Monday, February 28, 2011

Why and How Did You Run A 50k?

I was recently asked "omg how on earth (not to mention WHY) do you run 50k????" by Amy. My answer of "Why/How a 50k? Not enough room to answer that in full. But it's a great experience, regardless of the pain" just didn't carry enough weight behind it to make others understand why I would attempt something so insane.

Let's define a few things first, namely what a "50k" is and what an "ultra" is.

A "50k" is 50 kilometers or 31.0685596 miles. Or just 31.1 miles. It is ten times longer than the standard 5k (3.1 miles) race that many communities have. So imagine doing a simple 5k race ten times and that should give you a bit of insight as to how long it is. Or, if you prefer, it is 4.9 miles longer than a marathon. The marathon is 26.2 miles, so run another 5 miles beyond that and you have a 50k.

An "ultra" is short-hand for an ultra marathon or an ultra distance race. It is commonly defined as being any race longer than a marathon. And while I guess a 27 mile race would technically fall into that category, most races go from the 26.2 distance to the 50k distance. Ultras come in many shapes and sizes, but most are run on trails. Ultras are usually broken up into distance races and timed races. The most common distances are 50k (31.1 miles), 50M (50 miles), 100k (62.1), and 100M (100 miles). Common timed events will run 12 hours, 24 hours, and even 36 or 48 hours. These timed events are just to see how far you can run in the allotted time.

So, now you know what a 50k is and what an ultra is. But those are just basic definitions. Each of these has a life of its own and will suck you deep into a dark place if you're not careful. Yes, it's a dark place that these races take you to, but only because you suffer through the event and have such a blast you want to do it again, thus sacrificing hours of your life training for another one. And it's all worth it.

Now let's get into the how and why behind my running ultras. My first 50k (and only ultra so far) went horribly wonderful. That's right, it was both horrible and wonderful. As for this particular 50k, I went into it way under-trained. I had been running low mileage for the weeks and months leading up to the race and I had recently taken a week off from running. Not a good combination. Add to this the fact that I had the wrong shoes and the wrong socks and it was a disaster for my time and my feet. I had huge blisters, sore legs, and I limped for many days after it.

That was the horrible part. The wonderful part was finishing. I may have been last, I may have limped to the end, I may have gone over the unenforced time limit, but I finished. I was in tears at the end because I was so happy. Sure, my feet hurt, but at the moment I crossed the line, I didn't feel the pain, I only felt the glory of finishing.

And as many people that have run before will tell you, they either love it or hate it. Those that love it, continue to run and continue to strive for something new, something challenging. As we all have different limits, your challenge may be running for 3 miles in under an hour while somebody else may find the challenge in running a 5k in under 15 minutes. Just like we all have different fingerprints and DNA, we all have different skill levels when we run. The big difference though is that our skill levels can change over time. Which means with enough training, you may be able to run that 5k or 50k in the time you want.

Aside from all of this is the primal feeling you get when you run an ultra. I'm not sure if it's there in a marathon (haven't done one yet), but I know I felt it in my 50k race. And it's hard to describe. It's you, your body, and your mind out there on the trail and each one is battling it out over who is in control. There were times that I nearly had a mental break down and stopped running just to cry on the side of the trail. There were other times where I felt so happy that I wanted to jump for joy. There were times where I wanted to give up and scurry away like a weakling. So many thoughts, so many actions, so much STUFF goes through your head it gets a little scary. And that's where the primal feeling comes in. You want to leave those demons behind you and just run free. You want to connect with that paleolithic Neanderthal and just run.

So where foes all of this leave you? Probably confused with a side of "this guy is CRAZY." And I don't blame you. An ultra race is not something you can just sign up for at the last minute. You need to plan for it physically and mentally. It's not a joke race and needs to be taken seriously. But with enough training and planning, you CAN finish one. And if you're even thinking about running one, I strongly suggest you pick a race that's far enough out to train for. Then sign up and start training. And while you train, study the sport, follow the athletes that run ultras, and learn everything you can about them. Then you'll understand what I mean when I tell you to "pack some TP in your drop bag in case that walkie-talkie turns into a full blown GI incident."

And while you ponder that one, here are a few links to check out that may help you learn more about the sport and maybe inspire you to run an ultra.

