Booneville Backroads 100K
Lately I have been receiving quite a few questions about what it's like to run ultra distances. What all goes into running a 100K or 50 mile race. I will use the experience I had in Iowa, running the Booneville Backroads 100K (62 mile) race, to hopefully shed some light on what I go thru.
You hear the phrase "It's all mental" a lot with running no matter the distance. I want to break down the 100K both mentally and physically as best as possible.
|At The Start|
I stood in a parking lot next to a swollen river in rural Iowa at a little after 5 AM on what was the perfect weather for a run. I stood there without nerves. Without fear. In a calm state that understood the task at hand but was not afraid or doubtful of completing it. I stood with many others who had came out there to do the same thing that day, run 62 miles. Now no fear or nerves is new for me, I don't recall a race in the past with this little nerves. This time though I was mentally prepared for whatever this day would bring. Preparation for this task is a tricky one, it's easy to be over confident. It's also easy to find yourself questioning if you've trained hard enough. With an ultra of this distance it's hard to get a training run in to gauge where you are at. With marathon training I could go out and run 22, 24, even 26 miles before the marathon to get a good gauge of where I am at physically. With ultra's I generally use other ultra's to tell me if i'm ready for the next one. I had a good 50 miler in early April and felt like physically my body was stronger than ever. Mentally tougher than ever.
The sunrise to sunset window of time was my goal for the day. A headlamp and reflective vest were required for any runner after sunset on the course. I didn't have either item on me. In the case that something went wrong and I was still out at sunset I would have been pulled. I did not leave myself the option to make a mistake out there. I had no fear of being pulled off the course at sunset. I was putting a lot of confidence in myself and my training.
As the sun rose over the fields of central Iowa we started heading out on the gravel roads. Within the first mile we were pretty separated and the next 61 miles would be pretty much complete solitude. I came into the first aid station at mile 10 and dumped one of my water bottles and filled it up with Gatorade. I was quickly through this station and back on road. At about mile 13 I passed the then leader and cruised through the next 10 miles feeling good to the mile 23 aid station. At mile 23 I came in and filled both my bottles. I had been eating mixed nuts and some honey stingers and was feeling great. I moved though that one quickly as well and was on to mile 30. The miles between 23 & 30 were beautiful. They were mostly ran on minimum maintenance roads and plenty of hills to keep it interesting. I got to the 26.2 mark at 3:37 and still felt fresh. I made aid station 30 just as it started to sprinkle. I put my ipod and phone in a zip lock bag and headed out. I think thru the first 3 aid stations I had combined for under 5 minutes of stops. I had 12 miles to the next station at 42.
Miles 30 to 42 were a bit tougher and I started to slow down a little. These miles I thought of as the heart of the ultra. "Get thru these and everything after 42 would seem like the downhill." I kept telling myself. I showed up at the mile 42 station still maintaining an average pace of 8:30 per mile. I took some ibuprofen, put a PB&J sandwich in my pocket. grabbed some snickers, filled my bottles and headed out of town. I still had not walked at all and didn't have many minutes of aid station stops. I had a water stop at 45 and was met with a big smile and got some awesome motivation from that aid station. The miles from 45-58 were the hardest. It took really digging deep to get thru these miles.
Their is a place I can go mentally when I get into these miles. I changed my playlist, grabbed a hold of some memories that were both painful and tough times of my life. Grabbing onto these will help me push though. It's a true clarity of perspective. You hear it called Guts, Determination, Toughness, etc.but to me I'm getting prepared to hurt.
At around mile 51 I decided to walk for a bit and eat my lunch. I drank most of my water trying to get my PB&J down because my mouth was so dry. I still felt comfortable with my lead, almost too comfortable. I knew I had about a 4-5 mile lead from some information i got at about mile 50. I dialed it back a bit at that point. At mile 58 I was so happy for water, I filled up my bottles, drank a few cups, poured some on my head, praised the lord for the simple perfection of water and then headed back out.
Ultra running is about suffering, not just physically but mentally as well. It's about being able to remain focused on the task at hand regardless of the suffering. Sometimes I wonder where my skill in all this lies, am I a fair runner who's developed a seriously impressive ability to suffer. Either way, my pain is self-chosen, I don't love ultra's because I love pain. I do this because for me everything is more vibrant. The highs are that much higher, and the lows as well. The feeling at the finish line is unmatched by anything I've ever known.
I finished the day at 4:02 PM, giving me a time of 10 hours and 2 minutes. 36 minutes faster than the previous course record. That feeling at the end always makes every one of these worth it. To me running an ultra is 25% of what you do on that day and 75% of what you do the 6 months before that day. If you look back to the 6 months before I didn't take many shortcuts or days off. I went out when I didn't feel like it, in snow or rain or ice or whatever. I truly enjoy the training, no matter the conditions, every run I am moving myself forward with my training and my life. Running has become a way of life for me, it's my time to reflect, plan and drive myself forward. It's where I gain the confidence I have in myself at accomplishing my goals.