Ultramarathon From 0 to 100 in 2 months.
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.
This post will be a real-time documentation of my journey. Maybe I’ll be successful. Maybe I won’t. This post will stay up either way.
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).
Whoah, why is diet listed before training? Shouldn’t I be talking about actual running first? What a nutjob.
I’m tempted to say that I’ll be eating super-strict Paleo for the next 58 days, which I will be. But you probably have a misconception about what Paleo really is, so I’m not going to say that.
Instead, I’ll list the main points of my diet.
- No vegetable oils.
- No grains. Yes, that includes corn. Luckily my favorite tortilla chips are made with cassava flour. Hah. I’m gaming the system over here.
- Extremely limited sugar. “No sugar” isn’t possible, but I’m going to do my best to be reasonable here. Part of me wants to try to convince you that fruit is not your friend, but I don’t want to lose you. Personally I very rarely eat fruit with the exception of seasonal berries and avocados. YMMV.
- Extremely limited carbs for 16 hours after finishing a long walk or run. This is to promote fat adaptation. You can read Primal Endurance by Mark Sisson (which I’ll talk about more in the training section) to find out more. No restriction on carbs the rest of the time.
- No alcohol. This is the hardest one for me, by far. I looooove craft beer, and I happen to live in one of the best craft beer cities in the world. It’s cruel. Luckily health nuts are pretty common out here, and because of that a lot of breweries also serve (sometimes homemade) kombucha. And also, people in Boulder want you to be you. Everybody respects your decision not to drink if that’s what you choose. Nobody feels threatened by it. It’s a cool feeling, because that’s not what I experienced when trying to abstain on the east coast.
- No factory-farmed animal meat/products. So that means only pasture-raised, grass-fed, etc. If these conditions can’t be guaranteed then I won’t get meat. That means I turn into a vegan when I go to most restaurants, and that’s totally fine. FYI this is a health-based decision, not an ethics-based one.
- Unlimited caffeine on long training days. 50mg or less on other days. I’d like to be in a position where I can use caffeine as a PED on race day if needed. I can’t do that if I’m already adapted to it.
- Lots and lots and lots of vegetables. Lots of olive oil and avocado oil and everything including the word “coconut” (except water). Lots of avocados and pasture-raised eggs (“cage free” and “free range” are both crap BTW) and 100% grass-fed beef. Macadamia nuts! Perhaps a bit of cheese here and there. Etc. I’m not going to type every food I consume.
I was a supplement king back in the day. Now I take only two.
Fermented Cod Liver Fish Oil
Four per day every day, except for the days I forget, which is at least 75% of the time. Maybe I should move them to a more visible location.
I honestly can't remember every single reason why I take this and why it’s amazing. But I know that I did the research at the time and that it checked out, and I trust my former self.
I don’t know if I need these or not, or if they’re doing anything for me whatsoever, or if I’ll order more when the current bottle runs out. But, at least as of now, I’m taking two pills with every fat or protein-heavy meal (which is basically all of them). Except that I forget to take them far more often than I remember.
I do not supplement with Vitamin D at the moment. I spend a ridiculous amount of time outside, and the sun is commonplace in the Boulder sky. I’ll more than likely add it back as winter approaches, though.
I may or may not consume marijuana on occasion. If I did - which I’m not saying I do - it would be either edibles or flower in a roughly 2:1 ratio of CBD:THC. The flower would be vaporized and never, never, never smoked. Except maybe for at concerts, ‘cuz what else are you going to do?
Marijuana in the above CBD:THC ratio is said to have a pretty powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Because of this I make sure never to consume any for at least 12 hours post-workout (not that I necessarily consume any any other time). I’m not willing to say that this anti-inflammatory effect is a bad thing post-workout, but I simply don’t know and I don’t want to mess with it. I feel like my body knows how to best deal with stressors, and I want to let it do its thing.
In general, if I consumed marijuana the main time I would do so would be before workouts. Mostly to make them less boring, but also for a few reasons that I kind of understand but am not smart enough to relay here. Science.
It’s hard for me not to start doing 150 mile weeks out of the gate. I have an all-or-nothing personality which includes no patience. But I know that I’m almost guaranteed a stress fracture or ITBS or some other goal-ending injury if I go that hard right away. So I’m going to experiment with a different plan. An unconventional one. Because unconventional things bring out a hearty smile in me.
A lot of this strategy is inspired by Mark Sisson’s Primal Endurance, with some more extreme elements added because I don’t have the time or the patience to train the “right” way.
