Tag Archives: ultrarunning

Go For the 200 Miler!?!

“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

Photo from Popular Mechanics
Photo from Popular Mechanics
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.

Eisenhower Park
Eisenhower Park
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 . . . .

When the Runner’s Mind Balks: Failure as “Temporary Unsuccess”

“The pain is the reality but your mind can inspire you past it. I look to the countryside, music, and art, to help inspire me.” (Yannis Kouros, “On the Trail with Yannis Kouros,” Running Times)

“Fail, it’s not in my dictionary. I’ve got a good dictionary up there and the words ‘fail’ and ‘failure’ have been ruled out for years. I don’t know what people are talking about who use that word. All I do know is temporary non-success, even if I’ve got to wait another 20 years for what I’m after, and I try to put that into people, no matter what their object in life.” (Percy Cerutty, qtd in “Herb Elliot on Percy Cerutty,” interview on Radio National, 5 Jan 2001)

The weather has turned hot, already. I missed the best of the late spring cool weather that always seems to surprise those of us who live in South IMG_0865Texas. Every year, March offers South – Central Texas runners cooler, more comfortable running weather than November does. Without exception, the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon, held mid-November, is a hot, uncomfortable race to run, even to the point where the announcer warns participants pre-race that it’s not a day for a PR. Runners, while waiting in their corrals, are warned to hydrate well and pace accordingly in the humidity and heat. Race volunteers stand just inside the finisher’s area, handing out cold, wet towels to over-heated race finishers. Yet every year, March ushers in cool, breezy weather so much more pleasant that of November that my runner friends and I wonder (repeatedly) why that big race cannot be moved to March.

March in San Antonio / Austin is a lovely month, and the temperate weather usually holds out until mid-May, with only a day here or there to remind us of the brutal summer conditions that lay ahead. This year I was rehabbing my calf tear during the temperate months. I made my slow, deliberate return to running in May, but at that point my running was still rather restricted. The increasingly warm, muggy weather wasn’t an issue until this week, when my longer distance runs coincided with our first temperatures in the mid to upper nineties. Continue reading When the Runner’s Mind Balks: Failure as “Temporary Unsuccess”

A Joyful Return to Running

“Humans aren’t built to sit all day. Nor are we built for the kinds of repetitive, small movements that so much of today’s specialized work demands. Our bodies crave big, varied movements that originate at the core of our body.” (Scott Jurek, Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God. bullet proof coffee 3
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”)

Ultra-runner champion Scott Jurek (whose autobiography is an extremely inspirational and interesting read, even for those of use who vehemently disagree with the ideas about diet and nutrition he espouses in the work) is correct: human bodies do long for big, varied movements, and when one is used to moving – running! – for miles every day, for long periods of time outside the house, a sudden halt to that activity brings her shock at first, then disbelieve next, then finally a reluctant, depressed acceptance of reality. At the moment when she realizes that she really, absolutely cannot run for an unspecified period of time, a sort of panic takes over. How, she asks herself, will she replace that movement: that activity that releases such endorphins into her being, and releases her into the world as well? Should she do upper body and core work at the gym, where she will be surrounded by television screens showing CNN or music videos? Surrounded by people plugged up to machines that merely mimic running – not even truly moving – while they remain plugged into their various personal technological devices? Where, in the gym, are the trees?

McAllister Park
McAllister Park Boardwalk, N of Tobin Trailhead

Continue reading A Joyful Return to Running