7 Reasons You Think You Can’t Run an Ultra Marathon (When You Can)

Photo: Ice Spike

The thought of running an ultra marathon can be daunting. It’s a terribly long and intimidating distance. If you’re a newbie, you have no idea what to expect and ultra runners seem like super heroes. But many people have it in them to run an ultra. Once you desmystify a few key aspects, it’s a very achievable goal.

Here are a few key aspects of ultra running that are most commonly misunderstood, and may be preventing you from taking the plunge into the wonderful world of ultras.

1. Hills

The majority of trail ultras are hillier than your typical road marathon. They are always exceptions, but the one thing that can be intimidating is the elevation profile of some of these races. One common misconception is that ultra runners are actually running all of these hills. While some of them do, most of the runners do not.

One of the tricks to ultra running is to conserve energy as much as possible so you can endure to the end of the race. Running uphill tends to burn energy fast, so many runners find it’s more efficient to power walk uphill. The time you lose is minimal, but the energy you conserve is significant. And as far as exertion, it’s much easier than running uphill.

While a lot of ultra runners may appear to be mountain goats, hill training is hard for everyone. We all feel the same pain on a steep climb. Yet so many reach these breathtaking summits, and so can you.

2. Speed

Some runners believe that because they are not fast, they can’t compete in an ultra. But the ultra is more about endurance than speed. It’s also about troubleshooting problems and pushing yourself mentally. Yolanda Holder is a Guinness world record holder and has finished countless ultra marathons. Yet she has not run a single step.

Yolanda is a power walker, and even at her “slow” pace, she not only finishes these challenging events, but passes several runners. At an ultra, slow and steady finishes the race.

3. Distance

When you plot a 50K or any other ultra distance on a map, it seems “crazy”. But your perspective of distance changes at an ultra. Distances seem much shorter when you’re chatting with a friend (slow and steady means you’re not panting for breath). You can also break the mileage down by running from one aid station to the next. Aid stations are generally five to eight miles apart. It is a manageable distance that you can focus on, and you’ll be capable of more than you realize. Besides, if you’ve already run a marathon, a 50K is “only” five more miles.

4. Exertion

Unlike a 5K, 10K, or even a half marathon, you are not going all out as far as exertion when you run an ultra. As mentioned, the key is to preserve energy. Although it may feel like you’re going slow, this will pay off greatly in the later stages of the race and carry you to a strong finish. I actually find a 5K much harder on my body than a 50K. On a 5K, I am pushing hard. It’s a significant physical challenge. On an ultra, I am trying not to overexert myself. I am preserving energy. And it feels easier.

5. Terrain

If you’re used to road running, you may be familiar with a whole host of injuries that creep up over and over again. The pavement is unforgiving on a long distance runner. When I switched to trail ultra marathons, my recovery was significantly faster and the impact on my body was much less than a road marathon.

Some runner are hurting so badly after a road marathon that they can’t imagine running even longer. But the trail doesn’t hurt as much. I feel infinitely better after a trail 50K than after a road marathon. Not only is the ground less forceful, but you are also using a variety of muscles as your footfalls vary. Your pace also varies, and so does your gait. So when you’re finished, there is no one particular body part that is killing you. While I would spend days recovering after a road marathon, after a trail 50K I can run the next day.

6. Pain

The anticipation of pain can be scary. Again, if you’ve ever felt pain at a road marathon, you may imagine that going longer will hurt even worse. In the same way, if you’ve run a 50K, you may imagine that a 50 miler would hurt more, and a 100 miler would be infinitely painful. But the body doesn’t work that way.

Your body will hurt up to a point. After that it gets better and then bad again in waves, generally separated by several miles. Just as you hit a second wind during a marathon, during an ultra you will hit third, fourth, and even fifth wind, depending who far you’re going. Pain and exhaustion will be there, but not getting worse for the entire race.

7. Mind

While mental focus and willpower is important for all races, in order to finish an ultra, you have to want it. In many of my races, I have reached a point where I have enough excuses to drop out. I’m very sore, or my blisters are acting up, or I just threw up. Many runners experience these things, but those that finish are the ones that press on. An ultra is a race where you are likely to feel like quitting, and nobody would blame you for dropping out. So the only thing keeping you on the course is your own stubbornness and will to finish. Develop that irrational determination, and you will find success in ultra running.

Why Should You Even Try?

Ultra running may not be for everyone, but there is something life changing about finishing a goal that you didn’t think you could accomplish. Whether or not that is running an ultra, challenge yourself to take on that one thing you really want to do. Climb that mountain. Sign up for that race. And surprise yourself. You’re stronger than you think you are.

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How to Train for Your First Ultra

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How to Train Your Human to Run an Ultra

By Ginger Shackelford

Though dogs have been running ultra distances since the dawn of time, it has only recently occurred to the human species that they may also be capable of the same.

If you are aching to put some miles on your paws and would like to bring your human along, it is now possible to do this safely if you follow a few simple precautionary steps.

Below is how I have successfully trained my human to run ultra distances. This weekend, we successfully completed 31 miles in 27 hours. (Hey, I didn’t say she was fast.) If my human can do it, so can yours.

Recognizing an Ultra Human

Not any human can be your ultra running partner. How do you know if yours is ready for an ultra? Firstly, you need a human who is committed to your comfort. They long to please you. If you pull your leash on your daily walk, does your human allow you to go faster? If they concede and follow your lead, you may be the owner of a good ultra human.

All your human really wants is to be a dog.

The Early Steps

I began training my human with running intervals. On my daily walk, I would start to trot. My human was happy to follow. Then I pulled a little harder, and a little harder. Do this until your human is almost running at a full sprint. Then stop dead on the trail to sniff a bush.

This will sharpen your human’s reflexes, while the intervals will improve their speed. Don’t worry if your human falls flat on their face the first few times as they trip over you. They will learn in time.

Pulling on your leash has a secondary benefit: your human will be more inclined to let you off-leash. This gives you the freedom you need for easier and faster training, and the experience is more enjoyable for you both.

Some humans take longer to let you off-leash than others. Remember, humans need their leashes to feel safe and secure. You are their protector. When they let you off, this is a sign that they have matured and are ready to progress in their training.

Training your human to run off-leash is challenging, but worth the time.

Getting to the Event

No matter how much you have trained off-leash with your human, once you arrive at the ultra you will notice the leash is back around your neck. Be patient with your human. They are a nervous species, really.

Your human needs some time to familiarize themselves with their environment, and they need you close by. Once your human feels comfortable with their surroundings, they will release their leash.

You may celebrate his milestone with a tail wag or a happy hop. This shows your human that you are proud of them. It is important that you still stay close by, preferably keeping your human in sight. If they cannot see you, this may trigger their separation anxiety and you will find yourself back on the leash.

