Blog Subtitle

Reverse-engineering the Ultramarathon

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dear Runnerfolk, Is Survival Enough?

Before I get to the meat of what will likely be viewed as a post full of unacceptable negativity, let me tell you a little story of how I used to be the person I'll be talking to.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Race for the Ages

The more things change...
(Photo credit - John Price)
All ultras are races. Some are more serious than others.
All ultras are social events. Some more so than others.

Perhaps more than any other race I have run, A Race for the Ages (ARFTA) was both in great measure.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Long View - How I Train for Ultras

In 2006 (before my time in ultrarunning) there was a controversy at the finish of the Western States 100. Front runner Brian Morrison collapsed a few times in the final 300 meters of the race (inside the stadium at Auburn) and was disqualified because he was helped up on his way to the finish line by his pacers (one of whom was Scott Jurek).

A brief account of the controversy is still accessible on Scott Dunlap's blog.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Call of the Open Road

One Year Later - A Look Back at the Vol State

Somewhere along a road in Tennessee, July 2014
(Photo credit - Donald Brown)
It is hot - really hot - as I work my way through my "J-D Hilly Loop" running route - about six miles, some of which traverses the grounds of the Jamesville-Dewitt High School. It's 2:00 in the afternoon, near the peak heat of a hot day, and it is humid too. I feel the heat saturating me and beginning to radiate into the environment - not quickly enough - as I trot the bigger climbs.

Why am I out here doing this now, when I could have waited for the relative cool of evening? It's because of my Vol State brothers and sisters who are on the open road in Tennessee at this very same hour, in the heat of the fourth day of their race. I have been where they are, and I want to feel that kinship in a tangible way.

My run ended, I return to the house. The sweat is just pouring off me and I am dying for a cold shower to take the edge off. I pick up my phone to check the current weather stats: it says 80 degrees and I laugh! It is probably at least a few degrees hotter out there in reality, but it isn't the assumed inaccuracy that amuses me. It's the width of the vast gulf that separates my sincere attempt at 'solidarity' from the reality of what my brothers and sisters are experiencing!

Each day this year in Tennessee has reached the mid-90's and the dew points have been in the mid-70's. As someone pointed out on the ultra list, those numbers combine to produce heat indices (the 'feels like' temperatures that the weather services report) higher than in Death Valley, California. Eighty people started the race this year and as I write these lines sixty-six are left - and that, my friends, may well be the closest thing to a miracle that human beings are capable of creating.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015 Laurel Highlands Ultra

How did I fail thee? Let me count the ways...

Ohiopyle Falls at about 5:00 AM, June 13th, 2015
The race starts just behind me.

An ultra lister who is a pretty darned accomplished runner kind of liked my last race report - even tweeted about it. She said she liked reports where the runner talks about what they learned. There should be a lot to like about this one then.

D.N.F. - "Did Not Finish." Maybe the only way to make those letters hurt less is to make them educational.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 3 Days at the Fair 72-hour

How to not do 200 Miles in a 72-hour Race

When my plan went south (fourth row down).
When you choose a goal for a race, if you're serious about improvement as a runner, you choose an ambitious goal. You should not be afraid to aim much farther or faster than you have ever gone before. Somewhere ahead there is a perfect point of balance between self-limiting beliefs and crazy, unrealistic expectations.

This is ultimately the story of how the goal was right, how I failed to reach it, and why I am nevertheless very proud and satisfied with what I accomplished at this year's 3 Days at the Fair (3DATF) 72-hour ultra.

For those who waded through my report from last year, I will share another goal I have set for myself: that this report will break with my tradition of writing race reports of a length proportional to the number of miles I ran! Let's see how I do...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What I Do

"I wish I could do what you do."
"I'd love to be able to do what you do."

There are other variations, but this is a sentiment that I hear from time to time in one form or another. Generally I don't take it as more than what I think is intended. For most, it's more a manner of delivering a compliment than it is a genuine wish (or at least very serious one). I understand then the extent to which I may be going off into left field a bit in the rest of this post by making something more of it than it really is. Bear with me though. I have a point, and it's a point for anyone who means it literally when they say these things.