In a few days I'm running my first 50 mile ultra marathon. The North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco. I've lost over 100lbs and trained religiously for the past six months but I'm still scared shitless...here are the reasons why...
1. I'm a husky ginger...
Ok sure, I've lost over 100 lbs and spent the last six months training religiously. But if we're being honest, and I hope that we are, I'm still packing a few extra lbs. There's no getting around the fact that my attempt at running the North Face Endurance Challenge will be akin to asking the race's winner to run the race wearing a 75lb fat suit made of beef jerkey and Crisco. This husky ginger simply was not born to run.
2. The longest training run I've completed is 34 miles...
The Internet tells me this isn't a concern. Most 50 mile ultra training plans stop in the low 30's and rely on race day adrenaline and the power of prayer to get you to the finish of your first 50 mile ultra marathon.
While the Internet tells me this isn't a concern, my burning ginger loins and mile 34 tears tell a different story. My last 34 mile training run was terrible. I was slow. I was chaffed. I was thrown to the ground twice by life altering muscle cramps. And the thought of finding myself at mile 34 in the same condition and pushing my body another 16 miles is absolutely terrifying.
I'm going to be honest with y'all...I'm a persnickety pooper. I refuse to poop on a toilet other than my own in all but the most dire of circumstances. Should I find myself in a excremental emergency at your home and have no other choice but to use your toilet don't be alarmed when I ask for a bath towel. I ALWAYS shower after I poop. No exceptions.
I've pooped in the woods. Whatever. I hated it. But I did it. I survived. And it only required seventeen wet wipes.
But what is a persnickety pooper to do when he's in a time crunch in the midst of a 50 mile race and doesn't have time to pop off the side of the trail to settle in for a relaxing seventeen-wet-wipe poop session?
Imodium A-D. It's worked so far and I pray it doesn't fail me during this ultra. Fourteen hours poo free on the trail will certainly be worth the four hours that evening I'll spend on the toilet.
4. I might not make the cutoff time...
14 hours. That's how long I have to move this body down 50 miles of trail. Aid station stops to refill water and food stores count in this time as well as any, oh god save me...poop breaks.
I need to keep an average pace of 16:55 mi/min for the entire race. Sounds easy enough, right? Well...my average time on my last terrible 34 mile training run was 16:35. Terrifying.
5. I'm too competitive...
I'm competitive. I never lose. Mostly because I don't play games I know I might not win. So why would I throw myself into a game of running 50 miles in the North Face Endurance Challenge knowing full well I won't win?
Because I'm so slow that I'm not racing against the other runners...I'm racing against the cutoff time.
The key to making it to the end of an ultra is pacing yourself. Taking it very easy in the beginning so you have energy left at the end. I'm terrified the hundreds of runners passing me by will cause me to run faster than I should. Simply running :30 seconds/mile faster than I should could have me out of commission by mile 35.
5. Running in the dark...
This ultra marathon will start in the dark and it will end in the dark. Alone...on a trail...miles from civilization...in the dark...running 50 miles. Ugh...Terrifying.
Yes, I have a little headlamp strapped to my head that gives me a decent view of the trail. But please tell me how to use that headlamp to protect myself from the critters, bats, and murderers who are sure you be lurking on these dark forest trails. I've done one practice run in the dark and it was horrible. I dealt with dive-bombing bats, stubbed toes, and I got lost...twice. My expectations are low...very very low.
6. I might not finish...
I might not finish. It's a very real possibility. I'll certainly be disappointed but I think I've prepared myself well enough to prevent me from complete devastation. I've planned for every conceivable thing that could go awry. But sometimes the inconceivable happens. There are a million things that could go wrong. Sometimes your body fails you even though you've done everything you can to prepare it.
They say the key to ultra running isn't in your legs but in your mind. Your legs can take you much further than you'd ever think possible. But your mind can stop you dead in your tracks. If my my mind wavers I'll hope that my usual tricks work...thoughts of how hard I've worked, how far I've come, and how proud my mom would be if she could be here to see her husky little ginger lumberjack stumble across that finish line.
My legs are ready. My mind is ready. My Imodium A-D is ready. Let's do this thing...
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