Running the Race

All your human really wants is to be just like you. At our last race, my human wanted so badly to be like me that she tried to run the race barefoot. Silly. At least she didn’t try to make me wear those ridiculous doggie shoes that I hate.

Me and my dumbass barefoot human

Humans only have half the legs that you do, and they are much more fragile in their build. It is important to be patient with your human, to motivate and encourage them, and to keep them safe.

Because my human decided to go barefoot, I could not safely push her to run the speeds that I wanted. However, I still had a lot of jobs to do:

1. Motivation

I ran the first few miles with my human, showing her how much fun we were having and what a great experience this was. I bounded through the fields, sprinted ahead on the grass, and climbed everything in sight. This made my human smile and forget the disappointment of not being able to run as well as I do.

Remember: as you are encouraging your human to have fun, always come when they call. Their call means that they need you. Although there may not be a specific problem, do not become impatient with them. They don’t always know why they call.

At one point, I was so busy motivating my human that I dashed around a corner and ran right into a turkey. I decided to run behind my human after that. Turkeys are a horrid species, really.

2. Pacing

The more tired my human became, the closer I stuck by her. Maintain a steady pace ahead of your human (or behind, if you see fit), to drive them forward. I ran both in front of and behind my human. I like to switch it up depending on my human’s state of mind.

If your human is slowing down, keep your pace. Your human may follow you. If you assess that your human simply cannot follow you, do not leave them. Stand on the side of the trail until they have caught up, but do not come unless they call. Moving forward, always. Humans are similar to cattle. You must drive them.

3. Navigation

Ultra races have course markers. Teach yourself, as I did, to follow the markers. My human was surprised when I could lead her through the course markings with accuracy, but it is not that difficult to follow the ribbons. Be aware because humans have an atrocious sense of direction, often getting lost on well-marked courses. As they get tired, they also become more stupid. It is important that you point them where they should go.

4. Wildlife

Humans are a skittish species and incredibly distrustful of wildlife. It is your job to keep an eye out for any critters, both large and small, that may startle them. At a few points during the race my human saw some cattle nearby and immediately put me on the leash.

This showed me that she was worried the cattle were going to eat her, so I perked up and stayed sharp, glaring the cattle down to show them my human was off limits. When the threat had passed, my human let me off-leash again, a sign that I had done a good job of protecting her from these vicious predators.

5. Human Buddy

Humans are a social species, and will have their spirits lifted if you bring along a second human. Do not take this personally. Although it is obvious that your company is far superior, the additional human will in fact ease your responsibility.

Your human will be more distracted and pleasant. Instead of whining or grumbling to you, you are free to run ahead and enjoy the trails while they chat to their buddy.

With these tips in mind, here is a race report of the Born to Run Ultra Marathon 50K, my first ultra with my human:

BORN TO RUN 50K

I arrived a day early and camped out, to give my human time to adjust to her environment. Although she kept me on the leash for the first few minutes, it wasn’t long before I was off. Good human.

Camping with my humans: a great way to get them used to their environment. Stay close to reduce their anxiety.

I was indignantly fed some dog food from home while my human enjoyed special camping treats. However, upon expressing my disapproval, she was soon feeding me from her meal.

I took some time to get acquainted with the other canines who had brought their humans. One of them was the infamous Ghost Dog who is a fellow illegal Mexican immigrant. I was happy to see he had made it safely across the border and was now in loving hands. We exchanged pleasantries.

Nice to meet you.

No, nice to meet YOU.

The humans participated in an unrefined ball-playing game that made little sense. As a ball connoisseur, I can tell you that this spherical object had all the wrong qualities. It was neither soft nor chewable, and therefore unplayable.

The dogs all stood around in horror as the humans insisted on kicking this thing around. Sadly, this is not uncommon and not much more can be expected. Humans are notorious for ball atrocities, such as pushing around a much-too-hard one they call “golf”, or a much-too-large one they call “basketball”. Ridiculous. You can view this pathetic display of sportsmanship below.

YouTube Link Here

On race day, the gun went off and my human started in last place, without any shoes. She is not the smartest pet at the races. As the hard reality set in for her that she was not, in fact, a dog, I tried my best to keep her motivated by prancing in the grass and showing her how much fun we were having.

On the way, we picked up a stray named Caity who was going in the wrong direction. I redirected her on the right path and brought her along to help my human. Caity was being run by a new canine named Nigel. He was decent company, but fairly inexperienced. He went a little overboard with his running and made his human nervous. I had a word with him and then he was better.

Watching over the stray

After the first loop was over, my human was in low spirits but very appreciative of my invaluable company. To express her thanks, she offered me a pineapple on which to lay my head. I thought this strange, but lay down on the prickly object to show her that I appreciated the gesture. Humans are weird.

Strange human pineapple custom

I encouraged my human to rest by immediately passing out on the grass and taking a nap. This worked, as my human sat down and ate for a long time. When she was feeling better, my human put on shoes and I jumped up to show her I was ready to go.

Because my human copies everything I do, I encourage her to rest by passing out.

This second loop was much more successful. My human ran along happily, even though she no longer had the company of stray Caity. I kept an eye out for cattle. Near the end of that second loop, I could tell my human was once again getting tired. It was also getting dark.

My human is clearly afraid of the dark since she is no good at night running and often falls asleep soon after the sun sets, so it didn’t surprise me when she crawled into the tent and called me to come after her. She fell asleep almost immediately, and I feared that our run would be over.

WTF? Why aren’t we running?

The next morning, my human was feeling better and decided to finish the race. I showed my approval by eating half of her breakfast burrito. None of the other dogs were running their humans this morning, since their humans were all thoroughly wiped. I was proud that mine still had some life in her legs, though she was slow as molasses.

The last loop with my human was the most fun. She ran it in two hours and fed me beef jerky and potatoes. I even chased a few bunnies. I have done well to teach my human not to care about time, to forget her stats (they’re embarrassing, really), and to run with joy in her heart. We finished 30 miles in total, with just one more to go.

In the final mile, my human was penalized for sleeping during a 50K. The RD’s instructions were that she must kick the Tarahumaran ball for the final mile–no hands allowed.

My human isn’t very coordinated and kept kicking the ball into the bushes for me to retrieve. At one point she even stepped on it and took a tumble. If she says I tripped her, she is lying.

I finally just carried the ball for the last half-mile, which was uncomfortable because it was made out of hard wood and it tasted like Luis Escobar. But I try to help my human as much as I can and carried her punishment without complaining.

All said and done, my human is pretty dumb but I sure do love that bitch. I’ll train her better and bring her back next year.

When properly trained, humans make great ultra buddies.

