50K-100 Mile Ultra Training & Being Hated On by Random Motorists & Citizens Disapproving of Sports Bras Worn in Public
Inspecting hydration pack hot spots before doing the sports bra shimmy-off, which is the closest this mother runner gets to doing a seductive dance these days.
Think of a destination that takes you a half hour to an hour or two to arrive at by car. For me, that’s about 30, 50 or 100 miles, and that's way too far to drive to pick up some dark under eye circle concealer since Target.com works just as well.
But 3 days from now, I’m going to run one of those distances.
I’m way past the phase of waking up to the sound of my iPhone alarm at 4:00am thinking, “What did I do?” in regards to signing up for something so outlandish. Now it kind of feels like a big, nasty gyno appointment with a full pelvic exam that you know you have to go to but you try not to think about.
You know you’ll get through it. You know that when you’re done, you’ll feel a huge sense of relief. But you also know it’s really going to be more painful than labor pains or being sliced open for a baby and parts of your guts being lifted out of you in a C-section, but you just have to deal with that. In the meantime, you daydream about another dose of that completely legal but totally awesome medication given after delivery, of course.
I count the time since qualifying for a lofty 'B' standard entry into the JFK 50 miler as my training for a 100-miler. Last February after an over 10 hour exhausting finish at the 50 mile Destin Beach Ultra is when I set the goal. The training runs and ultras I’ve done and am doing in the meantime have just been part of the process. And I can tell you, without a doubt, that I’m a much different runner than I was before and that's the honest truth as I am not one to exaggerate. Everybody that knows me knows two things for sure: 1) I do not eat chicken gizzards and 2) I do not exaggerate. That’s why it’s important for me to tell you what can be learned from ultra training without any exaggeration, added drama or literary embellishment whatsoever.
So here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned during training for a new, previously unthinkable distance (a 100 miler in April). Perhaps a few of these lessons apply to life in general if you make a stretch. But that’s not the point, so don’t go too crazy with that.
You can run a lot farther if you slow down.
Sounds reasonable, right? Well maybe not so much in the moment.
I made the mistake of starting out too fast during my 50 miler on the sand. When my calves ached, the quads tightened and I thought I might throw up (but chewed it back) I said, "You are an idiot". I'm a total bee-yotch sometimes, especially where I am concerned.
So while telling myself what's wrong with me, I told myself, "You try to keep up with the big dogs when you know you can't keep up. Why don't you just slow down and try to just finish this damn thing?"
I didn't answer. I knew it was a rhetorical question. I also know when I'm like that it's best to ignore me or risk my hot German-blooded temper. I once made a grown man cry using nothing but my words and an icy cold glare.
And a hot spatula.
The long and short of it is that I wound up in a schizophrenically loud argument with myself during which at one particularly low moment, I told myself I was no longer going to speak to me. I started to cry until I remembered that I don't cry - because I'm a bad ass ultra runner and what not.
So there I was. Feeling inept with my feet stuck in gulf water and wet sand. I felt powerless. I felt confused.
I felt like spaghetti must feel when I throw it up against the backsplash to see if it's done and it doesn't stick. That's me. I'm a spaghetti noodle that doesn't stick. I'm sliding down the backsplash, telling myself I should have stuck because only the noodles that stick finish the 50.
The thing is, if I slowed down, I'd have felt better physically. When slowing down a lot (and even walking at times, I was able to run much farther than I previously thought as I was cussing myself out. It was scary, because I'd never done it. But once I had, it wasn't so scary anymore. And I felt I could've run farther still if I'd didn't cuss myself out, that is.
Comfort is everything. So be comfortable.
Unless you’re trying to win the race, running 30 or more miles isn’t really about how well you can run 30 or more miles. It’s about staying comfortable while you run that freak show carnival distance. But not as comfortable as having had a Xanax flavored Dairy Queen shake with a vodka chaser. The more miserable the experience, the less likely you are to come back the next week and do it again. Unless a black market Dairy Queen pharmacy along with a fine-looking martini at every aid station is involved.
