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Getting Back Into the Game: The Hows and Whys of Considering a Hundred Miler

Posted by on Oct 27, 2013 | 4 Comments

It’s been a long time since I considered running an ultra. It’s been about a year, actually. I had recently finished Grindstone and was “preparing” to run Chimera. Somewhere between those two events, I lost all desire to run. It was perplexing, but wasn’t especially stressful. It’s given me a significant amount of time to reflect on my running “career.”

A series of events have conspired to reignited the desire to run an ultra, including:

  • I miss the trails. I miss running mountain trails. Currently, that desire isn’t great enough to make a sacrifice to actually seek out some trails on a regular basis, but I miss the experience enough to start planning a few long mountain training runs here in Southern California. Specifically, I miss the physical act of running over the rough terrain. I miss the burning of running up hill. I miss hopping over boulders and logs; floating over the rocks and debris. I miss the scenery, too.
  • I need the cardio work. As I’ve written about before, Shelly and I have been doing mma training in general and jiu jitsu training in particular. When I first started, my cardiovascular fitness was phenomenal due to the ultra training. I could roll (the term used to describe “sparring”) foll hours. I want that feeling back, which is only possible from engaging in exercise for hours on end.
  • I miss the problem-solving element of ‘dreds (my new slang term for hundred milers… start using it. ;-) ). Hundred milers always appealed to me because they are more of an adventure than a race. The myriad of variables that have to be accounted for appeals to my geeky side. Grindstone was the first race where I felt I finally got a handle on all the pertinent variables, which is probably why I lost interest in Chimera. Doing a jigsaw puzzle after you’ve figured it out once isn’t nearly as fun. The time away has caused me to forget a lot of crap, which makes it more appealing.
  • That “running defines me” feeling has passed. Shelly and I slowly fell into the trap of letting running define who we were. We lived and breathed running for years… at least on the outside. People came to see us as runners and nothing more, which sucked. I have a ton of interests outside running, and I needed to move running to the back seat for awhile. It was and always will be just a hobby, and it took time away from the sport to reestablish that.
  • People seeking advice has reminded me that I love teaching. The Barefoot Running Book and Squirrel Wipe have an unintended consequence- both assure a regular stream of people seeking advice. In  months, a few friends have taken a serious jump into the world of ultras, which has reminded me how much I love sharing and learning.
  • Barefoot running. I haven’t really run barefoot for several years. When Shelly and I hit the road a few years back, we ran trails almost exclusively. As such, barefoot running was completely impractical. Since most of my training for this race will be done on sidewalks, it will give me an opportunity to get reacquainted with the joys of skin on the ground.
  • Hardrock. I want to qualify for the lottery… HR is still on my bucket list.

Those are but a few of the reasons for the renewed interest. The issue now becomes: a) what race, and b) how do I go about training?

The Race

The prerequisites help rule out most races. The race has to be mountainous, difficult, small, and west of the Mississippi. Races with lotteries are iffy, mostly because I’d have to qualify (no recent races; no interest in running shorter races to qualify) or wait for the actual lottery. A secondary requirement would be for the race to be a Hardrock qualifier. Not a requirement, but a nice bonus. The current list would be:

  • Tahoe Rim
  • Pine to Palms
  • Cascade Crest
  • Angeles Crest
  • Coyote Two Moon
  • Bear
  • Mogollon
  • Chimera

Over the next few weeks, I’ll investigate each one in more detail. Lotteries and timing will disqualify a few; logistics may disqualify others. At any rate, I’m hoping to make a decision within a month or so.

Training

Like the ultra training I’ve done previously, this round will be somewhat unorthodox. My training will consist of:

  • Fast barefoot tempo runs to and from my gym twice per week (two miles each way),
  • Jiu jitsu and boxing, five to seven sessions per week,
  • Walking our kids to and from school five days a week (three miles each day),
  • Power lifting with occasional HIIT, which I’m considering doing in a group-like setting (if any San Diego peeps are interested in working out together, let me know),
  • An occasional long mountain trail run (5-20 miles once per month.)

I’ll probably do at least one 30+ mile run a month or so before the race as a final gear test.

The goal of the training is to be able to comfortably finish the race without having to incur all the negative aspects of typical ultra training (i.e.- lose strength, especially in the upper body.) Jiu jitsu is a higher priority, and noodly arms are a significant disadvantage.

Conclusion

For the first time in about a year, I’m excited about the prospect of suffering on mountain trails. I’ve dissociated from the sport enough for it to be considered a nice hobby, which is perfect. I have no pressure to “prove” anything to myself, nor will I be doing this to impress others. My lone motivation is to have fun, which is a great feeling.

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4 Comments

  1. Rob Y
    October 30, 2013

    Who said 100 miles is the ultimate ultra distance? There are a growing number of ultras that go far beyond 100 miles… Badwater, Spartathlon and numerous European mountain races are 200km+ in length. As Karl Meltzer says, 100 miles is not so far.

  2. Bare Lee
    October 29, 2013

    “Grindstone was the first race where I felt I finally got a handle on all the pertinent variables, which is probably why I lost interest in Chimera.”
    A lot of people think getting a black belt is the end of training, when in fact it is the beginning. Everything up to that point has just been preparation. Now you must run a difficult 100-miler barefoot.

  3. Barefoot TJ
    October 28, 2013

    Glad you’re back, Jason! -TJ

  4. Dave
    October 28, 2013

    The Telluride Mountain Run (T-Rad) in August (though not yet scheduled for 2014) was an incredible experience that I have to recommend to you. It probably hits none of your stated requisites – it’s after HR, it’s only 40 miles, it’s a looong drive from Southern California. BUT, it’s the most aesthetically satisfying race I’ve ever done.

    The first aid station is 17 miles in, the altitude is daunting (9K-13K), the elevation change is insane (12K+), and the scenery is ridiculous. Dakota Jones, one of the race directors, says it’s mile-for-mile for challenging than HR.

    I’ll definitely be back in 2014. Maybe I won’t DNF this time…