A Note From My Human: Vanessa Runs

I had such as blast running this race with Miss Ginger. She truly humbled me with her patience and skill and made me look pretty stupid out there. I even would have missed a few turns if she didn’t guide me in the right direction, following the course markings where I couldn’t.

She literally paced me through my low spots – staying just enough ahead of me to encourage me to push ahead. She made me laugh the whole way.

At one point running that second loop, we were all alone on the ridge, running into the sunset. I felt like Micah and she was my Ghost. Just two bitches against the world.

At that moment, I truly learned the magic between a human and an animal who can understand that human completely. Ginger, I’ll follow you through the trails any day.

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Across the Years 24 Hour Race Report

I have a soft spot for timed races. Usually when I tell someone I’m doing a timed race, they react with horror and surprise. I understand that running a one-mile loop for 6, 12, or 24 hours hardly sounds appealing. But I find comfort in it.

At a timed race, I don’t have to think. I can zone out, clear my mind, and just RUN. I experience running in a very raw state. I’m not worried about falling, hydration, or supplies. I’m only focused on the trail ahead. One foot in front of the other. Forever.

This race was my longest timed event yet.  Across the Years is a 72, 48, or 24-hour race over a 1.05-mile loop in Arizona. We registered for the 24-hour event, starting at 9 a.m. on December 31st, through to New Years, and ending at 9 a.m. on January 1st.

I had no idea what to expect. The longest I had run before this was 50k, and the longest time I had ever spent running continuously was eight hours. I was a newbie.

I had it in the back of my mind that the best I could aim for was 100 miles, but I really had no idea how I would feel past the 50k, or how my body would respond with lack of sleep. I have never experienced sleep deprivation while running, and I knew that 100 miles was extremely ambitious. So I decided to just do my best, put zero pressure on myself, and have as much fun as possible.

We drove up a day early with my sister Elizabeth (attempting her first ultra), Carlos (attempted 100 miles) and Shacky (attempting a distance PR). We would also be seeing my uncle Pat and Jason Robillard with his awesome wife Shelly.

We stopped by the race on the 30th and I was immediately excited by the atmosphere. Watching the runner’s circle, I wanted to start running right away. It wasn’t long before we saw Jason, who was doing well and going strong. We also caught up with Pat and chatted with him for a bit before heading back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we were at the race bright and early, eager and ready to run. I started the first few miles with Shacky, running comfortable and steady 10-minute miles. It was cold at the beginning, so I started in my sweater and jammies. When it warmed up I shed my layers. I was wearing the InknBurn cherry blossom set – my favorite outfit. I got a ton of comments on my InknBurn gear, and people wanted to know where they could buy some.

I found myself feeling thirsty as it started getting hotter, and I stopped to drink at almost every mile. Shacky was stopping every five miles to have some Thrive homemade, vegan pudding (a mixture of dates, bananas, cocoa, and coconut). Brendan Brazier eats this on his races. It tasted delicious and was very easy to digest.

At the 50k mark, I was feeling unbelievable. And I wanted to go faster. For my other events, I’ve always tried to pace myself in the beginning, just as runners are supposed to. But I’ve never been able to shake the feeling at the end that I had more in me (except at Los Pinos, which damn near killed me). I usually want to run further, and I always wonder whether I could have done it better or faster.

I’ve never been injured since I started running in 2007. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really fortunate, or if I’m not pushing myself hard enough. I have made great progress as a runner, but my body doesn’t seem to understand the high injury rate it’s supposed to suffer from. It refuses to break.

Another thing I’ve noticed at my past races is that no matter how well I pace myself, I seem to always hit a wall at the same TIME, as opposed to the same distance. So if I’m going super slow, I just end up with less miles logged before I feel exhausted. In any case, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to run faster. I sped up.

Running faster felt amazing. It actually felt easier to run faster than to run slow, which is probably because my “slow” muscles had already been working for over 6 hours. Activating new parts of my legs gave me that second wind.

I did a few sub-10 minute miles until Pat warned me that I was going too fast. I figured that when Pat tells you you’re going too fast, you probably really are. But still, I didn’t listen. I paused long enough to make a Facebook update stating that I might hit 100 miles after all.

Then at mile 45, out of nowhere, I hit a wall and I hit it hard. This was a wall I hadn’t felt since the end of my first marathon. It knocked me right out. Up until that point, I had been saving my motivational messages. Now I stumbled over to my folder and yanked all those papers out to read them all at once.

I was determined to keep moving, but it took me the same amount of time to run from mile 45 to 50 as it did to run the entire first 13 miles. I was half-walking and feeling miserable.

Meanwhile, Shacky was starting to feel an old injury act up, so he opted for a beer run with Jason instead. Pat was also suffering from a recurring shin splint, and wasn’t running anymore. I walked one painful loop with Pat before he decided to sit out. I kept plugging away, and by the time I was ready to run my 50th mile, Shacky and Jason and Pat were all sitting around drinking beer. I wanted so badly to join them.

Instead, I pulled Shacky away for one more lap, so he could run in my 50th mile with me. Then I sat down.

Until this point, I had remained vegan. I was eating fruit, tons of liquids, some vegetable soup, and PB&J sandwiches. I had also brought chips and nuts from home. But dinner at Across the Years was pizza. Cheesy and meaty pizza. They had volunteers standing on the course holding it out for runners to grab as they darted past, as if it were Gatorade. Every loop I made for at least 5 miles, I could smell it.

By the time I ran my 50th mile, all I could think of was pizza. And I was HUNGRY. Although I had brought tons of vegan snacks, I didn’t really think to bring any solid food for a real meal. And that’s what I was craving. A sit-down meal. No more aid station snacks.

I eyed the pizza and waited until there was only ONE slice left. Then I grabbed it. I wasn’t sorry, but I thought I should confess. So I went to sit over with the guys and let Pat make fun of me.

After my pizza break, I tried to keep walking laps. My legs were sore and the guys were just sitting around and chatting, making it really difficult to get back up and run alone. I really didn’t want to run anymore.

I managed to meet my sister as she was just about to complete 50k. I ran that last lap with her and took pictures. I remember when I first set my sister up with a Learn to Run program. She couldn’t even run for three minutes. Now look at her. She had a run a distance she could barely understand. I was so proud of her.

The ultra distance is an amazing thing. I told my sister: “No matter what has happened in your life before, or what will happen in your future, nobody can ever take that ultra away from you. When you’re an ultra runner, you’re a runner forever. You could go out the next day, join a gym and hire a personal trainer. And that trainer may not ever accomplish what you just did. You can flip through a magazine and pick out the most beautiful girl on those pages, and that girl’s body may never be as strong as yours. Her legs will never carry her this far. After an ultra, you are beyond beautiful. You are unbreakable.” She cried.