- Wear shorts or a skirt that doesn't chafe you.
I've found that a skirt with pockets can contain more running essentials. Skirts are also great for hiding my lady business in the bushes as well as my secret shame of having one hip 3/4 of an inch higher than the other one.
- Get a hydration vest or some other way to carry your stuff.
I love me some stuff. Stuff is always a good thing. No matter how much stuff I have, room can always be found for more in this new Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vest.
The good news is, I never come close to running out of stuff to put in the front pockets of this contraption. Other runners might run out of things like toilet paper or Body Glide or Ziploc baggies. But I see running out of something as a serious character flaw. If one box of Ziploc Baggies is a good thing, thirty-four is better. I'm actually still using the same box of Ziploc baggies I bought in 2008, yet continue to buy boxes and boxes of the things. I treat Ziplocs like gold bullion and guard them with my life. God forbid my poor spouse would like to have a fresh Zippie to take his turkey sandwich to work. I'd sooner he wrap them in dollar bills.
- Use blister powder and wear good socks like these to stave off potential blistering.
These original weight Injinjis last forever before thinning out. Even so, I've already recycled a few old pairs to the homeless shelter. I used to be an even better do-gooder by knitting mittens for the homeless until I decided homeless people can take turns using these toe socks as stubby finger gloves instead.
Besides, I could never really knit so I was actually just cutting out some hand shapes from old towels and stapling them together before.
Try compression socks if you're not crazy about toe socks. Just go for a color other than white. Not that there is anything wrong with white socks. I like new, white socks. I only wear then in the house, but I love them awful. In my opinion, white socks are disposable as they only feel special and new the first time. (Like a case of Mountain Dew in my case, or marriage in the case of others.) Therefore, I will need barrels full of them.
- Apply Vaseline or other lubricant liberally and bring some for the road, just in case.
This shaving lubricant works just as well for me in the saddle region.
Sure it smells slightly medicinal and more suitable for a woman between the ages of Dusty Old Lady Parts and I Prepaid For My Burial Plot and Also Have Lint Covered Peppermints In My Hydration Vest. But it does the job just fine for an Always Low Walmart price.
- Run slowly enough, especially on hills so you’re not breathing hard or raising your heart rate too much.
Walk/run at times like you used to do in PE class on track days after telling Coach you had woman cramps or something. You'll still get God credits for being an ultra runner when you finish the race.
- Find (or make) a sports drink you really like.
Personally, I am fond of doing the world famous "Dew" mixed with orange Gatorade.
If it makes me happy, I drink it. The main reason I am successful with it is because my family is in complete support of my being on this concoction. They fully realize that when I am denied this certain drink I am not happy. And you know what they say, "When Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody stupid enough to go anywhere near her without a fun-sized piece of Butterfinger dangling from a fishing pole to distract her while someone shoots her with a tranquilizer dart."
- Figure out what (junk) food your stomach can handle and what it can’t.
Ultra running creates a desire so unbelievably intense, so powerful, so all consuming that I have never experienced anything like it before or since. One word kept pounding away at my brain, demanding to be heard during my first 50K on the beautiful beach in Destin, Florida. One little word that represented everything good and pure in the world. One word that made everything else seem unimportant.
I wanted a Butterfinger bar more than I had ever wanted anything in my entire life. How had I managed to exist in the universe without having noticed how utterly wonderful they were? How is it I had wasted so much of my life eating foods that were not Butterfingers and why did I let my husband inhale all the fun-sized ones out of our toddler's Halloween stash? After all, nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger.
Ultra running helped me discover the meaning of life after it had been right under my nose all these years cleverly disguised in a yellow wrapper with a grinning Bart Simpson on the front corner of the value sized bag.
- Pee when you have to pee.
