Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 12


I am nearsighted.  Need corrective lenses - either glasses or contact lenses.  Usually I wear my contacts when running.  At night I need clear vision for things that lurk in the shadows.  During the day I'll kick about in my sunglasses, but I still where my contacts to see at a distance.

The thing is this morning I ran sans corrective lenses.  I never saw what hit me.  My right knee suddenly developed an incredible pain.  The run only came close to my planned ten miles because I was on and out-and-back route.  The final two miles was a long slow plod.  Thoughts of bagging the Lumberjack nearly drove me to tears.  Walking up and down stairs required a break to let the discomfort subside.  The pain in my knee was surpassed only in severity by the thought of not going to Seattle in two weeks.

I read at somewhere today (the source escapes me) that to be a successful ultra runner one needs vision.  You cannot simply hope to finish.  You have to believe.  You have to see yourself finishing.  A vision of what lay ahead may be one of the preeminent traits an ultra runner should possess.  

If I plan to complete the Lumberjack Endurance Run I must see the finish line.  I need to visualize myself crossing the finish line.

The lone finisher of the Barkley Marathons in Tennessee last had but one reason to run that event last year.  To run all five loops.  That is a pretty clear goal.  In the twenty-five years of the Barkley over 800 men and women have assembled at the starting line.  Only eight have finished.  Last year's finisher was the ninth.  See the finish line.

I nearly lost that vision this morning.  In the meantime I shall rest.  I shall apply regular cold and heat treatment to make the knee well again.  As my knee regains its strength I expect my vision will become clearer again.

Because seeing is believing.

*UPDATE*  I saw the accompanying video posted to dailymile this morning.  It is an excellent example of vision.  Do you see the fall or the finish?  What do you think the winner saw?  The losers?

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 11

"I didn't need to know that I could run 100 miles before tackling the century distance; I needed only the courage to do it."

 - Elinor Fish, former editor, Trail Runner Magazine (March 2011)

Courage is an interesting trait.  Some challenges go unmet because they hold no interest.  Some people realize they are ill equipped to meet the challenge.  And others still lack the courage to rise up and confront the task before them.  I lack courage.

Running one hundred miles may seem insane.  Some may consider it dangerous.  One might even say foolish.  You may even say while it not for you, there is a certain amount of admiration for those runners that do tackle the longest of endurance races.

I will contend that courage is the life preserver that carries you to "certainty.  Once you met the challenge courage is not longer as important as regular training and nutrition.  Courage helps you to face the unknown.

Fear used to enter my mind when considering "the marathon".  I shed that fear.

The idea going beyond 26.2 miles left me uncertain.  After last night's 50k trainer, I realize I am capable of more.  Fifty miles appears within my grasp.

I will need courage going to Port Gamble in nineteen days.  Courage will maintain my calm.  Courage will keep my gaze steady.  Courage will keep my stride fluid.

But my trust that my need for courage will be temporary.  I am looking to replace courage with certainty.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 10

Until today physical issues were not a concern regarding my upcoming attempt at an ultra.  Damn bicycle threw a wrench in that, but all I can do now is be careful and be smart.

Thank god I don't have to ride a bike at Lumberjack!

My "issues" that I have written about here and on dailymile of late have nothing to do with running and everything to do with how I see myself in everyday life.  I think my goal is to prove to myself that I am truly capable of amazing feats of physical and mental endurance.  And just maybe I can carry that enduring quality to other areas of my life where I feel less "awesome".  Sometimes my running bravado is nothing more than window dressing to disguise how timid I am when not on the road.

I have no idea how I will respond when the miles get long and slow, or when the night gets dark and cold.  But I already know how I react when confronted with obstacles.  That is "the wall" I hope to smash.

I listened to a podcast this morning where the hosts discussed running a one hundred mile race.  They compared it to childbirth.  Even though these guys will never know the pain of childbirth they do know that a woman delivering a child cannot take a "DNF".  You have to go all the way.  Its time I took that attitude.  Its time I stopped taking a DNF in life.

This is one challenge I am ready to tackle.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 9

You can never tell how steep something is until you rub noses with it.
 - Bear Grylls' father, The Kid Who Climbed Everest

I was in a bit of a crisis this morning.  Not thinking of bagging the ultra, but I was in serious need of a mojo adjustment.  Thirty days is still a long way out.

This got me thinking about my motivation for participating in this event.  I need to frame my motivation to know I can pull through when chasing the buckle is not enough.  I have to find my desire when "wouldn't that be cool" no longer matters.  Time to admit why I want or need to complete this race.

What will completing an ultra marathon mean to me?  Do I need to finish an ultra to be "somebody"?  Down deep I think so.  It may not be the best reason to participate in race of any length, from 5k to beyond 26.2.  But I need it to prove something to myself.

I have a lot of fears.  I am controlled by some pretty strong inhibitions.  My biggest obstacle (among many) is that I do not consider myself "worthy" or "good enough".  Maybe this race will allow me to see myself as others see me.  