My sister would end up covering over 40 miles, logging over 100k during her entire stay with us over the holidays. She hadn’t trained for one single day for this. I surprised her with the flight to see us, and also with the entry to this race. Before this, she was running about five miles a week or less. But I knew she had an ultra in her. We have the same blood.

As a sat out watching the other runners, I was inspired by so many still fearlessly circling that loop. All different ages, different shapes, different goals. There were people who looked like they were 80 years old, and there was one 8-year-old boy who ended up with over 30 miles. Some people were slow, but consistent. One foot in front of the other. And they just never stopped.

I was amazed at the strength and resilience of the human spirit, and it seemed almost unfair to me that such strong souls should reside in weak bodies. Why can’t our bodies keep up with the resolve of our spirits?

Earlier on, Shacky and I met Sarah, a really pretty girl with long dreads. Sarah was running in minimalist Merrell shoes, so we stopped to ask her how long she had been running in them. She was embarrassed to say – only 12 miles.

It turned out that it was actually her husband and BRS member (username Abide) who had registered for this race, but he had become injured and could no longer run. She agreed to take his spot, even though she was only training for her first half marathon. She thought she’d take it easy, run a few laps, and see how she felt.

Sarah would take a break every so often to breastfeed her youngest child before jumping back on the course. She ended up with over 50k. Take that, half marathon.

In many of my motivational messages, people said I was an inspiration. But these are the people that inspire ME. I’ve done the training, planned the course, and eased into ultra running like an old man into a chilly pool. But these guys come up to a mountain they have never seen or imagined and look at it without the slightest fear. Then they say, “Meh… What the hell.” And dive right in.

I managed to stay awake until midnight, cheer in the New Year, and run one final lap with my Shacky, Jason and Pat. Then I crashed. I don’t remember falling asleep, but the next thing I knew I opened my eyes and it was still dark. All I could hear outside was the patter of feet – people were still running.

I crawled out of my tent, slipped on my shoes, and ran in my jammies. It was 5 a.m. The runners on the course were few but faithful. They hadn’t just crawled out of their tents like I had. They had been there for the entire night.

The vibe in the air was tired and subdued. No one spoke. All you could hear was the shuffling of feet and slow breathing. Just one foot in front of the other. Forever.

A few hours before the end, I saw one runner hunched over shaking his head violently, as if he were trying to wake up from a bad dream. We made eye contact and he exclaimed, “I’m hallucinating! I’m seeing shit that’s not there!” He hadn’t slept for two nights.

At 7 a.m. I saw Shacky. He was also still running, and hit his distance PR at the same time I hit my 100k mark. Shacky could only get a couple of laps in at a time because of his injury, but he still pulled out his longest distance.

I really wanted a Starbucks after that, so Shacky drove me to one. By the time we drove back, it was less than an hour until the finish. Jason was out padding his miles, running at an impressive pace. We hung around to watch the end of the race, and I finished with 101k (63 miles).

In the end, several people had run this event so many times in previous years that this year they hit their 1000-mile marks for overall laps on the Across the Years course. Ed Ettinghausen, who had called it quits after the first day, pulled himself back together and ended up in second place. We saw him on his last few laps with his wife.

Yolanda Holder ended up walking for 48 Hours and hit 100 miles. Kimberly Miller also earned her 100-mile belt buckle. And one girl who looked just like Kate Kift looped me about a gazillion times. I never saw her face – only her back as she kept passing me. The back of her shirt said, “Don’t be a pussy.” So I pretended she was Kate, and smiled whenever she passed, nodding at the wisdom of her shirt.

This was an unbelievable event, very well run, and a perfect way to spend the end of the year. I’m really proud of my mileage. I think I had it in me to hit 100 miles, but I definitely needed more time.

I plan to try the 48-hour race next year, or even the 72. Meh… What the hell.

Here is my video recap:

Related Links:

Jason Robillard’s Across the Years Race Report

Patrick Sweeney’s Across the Years Race Report

Carlos Frias’ Across the Years Race Report

Ridgecrest OTHTC 50K Race Report

I heard this was a flat, easy race. That gave me mixed feelings. On one hand, I thought it would be a great opportunity to PR. On the other hand, I really do love hills even though they kick my ass.

Race morning was freezing cold. We opted to pick up bibs the day before and stay overnight, instead of getting up at 2 a.m. to drive for four hours. It was the right decision.

I was thrilled to bring my girl Ginger along on this race instead of putting her up in her pet hotel. She loves to run and I love having her around me. The race director was kind enough to allow a leashed Ginger to see me off and wait around for me to finish.

At the starting line, we met up with Pat who was racing this in Lunas and shirtless. His chest hair keeps him warm. We also spotted Catra at the start line, who is one of my running heroes. I wasn’t as tongue-tied as with Michelle Barton and was able to ask for a picture instead of just staring at her like a weirdo. Win!

It was weird not having Shacky run this race with me, but also nice to have someone to hold my jacket and take pictures. He also chugged about a year’s supply of caffeine trying to stay awake, driving my ass around everywhere. Deeply appreciated.

When the race started, I had trouble moving quickly through the cold. My thighs felt numb, very similar to Noble Canyon. I decided to just take it easy and cruise along until I warmed up. Mike McDaniel caught up to me and we chatted for a bit before he took off. Then I saw Catra pass by, showing the boys how it’s done.

The runners spread out and before long I was mostly running on my own. There was no single track; it was a wider dirt road. So there was never any congestion. I was holding a steady, but definitely not fast pace. Every once in a while a runner would pass me, but I could never tell if they were running the 50K or the 30K. I pretended that everyone passing me was running 30K.

It felt like I hadn’t even blinked before I reached the first aid station. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, so it was a welcome opportunity for me to grab some Gatorade and an orange slice. Then I was off again.

The course was flat and a little sandy, and everything looked the same: a long road and mountains in the distance. I thought about pulling out my iPod to keep me motivated, but decided that it was way too early in the race to be bored. I tried to move faster, but I wasn’t really feeling it. I was comfortable trotting along, but deep inside I missed my hills.

Soon after the second aid station, there was a split for the 50K runners. We turned left while the 30K went straight, and I straightened up a bit. I felt happy to be on a trail with only ultra runners, and I finally picked up my speed. A couple of other runners passed me on this stretch, but I felt motivated and I was in a good groove.

Then suddenly—a third aid station. I stopped again, had some more oranges, and chatted with some volunteers. If I had known there were this many aid stations, I might have left my hydration pack in the car. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have stopped at all the stations. I didn’t need to. But I couldn’t resist peeking at the spread, taking a nibble, and chatting with volunteers. The stations were decorated for Christmas and I’d never seen Christmas decorations in a desert before.

