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Wednesday
Nov242010

Ultra Running - Stuff that has helped me - Version 2.0

I wrote this post a while ago and think it's about time I updated it. I've enjoyed (and suffered) a lot of stuff since writing this and thought I'd share. I've tried to organise it in sections but as you may well know I am pretty terrible at organising anything so it may not quite work. Enjoy

Like I said this is what has worked (or not) for me over the years and the greatest thing about ultras is that there is no "correct" way of doing anything. The debates will always rage on by people who want to try try to sell you "solutions" to everything. I say just keep it simple, experiment occasionally and enjoy the unknowing. "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" - Da Vinci

I've also added some links to other blogs and articles I have found very helpful over the years.

DON'T PANIC

  • Don't panic if it all feels a bit big and overwhelming, it fells big and overwhelming because it IS big and overwhelming. Everyone else feels the same.
  • Don't compare your insides with someone else's outsides. You may line up at the start and look around at the other runners and decide that they have everything sorted out, they all know what they are doing. In most cases you are wrong, they are probably crapping themselves just as much as you are, they just aren't showing it (and you probably are not showing it either).
  • Don't seek too many answers or obsess about details. The joy of this sport is finding those out yourself. It's a very personal journey where you'll find that you do things differently to others. It's ok to talk to others and read articles about how to run ultras and you'll hear lots of "answers" to the question of how to do ultra-running. Caffeine is essential vs caffeine is evil, liquid food only vs solid food is vital, cushioned shoes cause injury vs "Barefoot? Are you f****g nuts?", satellite watches vs sundials, run vs walk vs run walk vs run sit walk sit run walk, Man shorts vs Girl Tights. No one has figured it all out yet and I hope that no one does. The day Ultras get solved is the day I'll take up something else. Mountain Pogo?
  • And on the same subject, consider this. The Rubic's Cube, you are probably old enough to remember (Excuse the diversion I do this a lot).  I never really got into it but millions of people all over the world spend hours of fun (or torture) trying to get all the sides to match. Have a look at this. The puzzle has been solved. Any given starting point there is a series of moves that will guarantee victory. Imagine getting one now as a gift and also getting the solution? What would be the point? Like I said, the day Ultras get "solved" I am taking up something else. Penguin Tossing?
  • Therefore there is no "Correct Way" of running Ultras
  • And with that in mind feel free to ignore everything I have written here The further you run the simpler it gets

 