Note that this is a general idea of what things might look like, but not a rigid plan. I very much don’t want to have a rigid plan. I’m going to happily adjust on the fly and be 100% okay with it.
I’m going to aim for two runs per week, for a total of 40 miles, broken up however I feel like breaking them up.
All 40 of those miles will be done at or below 140bpm (heart rate). The Maffetone method suggests I max out at somewhere between 150-160 and the 75% rule suggests that I top out at 140. I’m erring on the side of caution here. Though as the race nears I may slowly allow myself to trickle up to the lower 150s.
This low-heart rate training is for two reasons:
- To help my body become better at burning fat as its primary fuel source. If I can accomplish this then I won’t need to eat a GU Gel every 20 minutes in my race to avoid dying.
- So I can recover. Doing 20 mile runs at 88% MHR is not trivial on the body.
Two runs per week probably isn’t going to cut it, but striving for much more is risky. This is problematic because every ultra runner I’ve talked to stresses the “Time on Feet” principle. Enter walking.
My aim is to run/walk 150 total miles per week. 40 of those will be running. That, fellow math nerds, leaves 110 miles per week of walking. I’ll allow myself to do ~25% of those 110 miles on an elliptical (because sometimes being inside is a better option, and I hate treadmills), but will try my best to get the bulk from actual walking.
The plan is for 50 of those walking miles to happen in a single day each week. There’s a good chance that I’ll end up walking about half of the 100 miles on race day, so I might as well get my body prepped for that. Even if I end up running most of the race, being an efficient walker will be a great safety net.
I play ultimate every Monday night. I do yoga every Tuesday night. I climb once or twice per week. I usually go hiking at least once per weekend.
I’m deliberately choosing not to think about how that stuff does or doesn’t impact my training. I love my life and stopping any of those things would make me love my life less. So I’m not going to do that. Hopefully they help my cause. If not, oh well.
- Monday: Walk 10 miles. Ultimate.
- Tuesday: Walk 10 miles. Yoga.
- Wednesday: Walk 50 miles.
- Thursday: Run 30 miles, walk 20 miles.
- Friday: Walk 5 miles. Climb.
- Saturday: Hike/walk 10 miles.
- Sunday: Run 10 miles. Walk 5 miles. Climb.
Note that my schedule will not look like this every week. Even if all of the activities stay the same - which they won’t - at the very least I’ll constantly be changing up the order. Sometimes I’ll have two long efforts in a row. Sometimes they’ll be heavily spaced out. This is on purpose.
Rest and Recovery
I shall sleep at least eight hours each night (in a blacked out room), and will take naps as often as necessary. I’m already planning on taking naps the day after any hard effort, and have no problem adding even more into my schedule.
Also, notice the extreme lack of intensity of my plan. Notice that there are only two runs. The lack of intensity is intentional. I don’t want to beat myself up.
Soft Star Shoes RunAmoc Lite - Road
These shoes are so awesome. And both times I’ve reached out to Soft Star they’ve provided quick, thorough, funny support.
I’ve tried almost every “barefoot” brand you can imagine: Vibram Five Fingers, Vivo Barefoot, Xero, Merrell (certain models), etc. I like Vivo a lot for their combination of form (they’re pretty) and function, but from a pure functionality standpoint Soft Star is easily the best of this bunch.
They’re such a pleasure to wear. Yes, they look kind of stupid (because I got the perforated ones for breathability), but that’s kinda my thing anyway.
Soft Star Shoes RunAmoc Lite - Trail
Same as above but with a 5mm trail sole instead of a 2mm street sole. Not nearly the same level of ground feel, but still better than any other shoe I’ve ever tried.
I’m not entirely sure if I’ll go with the Road or the Trail version on race day, but I want to have the option of either, so I’m going to make sure I have sufficient miles on both. The Road version does just fine on flat terrain, off-road or not. But steep downhills are a bit sketchy.
Altra Lone Peak 3.0
Altra is the only company that I’m aware of that makes heavily padded zero-drop shoes. The cushioning on these things is pretty intense - and the exact opposite of what I like - but that’s on purpose.
I’m somewhat concerned that in the latter half of the race my body is going to start breaking down and my form is going to break down with it. Which means I’ll start heel-striking (I’m normally a mid-foot striker), which means those Soft Star shoes are going to put me in a bad spot.
Depending on where my crew (aka Sarah) is going to be, I’ll most likely try to wear these for 20 or so miles in the middle of the race to give my feet a short break, and then also have them on hand later in the race just in case.