- Anton (Tony) Krupicka - I have a man-crush on Tony despite the beard.
- Dakota Jones - A great ultra runner that is young enough to have quite a future ahead of him.
- Thomas Kennedy - A novice ultra runner that is miles ahead of me in physical and mental strength.
- Davy Crockett - I'm inspired by every race report he gives. Such an amazing athlete.
- Brittany Zale - Yes, even though many are faster than me, women still inspire me to run.
- Ultra Signup - THE place to go to find an ultra race.
- Ultra Running Magazine - A great magazine that's hard to find by gives you a taste of just how popular ultras can be.
- iRunFar, Real Endurance, Run 100s, and UltRunR - A mix of sites that have a bit more info on training, races, etc.
- DailyMile - THE place to go for anything related to running and socializing (think Facebook + Twitter + Running = DailyMile).

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Save the Drama for your Momma

My mom and I have a running joke (one of many) that we both dislike excitement. Why? Because it usually means something bad is happening. Case in point, the past few days and weeks.

- My uncle (my mom's twin brother) has been diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis doesn't look good. I guess cancer is bad any way you look at it, but you get the idea.
- My family history shows some bad signs when looking at my mom's side of the family. Her sister, brother, and father have all suffered from and died from cancer. All in their early to mid 50s. Yeah, not promising.
- My mother doesn't want to go to her brother's funeral. I don't blame her. Funerals suck. If you've ever been to one, I'm sure you'd agree. But I think some effort should be made to do something. Me, well, I don't think I'll go. I want to but I'm not sure it would help anybody and I'm not sure the funding is there.
- And finally, while we're speaking of death, I want to be buried after I die in the Oconto Cemetery in Oconto, Nebraska alongside the rest of the Richard family. But I don't want any services until the following July. Had some relatives do that when they passed and I like the idea. Most everyone can get time off in the summer and by having it planned out in advance, people don't need to worry about making last-minute dashes to the airport. I'll be dead after all, so when you come to see me doesn't matter.
- Moving on, I was working on some laundry on Sunday and heard a crash. Yvonne and I both thought it was the other or the kids or just something that the kids left out. Turns out it was a bottle of laundry soap. A full bottle. And it fell on the cap. And the cap broke. And the soap spilled on the floor. Under the washer. And dryer. Yeah, you get the idea. We spent 2 hours cleaning it up. Thankfully it wasn't this Sunday because we would have left it on the floor instead of missing the Superbowl.
- A few weeks back, Yvonne told me that her new truck was "jumping" when she drove it. I didn't really believe her until it happened to me too. So it's now at the dealer getting the planetary gear replaced. Luckily it's under the manufacturer's warranty. And CarMax was nice enough to give us a loaner while it got fixed.
- The weather has played havoc on all of our schedules. From 2 hour delays to closures to work days to just plain insanity. Sometimes the closures were warranted, but on days like today, they weren't. Not even any rain and we have a delay. Oh well, better safe than sorry.

I'm sure you can see a trend. Lots of drama means a high chance of whining about the bad stuff in life. We all have crap to deal with. It's how we go through life and helps define who we are as people.

But with each low is a high. I think we can find balance in life, but sometimes it's harder to find those positive tidbits to make up for the crap. So in an effort to make up for my whine above, here are some positive pieces of news.

- I think I lost another 5 pounds. I stepped on the scale the other day and came in at 224. Easily 4 to 6 pounds lower than my previous 231. Which is on top of my weigh-in of 235 in early 2010. So I'm happy about that.
- Part of my weight drop is likely due to eating less for breakfast. And working out more. I'm happy to have a trainer that can beat me into submission once a week. I've noticed an improvement in all those odd muscles that I rarely use.
- I'm super-happy to be running on the local rail-to-trail once a week. Sometimes it's a struggle to get there, but it's fun to see something new every time.
- I'm even more excited that Yvonne is going to the same trainer next week. It'll mean more adjustments to our schedule, but I think she'll have fun. All while getting her butt kicked.
- While tax season is crazy for me at work, I'm happy to report that most of my late nights are done and I have a lovely wife that is willing to bring me food when I'm trapped in my "office."
- William had a wonderful visit to the dentist. That pretty much says it all.
- Elizabeth had a wonderful report card. Again, that speaks for itself.

So. Drama. Not for me and not for my momma. I once thought I wanted to live an exciting life. Now that I'm older and a little wiser, I've decided a boring life is just fine. Meanwhile, I'll try to find those positive things to balance out the negatives.