 WHILE RUNNING

  • Try not to extrapolate, i.e. thinking "I feel this bad after X miles so I'm going to feel this more worse after Y miles". Long distance running is a roller coaster of ups and downs and the longer you go the bigger the ups and the bigger the downs. You may feel shit now but your body is an amazing thing and a combination of positive thinking, progress and all the chemicals your body will produce may mean you feel ecstatic a few miles later. My first GUCR I could barely walk just after before 100 miles. Later on I ran miles 120-130 like I was gunning a 10k. I can't really explain it but I knowing it could happen helps me through the rough patches. I had a similar experience in the Spartathlon 2010. The first 50 miles I ran 1 hour slower than last year but felt twice as bad? I was a little concerned as I had 100+ miles to go, feeling shitter than last year and 1 hour less to do it. However the next 80 miles (yes EIGHTY) just seemed to fly by, I was cruising. It's important to remember these times as I know I am going to need them in the future. You won't just hit one wall in long ultras, you hit several. But the more you break down the better it feels at the end (and for a long time afterwards).
  • Don't take every little set back personally. When you are exhausted it is common to feel paranoid that things are happening because the world is conspiring against you. If a gate is stuck or a stile is wonky or a dog gets in your way. These things will happen and it is important to just shrug or even laugh them off. In the MDS while I was close to collapse and walking over the rocky terrain I kept tripping on the rocks. At some point I got so angry I picked up one of the offending rocks, shouted at it and threw it away. Anger like this is counter-productive. Remember "Mind like Water" - How does the water react when you throw a stone in? With an exactly proportional response to the size of the stone, soon all evidence is gone. Don't make a tidal wave over a little stone.
  • Similarly, celebrate a little when these little things go right. Like when someone holds a gate open for you or people spot you and get out of the way, or when a part of the path is not muddy or when the sun goes behind a cloud on a hot day. The more reasons you find to smile the more you will smile and the better you will feel.
  • Try to pay attention to your running form at regular intervals. I used to use mile markers in marathons to remind me to check that my head is up and shoulders relaxed etc. Perhaps do it every half an hour or so or every time you see a bridge or regular feature.
  • Recently I've been trying drills in long runs. Focus on one part of good technique for a mile or so. It takes your mind off the hurt a little. The fancy term is Proprioceptive Cues that I learned reading "Brain Training for Runners" by Matt Fitzgerald.
  • No one is going to judge you for squatting in the bushes. If you need to go then go, don't suffer too long holding it in. Everyone does it. Inevitably one day you are going to be squatting in a secluded place and then get rumbled by a large band of scouts and a brass band marching through. Just nod and smile, you won't ever see them again.
  • Try not to stress about the distance that you are covering or what your garmin may be saying. Particularly the really long runs. Sometimes you feel like you have run for miles yet you have barely covered one, sometimes your view of time is distorted by the tiredness, sometimes the distances advertised in the race are wrong. 
  • Learn to love the 30 minute mile for you may meet a lot of these. It is still a mile just like any other.
  • Don't waste too much energy avoiding water and mud in the wet times. If it rains you are going to get wet, accept in, embrace it, love it.
  • Smashing it VS pacing it? Sounds obvious that you should pace evenly but ultras are a different thing to 10k or Marathon races. There is something to be said about going faster at the start and "banking miles" early and many of the elites follow this. Check out this great blog post from Stuart Mills on the subject of the best 100 mile times in history. However I know a couple of people who pace quite evenly. Pat Robbins who wins the GUCR every year follows a strict 25/5 run walk regime and never seems to slow down. Early on in the race he is way back but sure enough every year he tears through the field. Ian Sharman recently recorded a fantastic 100 mile time with "almost" even 20 mile laps.I quite like to get the miles in early and think that if you start fast you slow down but if you start slow too you still slow down.
  • RFM. It's easy, get a T-Shirt if you keep forgetting.

GENERAL RACE STRATEGY

  • BEWARE OF THE CHAIR - The most common warning I see in the really long ultras. Don't sit down at the checkpoints if you can avoid it, you get cold, stiff and sleepy. It can be a real effort to get up and waste energy (not to mention time) getting going again, time and energy you could have spent doing another mile. I sat in a lot of chairs in the GUCR and Spartathlon, believe me you never feel rested more for sitting in a chair for 10 minutes. Winston Churchill said it best - "when going through hell keep going".
  • Organise fresh clothes if at all possible. They feel great when put on and the smell of freshly laundered clothes can be uplifting when you have spent hours smelling of sweat, piss and dirt.
  • [HIGH HORSE ALERT] Read any running book or article and you'll be told about the importance of having a plan. You must have a plan, with goals and objectives and a strategy and you must plan to reach your goals and targets and they must be SMART and you will never succeed unless you have all your goals and plans and targets defined and blah blah blah. Dunno about you but that sounds like the crap I have to do at work. I run to get away from that sort of thing. Don't turn the hobby that you love into a shitty marketing job.
  • My point above is that "Planning" is different for everyone and in some cases (including mine) is actually stressful and counter-productive. We are not all planners. Some of us are wingers. I suspect that there are a disproportionate number of wingers in ultras than in other distances and in life in general. When I first did the GUCR I was unable to even estimate when I would be at the first checkpoints. I just shrugged and said I'll see how it goes. Badwater I just said to my crew to make sure I had water and make sure I don't die. The problem is you get all this PLAN PLAN PLAN shoved at you that you think it's a neccessity and it ends up stressing you more. If you are a planner then plan away. If you are not a planner then don't try. I am running across the USA next year and have already been subjected to the dreaded "Plan" and "Budget" words. Those things just kill the adventure for me. I'll take a credit card and a spare flapjack and see how it goes. What could go wrong?
  • When you get really tired concentrate on moving forward rather than your exact position and distance. Ineviably you will slow down but the effort seems the same so it can get frustrating when you feel like you are not moving as fast as you think you are. Then the paranoia kicks in; "The distance markers are wrong", "The course is long", "I'm lost" etc etc. My first GUCR I thought I was at the 100 mile stage and only when I ran on another half a mile I realised that I was only then at 100 miles. What was half a mile out of 145? Well at the time it was massive and started me on a downward spiral that nearly cost me a finish.
  • Realistically there is a point where the sensible thing is to drop out. It depends on how far you have to go, how bad a shape you are in and how much the race means to you. "Finishing at any cost" is a silly thing to say if the "cost" is that you can't walk for 6 months. Similarly a race may mean so much that you are willing to rule yourself out of action for a few weeks just to get to the finish. This all gets blurred in the long and drawn out mess of an ultra. Be careful, but don't sell yourself short, the worst thing is sitting around the next day thinking "you know what? I could have finished that". When I was marshalling at the GUCR 2010 I saw some people drop out who looked in proper pain and I thought "yeah they really should have called it a day sooner". But more often I saw someone give up cos it all "got a bit much" or they lacked motivation to finish. In those instances I just knew that those guys were going to be very pissed with themselves tomorrow.

