Sunday, September 29, 2013

10 Rules of Ultra Running

Before you get your panties all tied in a knot by The Rules, see # 4 and remember that I used my own experience to write these.  Yes, I own a pair of (oh god, shame) leopard print gaiters, see # 7.  I thought I was going to kill myself when I DNF'd the Tahoe Rim FKT last summer, see # 1.  I ran on plantar fasciitis for 9 months and am going stir crazy now, see # 3.  I traded an addiction to nicotine and alcohol for ultra running, see # 2.  I fear the marathon like the slug fears salt (I've only run one road marathon ever and it was my gateway to ultras) see # 5.  Like any good cult, we ultra runners have certain defining aspects, which I present to you without further ado: 

10 Rules of Ultra Running

1. Love the DNF. You were on such a good streak. You were so hardcore. Never a DNF in 8 years! You think that makes you an ultrarunning badass? Think again. Once you've been deflowered you will realize it's the DNF that makes you tough as nails.

2. Do it For the High. Admit it already!  You are as much of a junkie as the next drug addict. So you love the mountains, the serenity...blah, blah, blah. Ok, repeat after me: I love the pain, I love getting into my head and ignoring my body, I love the feeling I get from destroying my body over 100 miles. Ok, good we got that straight.

3.  It's Not an Injury until You Can't Run: but if you can't tell the difference between a "niggle" and something serious, you'll never be a good ultra runner.  Even experienced ultra runners make the mistake of thinking something is a niggle when it's serious.  You will too.  The more crazy you go when you do have to take a break the more #2 applies to you. 

4. Kill Your Ego: If running 100 miles doesn't make that ego die, it's gonna be tough. And for ultra runners making the ego die is really, really tough. We like praise and we write/talk about our accomplishments like no other group of addicts: how tough, how crazy, how bad the weather was, how we suffered like it's a badge of honor. We can live off praise for at least a week, no food needed.  How can we become a better runners? Stop talking and writing about how badass we are and get out and run. 

5.  Fear the Marathon: It's what separates us from the masses right?  Heck, we avoid the dreaded marathon like it's a rest break because deep down we know that running a marathon is just as hard, if not harder than an ultra. Why? Because we have to run fast, no walking breaks. See #6.

6. Walking=RunningWow, you ran 100 miles!  That is so amazing!  Well.... the dirty secret of ultra runners? We don't "run" 100 miles. We get through 100 miles as fast as we can. There's a lot of walking. Regardless of how much walking, ultrarunners may call a race a "run". Why? I have no fucking idea.

7. Wear all the Latest Gear at Once: I swear I've seen more crazy styles on ultra runners than I do in a episode of Sex and the City.  Seriously, compression socks and capri pants? Buff headbands? Leopard print arm sleeves?  Compression shorts sticking out under skorts?  Shorts/Skorts over tights? Gaiters? I mean seriously gaiters?  HAVE WE NO SHAME!! No, we don't.  

8. Sell your Soul or at least your Body: For all those aspiring fast folks and the the ones who are actually fast: get used to putting advertisements all over your body. Consider temporary tattoos, hats/shirts/pants/socks with logos. Heck, even patch a logo onto your pack or shirt. If you're logo'd apparently you've made it.

9. Change your Profile Picture: You'll need a picture of you running for social media now that you are an ultra runner. While you're at it start an athlete page and invite all your friends. I'm sure they don't get eough updates on your running from just your personal page.

10. Go Paleo: Or at least pick some sort of creative diet.  It could even be the I-Ran-so-I can-Eat-Anything Diet.  Or the I-Ate-too-Much-so-I-have-to-Run Diet.

Bonus! 11. Start Liking Beer. 'Nuff said.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

The Way the Water Flows

I struggled with my decision to do Run Rabbit Run 100 mile in Steamboat Springs or Plain 100 near Leavenworth, Washington, both on the same weekend. Since I had my airfare taken care of for my trip to Colorado, I couldn't resist going.  It seemed like the bigger of the two adventures, and the one that was a little scarier: traveling and competing in a really stacked field on tired legs. 

I knew I wasn't at the top of my form. I'd just run Cascade Crest 100 (CCC100) August 24-25 and I was happy with my finish there.  It was 3hr 40 min faster than when I had run the race in 2011.  I knew my body was tired and my plantar fasciitis had been bothering despite a big taper after CCC100.  I was stuck in that conundrum where I wanted to do RRR, but not in my current health. I was leaning more toward doing Plain 100 mostly because I'd save money from travel expenses and it is so low key.  In the end RRR won out.  In hindsight, I don't feel like I made the right decision, but at least I made the best one I could make with the information I had.
Heading up, up, up the Manitou Incline in the misty rain. Sad to see Manitou Springs, CO was hit pretty hard by the flooding.
From the very start of my stay in Colorado, it began raining.  As it turned out, I arrived right at the time Boulder began to flood.  I was in Boulder Tuesday visiting the Ultimate Directions storefront, and just a day or two later, Boulder was in a state of emergency.  That same day I drove to Steamboat Springs and camped at the pass, worried my car might sweep away in a flood, it was raining so much. I awoke with my car still firmly planted on the ground, whew.

I found myself feeling a little more nervous about RRR than I usually am before a race.  The night before the race, I went to bed at 11 pm, only to have to get up all night long, very sick.  I left messages for my crew, Danny and Dave (of Colorado) who were driving up that day for the race. I told them not to come since I was so sick, I might not even start the race. Danny said he had nothing else planned and would come anyway...just in case I decided to start. How lucky am I to have friends like this?! Thanks guys for being so selfless!

By 4am I was feeling like I could sleep. Lucky for me the race started at noon.  Seriously.  I caught about 3 hours of sleep and got up to see if I felt better. Ugh. My tummy still hurt, but I wasn't having to rush to the bathroom every 10 minutes, so I got dressed and left Danny a message that I felt better and decided to start the race.    

Looking back, I realize that it's really really tough to start such a challenging race already feeling like you want to DNF.  You are almost guaranteed to give up at some point. It's hard enough to finish a 100 miler when everything goes your way.  The race began with everyone running straight up the mountain. The first 2 miles have over 2,000 feet of climbing and no one seemed to be holding much back.  My stomach ached even more as I fast hiked up most of the first 2 miles. The next 2 miles have 1,500 feet of climbing, still steep but much more reasonable to my sick stomach.  Pretty much by the time I was at Aid Station #1, mile 4.5, I knew I was done. I had trouble running the flats and downhills as the race snaked along a ridge and down toward Long's Lake.  I figured I'd get to Danny who was pacing me at Fish Creek Trail head (only spot the "hares" can be paced from), run to Olympian with him and then make a final decision whether to keep going or drop.

Drop it was. I didn't have the strength I needed to run the other 80 miles. Sure, I could probably do it, but for what consequences?  On an already tired and sick body, finishing this race could put me out of commission for weeks, months perhaps.  And this race wasn't worth a finish for that sacrifice.  I dropped at mile 21, relieved and a little sad that I wasn't going to finish what I began. 
Manitou Incline
It's pretty steep
Some damage to the incline
For the rest of the week, I visited the must see (and feel!!) Strawberry Hot Springs, outside of Steamboat and made my way down to Manitou Springs to hike the Incline, all the time trying not to hate myself for my weaknesses.  Now, sitting at a computer writing in Roslyn, Washington, just having finished directing my most difficult race for the year, it's rest time for my body and mind.
Course marking 15 mile section, took 7hrs even with me running a lot of the trail between putting up signs.
One of my favorite views on the Cle Elum 50k course!