Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2014 - The Year of Ultra Running Stupidity

It's time to get back into running.  I've taken off the last seven weeks and added about 30 pounds onto my linebacker football frame.  It seems as if I do this nearly every winter after the holidays. 

Mental & physical injuries have kept me off the trails too.  As a matter of fact, I'm all over the board in my head.   I know from experience that this leads to the best kind of ultra running.  I need alone time on the trail.  Time to hear my heart beat and let go of the doubts.  Maybe gain some different ones too.  I can't afford to race with anyone now.  Digging out of the pit requires my full attention, but its nice to see other sickos out doing whatever it is they're doing.

Getting up at 5 AM on Saturday morning is nearly the last thing that I want to do this weekend, but I know that it will be good for me.  I'll drive home afterwards beat down, but full of hope.  It will be worth it.

I won't complain or make excuses because I've finished even 100 mile races even heavier than I am now.  If I really want it bad enough, then I finish.  If not, then I just walk off the course with the bib number in my hand.  After nearly 70 ultra marathons, I've never been pulled for simply not making a cutoff time.  Running is a privilege, not a right.  You either do it or you don't.

“You can’t keep a squirrel on the ground when his nuts are in a tree.”
The Leatherwood Mountain 50K will be comical this weekend.  With 8,000 feet of climbing up in the middle of the North Carolina mountains I'm like a sheep headed to the slaughter.  However, I will climb those mountains and shuffle down the few flat miles of trails. 

My sarcasm won't let me escape what's yet to come.  I will undoubtedly be someones "inspiration" because I'm so big and able to finish this race.  I'm never sure if I should take that as a compliment or insult so I just take it.  I've learned to just smile because for the most part people don't really want to know what I'm thinking.

The good thing is I believe several runners have taken on ultras & finished  them because they saw that I could.  It's a twisted human comparison that sometimes urges people to push themselves beyond what even stupidity calls "normal running".  I'm happy to have been some part of that in other runners lives.  I've been on both sides of the equation and it somehow works.  That's one reason I continue to blog here.
What's even funnier is my Spring race schedule.  Three 100 miler races between April 12th and May 17th.  I'm not sure what I was thinking when I signed up for these back in the fall.  Once again, if I want them bad enough I will finish.   I want them all bad enough.  I can tell.  It's that time of year again to prove something to myself.  Why can't I just accept what I've learned from the last six times that I've done this?  I'm not sure.  Possibly stupidity.

A very sick part of me enjoys getting out of shape and then having to battle back into condition to get through ultras.  I keep saying that this will be the last time, but like a 12 stepper I keep returning to the trail.  It needs to stop this time, but it probably wont.

I keep waiting for that Forest Gump moment.  The moment when I can say that "I'm finished" running.  I'm tired and ready to just go home.  Maybe that's why I keep going back to these things.

Now its nearing time to sign up for some Fall 100's before the rate hikes go up.  At this point someone should be paying me to labor through another 100 miles of wilderness.   I'll be in much better shape for those as I normally am.  The cooler weather will naturally lead to faster finishing times and make us all feel like we've really improved.  In reality, probably not - its just cooler weather after a hot summer.
I'm running more 100 mile races these days.  It only makes sense to get the most bang for my buck.   Why only shuffle 31 miles when I can walk about 50 more to get a pretty little belt buckle.  Its actually more than the buckle, it's going home and putting it in my case on the wall and feeling "completed".  Then over the years I will look at it out of fear thinking that I probably can't do it again.  This forces me to sign up for another one just to prove completion again.  The cycle is vicious and ridiculously demanding.  How many cases will I fill up on the walls before it ends? 

It's becoming a problem.  I wish I could be happy to just write a neat little blog story or post some pictures on Facebook about the last "epic ultra".  It's way beyond that now.  Part of me wishes that I would have never found ultra running, but then I would have missed all of this.  It's a seesaw of joy & misery.
If I haven't learned anything else about "running" distance I've learned this.  You can walk & finish just about every race there is out there now.   I've spoken to a few race directors and runners who despise this.  They feel that runners should train hard for events and be prepared to "race" them at 100% effort.  I mostly agree for several reasons, but then there are the select few of us who "need" to suffer tremendously in a prolonged state of beautiful misery.   Even when our minds & bodies aren't close to being prepared for the challenge at hand.  And of course the RDs need to make money so I expect the generous cutoff times to only grow as the sport does.
It's personally frustrating and a little embarrassing to be back in this shape again, but forward I charge (Ok...walk).  If you see me out running at Leatherwood on Saturday please stop and say "hello".  I'll smile like always and hopefully we'll both feel better about ourselves.