NUTRITION (What I don't know about nutrition can be written on the back of Canada)

  • The dangers of OVER eating are feeling a bit sluggish, perhaps some stomach problems, going to the toilet more and if you have a wedding soon not getting into a dress. Relatively trivial. The dangers of UNDER eating are stomach problems, cramp, fainting, exhaustion, anger, depression, muscle damage, organ damage, death and perhaps more importantly there is a greater danger of not finishing. You may have read books about runners who can run 100 miles on a can of coke and an apple but these are likely to be the elites who have done this many times before and have well practiced routines. If you are not at the sharp end and relatively new to this they I would lean on the side of over eating rather than the opposite. You can always change it the next time.
  • I hear the phrase "fuelling the Ferrari" used quite a lot when giving advice on nutrition to runners. Well I'm not a Ferrari. More likely I am a rusty old camper van with a big dent in the side and smells funny. The fact is that when running for hours and hours the act of eating can become a struggle. You may not feel hungry or you may have trouble getting stuff down. In these cases ANYTHING is better than nothing.
  • In my experience the biggest mistake nutrition wise is not eating the wrong types of food but simply just not eating enough.
  • You can use food as a reward. Derive pleasure from it. Don't think "I will eat a Kit Kat because it has 300 calories in it", think "I will eat a Kit-Kat cos I really like Kit-Kats". I love it when checkpoints have savoury stuff like sausage rolls and sandwiches. It gives me something to look forward to when slogging through the mud. Try and make food and the thought of food a positive thing. 
  • If it's true and "you are what you eat" then I am a pile of shit. Stuff I have consumed in races over the years include pringles, sausages, McDonalds (122 mile point in Badwater), Subway (65 miles into GUCR), enormous amounts of spicy meat and cheese in the UTMB, coke, coffee, Fish n Chips, milkshake, Pot Noodles, sausage rolls, soup.
  • Drink early. I learned quite early on that it's easy to jog 15 miles and ignore feelings of thirst because you want to get ahead but then it catches up on you and them some. It's hard to come back from dehydration.
  • ELECTROLYTES - I have only recently discovered these (I previously relied on the salt content of crisps). If you are running a long way then take these from the start. There are plenty of easy to carry products out there. IN Badwater I asked my support team to put them in everything I drank. Electrolytes are simply the salts that are cruical for the electrical activity in your muscle movement. If you flush them out with pure water then you risk cramp in the muscles (including those in your heart).My preference is Elete but there are others. Here is a more in depth article on how they work.
  • Protein - another one of those "you must take it/you must not take it" debates. I try to eat it as normal on a long run which generally involves protein and fat. From personal experience and lots of others too there has been great feedback for the 4-1 carbs to protien energy drink/powder you can buy. I think you need protien, you need to recover as you go.
  • Protien is especially imortant on multi-days. At the end of a run where I am doing the same the next day I try to guzzle some milkshake, beef jerky and nuts within an hour of stopping. If you are doing multi-days this hour after you stop running is perhaps the most important for eating, drinking and stretching. Here is a great article from 1 Vigor on the subject of recovery nutrition. Eat within the first hour and anything is better than nothing.
  • Camelpaks and bottle belts are the kit of choice for carrying water but don't rule out a hand held. It's not ideal in terms of running form but if you are prone to not drinking enough and if it's very hot then a hand held bottle could be very useful. I use backpacks where lots of kit is required (UTMB, ONER, Gran-Canaria or general UK ultras), I use a bottle belt where checkpoints are frequent and kit needs are low (Spartathlon, Davos, some UK ultras) and I used a hand held for Badwater.
  • Don't get suckered too much into the expensive "science" food. Read the second half on any running magazine and there will be loads of ads claiming to have "unleashed the power of the daisy" and swearing that your running will improve by 23.7% Most of the runners I know get by on stuff you can buy from a regular supermarket.