Garmin Forerunner 230 and chest hr monitor.
The 235 has a wrist-based optical HR monitor which drastically reduces the battery life and is notoriously inaccurate, especially when sweaty or when exercise is intense. So I went with the 230. It was cheaper, too.
The entirety of my running is paced based on heart rate so this is non-optional. You might argue that I could do these runs based on perceived rate of exertion, and then I’d argue that you’re wrong. Rate of exertion is crazy-difficult to judge.
Nathan Vapor Air 2.0
I have nothing good or bad to say about this. It’s the only vest I’ve ever used and it does the job just fine.
Wednesday, August 23rd
I was talking with my buddy Jason this morning. Amongst many other things he mentioned how it seemed like I was in “the dip” of my training. Far enough from the beginning to no longer have that initial excitement. Far enough from the end to not be able to see the finish line yet.
What Jason doesn’t know is that when you say “the dip” I immediately think of homemade guacamole. Which makes me hungry. But not hungry enough, because I want to be so hungry that I can eat all of the homemade guacamole. How can I make myself that hungry? Ooh, I know. I can go run 30 miles.
Today was the second best day of my training, and my longest run ever, all thanks to some combination of guacamole and Jason.
Once You Pop the Run Don’t Stop
Don’t touch the watch.
My new plan as of last week was to pay less attention to moving time and pay more attention to overall time. That means no pausing my watch when I have to pee or stop to get food or anything like that. Overall time is the only thing that matters in the actual ultramarathon, so it’s time to start getting used to that.
I started at 12:19pm and ended at 6:27pm, for an overall time of 6h8m, an overall speed of 4.89mph, and an overall pace of 12:16. For reference, my moving time (including the walking portion) was 5h42m for a moving speed of 5.26mph and a moving pace of 11:24.
I wanted to be able to say that I ran 30 miles today, but that’s not true. Normally I would have run all 30, but with my new focus on minimizing overall time I didn’t want to sit and do nothing while I digested. So in actuality I ran 14 miles, then walked 2, then ran another 14. Those 2 miles of walking were for a good cause. Call it what you want.
What Does This Mean for Race Day?
Going by overall time rather than moving time allows me to make a meaningful comparison to race day. My stops on race day won’t take so long, of course (I’m not expecting to have to go into Whole Foods, pick out my food, and then wait in line to pay), but there will be other factors that I’m sure will make things harder.
In order to finish in 31 hours I’ll need to move at an average speed of 3.23mph. That’s an 18:34 pace. That’s a pace that I could conceivably walk for 31 straight hours, but there will be a lot more elevation gain - and a lot more body breakdown - on race day, so it’s not actually conceivable. If you take a 4mph sidewalk walker and plop him on a tough trail, that speed will quickly drop to 2-2.5mph.
But if I were to subtract today’s effort from the 100 miles required on race day, then I’d have 24h52m to complete the remaining 70 miles. That’d require an average speed of 2.82mph. That’s a pace of 21:17. Wow, that’s a big difference.
But what if I could do that effort twice (on the easier sections of the course) and then walk the remaining 40 miles? eg run 14, walk 2, run 14, walk 20, run 14, walk 2, run 14, walk 20. In that case I’d have 18h44m to complete those 40 walking miles. That’s an average speed of 2.14mph and a pace of 28:02.
You can see where I’m going. Every mile that I’m able to run adds to my walking buffer. Though it’s also true that every mile I run will likely make my walking a touch slower. I’ll be more tired and my body will be more broken down. But even on the steepest sections of the course with the most broken down body imaginable, I’d still be able to walk 2.14mph, right?
Of course none of that takes into account the actual course profile. Taking that into account, purposely trying to only run on the flat or downhill sections, a feasible plan might look something like: walk 13.5, run 21 (to mile 33.5), walk 6.5 (to mile 41), run 21 (to mile 62), walk 20 (to mile 82), run 18 (to finish).
Can I run 42 miles in a 48.5 mile stretch? Not sure.
Bad Garmin (but not really)
When I bought my Garmin Forerunner 230 I did so with the understanding that I could charge it mid-run without messing up said run. My ultramarathon will last a lot longer than my Forerunner’s battery, so I specifically looked for this feature.
The battery icon was displaying fewer and fewer black pixels so when I stopped home to get some chicken broth and water I plugged my watch in. It charges quickly, so I figured even 5-10 minutes of charging would be better than nothing. I didn’t want it to die on me.
When I put the watch back on my wrist, though, the run wasn’t there. It had been stopped, saved, and couldn’t be touched again.
