Category Archives: Endurance

You know you are an ultra-runner when…

ultrarunner

  • …you know exactly where one mile is from your front door… in every direction.
  • …you separate your laundry in whites, colors, and tech.
  • …you see another person running and get jealous.
  • …when you see a sign on the highway telling how many miles an exit is and you think “I could run that”
  • …a marathon is a training run.
  • …26.2 sounds like an aid station.
  • …instead of memorizing what street you need to turn right on, you need to remember what city the street is in.
  • …half of the dishes you take out of your dishwasher are water bottles.
  • …when you substitute (in conversation) hours ran, instead of miles ran…..
  • …when you Change your Garmin to a Suunto because the Garmin only lasts 8 hours.
  • …when duct tape becomes an option!
  • …you spend three hours listening to a podcast about ultra running…entirely while running…and it wasn’t even your long run.
  • …when you have to repeat the distance of your next race to everyone !
  • …your long run involves a train ride to get home.
  • …peeing in a toilet seems … unnatural.
  • …when a dark moment lasts 20k or more and you’re fine with it.
  • …you have more shoes than your girlfriend.
  • …when you decide running dusk till dawn is a great idea.
  • …when you apply super glue to your blisters so you can keep running.
  • …you utter the words “only a 50″!
  • …3-4 hour runs are recovery runs.
  • …when you DNF at 83miles.
  • …when you have to go to work for a rest.
  • …when the gear for your training runs have to include toilet paper.
  • …when you reply to the question “Are you insane?” with an unhesitating but casual “yes”.
  • …you finish on a different day to the winner.
  • …during the week you run to work. Work. Then run home from work… and the mileage is equal to or greater than a full marathon.
  • …when you go for a run with an injury that would send a “normal” runner screaming for a doctor. You assume it will loosen up in 5 to 10 miles.
  • …when a head lamp and extra batteries are part of you race gear, but the race starts at 8 am……
  • …when you start your race shaved and when you finish you need to shave.
  • …when you always prefix the word “marathon” with “only a”. As in:
    “I was starting to get tired but there was only a marathon to go.”
    “My preparation for the race didn’t go too well, in fact my longest training run was only a marathon.”
    “I would have entered the race but it didn’t seem worth the hassle as it was only a marathon.”
  • …when the morning papers have the results of a race that you are still running in!

Reality Check

With a little over half-way done I think I can make a pretty accurate comparison between what I thought it would be like to run across America and how it is going so far.

Better than planned:

I believed that camping would be detrimental to recover and that every time I camped it would be more difficult to run the next day than if I stayed indoors, ideally sleeping on a mattress. That prediction was completely wrong! I sleep very well camping, there are fewer distractions, the timing is more adequate, and I usually wake up refreshed and get on the road sooner than when I couchsurf. So camping is great!

Ice baths, massages, pain killers, special diet… I thought I would need all this to keep up. But in reality I am not missing any of it. The massage sessions were decisive during training, but now during the run they would be a luxury. The level of physical stress I am experiencing does not require any special care other than sleeping well for at least 8 hours, ideally 9 or 10. That is all I need to be good as new in the morning.

To keep a 27 mile average I would have to often run more than 30 miles on a day and would complete the run in 100 days. That is proving not just difficult but undesirable. I am having a much better experience, socializing much more, and enjoying my days a lot more at my current 24 mile average. That will mean finishing this in around 112 days plus the days off. So be it, I am liking it much more this way.

I used to think that other than by people interested in running I would be pretty much alone. I didn’t think I would make so many friends that are not into running at all. But to my happiest surprise I have been contacted by people from all walks of life both on the road and in the cities I go through, and I am making many friends among them.

Worse than planned:

I used to think that many people would try to locate me and run along a little or a lot. It has happened a few times but not nearly as often as I imagined.

Attracting attention of the press to this was very easy in Florida, where I thought it was going to be difficult, and has been very difficult since I left Florida, where I thought it was going to be the easiest. That part perplexed me.