MIND GAMES

  • When out for a long time and trying to work through the tough times I find it really helps to think in the third person and take yourself out of yourself (if that makes any sense at all). I am quite comfortable thinking about myself in the 3rd person and years of Facebooking has made James very good at this.You can be as ridiculous and as egotistical as you like, if it helps you out of a funk then so what? No one needs to know. Here are a few that I use. There are some that I won't share right now and some that I might never share.
  • Imagine your own funeral (ok perhaps it sounds silly to imagine you are dead but hear me out). Hopefully your funeral is years and years away. When it happens people are only going to say what a great person you are and how you touched their lives. Think of the speeches made and the conversations between your old school teacher and training buddy. I've even got the location of mine sorted, hmmmm maybe I should contact the council.
  • Think of the stories you can tell about your experiences. There is nothing more boring than listening to someone saying "I entered a race, trained really hard and then got a pb, then I entered another race, trained really hard and got a pb, then I entered another race and I trained really hard and I ... *SLAP*". Remember that you are creating your own stories as you go. The more stuff that is going wrong and the harder you find it the more captivating your story will be in the pub. Try and remember everything so that you can re-tell it when you are nice and dry and warm and full of food with your feet up. Others will appreciate it.
  • And try to think of every set back as a funny story for later. Soon you'll be wishing mis-fortune on yourself....
  • Imagine you are supporting someone you know in the race you are doing now. This kept me occupied for 10 hard miles in the Spartathlon this year. There are a few people I know who want to do the Spartathlon and I imagined I was here with them supporting them through their run. You can only guess as to the kinds of problems they will run into but your amazing and uplifting words and advice can help them through it. That then makes you feel much better and perhaps even forget for a while that you are actually running that very tough race yourself right now
  • Persuading someone else to do the race you are doing. You may not believe it but some people don't like the idea of running 145 miles of canal on a Bank Holiday Weekend. The thought of this is incredible to me but each to their own. Pick someone who you know will say it's crazy. Tell them it's crazy but they still should do it. Argue with them (though not out loud near medics as they might think you have lost it and pull you out).
  • Imagine your friends back at home tracking your race.I do lots of Facebooking and texting during long races and tend to get this feedback anyway but in it's absence you could still make it up. Think of a status update and then your friends responses. You know all the people who will say that you are doing awesomely as well as those who say their Gran could run faster.
  • I imagine doing speeches at the start of events or to general crowds of ultra-runners. Invent questions and give your answers and pretend that the whole audience are in stitches with your hilarious jokes.Of course they are hilarious cos it's all in your head.
  • More and more ultras nowadays have lotteries to enter. The UTMB, Badwater, Western States, MDS, GUCR all have more people wanting to participate than there are places. This leads to disappointment for many as well as headaches for the organisers. When running imagine someone sitting at home who applied to do what you are doing now but did not get in. Don't do him/her a dis-service by bailing out for some wimpy reason. Finish it for the person who could not start.

 