Further post-run research says that I can charge on the run, but not via a computer. If powered by a computer then the watch goes into a “Mass Storage” mode and everything is ruined.
Bummer, because showing people two 14-16 mile screenshots doesn’t feel the same as plopping a 30 mile screenshot down in front of you. And also, if I don’t get any recognition from Strava for my longest run ever then what’s the point. :(
I didn’t carry a pack with me this time. I ran 7.5 miles out, turned back, and then repeated that. There was a (perfectly placed) water fountain at the 5 mile mark which meant I had access to water every 5 miles. So I gulped a bunch down on five different occasions rather than sipping the whole way.
For fuel I ate two packs of Eating Evolved Coconut Butter Cups at the 14 mile mark. That’s 524 total calories with 400 of them coming by way of fat. I then walked until mile 16 to allow them to digest, and then started running again.
Over the last five miles of my run all I could think about was mustard. I wanted mustard so badly. The desire got stronger as I got closer to the finish. Finally, when I got home, I threw four (pasture raised, 100% grass fed) hot dogs on the frying pan while I showered, then got out and smothered them in the most ridiculous amount of mustard. It was glorious.
Two sizable meals in a 30 minute window, and I was still hungry.
Transitioning from walking to running is hard. I’ve encountered this several times. Today was just the first time that it clicked in my head. Restarting running at mile 16 didn’t feel great. By mile 18 everything was good, but those first two miles of the restart were rough, and that’s been the case every other time I’ve stopped and started back up again, too. The main difference is that some of the other times I’ve decided to call it quits before allowing myself to feel okay again.
The fact that I’m still digesting when I start running again surely doesn’t help anything, but I’m also 100% confident that it’s not only a digestion thing.
The takeaway from all of this is to start considering longer intervals on race day. I could run 2 miles, walk 0.5 miles, and repeat that 40 times. Or I could run 20 miles, walk 5 miles, and repeat that 4 times. I’m now leaning toward something closer to the latter. Although those ratios might be way off. Maybe something like running 20 miles, walking 13.33333333333333333333333 (you get the point) miles, and then repeating.
Lightweight is the Right Weight
I’ve noticed from running with my pack, and from running without it, that I move a lot better when my pack is either non-existent or when it’s on the emptier side. I’ve also noticed that chugging a bunch of water all at once doesn’t seem to bother me.
Water is by far the heaviest thing that goes in my pack. I was never planning on filling up my 2L bladder all the way to the top, but now I’m thinking about just how low I can go. Can I run with 0.5L or less on me, and then just pound water at the aid stations?
This’ll depend a lot on what the weather is like on race day, but it’s something I’ll be thinking about.
Carbs Haven’t Helped Me Yet
My two (by far) most successful runs have both been fueled with low amounts of carbs.
10 days ago, on my 25 miler that felt so good, I had 3.3g net carbs vs 23.8g fat.
Today I had 12g of net carbs versus 44g of fat, and the only reason I had that many carbs is because I didn’t have any other options (I ran out of my fat bombs). I didn’t want the carbs. You know how your body gets cravings for what it wants? I had zero carb cravings.
I’m feeling good about my body’s response. Which reminds me: I need to make some more fat bombs tonight so I can go even lower carb.
There have been many runs where I have tried to consume a considerable quantity of carbs. Sometimes that’s been straight carbs in fruit bars, other times it’s been a balanced attacked like with Boulder Cookie cookies (14g net carbs and 23g fat per cookie). And neither scenario has worked great.
Friday, August 25th
On Wednesday I talked about a theoretical run/walk breakdown based on the elevation gains and losses found in the course profile. But that breakdown could only be theoretical because it paid no attention to the aid stations.
- Walk 13.5
- Run 21 (to mile 33.5)
- Walk 6.5 (to mile 41)
- Run 21 (to mile 62)
- Walk 20 (to mile 82)
- Run 18 (to finish)
I love the idea of bunching my running into three large chunks. It seems like a great way to dissect a mega beast into three doable beasts. Three is a good number.
That doesn’t matter, though, because I want to do my major refuels at aid stations. I probably won’t be eating a ton of aid-station food, but that’s the only place that Sarah is allowed to assist me and it’s the only place that I’m allowed to access my drop bags. I’d rather not carry food with me, so eating at the aid stations is my only real option.
There aren’t a whole lot of different run/walk combinations that make sense given that map and those aid stations. There were a few different options, but not many. This is what I came up with.