I believed running clubs, running stores, would be interested in meeting, having impromptu runs and Q&A sessions. But the few running clubs we contacted made no effort to hide their indifference. I got some sponsorship from a waste management company, a catering company, but after contacting dozens of running stores without success I gave up on that part.

The running clubs are so indifferent to it that if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of some individuals, runners that brought me in anyway, I wouldn’t have any contact with any running club anywhere, both during training and during the run. I also noticed that I never find doctors or any healthcare organization maintaining or running or promoting any running club: It is always a running store, which ultimately does it because it is good for bu$ine$$. Weird, huh?

Update: The story was different in Phoenix, where the stores and the running clubs were receptive and welcoming!

Taking county roads is an invitation to get lost and end up in farmer’s backyard instead of where Google Maps tells you to go. Rural counties do a poor job of updating Google about which roads are not open to the public.

Just as planned:

  • Middle of Florida was the most difficult part of all.
  • Louisiana was the hardest state to go through.
  • Texas has been the friendliest place.

How to run from a dog

Late afternoon, approaching the city of Elton, Louisiana, this good looking dog decided to follow me, like that one did in Florida last month. At first I didn’t mind it too much, just hoping that it would find something else to do and leave me alone. Well, it didn’t work that way.

This dog not just stuck around for miles, but was becoming an annoyance. I wouldn’t want to have a dog by the end of the day when I need to find a place to set up camp. That is a no-no! But worse than that, this dog was crossing the road back and forth all the time. Cars were swerving and having to slow down hard to not hit it. And most of the drivers were thinking that it was my dog! I was getting angry looks and a driver even came back to yell at me. Sensing that it was going to be bigger trouble than I want to handle I called 911.

The dispatcher on 911 told me that the city I was in does not have animal control services so there was absolutely nothing they could (or care to) do about it. I was on my own.

So I decided to run from it!

Nearing the end of my day I was on the road for more than 20 miles already and quite tired. At this point I just wanted to walk the rest of it, pass the city a mile or so, and camp. My walking speed is around 3 miles per hour, and the dog was still around me.

First I tried my “fast” pace, which for most runners sounds like a joke… a 5 mile per hour joke. But being about distance, and not time, 5 miles per hour is a pace I can keep for a good while and shift between surging and recovering for very good periods at this point. But not at the end of the day. After a while I was getting really exhausted and every time I looked back the dog was right there with me! I was going to blow a gasket that way.

Then I thought for a while about what I learned reading Born to Run, about the fact that the dog has to breathe once per step, how it cools off, and how humans can speed up towards the upper part of their jogging range, while a four legged animal would have to be at the bottom end of its aerobic range to keep the same pace. So instead of trying to outrun the dog at 5miles per hour in just a few minutes I changed strategy: Run at 4 miles per hour for an entire hour or more.

For the first half an hour or so the dog kept running happily right by my side at 4 miles per hour, but very gradually it tired and had to stop to cool off, while I could just keep going. It tried to catch up a couple of times but in about one hour he just sit down and stayed there.

That was a good reminder that you outrun a dog just the same way that you run from one ocean to another: You run with your head, not with your legs.

Warm up the mind

Most often than not by the time I am supposed to start a run I am feeling tired, sleepy, lousy, or still not completely recovered from last day’s run. Some days my legs felt like they were made of marble. Sometimes the whole body was hurting.

Those times I always think about how much better I feel at the end of every run. Because in fact I always feel better at the end of every run than I felt in the beginning, without exception! Knowing that is a great self motivation.

I also know that no matter how hard and heavy my body feels, it takes me about two miles of walking or slow jogging for my body to feel flexible, my joints “lubricated” and my body temperature ideal for the run. So I just plow through the beginning of it searching for that feeling. Of course most would call it a “warm up”, but I like to feel about it not just as a physical routine but more as a ritual of meditation and awakening of both body and mind.