RACE ETIQUETTE

  • Be respectful to other runners feelings. There will be times when you overtake another who looks a mess, try not to look too smug or comfortable as you do. No one likes getting flown past by a runner who looks like they are not even making an effort. It's funny how you can occupy the same part of space and time yet be in completely different places.
  • Similarly don't contaminate someone else's race with your own suffering. When you are on a roll you don't want to hear someone moaning about how bad their race is going. Remember you could be having the worst race of your life but be right next to someone who is having their best.
  • It's great to find someone to chat to during a race but sometimes people might not be in the mood. It's nothing personal, they just may be struggling. Sometimes a question can feel like someone plunging their fist into your brain and trying to pull somthing out. Don't feel you need to talk all the time and respect others need for mental space.
  • SO don't be too afraid of saying "I don't really feel like talking". And don't take it personally if this is said to you. In some of my longer races such as the ONER ot Trans Gran Canaria it was nice to have friends around just up ahead or behind and just seeing them and exchanging a few words and jokes every now and then. I could not imagine jabbering on for 24 hours though. Some people however love this.
  • BE NICE to the marshals and the organisers. It can't be much fun standing in the rain for hours only to get abused by a grumpy sweaty beast as he starts crying that there are not enough green jelly babies at the checkpoint. Also, give some slack to the race organisers. I think it's great how many people out there are willing to put themselves on the line and organise these events. They have made my life so much better over the years. Organisers and race directors will make mistakes too, don't beat them up about it.

HOT, COLD, KIT Etc

  • There are a lot of great blogs and resources out there to give advice on extremes of temperature. Marshall Ulrich's great blog has some stuff on dealing with both Hot and Cold. Also this is a great little website full of stuff about really hot running
  • PROTECT YOUR HEAD. Sun hat when it's hot, fleecy hat when it's cold, hood when it rains. Your head will be going through enough without you beating it up more with the elements. A good UV protection hat for warm and a buff for cold are 2 essentials
  • Do not underestimate the slow sapping power that the sun has. I got spanked on both days of the GUCR last year and really suffered. Wear a good hat and sun cream, have some on you if you are doing a very long run.
  • Don't ignore thirst ever
  • If you are run/walking then run in the sun and walk in the shade, spending as little time as possible exposed and giving you longer to recover where it's cool. I do this in the GUCR when there are trees and on the Spartathlon where there are bridges, spending longer in the shade helps your body cool from the constant stress of overheating.
  • IN training for Badwater I did 1 session of Bikram Yoga a week for 10 weeks. This is much less than is recommended and that most people do but it was fine for me. More than anything it made me learn how to deal with the shock of that kind of temperature while working. The first 10 minutes are hell but you adjust and manage it.
  • In the cold its layers that are the key. The warmth is generated by your body and kept in by air in the layers of your clothing and so the more layers the warmer you will be rather than the total volume of clothing.
  • The more and more I get into ultras the less and less kit I think I need. You sure can buy a load of crap these days. My first ultra I am sure I obsessed about everything I wore, bag, shoes, tights, shirt, shades, GPS etc etc. My most recent Spartathlon I just made sure I had some shoes and shorts and I was sorted. I am sure you've been called an idiot lots of times because of your choice to run a long long way. I'm sure you've learned how to laugh that kind of thing off. However don't actually BE an idiot pay for things that really are not necessary. "It's not about the Bike" as Lance Armstrong famously said. That is totally true of ultras too (apart from the bike bit obviously).
  • Having said all that there are a few bits that I use though all of this stuff I will tend to buy when it's on special offers and rarely will buy the really expensive brands
  • Make it your life mission to find comfy pants. Men and Women come in all different shapes and sizes in that region so we are likely to all find different answers to this. I've been using compression shorts designed for Rugby players, seem to work. It may take a while to find the perfect pair but once you do stick with them (ok not actually "stick" to them).
  • I don't really like head torches, I prefer the little hand torches (you can get them from outdoors shops for a few pound). Head torches make me crane my neck and probably screw my running up. I don't trip over any more in the dark that in the light. Enjoy the moonlight.
  • Some sort of hand sanitiser or wet wipes are very useful. Your hands are going to get very dirty. It's easy to forget sometimes that you are stuffing jelly babies into your mouth with the same hand that has just wiped your arse.
  • Toothbrush, flannel, take every opportunity you can of washing your hands (and other regions) in the really long stuff