At one station, the volunteers tried to guess my age—they thought I might be the youngest runner there. But I’m much older than I look (29). At another aid station, I was offered a beer. I had never had a beer during a run before, but the dude dressed as Santa was very persistent so I gave in and enjoyed a very nice, very dark beer. At the finish line I was able to brag to Pat about it since he was NOT offered beer. In the end, I suppose it was worth losing a few minutes at each aid station.

In between aid stations, the course was pretty much the same all the way through. This is a great race to PR, but not the most scenic. I’ve learned that a flat course does not necessarily mean that I will go faster. I was going the same pace I normally do, so in many ways I’m more competitive when there’s elevation. It was hard for me to feel fast, and although I wasn’t hurting or sore, I wasn’t motivated to push myself whereas on hilly terrain I always am.

My low point wasn’t physical at this race, it was motivational. At one point I was beating myself up over my unwillingness to speed up. How could I be so slow on such an easy course? Why wasn’t I taking advantage of the flat terrain? What kind of a pathetic pace was this?

Then up ahead, I saw Catra and my pity party died. I ran behind her, completely thrilled that I was keeping her pace and very inspired by the sight of her running. Then I picked up the pace and passed her, telling her how great she looked.

After that it was hard to be bored. But over the next couple of hours, my leg muscles started to tire. The feeling was similar to the 6-hour race I ran. On flat surfaces, I find that my muscles exhaust more easily because I’m using the same muscles over and over again, instead of shaking things up with hills. I decided it was time to pull out my iPod.

Music helps my mind wander, and I soon fell back into my groove and forgot about my tired legs. I started thinking about my mom, which is common during a race. But this time I thought about her more than most.

My mom passed away from leukemia when she was 27. I don’t think about her often, except during races. My mom was very health-conscious. She loved to cook and exercise and I remember she would take me running in the park when I could barely put one foot in front of the other. She would run too.

I know that staying healthy was important to my mom, and yet she still got sick. I like to imagine that somehow she knows that I run ultras now, and that she cheers me on. Sometimes I wonder how her body could have been so weak, when mine is so strong. I feel like I owe it to her to finish well when she couldn’t.

I decided not to stop at the last aid station in an effort to finish in under six hours. But in the last two miles I started falling apart. I was sore, but not in pain. I mostly felt drained and unmotivated. Then I looked behind me and saw Catra.

Catra ended up running the last two miles in under 10 minutes, and easily passed me. She didn’t even look tired. However, she took the time to push me on and tell me how close we were to the finish. I was walking when she passed me, but she got me running again.

Another strong lady passed me after Catra, saying “We can do this!” I decided to believe her and stayed on her tail until the finish. I thought that for sure I had missed my 6-hour PR, but ended up coming in at 5:59. I had already given up my time goal in that last mile, so if it wasn’t for Catra and the lady that followed her, I wouldn’t have run a sub-6 ultra this weekend.

It was such a relief to cross the finish line and find Shacky, Pat, and Ginger waiting for me. Ginger jumped all over me and I’m pretty sure she licked all the salt off my face. Pat also suggested I wait around for the awards, which never occurred to me because I never win anything. But as it turned out, I won second in my age group (where were all the 20-somethings??). I was thrilled with my award because next year I turn 30 and probably won’t win a darn thing.

The awards were fun. I also won men’s socks at the raffle… I know what Shacky’s getting for Christmas!

I’d love to run this race next year—and every year—to aim for a PR. This is a race to actually RACE. It’s great for a first ultra, with tons of support and aid stations, and very clearly marked. Many thanks to all the great volunteers and the race director for a successful event.

Richard Leary 6-Hour Challenge Race Report

On Sunday Shacky and I pulled into William R. Mason Regional Park at 7 a.m. and paid $30 to run for six hours. We didn’t have any distance goals but were there just to have fun.

After our recent Los Pinos experience we were looking forward to a race that was flat, fast and scenic. It was a run where we could chat with people, never be far from an aid station, and stop whenever we wanted.

I hadn’t run a flat course since moving here from Toronto. San Diego has so many hills, I wasn’t even sure there was a one-mile stretch in all of California that didn’t want to murder my quads. But apparently there is. And it is very pretty.

THE COURSE

This beautiful 1.09-mile loop reminded me of the picturesque Mind the Ducks 12 Hour race put on by race director Shelley Viggiano in New York. The concrete was soft, smooth, and well maintained. The loop encircled a pretty lake with busy ducks and other birds.

Children played at a nearby playground while older kids gathered by the pond’s edge to launch sailboats. Other than a couple of seniors out for a stroll, the path belonged to us runners

As lunchtime approached, some larger gatherings set up family BBQs and there was one birthday celebration. The vibe at the park was carefree and friendly. There was a lot to see, but also a lot of room to run.

The course itself was barefoot-friendly. There were no broken sections and only the odd pebble scattered on the pavement. My soles didn’t start feeling the mileage until after 20 miles of barefoot bliss. The path was flat except for one very small incline.

THE FIRST THREE HOURS

Time flew by. Shacky and I ran together for the first three miles and then he slipped ahead of me while I maintained my pace. It took at least three loops to warm up.

It was a cold morning and my fingers and toes felt numb. Most people were sharing my pace, so I was never running completely alone. I enjoyed listening to their conversations and chatted with some of them.

One thing I love about timed races is that you have the chance to meet and talk to people of all running levels. You may pass some and others may pass you, but sooner or later you’re bound to share a mile with someone you’ve never met and swap stories.

The second thing I love about timed races is that you never know who will come out on top. Some people start strong but don’t last long. Others start slow but never give up. I’m more like that second one.

I’m not a fast runner but I don’t always have an OFF switch. Once I get in a groove, I feel great running for hours. I wasn’t paying attention to how far others were going, but I did notice that after three hours a lot of runners had left.

THE LAST THREE HOURS

Shacky decided to stop after a little more than 20 miles, so I sat around with him for a bit and then walked a lap. We took pictures of the other runners, scouted out a nearby trail, crossed a bridge, and hit up the local playground.

There was a nice little outdoor gym setup that provided bars for people to do sit-ups, push-up, or chin-ups. We used all the bars and then did handstands.

Shortly afterwards I decided to keep running. Since so many runners had left and nobody was keeping my pace anymore, I busted out my iPod and continued to loop.

My body felt great and so did my legs, though I did miss the trails and hills. Every stride on the pavement was similar and it was easy for my feet to get bored. But I was running and that made me happy.

THE LAST TEN MILES

This is the point where everyone is looking exhausted and people are slowing down. In the last ten miles, anything can happen.

I didn’t know any of the runners still out there. Shacky had stopped and so had his ultra friend Rachel Boyd. The people I had chatted with had gone home, and the leaders were inching painfully along.

I wasn’t going fast, but I felt good. I felt like I had a lot left in my legs. And I actually felt thankful. Just so lucky to be out there on a beautiful day, pounding out some miles.

