First off I want to thank blame Baboo for this. He is the one who implanted the thought. As a matter of fact I believe his exact words were “You seriously need to try your hand at an ultra.”. He even furthered my delusion by providing me a nice training plan.
It got me thinking that maybe just maybe I could do a 50 miler. I mean if you look at the bike mile to run mile equation it reads something like every 3 miles on the bike equals 1 mile on the run. I like to make it more conservative and go for 4 miles per 1 mile. But either way:
112 miles on bike = 28 miles
28 miles + 26 miles = 54 miles
In theory, I have already done an ultra! At least in theory!!
My next step was to find an ultra that fit my needs. I don’t want any of the trails or impossible heights that Baboo and JohnnyTri thrive on (I mean, how many roots can I fall over before I call it quits?) and I didn’t want to travel far. I really don’t want to spend a lot of money (travel +race fee) if I am not really sure that I am actually going to do the event.
As luck would have it, there was a local Ultra here in Las Vegas put on by Calico Racing.
Secretly, I began my training. I say secretly, because I didn’t tell ANYONE! Not Baboo, not JohnnyTri not even the Mrs! There is something about committing to 50 miles that equals crazy! I mean training for a marathon is no biggie; lots of people do marathons but only ‘those’ people do ultras! I wasn’t sure that I was ready to become one of ‘those’ people. By not telling anyone I was training for it, I didn’t have to commit myself one way or another. I was avoiding the craziness!
Training for an Ultra is surprisingly easy. I don’t know why I say surprisingly. Everyone says it’s easy. It doesn’t take nearly as much time as training for an Ironman, you only run a few days a week, so you have more downtime (family time) and most of your training during the week is not too long so it can happen without interfering with your ‘normal’ life. The weekends and the midweek run were the only long training sessions. I found just like IM training, I could do it either really early or really late. Actually, because it was only running and not bike or swimming, I could do it anytime I wanted to. Midnight? No problem! When you wrap the holidays (and the time off) and the year end ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ vacation leave my company has, I was able to get runs without too much issue and the late night runs still allowed lots of recovery.
Before I knew it was packet pickup day.
I still hadn’t registered for the race and up until now still hadn’t truly committed. OK, so perhaps I was committed but I hadn’t admitted it to myself yet. Now I really had to do it! Sign up!
I have to admit that I actually had gotten to the point where the runs didn’t seem all that bad. 13 miles? No problem. 21 miles? Sure, let me grab a bottle of water. In fact I had gotten so used to the training that I rarely even brought food or water if the distance was less than 13. Less than 15 wasn’t even worth a recovery drink! So, I guess after all this training I was committed. I would have been pissed off if I did all this training for nothing!
After packet pickup, I finally told the Mrs. Or more precisely she figured it out before I could tell her. Understandably she didn’t appreciate about being kept in the dark the whole time! Oops! Now that the cat was out of the bag, I felt much better. Keeping this whole thing a secret was wearing on me.
Come race day I felt completely calm. Too calm actually! The race starts just before daylight and I stayed in the car until it was go time to stay warm. Unfortunately, I stayed a little too late and the race started while I was walking up to the start line!
CRAP!! I quickly ditched my warm-up clothes and took off. I didn’t even have time to put on my timing chip (Although I should have done it the day before), so as I ran over the timing mats, I just swiped it over them, like a credit card!
Almost two minutes behind the group. Well that takes care of getting caught up in the group and going out too fast. Instead I was the guy at the very back. Normally that would mean bad things but instead I felt no pressure and looked forward to passing the people in front of me.
Nowhere to go but up!
I don’t know if I had mentioned this before, but I hate taper! I know that in theory it makes sense and it allows my body to heal up and recover but it always seems like I do best when I am taperless or at the very most only a few days taper. In this case, I settled on a week.
During that week, I went swimming a few times, hit the spa, and just generally relaxed. Whilst relaxing, I became aware of my feet and how banged up they were. I set about restoring them. A lot of lotion, a few sessions with the pumas stone and my feet were able to lose most of the ugly calluses and rough spots. NEWS FLASH!! You NEED those calluses and rough spots for when you are RUNNING! They are there for a REASON!
I found that out at about mile 15. I continued to remember this lesson for the next 35 miles!
Also as a side effect of all those wonderful days relaxing, my body felt rested and recovered! This should be a good thing, except I don’t know how to run like that! I know what my body is capable of when it is tired but now I am fresh and full of vigor. How long will this last? How much do I scale it back? Am I going too fast too slow? I don’t know! I check in mentally an ensure myself that I have a few more gears left and that I am not pushing it fast. This last until about mile 15!
