefully a couple of hours. Amy and I are similarly enough paced that it made sense to stay together as
long as possible. Working with someone on a flat paved long straight road has a lot of appeal, especially if there is any wind involved. Before long we were clicking of 7:07 miles. We didn’t need to run that fast, but we were comfortable, and I use my heart rate monitor during races to keep myself in control. For the first couple of hours it was 155 or lower, which was right on target for a sub-8 hour day.” (Meghan Arbogast, “Tokyo Shibamata 100k 2013,” Racing Through My Life)
“Even leading senior athletes can be subject to some of the fallibilities of age. At the New Zealand masters championships, I listened to a vigorous discussion between two upper age-group 10,000m contenders, tough runner talk about how hard and tactical their race had been. They sounded just like two competitive 25-year-olds – except that they couldn’t remember the names of any of the other runners. “ (Roger Robinson, “New Research on Older Runners,” Running Times, March 20,2013)
Perhaps the most worrisome thing about aging is the forgetfulness that creeps up time and again. These days Phillip and I will sit down to watch a movie that we think we’ve never watched. Partway through the movie, something will seem familiar; one of us will ask the other if perhaps we have seen the movie before. A few scenes more, and we’ll realize that yes, we have watched the movie before. Between the two of us, we’ll start to piece together the movie, remembering something or other that will come up in later scenes. Then one of us will ask the other how the movie ends, and neither of us will be able to remember the ending, so we forge ahead through the entire film just so we can see once again how it ends! Other smaller memory lapses are nuisances, such as those times I walk into a room to get something, but forget what I went into the room to retrieve. I listen to radio shows and read articles that cover issues such as recognizing the difference between normal age-related forgetfulness and more serious causes of forgetfulness such as Alzheimer’s disease. I carefully note the symptoms of each and measure my (or Phillip’s!) moments of forgetfulness against the list just to reassure myself that we’re merely dealing with the natural progress of aging. Continue reading “What Would Meghan Arbogast Do?” Age is No Excuse for Diminished Running Performance→
“Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clear-headedness that follow a long run.” (Monte Davis)
“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” (William Faulkner, “The Art of Fiction, no 12,” The Paris Review, 1956)
I really have no idea who Monte Davis is. This quote appears on plenty of running sites, but no one sources it. I googled him but could find no information about him as an athlete. I wish I knew who he is, because I really take issue with these words that are attributed to him all over the web. Honestly, one is quite able to run and feel sorry for herself at the same time! When the weather is rainy, cold, and dark but she has to get in that last five miles to meet her goal for the week; when she has one hill rep left but the previous five, six, or seven reps have sapped all her strength; when her will to run battles her will be back at home eating ice cream and reading a book: oh, yes, feeling sorry for oneself while simultaneously running is indeed possible. But since misery honestly seems to love company, a runner is more likely to complete her running goals when she shares her goals with other runners, and also helps them to achieve their own goals. Continue reading Accountability and Running: Being Better Than One’s Self→