Sunday, February 14, 2021

Riddle Run #22: I'm an Ultrarunner Again!

The 7 finishers. (Photos from Tom Rice.)
On January 30, I completed the full 28 mile Riddle Run (22nd annual version). Finished in 5 hours and 59 minutes. I was one of only 7 finishers out of 40+ starters. Full results are here. And a list of all past 22 champions is here

It was my first marathon or ultra in more than a year! And my 106th overall ultra/marathon. 2020 was not kind to racing. I completed zero races. My longest run was 16 miles (at Riddle Run #21 back in January 2020). I vowed to myself that 2021 would be different. And I carried through on that promise...but it was not easy to knock out ultra/marathon #106. I learned a few lessons during that 6 hours on the snowy Lake of the Woods trails. 

Long runs matter. My longest run in the previous 3 months was 12 miles. That does not prepare you to run 28 miles. I knew it would be hard, but I really suffered. As early as 16 miles, I was ready to give up. My feet were beginning to ache. I was tired. Those regular 18-20 mile runs harden the body and mind. They increase fat-burning. It's nice to be reminded of the importance of long runs. But not so nice to live the agony, and re-learn that lesson, during an ultra. 

Weekly mileage matters. In addition to long runs, I need more miles in my training. In the previous 3 months, I only had one week with over 30 miles (and that one was 33 miles). Not exactly high volume training. Certainly not ultra training. Just like long runs, "time on feet" makes a huge difference when it comes to completing marathons and ultras. I've never been a high mileage runner, but if I want to do marathons and ultras, I need more than 25-30 miles per week. Even just 35-40 miles would be a positive change. 

Me and Gregg.
People matter. Most of my running in 2020 was solo. And I had no races. That freed me to "do my own thing" and that "thing" was often going slow or short. I bailed on several long run attempts. Without people around, it's easy to give up. You can rationalize anything. Having so many friends around for Riddle Run helped a lot! I wanted to quit at 16 miles. Even more so at 20 and 24 miles (they were 4-mile loops). My feet burned and I was tired, cold, and hungry. But running with friends, or seeing them at different points on the trail loop, kept me going. A DNF was not an option. Need to do more serious training, especially long runs, with friends. 

Weather matters. It was cold and windy on January 30 (28F-34F with 20 mph winds), but it was not the kind of brutally cold weather we've had these last 2 weeks in Illinois. Today's short run was in -18F windchill. I can't remember the last time it was above freezing. And when did I last see actual brown ground or grass? Not a ton of snow, but it never melts when the high is 20F! If Riddle Run was scheduled for today, I would have quit early. Or not run at all! I don't need perfect weather, but I do need weather that allows me to run/walk for 5-6 hours. 

My greatest lesson learned at the 22nd annual Riddle Run? I am still an ultrarunner! Even after completing 105 marathons/ultras, I felt inadequate. It had been too long since I crossed that marathon barrier. After #106, I now know I'm still an ultrarunner. Always will be an ultra guy in my heart, but it feels good that my feet and legs can back me least once a year. Probably should do this more often. And actually train for it too! I plan on a good race at this August's Howl at the Moon 8-hour ultra. I'll be ready. 

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