Sunday, November 13, 2016

Am I Still an Ultra Runner?

Yesterday, I DNF'd at the Tunnel Hill 50 Miler Trail race. I stopped at the 36 mile aid station. This is the latest in a series of DNFs for me. Tunnel Hill 50 (November 2016), Howl at the Moon 8-Hour (August 2016), Riddle Run 28 (January 2016), Barkley Fall Classic 50K (September 2015), and another Howl at the Moon 8-Hour (August 2015). My last ultra finish was Clinton Lake 30 in March of 2015. That's a long time ago! Am I still an ultra runner? If you've completed one, are you an ultra runner for life? I've finished 102 ultras/marathons, but I sure don't feel like an ultra guy anymore. What's gone wrong?

I have an easy answer to that question? I've become an arrogant bastard. I think I can run an ultra with little training. I think I've done so many I can coast through yet another. I think the rules don't apply to me. I'm special. Well, ultras don't feel the same way. Ultras don't discriminate. They don't care if you are fast or slow, old or young, male or female, white or black. They don't care if you've "done a 100 miler" before. If you have not prepared, they will eat you alive. Even if you've prepared, you may suffer the humbling experience of a DNF.

My problem is I'm disconnected from reality. I feel I can run 20-25 miles per week and be ready for a 50 mile race. Why would I believe that? Because I've become arrogant. The rules don't apply to me. Well, the rules do apply to me...and I've just been humbled again by Tunnel Hill. It doesn't feel good. I can rationalize and say "It just wasn't my day" or "I don't really care" or "I've done plenty of these, I have nothing to prove." Sure, I've done many ultras, but it sure would be nice to finish another one. And it would have been awesome to set a new PR yesterday. I actually thought a sub-9 finish was possible when I started. Clearly I was delusional...or simply arrogant.

I've learned my lesson. If you want to run an ultra, you must train for an ultra. In the last 12 weeks before Tunnel Hill, I averaged 21.5 miles per week. That's about 3 miles per day. Does that seem adequate for a 50 mile race? An 8-hour event? No. Time to face reality. I either need to give up on ultras or actually train for them.

Whether I run another ultra or not, I am an ultra runner. I can proudly claim that title. I've finished multiple 100 mile races. I've run 303 miles in one week. Not only have I completed many ultras, I've raced many quite well. I'm proud of my PRs. Breaking 24 hours at Umstead 100 was a magnificent accomplishment. Completing over 47 miles at Howl at the Moon (more than once) was great. I have a lot to be proud of, but that should not turn into hubris. I'm a simple ultra runner. We all still need to play by the rules. Train or go home...often with a DNS or DNF.


jeff said...

nice post chris, you'll be back I'm sure.

PS: I did my own Smoky Mountain Half Marathon this morning in 3h 26min w/ 2300' elev gain. Its great here , (except for the smoke from forest fires) I hope your go with me on an extended weekend here when I retire. long hikes w/ some running on uphills are great ultra training!!

Chris Ⓥ said...

I just need more miles. Maybe move to Maffetone HR training. Smokey Mtns might push me above 135 HR!

jeff said...

maffetone works, it just takes many months before you begin to go need to run up mountains, hiking hard keeps it under.

Dan B said...

Sorry to hear about the race. I am sure you could have finished with walking. It would have taken a lot longer but you could have done it. Your low mileage, probably says that your body needs some time off with a different focus. Not finishing says that your mind is tired also. You've done a 100 mile ultra, you are a ultra runner! No one can take that away. Move on and remember you get what ever you put into it.

Chris Ⓥ said...

Thanks Dan. Yeah, I _could_ have finished Tunnel Hill. Didn't seem worth it. I am tired. My ankle hurts today (rolled it at mile 10). I plan on lots of no-pressure easy running. Next race is in April (half-marathon) and I'd like to do very well--new PR (faster than 1:33 finish).