Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Little More Distance and Perspective...

When I got home this evening I really felt like running.

I went into the closet, grabbed a shirt and some shorts, quickly changed, stretched the minimum amount of time, probably not enough, laced up a pair of shoes I haven't worn since last Fall, but figured they still had some life left in them, and honestly, at this point I have probably 5 pairs of functioning running shoes I use on occasion. Each have a distinct feeling, each have their own personality, and each still have a little (some nearly new with only a few miles) life left.

I chose my Mizuno Wave Inspire's. They are pretty much at the end of the road, I logged most of my marathon training miles in these trusty shoes, and with the rain falling outside, I wasn't too concerned about splashing in a couple of puddles with this pair, and I figure they deserve it in the twilight of their life.

The run was really peaceful and therapeutic, actually. I walked for a half hour on Tuesday as a nice easy time of getting out and getting moving post six hours/27 miles. Oddly enough I have actually felt really, really good over the last few days, and probably could have logged a few more miles on Wednesday, but am completely fine with the down time.

It was moderately warm tonight, and the rain felt really nice - not cold and clammy, but sort of refreshing. Definitely more of a Spring-time shower. At first I was going to do a run/walk for a half hour, but then resolved to just run easy and comfortable, working on the form and being more effortless. As I ran I thought about the Six-Hour and the experience as a whole. I thought about my trail friends headed to Soapstone Mountain this weekend, and to Pineland Farms in 10 days. I also thought about strategies for training to get faster on the trails toward the end of the Summer and throughout the Fall. I thought about friends who have run 50 milers before, and thought about how I might find that special class of individual that has what it takes to go the distance in a race of that length.

As I thought about these things I also thought about a conversation with Pathfinder I had earlier in the week. We were talking shop about pacing during endurance runs, and as I thought about sending him splits comparing the pacing strategies that I used in training runs that failed miserably , versus the conservative "Trail Snail" approach I learned on the fly running with Trail Pixie this weekend, something dawned on me.

The revelation was this... First bouts with the Ultramarathon are almost NEVER raced, they are survived. I ran Sunday like I was just trying to survive. The only time I got remotely agressive was in the last mile of the race when I knew I had eclipsed 26.2, and could afford picking up the pace to finish in under 6 hours. Early on, essentially the first 18 miles, running with Emily, our conversation kept us moving and away from too much time thinking about paces and too fast or two slow, at the most we explored that when we ran by the clock on the way back into the woods for another loop. Beyond mile 18, while running solo, I basically resolved to just keep moving and SURVIVE. I caught a runner or two during the last couple laps, but paid no attention to the watch, simply knowing the number I had to be under the next time I came through the start/finish area.

It baffles me how anyone races these distances competitively. I am sure there is competition, but these races are so long and so much can happen that it really calls up a survival approach. The last six miles of the Six-Hour I'd hear people tell me Emily was only a few minutes ahead. I'd nod and say 'Thanks', but deep down inside I am thinking to myself: "F--k, I am just trying to figure out how I am getting through the next 90 minutes without breaking anything!" :-)

It was crazy seeing the elite runners rattling off laps with ease. They seem so fast and make it seem so effortless. I imagine with training and preparation this is possible, but as far as I am concerned the endurance race is essentially about walking that tightrope between self-preservation and self-destruction.

There is only one way to end this post. Perhaps the most appropriate quote I have ever heard regarding ultras:

"Any idiot can run a marathon; It takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultramarathon!" - Alan Cabelly


Trail Pixie said...

Love the quote!
I think you did more than "survive" that event, Rob. You --Conquered, explored, investigated taunted this long distance for the first time. You expanded your experience, cast your net farther! ...."Survive," sounds somewhat defeatist. You came in looking a lot stronger than "survive." Remember the short video Dan posted of the woman whose knees buckled as she crawled to the end of an iron? To me...That's "survive."

pathfinder said...

I agree with trail pixie, you finished not because you are a survivor, you finished because you trained and worked hard. Your mind told you body to do what it was fully capable of doing. You went in with a viable plan and exicuted it properly. You deserve every you accomplished.