- Walk 5.5
- Run 4 (to mile 9.5)
- Walk 4 ( to mile 13.5)
- Run 20.5 (to mile 34) - Refuel at Cedar Ranch
- Walk 8 (to mile 42)
- Run 12.5 (to mile 54.5) - Refuel at Boundary
- Walk 16 (to mile 70.5)
- Run 10 (to mile 80.5) - Refuel at Hull Cabin
- Walk 8 (to mile 88)
- Run 12 (to finish)
The three refuels will be my major refuels. I’ll also likely pack something at the start to eat at mile 9.5. And I may eat at other times along the course as well. It’s too soon to say.
Having five running chunks instead of three kinda stinks. But it is what it is.
I refined the above last night. Now knowing officially that my longest running segment would be 20.5 miles that’s what I decided to do today. So today I ran 20.5 miles, with zero fuel, in 4:05:36. Slow, yes, but there were no stops and there was no walking.
Unlike on Wednesday I did wear my pack and carry a touch of water. I need to get used to it.
Tuesday, August 29th
Today makes the most sense of any day this week to get a long run in. But I just can’t do it.
Yesterday I agreed on a 50-50 partnership for a new SaaS (software as a service) business. Not only did I love the idea for the business, but the partnership was to be with the person who I most want to partner with in the entire world. It was an amazing moment.
Unfortunately, several hours later, when doing research, I came across some information that made me realize that our project is not doable. Technical stuff, mostly. No wonder it hasn’t been done.
To be able to find out this crushing information so early on is a win. We were planning on six months of development time and then even more time trying to sell the business. I’ve only spent about six days on this project. And my would-be partner has only spent one day on it. To get out of this so unscathed is pretty cool. But it still hurts nonetheless. I thought that I had this newfound purpose and direction for the next six months of my life. I don’t.
What does this have to do with running an ultramarathon? Nothing and everything at the same time, I suppose. This is just one of those things that happens in life that makes you feel like not getting out of bed for a while, and running an ultramarathon involves getting out of bed.
Unfortunately when I’m down in the dumps I lose my discipline. I’m sad and I want to just be less sad, so I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. I had two cappuccinos today, something I’d never normally do. And I had two bags of chips. Neither are the end of the world. Other than the sugar in the cappuccinos there were no technical dietary indiscretions. But it’s like “come on, man.” You only have two weeks of solid training time left, so stop it.
It is what it is. Tomorrow I have to get to work, though.
Wednesday, August 30th
Today was the day to get stuff done. Unfortunately I didn’t commit to that until a little bit too late this morning, and I didn’t plan out my day very well with regard to scheduling conflicts.
But it’s not a huge deal. I knew that I wanted one long run and one short run this week or at least one long day and one short day, whether they involve some walking or not. So today will just be my short day.
I ended up getting caught up on a lot of writing this morning. Writing for this challenge that I got a little bit behind on. I woke up at 6:45 AM to get a good start on the day, but then I wrote until 10 AM. Super productive morning, but not the best start to my running day.
My schedule-remembering skills are not the best. Or maybe my math isn’t the best. Or maybe some combination thereof.
We have to leave tonight by 6 PM to attend something. I guess I’m just not used to thinking about how one run can take up 10 hours of the day. I mean, I know that that’s true. But I haven’t gotten adjusted to it yet.
My plan for my long day this week was to do the toughest segment of the 100 miler. That would be running 20.5 miles, then walking 8 miles, then running an additional 12.5 miles.
I wasn’t necessarily committed to doing that long day today. I figured I’d get going and then decide based on how good I felt. But it wasn’t until I was about 12 miles in to today’s run that I realized that I had zero chance of finishing that long effort in time. Damn, this stuff takes forever.
Resigned to the fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, I wasn’t really sure what to do. I knew precisely what I wanted to do for my long run this week, but I never gave any thought to what my short runs should look like.
I ended up running 19 miles. No stopping, and no fuel. And perhaps a little bit too conservative on the water. It was hot out.
I am neither happy nor unhappy about the distance that I covered today. It’s hard to have many thoughts on it when I didn’t plan on what it was supposed to look like. But I am relatively happy with my fitness. I did the miles at 11:30 pace, and it felt pretty darn easy.
Monday, Sep 4 - Tuesday, Sep 5
Why am I talking about two days at the same time? Because my run spanned two days, silly. The race will be a 24+ hour event, which will mean running at night, so I wanted to get at least one night run in.
This was a last-minute decision. My initial plan was to do my long run on Tuesday because it was the first break in the heat in (what felt like) forever. The high everyday of the past week had been 90-something, and I hadn’t been doing much running because of that heat, but then Tuesday it dropped to 72. That’s a big difference.