Back in Toronto, I used to train with loops. While loops seem boring to many, they’ve always brought me comfort and solace. Loops allow my mind to wander while my legs move fairly effortlessly on familiar terrain.

But back in Toronto I’d sometimes run loops with a sense of guilt. I knew that people were waiting for me to come home. That there were errands to take care of and chores to do.

I was limited by the distance and time I had reported before leaving. So if I felt like running more, I felt pressured to come back with an explanation.

But this felt liberating. Loops with no strings attached. A place I could run forever and nobody was waiting for me to finish. There was nobody tapping their fingers wondering when I would come by or waiting in the car to pick me up. I knew that when I crossed the aid station, Shacky would push me to run one more mile instead of wondering when I would finally call it a day. I felt lucky.

Pretty soon I was the only girl on the course. My mileage built up slowly, inching closer to Rachel’s, who was currently first girl but had stopped running. Now she was on the sidelines watching me.

There was a prize for first place but I didn’t know what it was, nor did I care. I never imagined I would be competing for anything. My prize was the freedom to run until I felt tired. And that was all I wanted.

Meanwhile, Shacky thought he’d keep himself entertained by playing on Rachel’s competitive spirit and tell her how I was going to run one more loop than her and steal first place. I was oblivious to his taunting back at the aid station, but on my 25th loop Shacky yelled, “One more lap and you tie Rachel!”

I smiled and continued. I just wasn’t tired yet.

THE RACE

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I see Rachel pass me in a mad sprint, cursing Shacky. She was back out on the course to defend her place.

NOW we had a race.

I couldn’t help but cheer Rachel on. I knew she was coming back from an injury and wasn’t feeling her best. I was so proud of her for defending her lead. Rachel is a 100-miler and God knows if my legs had the wisdom of 100 miles I would never in a million years lie down for some Canadian 50K finisher.

I didn’t pick up my pace or try to race Rachel. But I loved watching her walk/run each loop (run when she knew I was looking) and felt so honored to be the fire under her ass.

I knew that if I stopped, Rachel could stop. And if Rachel stopped, I could catch up. And so we both looped. Over and over and over. Each one waiting out the other.

Time ran out before Rachel and I did. I ran my final lap with three minutes to spare for a final 50K distance. Rachel never let me catch her so I came in second girl – my most impressive ultra distance run. It was also a 50K PR for me.

Rachel ended up finishing just one lap away from first place overall. She came into this race thinking she’d be lucky to run 20 miles. And she almost took it all home.

After this, Rachel was left wondering what would have happened if she hadn’t stopped running before I forced her back on the course. And I was left wondering how close I could have come to first girl if I hadn’t messed around doing handstands.

But after all, that is the beauty of ultra running. You’re always stronger than you think you are.

First place finishers Rachel (L) and Deo (R) with RD Sam (M)

Me and my medal

Los Pinos 50K Race Report

The trail gods were angry with me and decided to punish me with Los Pinos.

I knew this would be a tough race, and that’s what initially attracted me. It was rumored to be much harder than Noble Canyon 50K, and I had done well at Noble. So I thought I was ready for a harder challenge.

I thought wrong.

DIET ERROR

It started going downhill before the race even began. We had been doing a 30-day Paleo challenge that ended on October 20th. The race was on the 22nd, so we thought about keeping up the diet until then. Instead, we went ahead and indulged in crappy carbs for two days pre-race. I chalked it up to carb loading, ignoring the fact that I had never actually carb loaded before a race and eating shitty bar food probably didn’t count.

I loved the way I felt on Paleo, so it was hard to imagine at the time that I wouldn’t feel amazing during the race. On Paleo, I felt strong and energetic. But two miles into the race, I knew I was in trouble. And I knew it was because my body wasn’t processing the processed carbs.

That was my first mistake.

GEAR ERROR

We decided to stay in a hotel the night before the race so we’d be closer to the start. I meticulously packed everything into my race bag. I remembered my toothbrush, my socks and my handheld water bottle. On race day morning I pulled on all my clothes and slipped on my injinjis, but something was missing.

My shoes were still neatly packed… at home.

Enter wave of panic.

I had no shoes. I didn’t even have my huaraches. I had literally nothing to wear on my feet. And this was not a barefoot-friendly race.

Because this was such a tough course, none of my female trail running buddies had registered for it, so there was nobody I could borrow shoes from. Shacky had an extra pair of shoes in his car—a men’s pair of Neo Trails, about three inches too long for me. And that was it.

I was determined to run this race, so I slipped on my new clown shoes and took a deep breath. I decided that I’d run this ultra in enormous men’s shoes, or I would die trying.

And die I almost did.

RACE START

We got to the race early. The volunteers were still setting up, so we chatted with Carl and Shacky told him my shoe story. Carl asked if it was ok to make fun of me, so I knew he had his priorities straight. Trail runners are awesome like that.

Carl also suggested I stuff the end of the shoes with paper. I think he was joking, but it actually ended up being a great idea. I stuffed toilet paper in the 3-inch gap between my toes and the ends of the shoes. Feeling the toilet paper gave me the illusion of having the shoes actually fit. So instead of feeling AND looking like a freak, I only looked like one. I was ok with that.

A few minutes before race start, I felt a tap on my shoulder and someone said, “Vanessa?” I turned around to find myself staring at Michelle Barton. I immediately turned into a dummy. I had no idea what to say and how the hell did she know my name??

Michelle is my hero, I love everything about her. I love her clothes, her hair, and how she wins almost everything she runs. I’ve never been star struck before and I still have no idea how she knew my name. She knew Shacky’s name too, which didn’t surprise me as much. Then Shacky suggested a picture while I just stood there like an idiot.

The pre-race pep talk wasn’t very peppy at all. It basically consisted of the race director Keira begging everyone to be cautious and trying to convince people to drop out before the hill. She warned us strongly about running out of water on the climb and stated frankly that if it happened to us, “You’ll die.” I was pretty sure she was exaggerating. Or joking.

Hours later, I’d be collapsed on the side of the trail praying for death to come.

THE FIRST THREE MILES

I started off too fast.

I don’t know if it was nerves, or if I was just trying to keep up with the mob. But it was too fast, too soon and it set me up for failure.

This was a small race—less than 100 people started, and most of those seemed to be elite runners. The first small stretch was on pavement and there was a very small incline in the road. By the time I got to the end of the road, I was already out of breath and less than one mile in. I knew then that I was in trouble.

My feet hit the trail and immediately I felt better. I’m not a road runner. My heart drops whenever my feet are on pavement, but trails seem to simulate flying for me. So I kept up the faster pace, and that was a mistake. I couldn’t get my heart rate down and I knew I was headed for disaster if I didn’t relax. So early into the race, I walked.