GENERAL MOTIVATION

  • You probably compare yourself to others all the time. This is one of the best ways possible to make yourself unhappy. Road runners have this thing called "age-grading" where they compare their time for some fixed distance with the fastest person of a similar age over the same distance and then say things like "I am 63.7% the man that Haile is". Depends how you measure it I guess. I am 182% the man that Haile is (in mass). Such comparisons don't really belong in ultra running.
  • Don't compare yourself to others in terms of time/volume etc. You will meet all sorts of people at these events all with different backgrounds, different motivations and different levels of ability. Some will have not been running for long and maybe have families and are short on time to do running. Others may have been running for years and get all the time in the world to train. Some are here to win, most are here to finish and enjoy. Have your own measures of success that are completely independent of the performance of others.
  • Ignore the cancerous voices that may pop into your head that may talk of disappointment. I get this sometimes, the frowning of letting someone down. You are only doing this for yourself.
  • Think back to times when you were suffering as much as you may be now and remember how you got through them. Key moments like this for me were; Jurassic Coast challenge in 2008 - on the third day I could barely walk before the start but managed to run the hilly 30 miles of that day, Rotherham 2008 - The weather was Baltic, everyone around me was suffering from hypothermia and the checkpoints were indoors. It was the hardest thing in the world stepping out of those checkpoints and into the rain. I knew that in 5 minutes time it would be fine again.
  • Also, think back to the times when you were not nearly the runner you are now. Everyone started somewhere, perhaps a 4 mile run on a treadmill seemed like an effort a few years back. Keep in mind just how far you have come over the years. I remember when 4 miles on a treadmill would make me weak at the knees, I remember the fear of my first marathon. In Greece I passed the marathon stage of the Spartathlon in 3.47, that was my marathon pb in Berlin just 4 years earlier. The glowing feeling of progress propelled me all the way to 50 miles

Dilbert.com

  • For some reason I find miles 16-22 quite hard in any race, marathon or 150 miles. I don't know why but I've learnt to ignore it.
  • I spend a lot of my time in races thinking about even longer and harder races that I want to do. It sounds like a bad idea to be taking yourself into an even harder place when you really should be thinking about fluffy kittens and pillows and candy floss but it seems to get me through it. I spent most of my time in my first ultras thinking about finishing the GUCR. I spent a lot of my time in least years GUCR thinking about the Spartathlon. I spent some of my time in the Spartathlon thinking about Badwater. I don't know. Perhaps the point here is to always have a "next step" to think about. Now I always think about running into New York.

 

 

YOUR BRAIN - YOUR WORST ENEMY

  • Don't freak out when you hallucinate. It is normal for the brain when tired to see things that are not there. Your brain "sees" not by seeing everything but by looking at only a small area and "filling in" the rest itself. It's how optical illusions work. It is easy for the tired brain to "fill in" your surroundings wrongly, like when I thought a pile of branches were a giraffe or some flowers in the dark were actually small faces with hats or when I thought the canal by night was a huge quarry.
  • And don't worry too much about the King of the Mushroom people. He's a pussy.
  • Beware of the dangers of over-thinking. You are a long distance runner and hence are likely to be much brighter than the population at large. Hopefully this has worked out well for you in other aspects of your life but it could actually work against you here. Relying on your brain too much can be hazardous. You have probably heard the old cliché of "it's all in the mind" a million times and this has a lot of truth in it, however relying on your brain to make calculations and objective decisions can be futile sometimes. Don't waste considerable energy thinking too much, try to switch off.  Forrest Gump never looked in trouble did he?
  • My marathon PB is still from a race I did the day after a 24 mile fell race. The point here being that sometimes things just don't make any sense.
  • One of the most important things I have learned is that my mind can become useless at any objective thought or decision making. It is hard for someone to admit that they are mentally losing control but it does happen and can be hazardous if you try to "think" your way out of it. This is the point to go with what "feels" right. To quote Homer Simpson - "Shut up brain before I stab you with an ice-pick".

 