Sarah had a rare day off on Tuesday, though, and the idea of spending 6-10 hours running instead of spending time with her seemed sucky. Why can’t the universe just let me hang out with my wife? Damn you, universe!
The idea of a night run popped into my head around 5pm when Sarah and I were walking Moonshine and talking about our plans for the next day. And so it was decided. Or at least the when had been decided.
What about the where? I’ve been listening to audiobooks and podcasts like mad for my new challenge. Since I’d have at least six hours of perfect audiobook-listening-time on my hands I wanted to keep that activity alive. But where could I run late at night (with headphones in) where I wasn’t at risk of being stabbed (super unlikely) or being attacked by a Mountain Lion (more likely). I could run underneath the city lights, but Boulder isn’t a big enough city for that. Not for a 30+ mile run.
Combine that with the fact that our air has just been invaded by the smoke from the LA fires, and guess what? I decided to violate my most cardinal running rule: DON’T FREAKING RUN ON THE TREADMILL.
I started at 8:30pm. On the treadmill. Like an idiot. Nobody came into the fitness center during my run which is a shame because I had quite the setup. Next to the treadmill I had two 40oz bottles of water, a 24oz bottle of iced coffee, a container of salt, and a whole bunch of cookies.
40 miles was what I told Sarah I was going after. But in my head I wanted 50. For some reason I liked the idea of saying 40 and then doing 50 much more than I liked the idea of telling her my true goal from the start. I get a kick out of surprising people by my craziness. But if people expect it then it feels like a chore.
I tried yet another run/walk breakdown. I walked the first four miles because the first four miles of the race are the hardest four miles and I’ll definitely be walking them. My plan was to then go back and forth between running four miles and walking four miles. In the interest of time, though, and because I felt like it, when the treadmill read 8.00 I decided on-the-fly to abandon my plan and to keep running until 10.00. What a rebel!
I did the first six miles barefoot, after which I put shoes on because I could feel a blister starting to form on the ball of my left foot (which later turned into a pretty gnarly blood blister that I tried to show off as much as possible at yoga because it would be sure to make everybody jealous of my coolness).
I settled into a rhythm. Walk four, run six, repeat. I listened to Purple Cow on my walking sections, then took out my headphones and went into deep thought (I may or may not have been blazed out of my freaking mind, so you can guess as to the insane depth of the thought) during running sections. The bounciness of the headphones (because of how the treadmill is laid out) was too much for me while running, plus I had a lot to think about so it worked out perfectly.
During the run I came up with an entire business idea that I’m in love with. Not just the broad concept, but every little detail. The pricing structure, the home page layout, the unique selling proposition, etc. Everything.
I typed 1,200 words into Bear during the run. Half were notes from Purple Cow and the other half were notes from my brain. I hope Bear doesn’t collect and analyze data because they might question my mental capacity. Due to all of the bouncing I made more typos than they’ve probably ever seen.
The first two run/walk cycles went by with zero issues. On the third walking portion my left shin was starting to hurt. Not the worst pain in the world, but certainly noticeable, and it got worse and worse as the mileage ticked away. By the time the third run came around I was relieved. My shin hurt badly enough that running with proper form was difficult, but it still felt way better than walking.
As my third run progressed the shin in my pain slowly started to subside. It never went away, but it lessened to the point that I could at least run with normal form as long as I was willing to grimace a touch.
Then the treadmill read 30.0 and it was time to start walking again. Holy bleep. I thought my shin hurt before, but I was wrong. I don’t know what that was, but this is pain. I trudged through it for a mile and it never got any better. So then I tried to run to see if that would make it better. Nope.
Mentally and energetically I was doing great, but I made the very painful decision to call it quits at 3:30am, 31.4 miles in. As much as my ego wanted to hammer on I knew it would probably be the end of my challenge if I did so.
I limped back to my apartment, limped into the shower, and then limped to bed. I couldn’t fall asleep for a while because the throbbing in my shin was keeping me awake. It was 4-something in the morning at this point, though, and I had just done more than 30 miles, so eventually I fell asleep.
What happens going forward? I don’t know. I’m going to rest it until Thursday night’s Ultimate games. If it feels okay on Thursday then I’ll try to run on Friday and see what happens.
This could be a big deal, or it could simply be a result of running on a treadmill and also running with a weird ogre-like form during the typing of those 1,200 words, doing a funky heel-striking thing that minimized my bounciness.