Of course somewhere in the back of my mind I question if I shall ever find what it is I am seeking.  The high from my Boston qualifying run in Myrtle Beach less than thirty days ago has already worn off.  Not that I'm demeaning the value of the finish.  It seems to have had little carry over.  I am afraid that the same thing will happen after the ultra.

If you have not already guessed I tend to obsess and over analyze.  For now I shall focus on enjoying the trip.  I shall focus on finishing.  I can worry about "after the finish" after I finish.

Thanks to Runfastermommy for sharing this video with me on Facebook.  I really needed to see it today.

 - Logan

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 8


Almost one month ago I finished the Myrtle Beach Marathon and turned my attention to an ultra.  Now that ultra is one month away.


Coming off the excitement of the marathon I was riding high and ready to take on the world.  An ultra seemed like the next step.  I have plenty of other marathons I want to tackle, but this particular race is just what I needed.  A new region of the country to visit.  A new group of friend to join.  And a new challenge to assault.


One month later the shine is wearing off.  I am only taking eight weeks to prepare for the Lumberjack Endurance Run.  Eight weeks to go from a marathon to one hundred miles.  I am sure I'd feel worn down even if I allowed six months to train.  The next four weeks just feels like an eternity.  But in reality time is flying.

As the days and weeks get shorter I believe the anticipation will grow.  Making preparations for the distance is the only thing that got me on the road today.  I cannot half-ass my way through a hundred miler.  A marathon... maybe.  I proved that on Saturday.  The Lumberjack will be different.

As the miles rack up I will feel it too.  The wear on my body.  The fatigue in my mind.  And the growing certainty that regardless of the outcome I know I am doing what I was meant to do.

I see these eight weeks like the one hundred miles of the ultra.  Excitement will reign at the start.  Relief and jubilation will greet me at the finish.  But that middle portion.  That will be the real deal.

I am glad to be halfway.  Now it seems real.

 - Logan

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 7

My naturally restless mind has been in a constant battle since I started marathon training a few years ago.  Training is about "doing".  Its about making something happen.

The most difficult task for me has not been getting the necessary mileage but rather getting enough rest.  A rest day always seemed like a "waste" day.  Getting more mileage was like a drug.  I loved seeing the weekly totals pile up.  Pushing farther was probably more important to my subconscious mind than any actual race.  I realize that this thinking is unreasonable, but it was how I thought.

I can truly say that my thinking has changed regarding the rest day.  Last Friday I welcomed the opportunity to do nothing in anticipation of a huge mileage weekend.  And today I revel in the stillness.  While my body largely feeling good, my mind in calm.  No urge to hit the road.

This feeling is still a little odd.  But it feels right.  Thus I am now a less reluctant adherent to the rest day.

 - Logan

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 6

I will concede that running one hundred miles sounds ridiculous.  Running anything close to a marathon distance when there is no finish line or medal awaiting you is equally laughable.  After all, where is the glamor and excitement in a twenty-plus mile training run.  Just more "miles in the bank" as some dailymilers like to post.

One dailymiler posted this morning that he does not understand the attraction to running distances greater than a marathon.  I think some 5k and 10k champions probably feel the same way about us marathoners.  For me it is about deciding to do something and seeing it through.

Will I finish?  I really don't know.  But I'm not worried about it.  When the race director says "GO!" I shall trek as far as my heart, mind, legs and stomach will allow.  If I cross the hundredth mile great.  Should I fell somewhere short of the goal, its still OK.  I will certainly be disappointed.  

There will be no heartache though.  For too many times in my life I failed to start, fearful of failure.  Now I accept failure as a potential outcome.  I am resigned to "good enough" being good enough.  

An online friend posted last week that "good enough" is akin to giving in.  This time I don't think so.  This time is about seeing how far I can go, how much I can achieve, how great I am capable.

The alternative to "good enough" is never even trying.  So regardless of the outcome I will reflect upon that weekend in April and say "yup, I lined up and put my ass in the fire".  Its not about ego.  Its not about being better than "you".  Its about becoming better than me.

 - Logan

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Running Out of the Shadows

I have lived my life in shadows. Never the best at anything. I never qualified (in my mind) for second or third best either. The fact of the matter is that I was never considered the smartest or strongest or swiftest and handsome for that matter. The events of my life sort of fit into the background. My experience would not be the subject of books or movies. Hell, I often wondered if I made any impact on the people I met beyond the initial "hello".

Compound this by thirty-five years. I skated by in school. I was not athletically inclined. More of a life spectator than life participant. Most of my stories were retold tales of other peoples' adventures. Sure, I spent four months in Beijing. I have an interesting story behind meeting my wife. There are other moments worth mentioning. But nothing that really made even me stand back and say "wow".

I often wondered if I even mattered. Outside my little circle of family I was curious (concerned) about my impact on the world. A former supervisor had a saying about our individual worth in the workplace. Put your hand in a bucket of water then pull it out. If the water does not fill the space your hand occupied then you are not replaceable. Otherwise we are all interchangeable. Not an entirely true statement but I get the point. And my pleas for assistance in this career confirmed my own diminished self-value. Ask for help enough and the response (or lack of) is telling.