It took a bit of walking before my heart got back down to its normal beating. In the meantime, we were passed. A lot. And just like that, I was in last place.

That’s where I would stay for a very long time.

THE ATTACK

About three miles in, Shacky suddenly stopped and ripped off his hydration pack.

“What’s the matter?!” I asked. Then I felt it. The most painful stab I have ever experienced. A hornet sting on my finger.

I screamed a curse and grabbed my hand. Then immediately felt another. On my belly. Shacky got two more on his back milliseconds later. It was an ambush.

“RUN!” Shacky yelled. And we did. Fast.

We never saw the hornets, but we sure as hell felt the multiple stings. They were coming hard and continuously. A few meters away, we tried to stop to assess the damage, and got bitten again. So we ran as fast as we could until we were sure everything was clear.

I was bleeding from my belly and my finger was starting to swell up. I thought about how horrifying it would be if I turned out to be allergic, but there was nothing we could do other than try to get to the next aid station as fast as possible. I was in so much pain.

It turned out that the runner in front of us got stung five times on his head. The runner behind us got some bites on the back of his knee. Nobody came out of that trail unscathed. I couldn’t stop swearing.

GETTING TO THE FIRST AID STATION

The first aid stop seemed like a million miles away. I couldn’t find my groove even though it was all downhill. I felt miserably sluggish and I was burping bar food nachos. Pain from the stings seemed to shoot through my whole body.

I thought about how crappy my nutrition had been over the past two days, and I wanted to kick myself. I had messed up. And I wanted to quit.

LAZY W AID STATION

Both Shacky and I seriously contemplated dropping out at this aid station. It was only the first station, but right at the bottom of the famous 8-mile climb and we were hurting from the bites. Neither of us felt good and we were warned by the race director to not attempt this hill if we didn’t think we could finish it. There would be no aid until we got to the top.

Still, I wanted to take it on. I wasn’t sure I wanted to suffer the disgrace of a DNF. Surely I was stronger than this?

Somewhere behind us, Randall was still running. We met Randall on the trail and this was his second attempt at finishing an ultra. He had tried to run Twin Peaks and dropped out. We decided to keep him company at least to the top of the hill and drop out there.

I was very curious about the hill. I wanted to conquer it. Had I know what was coming, I would have sat down at the bottom and called it a day. But I was stubborn. My heart said GO, but my legs said “We will make you suffer a pain you have never known if you make us go through with this.”

They kept their promise.

LOS PINOS AKA THE BEAST

In my mind, I envisioned one big uphill trek. How tall could one hill be? How bad was it, really?

But this was not one hill. It was several.

We were less than a mile up when I knew I had made a terrible mistake. We were afraid to go back since we were in last place and were worried the aid station below us had already packed up and headed out. All we had was big hills up ahead.

It wasn’t the distance that broke me down in this race. It wasn’t even the elevation. It was the steepness. The steepness of these inclines was comparable to Stairway to Heaven’s 15K. Hills that I had climbed using my hands. Hills that I had never trained on. And steepness I had never run. It was 8 miles of this.

About a mile later we crossed two girls who were headed back down the hill. They were dropping out. One of them couldn’t stop throwing up and couldn’t keep any water down. We watched them go, and we should have followed. But we didn’t.

Looking at the elevation profile before the race, we initially thought that we might be able to recover on the downhills before climbing to the next peak. But that wasn’t possible.

First of all, the downhills felt like they were about 15 seconds long, whereas the uphills could last hours. Secondly, the terrain on the downhills was loose rocks, which meant that instead of running them, I was too busy trying not to fall on my ass. Inching along slower than walking pace.

As soon as we’d reach a peak, we were greeted by wonderful views of three or four more peaks that we’d also have to climb. I tried to take pictures because I knew that although I couldn’t appreciate the breathtaking sights in the moment, I might appreciate them later. As far as I could see, there was only mountain. No sign of relief. No sign of an end.

The race director warned everyone to go up with a hydration pack and at least one handheld. We had packs and handhelds, but we still ran out of water. It was about 90 degrees and we were climbing at 12-2pm. There was no shade. There was no place to sit.

Several times, Shacky would sit on a prickly bush and I’d literally collapse right in the middle of the single track trail, sprawled out with rocks up my bum and flies landing on my face. I blocked the path, but it didn’t matter because I was in last place. I was cut from the sharp bushes and bleeding from my legs and arms. My hornet bites were throbbing. But I was too tired to care.

One of my motivational techniques before this race was to ask myself if there was anywhere else I’d rather be. Before this race, the answer was always no. Los Pinos retired that technique for me. There were a million and one places I wanted to be instead of on those cursed hills, so I didn’t dare ask myself that question.

I endured every discomfort I could think of, at different stages. My head hurt. My stomach hurt. My chest hurt. My belly growled, but I was unable to eat. I was thirsty, but I was low on water. Every once in a while my heart would start racing as soon as I hit a steep hill, even though I wasn’t going fast. I was basically crawling up, so I didn’t know how to keep my heart rate down other than to lie down and sleep.

After a certain point I started to wonder what I would have to do to get air lifted out of those hills. Could I dislocate my shoulder? Bash my skull against a rock? Would that be enough to excuse me from having to move another inch?

I lost all will to continue. I wanted to die. I wanted to cry so badly but was too proud. So I just ended up with a painful lump in my throat.

My irritation seemed to build with every step. What were we doing here? WHY was there even a trail here?? There should NOT be a trail here dammit. And what sort of sick person made a race out of this hill?? It wasn’t fair to expect people to climb this with no aid. Not everyone was an elite. People could actually die out here. This isn’t even running. This is tortured hiking. This is just wrong.

A few miles up, we came across a kind mountain biker and Shacky had the energy and foresight to beg him for water. He didn’t have much, but he gave us some. Every time I lay down, I felt like I might never get back up. But Shacky kept prodding me along and if it weren’t for him I’d probably still be lying there right now.

Then Carl ran down to us with water. They had been worried at the aid station when they didn’t see us coming. We were on that hill for hours. I have never been so happy to see Carl in my life. He filled up our handhelds and promised that we were close. And so we continued.

THE AID STATION

By the time we pulled into the next aid station, we had 15 minutes to run 11 miles and make the cutoff. There was just no freaking way we’d make it.

I was so exhausted and suddenly I could not stop eating. The aid station was already packing up and getting ready to go. I managed to eat:

  • One whole orange
  • Several potatoes with salt
  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Drank one entire coke can

On the hill, I couldn’t eat. Whenever I tried, my stomach would start hurting, even though it was growling the rest of the time. I had never been so happy to see food at an aid station. And I had never at any race been so hungry.