At mile 15, the blisters start and my energy starts to decline. By mile 19, I am tired and by mile 24 I want this to be over! This is not good. I am less than half way there and I am already toast. Hell! I am not even done with a marathon yet! UGH!
I brought along a big ass Rockstar (Think Monster energy if you don’t get Rockstar in your neck of the woods) and two 5 hour energy’s. I am carrying on of the 5 hour energy and the Rockstar and remaining 5 hour is in the drop bag.
With this race, you get to pass by your drop bag twice. Once at 19 and again at 31. Since I started to feel like crap at mile 19 and I had a back up, I popped the first 5 hour energy around mile 20. ….
Um, OK. No problem. Let’s just give it a few minutes to kick in.
DAMN! This sucks. It’s now mile 26 and I still have no energy. My butt is dragging and my feet hurt. My world is dark and grey! I secretly and publicly declare that if I see a familiar face this race is over for me.
This is precisely why I didn’t tell everyone about me running. It’s the failure factor. If no one knows that I am running it and I DNF then no one can say “he DNFed”. For all the world knows it was just a long training day. I can go cry into my pillow without anyone knowing it!
But alas, my Mrs. Knows! The RD knows! And damn it, I paid good money to suffer out here! I at least have to do as much as I do during my training runs. That means 30 -34 miles.
That goal seems unachievable right now. I am finally heading into my drop bag area. I have walked more than I have run. Despite my promise to myself to keep going, I am looking for a way out. I know there is a medic on the course. I desperately look around for the ambulance. Unfortunately, my prayers go unanswered. I am stuck out on the course. I could cry! (If only I didn’t need the salt and the water).
At the drop bag area, I instantly slam my Rockstar (I had let it go flat before) and exchange my 5 hour energies. I scarf a few more food items and begrudgingly head off. This time I know that my Rockstar won’t fail me and thankfully I only have to wait another 10 minutes before I began to feel a new life being breathed into me.
Coincidentally, it is also at this time that I set the Garmin for 4x1 repeats (4 run 1 walk). Having a predetermined time to run and a whole minute to recover is a life saver. Having the calories and the caffeine from the Rockstar is a life saver. I am not sure what it is that got me moving again but I am ever so thankful!!
Even with all this new life, I don’t allow myself to even believe that I can last until I hit Lakeshore road and am finally out of Northshore Hell. By now I only have 10 miles left and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have 4 hours left to finish. I could walk 10 miles in 4 hours! At this time I am flying high! I am almost detached from myself. I am once again glad that my Mrs. is not here. If I had seen her or my son I think I would have broken down in tears! I am high on caffeine!
The Rockstar high lasted until about mile 44. By then I started to feel tired and lethargic again. I still had the 5 hour energy. Last time I had split it up into two doses, thinking that I would save it for a few miles apart. Not this time, I downed the whole thing all at once.
Damn! I hate the 5 hour energies! They may work at office life but they don’t do crap for endurance training!
The last 6 miles are all up to me. I know that I can make it but I still have to fight for every inch. At about this time I become friends with another guy who is doing his first 50. He is an older guy but very friendly. He has been chasing me for quite some time now and finally I can’t hold him back any longer and he caught up to me. We exchanged pleasantries and then he takes the lead. Unfortunately for him, he is now the leader and feels the pressure of me behind him. I start to match his pace and he naturally picks up his pace (probably without even being aware of it). At this point in our lives we are exhausted and even the slightest increase in our pace wears on us quickly and predictably it is only a matter of minutes before he is walking. As I pass him, he teases me and states that he is an old man (he’s probably only 43-ish) and I should be blowing past him.
I take a minute to think about his comments and decided to let my body feel the speed (that is a relative term here). I slowly let off the brakes and let my body unfurl and to my amazement it responsed! It is thrilled to not be forced to go slow. I start to pick up the pace and before I know it I am out of sight of my friend. I am only two miles away from the finish line and I decide to go for it. To hell with the 4x1 and to hell with the consequences. I want to be done with this race and I want it done now.
My legs are turning over and with each step I feel the throb of my new blisters but it doesn’t stop me. I feel the ache in my hip flexor and the tightness of my calves but it doesn’t stop me. Just ahead is another racer and I think that if I keep it up I can pass him before the finish line (which I feel rather guilty about). Amazingly my body responses and I dig a little bit deeper and fly past the racer. It is just me and the finish line. I can see it and I’ll be damned if I give up before I hit the timing mat.
I fly through the finish line and realize that I have done it! I have done the impossible! I have become one of ‘those’ people!