"Do I matter to you once we part ways?"

So I longed to matter. I yearned to end the invisibility. I want to be noticed. Not for ego. But for value. I believe that all anyone wants is to know that we matter. On some level we affect people in positive ways and have a lasting impact. Whether it is art, music, literature, business or sports the impact one makes can be monumental or sublime. I don't need a ticker-tape parade down Main Street. A simple "thank you for being you" is usually enough.

Running has shredded my invisibility. My training motivates people to get active. (So I'm told) My racing inspires people to set goals. (So I'm told) My writing encourages people to share their own stories full of triumph and tragedy.

Sometimes I wonder about my place in all this. Maybe I am "too out there". The crazy thing is that every time I ponder receding to the shadows for a breather something amazing happens before I am able to retreat. A new connection is formed. An intriguing opportunity arises. An awesome recognition is bestowed upon me. These moments remind me that people see me in a way that I recently that foreign.

My wife jokes that I ego is growing to an uncontrollable proportion. An running friend commented that "the genie is out of the bottle". I think it is simple that I no longer shrink into the shadows. I try to stay humble. Speak with me in person and you will see it. I am still shy in social situations. Public boasting is still not my thing.

My new visibility has amazing consequences. Old friends are taking up running. Strangers are becoming new friends. Opportunities to test my limits and shatter my boundaries are coming up fast. No one truly knows how this all affects me, but I am impacted.

I don't long to "hear" myself talk. I don't need to have my ego stroked. I don't care to amass a cult-like following. I do hope to hear that someone improved an aspect of their life due to my example. Inspiration often arrived out of the blue. Encouragement may come from unexpected places. The best statement I could hope to hear would be "I did this because you did it too."

I am tired of hiding. Tired of being unnoticed. Tired of being inconsequential. I am not tired of running though. I have so many miles to go and so many stories to live.

Or something like that... Running has brought amazing, caring, wonderful individuals into my life. And no one has asked anything of me other than to believe in them. To be honest and trusting and hopeful. To be a friend. I run to live.

I have a few stories to tell. Some are public. Some are private.  What I do know is that telling my story has helped heal the people involved. My story has comforted people, knowing they are not alone in their suffering or struggle.

Discovering my "visibility" is the cause of my smile today.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 5

No Excuse Sunday.  I have Peter A. to thank for that bit of inspiration.  Today was about not letting excuses deter me.

Woke up thirty minutes late.  Was slow to get moving.  Had a bit of a headache.  Too much Guinness and not enough water after last night's nineteen miles.

Rain was on the radar.  Lots of rain with the potential for thunderstorms.  Never really materialized though.

The rain was falling as I stepped out.  It wasn't too cold so I left the raincoat at home.  Left it in a wad with the excuses.

I had a lot of thoughts about running an ultra today.  "Can I do this?"  "Which will falter first - my body or my mind?"  "How will I respond if things go bad with a long way to go?"

Today's run answered a few questions.  My body held up.  Strategic walk breaks work well.  My mind stayed strong.  I worked hard to get to the 20mi today.  I passed my house at 13.5 miles and again at 16.5 miles.  Would have been easy to chuck the rest of the run and hit the showers.

But that is no way to earn the buckle.

 - Logan

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 4

Damn I am tired.

The anticipation of my run later today is burning more energy that I counted on.  I had considered running this morning and tomorrow morning; then it occurred to me that I need to get accustomed to the fatigue.  So I will head out around 6pm for 18-20 miles, then jump out for another 18 miles in the morning.  Should be raining then.  With thunderstorms moving in around noon.

Nothing like having Mother Nature hurry you along.

Yet in spite of the fatigue that is settling in I am pleasantly happy.  I am pleased with the commitment I have made to the training and distance.  I am encouraged by how my body has responded since the marathon on Feb 19th.  I am also enthused by the support my wife has displayed in the crazy endeavor.

Andria used to give me crazy looks when I suggested something so insane as running one hundred miles in under thirty hours.  Now when I talk about my training or the trip next month, she smiles and listens with intent.

Damn I am happy.

 - Logan

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Am an Ultrarunner! Almost. Maybe. Part 3

Growing up and branching out.

So I am not jumping into a marathon on March 20th.  Really.  Better sense and restraint kicked in and advice of a couple of good "friends", i.e. people I have never actually met, led me to skip this race and keep my eyes on the prize.  Finishing an ultra is what I want more than anything at the moment.  I would probably be unable to check my ego once the gun fired and the risk of injury is not worth it right now.

I am seeking advice on nutrition while running.  One fellow whom I hold in high esteem suggested dates.  I had never eaten a date.  I have been on a few dates.  My only recollect of dates were the "bad dates" in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  So last night I tried my first date.  Admittedly it was of the pitted variety... But all in all I'd say I might like them.  Dates are an excellent source of potassium and a great carb option.  I will continue to experimenting through the week and carry some along during my long runs on Saturday and Sunday.

- Logan