CROSSING THE FINISH

Although we had planned to get a ride to the start line from the last aid station, Shacky chugged a Rockstar and suggested we run two miles to the finish. I didn’t feel like I had another step in me, but wasn’t about to get left behind. So I ran on fumes to the end.

Shacky looked like he could have finished the entire 50k and I felt lucky to be running with someone who could make me push further than what I thought I had in me. He waited for me in those last 2 miles when I had to stop and walk again.

We crossed the finish line uneventfully. Part of me felt like I had failed but at the same time I knew I had done the best I could… and then some.

The race director Keira was glad to see us. She said that because we had climbed Los Pinos we still got a medal, and we qualified for the 30K category, which I believe was invented because so many people failed to finish.

This is the last year Keira is putting on this race. She said it was because the course was just too rough, and she worries about everyone out there. She explained how she tries every year to stress how hard it is. She begs people to head up there with enough water and not to attempt it as their first ultra. But people still do, and they still run out of water. She felt she couldn’t provide for them on that hill. It was just too brutal.

Everything people say about this climb is true. It can and will destroy you. It will completely break your will. On that hill, Shacky and I swore that we would never run it again. I even thought about taking up some other sport.

At the finish line, I ate like a beast. Sandwiches. Cookies. Another orange. I ate on the car ride home, and then we went out to eat some more.

On this race, both Shacky and I were testing INKnBURN gear. I have a lot more to say about this company, so I’ll be reporting on them in a separate post. For now I will say that I’m very impressed with their products.

IT’S GOOD TO HAVE FRIENDS

I’m pretty sure I would never had made it out of that hill without Shacky’s prodding, so I think that deserves a special call out. I didn’t want to move for over half the climb, but having him ahead of me gave me someone to mindlessly follow. As long as I could see him out in front, I had hope of seeing civilization again.

Whenever we stopped, he listened to my breathing and told me when it was time to keep moving. He found a stick for me that I could use as a trekking pole when I was grasping at rocks with my bare hands. He begged that mountain biker for extra water for me. And he made me run those last two miles.

So many people run these races alone and face their demons one-on-one. I’m beyond lucky to have someone stronger than me watching my back and willing to sacrifice his own race if necessary to drag my ass to the finish line.

CONCLUSIONS

Three days later, we’re planning our hill training so we can conquer the beast of Los Pinos. I love how ultra running does that to you. Flips defeat into determination.

Before this race, I was driven by curiosity as to what my limit was. Now it has stood in front of me and punched me in the stomach repeatedly. But there’s a great relief in finally seeing your enemy’s ugly face. Because now I know what to conquer. I know what my goal is.

I might have run this race out of ignorance, but I’m proud that I was brave enough to attempt it. I shared the trail with some of my elite ultra running heroes, like Michelle Barton. I’m proud to say I collapsed on the same trail where she ran, in a race that was way out of my league.

Michelle and I both wore the same INKnBURN design, only she was first girl and I was last. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m getting better. That maybe someday I’ll be running that hill, minutes behind Michelle, chuckling at the time when it almost made me cry.

All I remember now is that I had the balls to try it. That I faced the beast and somehow survived. That I can regroup and try it again.

After all, an ultra runner who had never missed a cutoff is surely an ultra runner who had never truly challenged themselves.

Final Thoughts Before Noble Canyon 50k


This Saturday I’ll be running Noble Canyon!

I’ve only done a timed ultra, so this will be my first real ultra distance trail race. I’m super excited because this is my favorite type of race – long, challenging trails. I’m going into it without any expectations. I’m just going to enjoy the day, have fun, and take in the experience.

I hope I make the cut-off, but I sincerely have no idea if I will. The last couple of training runs I’ve basically had to walk the entire way up the mountain. So I’d love to at least get a little more running in.

I think it’s cool that this is the first race where I know so many of the people running or crewing or volunteering. In Toronto I always experienced races alone – starting and finishing alone, no one I knew cheering, and no one I knew running. Racing was fun THEN, so I can only imagine how much better it will be now. The ultra running community is completely different than road racing, and I’m enjoying the shift.

I had a little mishap on my run at Torrey Pines yesterday. I got a little overconfident running down the side of the canyon and I was going much faster than usual. I stepped on a rock with what I thought was a steady step, but my foot shifted off of it and slid down to the ground. I didn’t fall or miss a step – I didn’t actually feel any pain at all. I just kept running. But Shacky said it sounded bad, and about 40 strides later it started to sting. So I took a look.

I had sliced off a bit of my sole, so my skin was flapping and the wound was filling with sand. It wasn’t a big cut, but it was deep. I ran to the beach and soaked in salt water to clean it out. Then I borrowed Shacky’s shoes and finished up the run. I was hobbling a little, but it was much easier to run than to walk. I actually ran faster because it was getting dark and the faster I ran, the less time I would spend putting pressure on my wound.

When I got home I washed it up again, put on some socks, and went to bed. In the morning my skin had started to re-attach. I used some Neosporin, and it looks like it’s going to be ok. I’ll probably still bandage my foot for Noble, just in case.

I’m trying to come up with things to think about to stay motivated during this run. I feel like it’s going to be a mind game much more so than a physical feat. I know I have the strength in me to finish strong, but it’s just soooo easy to walk!

I’ve been inspired lately by Shelly, who just finished a 50-miler, and we’ll be running our first 100 miler together soon! So I’m sure I’ll think about her.

I’ve read on a couple of blogs about how people decide to dedicate a mile of their long races to people who have inspired or helped them, and I thought about doing that. If I do, here are some people I admire that I would definitely include:

  • Shacky – cause he’s always there for everything
  • my birth mom – cause I miss her
  • Eli – cause she’s the bravest lady I know
  • Emma – cause I love her and miss her
  • Angie – cause she’s a supermama and strong lady
  • Shelly – cause she kicked ass at her last race
  • Jason – cause he writes the stuff that needs to be said and finished Western States in under 24 hrs
  • Pat – cause he’s my cool record-breaking uncle
  • Kate – cause she’s a cute little runner and climber who never gives up
  • Cat – cause everything about her inspires me
  • Caity – cause her podcast is the awesomest podcast in the universe
  • Krista – cause she’s got ninja moves
  • Christian – cause he taught me how to get everything for free
  • Michael – cause he suggested a long time ago that I try running barefoot…
  • Robin – cause she’s my fellow badass Canadian ultra runner
  • Carlos – cause he makes me laugh and he pushes some impressive speed/mileage
  • Jeff – cause he always gets back up when he falls
  • Theresa – cause she’s insanely supportive
  • Christine B – cause she’s a super strong lady and great runner
  • Nadia – cause she’s always trying new things to stay active
  • Nate – cause he’s not afraid to be himself

I don’t really have any other ideas as far as motivation, so I think I’m just going to go into it and see what happens.

Wish me luck!

 

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