13.1 miles is the farthest I’ve ever raced. But on September 23rd I will attempt the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 Miler. Today, 58 days earlier, I start my training.
I’m opposed to running as a form of exercise. At least running in the traditional chronic cardio sense (the way pretty much every runner in the developed world exercises). Not because I dislike running as a sport (I find it addicting) or because I don’t like runners (they’re some of my favorite people), but because I truly believe that it is bad for us.
Knowing that, my desire to run a 100 mile ultramarathon probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. But that’s because I haven’t told you four important variables.
- I like when people look at me like I’m crazy, with those “that’s not possible” eyes. It’s one of my favorite feelings in life, and one of my main motivations.
- Running is sooooo freaking popular. Why not raise some awareness? I might not convince anybody that it’s bad for one’s health, but hopefully I’ll show people that there is more than one way to accomplish a goal.
- I have a passion for healthy eating. Is that a weird passion? Oh well, whatever. I’d love it if we could all get on board with the idea of eating REAL food. If I’m able to complete this then maybe I’ll get a few sugar-burners to second-guess their fuel choices.
- Even though I think running is bad for me, I LOVE IT. Since moving to Boulder I’ve met a lot of ultra runners and have been itching to get in the game. My mind’s been going crazy trying to figure out how I can be competitive (with friends) while not destroying my body. I’m not going to make any claims that what I’m doing here will be good for me, but at the very least it shouldn’t be too bad for me.
What do I do with those four variables? Well, what if I do this thing that a lot of people think can’t be done, in a training window which nobody would ever think is long enough, eating unconventionally, without actually damaging my body in any meaningful way?
If I’m able to complete this 100 miler based on 2 months of training, hopefully some people start considering whether they really need to train for 8 months to run 26.2 miles. Maybe they’ll also start to consider if constant carb-loading and margarine-eating is counterproductive.
Or maybe not, but at the very least I’ll have fun.
Past history for the sake of transparency.
For the sake of transparency it’s important that I point out a few things. I don’t want to lead anybody into thinking that I’d been playing video games 22 hours per day for the past 30 years before deciding to take on this challenge.
This is not a couch-to-100 program.
I’ve been a runner off and on throughout my life. I ran somewhat seriously from fourth grade through high school. I was never fast enough to be competitive, but was fast enough to make varsity. My fastest 5k was 17:14, which is one of those times that seems crazy fast if you’re slow but crazy slow if you’re fast.
After my senior (in high school) season of cross-country I decided I’d had enough. I decided to skip winter and spring track (both of which I did the prior three years) and instead focus on lifting (something I’d never done before). I was tired of being the laughably scrawny kid. That year I went from 145lbs to 205lbs. The last 20 or so were pretty sloppy, but the first 40 were almost pure muscle (and perhaps some bone).
I gradually fell back down to 185lbs, which has been my weight ever since. Loving my new body and interested in trying different things I took the next eight years almost completely off from running.
When I was 26 I started working for a company in Philadelphia. I became great friends with one of the guys, and he was a big runner. So I slowly started getting back into it, and then before too long I ended up spending about five months training super hard for a marathon. A stress-fracture prevented me from getting to the starting line of that marathon, but I did get some solid times in, including a 1:32 half.
From the time of that stress fracture (4 years ago - I’m 30 now) until about two months ago I’ve run less than 15 times.
- I ran a half marathon when I was 28, because my wife and a bunch of my coworkers were doing it and it seemed like the right thing to do. I did a grand total of two training runs, didn’t wear shoes, and ended up finishing in 1:58, about a minute slower than Sarah. She passed me with ~3 miles to go, but neither of us saw the other (a downside of mega events like Rock ’n Roll half marathons). I was mostly proud of her, but also a little bit pissed off.
- I ran one 5k for some charity I can’t remember, and another 5k for a color run.
- Sporadic runs here and there.
A “natural” runner?
If you read through that history you might think that I’m a “natural” runner. I disagree. I posit that my ability to come out of the woodwork and finish a half marathon, for example, comes down to two things:
- I’m in good shape. I stay active, I eat well, and I’m a healthy body-weight. There’s nothing especially runner-esque about me (I’m built more like a swimmer), but there doesn’t need to be. A half (or even a full) marathon is not the obstacle that people make it out to be. Doing it competitively is one thing. But doing it just to finish? if you’re in good shape you should have no problem finishing even without any specific training.
- I can push myself through pain that other people can’t push through. This is why I could go do a track workout with someone faster than myself and still win every interval. I have no problem pushing myself to the point of vomiting. I’m a masochist.
I’m not 100% untrained, though I’m pretty close. I’ve run 9 times in the past 12 months, and 7 of those have been in the past 2 months. Additionally, I hike at least a few times per month. And I’m just a generally active dude that doesn’t sit still that much (relative to most modern humans).