Monday, September 19, 2011

Philosophies from the Tetons (Part 2)

1) There's a difference between being fit and being healthy - I've met a number of fit people that aren't exactly healthy. They are slaves to whatever drives them to push their bodies to extremes. There is nothing wrong with pushing yourself, but there is a line. Ultrarunners edge very close to crossing that line at times. Running 100 miles is not a healthy endeavor. Being healthy means looking after your mind and spirit as much as your body. It also means maintaining healthy, loving relationships with those around you.

2) Fear is your friend - When you're out for a run or hike in bear country, you quickly gain a sense of humility. You instinctively know that you are not top of the food chain out there. A grizzly bear could be - probably is - lurking somewhere not too far away. The fear that builds in the back of your mind is a healthy and quite sane response! Fear entails respect which entails humility and caution.

3) Suffering is weakness - It shows weakness of mind. It shows that you choose to spend your time in a self-made hell rather than a blissful heaven. It shows lack of skill. If you are suffering in a race, you are doing something wrong. I know ultrarunners like to brag about their suffering because they think it makes them look tougher or more of a badass. Dean Karnazes says, "I love the pain." I know a guy who likes to show off the fact that he "shredded his tendons" (his words) during a 100 mile race and had to wear compression boots for a time after. This is nothing to boast about. Suffering is not a sign of strength. He either did not train properly or had a very poor race plan. Probably both. Ultramarathons offer you the unique opportunity to create a relationship with your body. Why choose to spend your time in misery?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Grand Teton 50 Miler Race Report

It was an intimidating start. I wasn't feeling 100%, the field was small, and the course was tough. I dreaded finishing in last place, or worse yet, not finishing at all. Both were distinct possibilities in my mind as I stood with the small crowd at the start line at 6:29 am, waiting for the race director to countdown to "1... and then, GO!" Fifty miles can seem like an eternity when you're in a bad frame of mind. But my coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen, was at the finish line, and I could not envision quitting in her presence. The woman would kill me.

"3...2...1..." And we were off. The course is comprised of two identical 25-mile loops. The first part of the course goes up what is called Fred's Mountain. It's a doozy of a climb up steep, rocky single-track trail. But, it was a beautiful morning and the views were gorgeous. Once I got into the race, all my anxiety melted away. The runners around me were chatting away about this and that. I cheerfully listened on as I ran.

After Fred's, it's pretty much all downhill. You work your way to the bottom of the canyon and then you make your way back up to the top for the next 25 miles. I made the big mistake of hammering the first part. The course is very runable, but, you need to pace yourself if you're going to hold out for the second loop. But, I wasn't thinking about things like that. I was having fun. Eventually, I put my iPod on and was grooving to some tunes. I was passing people. Life was good.

By the time I got to mile 25, I was in the lead pack. Not good. Lisa screamed at me to "slow down!" By that time, my quads were kind of shot. And all I could think about was going up that damn mountain again. Slowing down would not be an issue. I was deflated.

The second climb up Fred's was grueling. The trail going up seemed never-ending. My brain kept going, "This is brutal." I kept saying that over and over in my mind: "this is brutal... this is brutal." Then, I realized how negative up my thinking was. If you think something is going to be awful, it probably will be awful. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I changed my thinking. Trite as it may sound, I instead repeated the words, "This is beautiful." And, dammit, it worked. I got over the mountain.

The rest of the run is sort of a blur. I fell down a couple of times and skinned my finger. That hurt. I got nipple chaffing. (NOTE TO SELF: duct tape is not the answer to this particular issue). But, overall I was satisfied with my performance. I finished in 13 hours and change. Not a PR, but I'll take it. When I reached that finish line, it was - as is the case with most of my big race finishes - all I could do from gobbling down every and any food item in sight!