“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”
Jack London


  1. Jason, this write-up conveys a lot of things that have been going through my mind lately. I've spent the entire winter in hibernation, overeating like there's no tomorrow, and missing out on key training runs simply because I just flat out did not feel like running. This past weekend, I finished my first marathon distance in almost a year, and, although it was my slowest by considerable margin, it felt great to be a finisher again. Sometimes, the "death march" of these races is just what people like us need, because it gives us a prolonged opportunity to delve inside our own minds and break free of the clutter there. I'm really embarrassed to post the slow finish time and overweight pictures of myself on a blog, and I was hesitant even to keep writing reports altogether, but you're totally right...someone somewhere out there will relate to all of it. Right now, I'm relating to your post in a big way. It's great to revisit your blog again!

    1. I actually thought a lot about you when I wrote this post. I was thinking back to our run together at Sweet H20 a few years ago. It was a big turning point for us both and necessary to take on other races down the road. Part of me thinks I may do well to put ultras on hold for a while and just focus on going to the gym and getting healthy with diet and some normal workouts. I'm not sure what I'm going to do at this point. I just despise to lose all of the money that I have tied up in the ultras that I've signed up for. Maybe I will turn a corner in my mind if I keep going to the ones that I've already signed up for.

      I understand how you feel about the blog too. I deleted this entire site a few weeks ago, but didn't realize how many people were reading it and claimed it had helped them in some way. I can't help but laugh and scratch my head when I hear those comments. My original intent was to record all of this for my children to have one day, but its spiraled out into more than that. If it helps another in someway then its worth leaving online. As I read back through the posts over the years it's mainly confusing madness, but I can at least say that its real. That's one reason I left Facebook. All of the exaggerating and lying was out of control. There is way more to life than running longer than the last person or walking up a bigger hill. I don't have a need for the world to see me as a "ultra runner" (I used to) and there is no need for me to post stuff on there to try and convince people to see me as something I'm not. It's too easy for me to lose sight of that on FB as well as other things.

      You're not just a great friend, but one of the toughest and most resilient runners that I've ever known. We've battled through some incredible adventures together buddy. I hope & pray that you will make the changes in your life that lead to better health. We both need to do whatever it takes to get back there and stay.

    2. Thanks for the kind words! You've got my number, so drop me a line whenever you need a friend or an workout accountability person. It's tough to write blog reports for races when I haven't been doing too well with my diet and exercise, but it's a good way to keep it real and to stay accountable. The blog reports like yours right here are the ones that inspire me the most.

    3. You guys both rock.... Thank you both so much for sharing. I have truly found inspiration in your writing. I have always said weight is like the tide... It is especially true for guys like us.

  2. Glad to see the blog back up, Jason. In all seriousness, if I somehow manage to find the finish line at Pinhoti this fall, it will in part due to this blog (and yours too Jason Rogers) both from the inspiration it has provided and the insight into the details of how to put a 100-mile race effort together. I haven't been able to participate in as many ultras as you have, so your willingness to put your experiences out there with all of the good and bad help compensate for my lack of experience.

    Whatever kind of year 2014 turns out to be, I wish you the best. If you find your running mojo once again, that's great and I'll look forward to seeing you on the trails somewhere along the way, but if you don't then it may very well be that an extended break is just what your mind, body, and soul need. Not a thing wrong with that, although I know that the weight gain and loss of fitness that usually goes along with it suck.

    1. You'll finish & do well at Pinhoti! It's your kind of running & I know you will enjoy it.

  3. Wow, some deep thoughts. Hope you find peace, whatever you do. You sure seem to put yourself on a crazy roller coaster, with 3 hundo's (Bling Pig?, plus Massanutten/Thunder Rock and Umstead? Or Cruel Jewel? what the heck did you sign up for?)

    1. I'm trying to break the roller coaster mindset. It should be fun to see how the next two months go. I imagine they will involve a lot of walking & soul searching so it's not all bad.

  4. Enjoyed the read Jason and I would bet that many of us have been or at that same crossroad in our running. I can definitely identify right now. I'm there with you brother. An uncomfortable place for me as we'll. take care. I am putting in as much alone time on the road and in the woods as possible. Trying times for sure. I am registered to Sweet h2O 50 k but am struggling through an injury caused by a bad trail face plant so as much as I want to run I may be on the volunteer side next weekend. I wish you the best in getting back on track and in a