Friday, August 1, 2014

What Makes Ultra Runners So Damn Crazy

Here I am sitting at my desk thinking about the title to this article, which is really all I have so far when I realize looking around my office that the answers are all around me. Clearly ultra runners are passionate about running, the outdoors, and masochism but how exactly can I prove that we are in fact (as many onlookers have whispered or yelled at our backs) completely nuts? I will attempt to prove my thesis with what I think is some pretty irrefutable evidence. Please note that I think crazy = awesomeness.

We think 100 miles is not that far. A quote made famous by ultra runner Karl Melter who has the most 100 mile wins ever at 35, or is it 36 now?! He is the unofficial King of Crazy (a new tag line I think he should adopt) leading an entire army of ultra runners down the rabbit hole of what is "far"? With the recent addition of my Tahoe 200 mile Endurance Run, 200 milers are popping up like blisters on Kassie Enman's feet during the 2014 Speedgoat 50k. Will 200 milers become the ultimate ultra running test of endurance much like 100s are now?
Karl Meltzer, from Ultraspire's website.
We post pictures of our feet on social media. This is actually the biggest reason why I think we are crazy. What other social group posts disgusting pictures of their feet? In fact I think I will use this opportunity to post a couple of disgusting pictures of my feet that clearly prove how badass (crazy) I am.
Obtained in the 2012 TRT100. I actually extracted my own toenail that was hanging on by a few "threads" but had to get cut out. The toenail was popped out by a large blister underneath it. 
2014 HURT 100 nastiness
And since we brought up Kasie Enman's blisters, here's her feet post Speedgoat 50k:
From Paul Nelson Photography
We run when we should be doing other shit: prime example is me sitting here in a walking boot doing the same thing I'd do if I could run (procrastinating), only I'm writing a ridiculous blog post instead of working on all my race directing work (see pic). I think we actually differ from most shorter distance runners in this way. After all, our long training runs can last all day.
There's so much paper in my office I have to be careful not to start a wild fire. 
We have an ever growing collection of toys that are unidentifiable to most the population. Case in point, show the picture I've included below to your non-running, non-exercise obsessed friend and see if s/he can identify any of the toys. For ultra runners toys also come in the form of expensive GPS watches, clothing, shoes, running vests, hydration packs, powders and gels, and so much more. We love claiming that ultra running is cheap, but we seem to be proving otherwise with our gear obsessed approach.

We only wear running shoes or boots. Or better stated, we wear running shoes until we must wear a boot. Some of you are too careful and dare I say smart (?) to make this mistake, but for the truly crazy, we often don't realize we're doing too much or need a break until we literally break.
Please note that one of my friends signed my boot with "FINALLY" since it took me several months to actually stop running on my very injured ankle.
We think that beer is a post run recovery drink. More accurately, we think that 4 beers are a post run recovery drink. One beer is probably a pretty good recovery drink, but more than that and we're just trying to numb our body so that we can forget how we now feel like 90 year old post 50 mile race.
Eric Schranz from Ultra Runner Podcast gets excited about some beer, in this case, it looks like during a race. Photo from:
 We run 100 miles for a belt buckle. That's what it looks like to most people anyway. I often get the question from non-ultra runners, "What do you get for running 100 miles?" My answer.... "uuuuuuhhh, ummm, a belt buckle?" I paced a friend at HURT 100 several years ago and he literally got through the last 2 twenty mile loops by chanting "belt buckle, belt buckle ..." as he stumbled and hobbled to the finish. Ultra runners know that we run long distances because they peel us down to our essential layers (much like a blister), they change us, connect us with a community of incredible athletes, and they give us a perspective we cannot easily gain from banal daily living. Ok, ok, ok, we're addicted. I'll stop the philosophical BS.
My 100 mile "winnings"
We enter lotteries so that we can pay for and run the most difficult and dangerous races in the world. Most people enter lotteries to win millions of dollars. We enter lotteries to run long distance races. The Hardrock 100 Endurance Run with 33,000 + feet of climbing, an average elevation of 11,000 feet and very real dangers of lightening, hypothermia, exposure, and getting lost. These dangers and challenges barely phase the 2,000+ lottery applicants who enter Hardrock each year all hoping to get one of only 140 spots in one of the toughest 100's in the US. See also the Tahoe 200, Barkey Marathons, and Badwater, all difficult and some would say potentially dangerous races that are equally difficult to get into.

Comments: What do you think makes ultra runners so crazy? 

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  1. Just for clarification, the pic is from a Vertical Beer Mile event in Auburn.
    I used the Nudify app to fuzz out my junk.
    Carry on.

  2. Thanks for clarifying:)

  3. When conversation drifts to my avocation and the "craziness" descriptor comes up, I say things like "I'm sure glad I'm normal" or "Crazy??? I'm sane; everyone else is crazy". People are usually not too impressed but it slows 'em down some. :)

    And, no, I can't ID those "toys" in your photo, either. You seem to have omitted the plastic water bottle with duck tape handle.

    Helena, Montana

  4. First, this post is awesome.

    Second, I wanted to say thank you for inspiring me. I recently stumbled upon your blog and have been total inspired. I went and read some of your early posts and it is so awesome to see that you too had a beginning to this whole ultra life. It makes me believe that through my running I can grow into a badass chicka like yourself.

    Thank you thank you!

  5. I gotta send you some of my research on the personality traits of ultrarunners. You'd get a kick out of it!


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