NOSTALGIA

  • Write about your experiences, if only for yourself. I love reading back about races I've almost forgotten. I love looking back at how different I was when I started out running distance, when a marathon would terrify me. Put it on a blog and allow others to learn about what you have done, it does not matter if only your Mum reads it.
  • Many people will never understand why you would do a thing like this. Don't waste too much effort trying to explain what they will never understand, even in your head. I will never understand why people sit in their living rooms and get excited by z-list celebrities cooking for other z-list celebrities. I suspect I am not missing much
  • Imagine a life where every race you did went to plan, where every race was a PB. Where everyone you loved loved you back, where every job you applied for you got, where your football team win every game and the sun always shines. Every test is an A+ and you never once got the flu. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Really? No. I'd kill myself. That would be a miserable existence. The best life experiences are when everything fucks up, when everything falls to pieces but you just about manage to hold onto yourself enough to get through it. Those are the times worth keeping.
  • The crippling lows and euphoric highs are why I do this. You have to go a long way to feel at your lowest but in the same race and after that you can feel the greatest you ever have. Every low point you have you can use as a learning experience, a reference point to help you deal with it when it happens again
  • As I grow old I'll forget things. I'll forget the least important things first, like what my pin number is or the name of my grand-daughters name, I'll then forget the unimportant things like how fast I could ever run 26.2 miles on a road or how I felt when running some 80% wava race or whatever. But I'll never forget the time I was running through the Canadian forests when 3 hours elapsed in 10 minutes because I was having so much fun. I'll never forget the top of that sand dune in the night in the Sahara when I looked around and could see nothing but stars, that moment I was the only person on Earth. I'll never forget staggering through a crowded street in Sparta to the adulation of runners and people of the town who had no idea who I was but know what I did. And the last thing I'll forget will be the turnaround I enjoyed in my first GUCR, I went from crawling to running, then from running to running quite fast. Then from running quite fast to being all of a sudden overwhelmed and having to hold onto some railings while I burst into tears. I thought at the time that the emotion was due to me realising that I was going to finish the race, but it was more than that. It was the moment in my life where I realised that I could finish anything. Anything is what I intend to do.
  • BEWARE of how addictive this all is. I entered my first ultra with the intention of doing more but never thought I'd be looking to do them every week. It takes over, you are always looking for different things to do. Longer, hillier, hotter, more navigation, less sleep or whatever.

 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (12)

James,
I bumped into your blog from the Ultra Marathon Running fb post...

Great stuff!!! I really enjoyed reading this post! Thanks!

All Day!
~Ken

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterken michal

James
Only just started to dip my toe into this ultra running sea. Found this blog and post by accident , but I've enjoyed it so much I'll put it in my favourites. When I first started running (well, jogging) I was heartened to read 'No need for speed' by John Bingham - it inspired me to just do the best I could and enjoy it. This post makes me feel the same - except now my journey is (hopefully) a lot longer.
Thanks
Mowzer

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermowzer

what a wonderful blog and ultra tips. good luck in the US, am following you all the way

June 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergemma carter

Great blog, very insightful and informative. Really enjoying reading and wishing you all the very best in the US

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Glascott

Thanks for this post, I love it - funny yet inspirational.
I suspect I will be back to reread this a few times!!

.. Ken

July 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKen Hughes

hi, just to say good luck in the US. i follow you every day have good one.
Thanks
Jon

July 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjon newby

Just listened to your interview on marathontalk - really inspirational.
Then navigated to this page, which was a joy to read.
Thanks for sharing.
Simon

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Levy

I have to agree that energy, especially protein, is very important for long distance runners. That's precisely the reason I usually keep some beef jerky somewhere on me so I can grab a quick bite while on the run.

Jerky Australia

June 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJerry Wallace

Awesome entry! Thank you for taking the time to put thoughts down. We (my running partner and I) have been approaching the ultras with the idea of enjoyment. Lots of folks write about the elite guys/gals and it makes you bow down in awe, and sometimes get demoralised. Love reading about your adventures that are truly epic, but zen like!

Off to run for 24hrs for the first time tomorrow and your blog has put me in the perfect frame of mind. Many of your comments hit home, which makes me feel we are not insane, or if we are, we are in good company.

Will be reading with interest from now on.
P.S. Found your blog by googling "how to have fun running ultras"
Todd

July 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

I love this post!

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKat

I enjoyed reading your post. I recently finished my first Ultramarathon last month and it was terrifying and overwhelming experience. Most of you post I can relate. It doesn't matter what you've read prior to the run that matters. What matters is what you are feeling during the run. I'd say I was a happy runner cause I see some snapshot of me people posted and in all of them I am smiling my ass off :) There's only one that I looked serious, when it was during the night and someone took a shot at me without me knowing because its too dark to see and I felt that I'm the only one on the road. Anyways, it was one of the most elated experience I had and is still planning to join more in the future.

April 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCandice for ConXion

Thanks for the tips!

September 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoller Kit

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