And yes, I'm now an expert on peeing in the woods.
However, please do not suffer under the delusion that I am in anyway an outdoorsy kind of woman. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything, I am anti-natural in every respect. In fact, if something in the grocery store reads, "All Natural" on the package, I leave it where it sits thinking it must be a pricey piece if crap designed by master marketeers to fool consumers into overspending their hard earned dollars on FDA approved fiber-enhanced colon blow food. Because I need the extra calories to run, I prefer my food to be pickled, fried, rolled in sugar or with some sort of tasty bi-product added. It's my belief that the more preservatives I consume over my life time, the better preserved I'll be when I'm a much older runner. Like forty-five.
Because of this, I also believe in keeping toilet paper and baby wipes in your possession at all times (for pooping out highly processed running snacks, peeing mishaps and other miscellaneous mess-ups).
Overall, trail running is more fun than road running. Almost everyone who runs some heavy duty mileage can agree. And running long on trails doesn’t hurt the feet, joints or knees the way running 20 miles or more on the roads does. In fact, my last long run on road and pavement before the 50K taper left me feeling all kinds of crappy and like a worthless Mama who couldn’t do a dead blasted thing to chase after my toddler when he took off his diaper and streaked through the front lawn to the dismay of our elderly neighbors.
Apparently it also made me feel like a side kick in an old western as I am now using phrases like “dead blasted” to describe things.
Most of the ultras you’ll find are trail races, so learning how to run trails always seemed like an annoyance I had to put up with in order to become an ultra runner. Now it’s the best thing I’ve ever done (except give birth to two cute boys even though they've recently discovered their private parts).
Ultra running and the training that goes into it are really just little mind games. I’ve gotten lots of advice from friends, and none of it is about running. Running a few miles, five or six minutes slower than you’re capable of, is easy. Getting your head in the right place so you can run 50 (or 100) of them is hard. The mind will remind the body that it can quit at any given time. There will be screaming and crying and begging God for the sweet relief only death can bring. It will hurt like a bee-yotch. A heavy weight kickboxer bee-yotch. A southern one with a mullet, no front teeth and a tattoo across her bicep that reads, “Your face gonna look purdy on mah heavy weight belt buckle”.
I remember how awful miles 30-40 are in a 50 miler, but that it gets better after that. A fellow ultra runner in this year's Destin 50 told me that it’s about getting your legs to be your mind’s bee-yotch. I've heard from other ultra runners similar accounts of going out too fast and hitting a wall early in a 100-miler which feels roughly 100 times worse than it does in a 50 miler. A lot of this is scary, but I’m glad I'm learning it from them first. Gotta respect the distance and those who do it on a regular basis.
I know I'll finish the race Sunday. I can say this now because I’ve been tested. The two 50K’s I did, especially the first, taught me that I will keep running even when it hurts and I hate it and I never, ever want to run again. No marathon ever tested me like that, even my first one, Space Coast in Florida.
However, ultras have brought a new level of suck to embrace. But I learned that I will keep going even when it is miserable. 50K isn’t 50 miles. Although there are many professional ultra runners and so called experts in the field of coaching or designing personalized training schedules online, it turns out it's damn near impossible to find someone who will actually teach others hands-on how to do this black magic known as running 100 miles.
I have concluded 100 mile instructors are like ninjas. Nobody actually knows one, but we know that in a fight, Chuck Norris would kick all their asses. Even though he never ran 100 miles. Or a marathon, apparently.
Posted by Jill on April 26, 2012
But if Chuck Norris threatened to kick your butt and made you run, you could run a lot farther than you think (though that would be a rather weird thing for Chuck Norris to demand).
So if you make quitting seem like getting your butt kicked, you’ll keep going. If it comes to that, I think I will.
Unless one of my super important leg bones spontaneously pops right through my skin before I get to the finish, that is. Then I’ll stop and get my butt kicked by Chuck Norris.