Monday, July 7, 2014
15 Life Lessons I Learned Running 100 Miles Around A Track
I've run ten 100 milers and for a while I've wanted to try doing one on a 1/4 mile track. I'm also a sentimental schmuck and realized that I've done a 100 miler every month since February so I wanted to keep the streak going one more month. Even though it would be my sixth 100 miler in five months my body was feeling good and I figured I'd give it a shot.
Life Lesson #1 - There Is Nothing Better Than A Cool Sunrise.
Technically a fresh cinnamon roll is better than a sunrise. But I didn't have any cinnamon rolls. So the sunrise had to suffice. I started running around 4:45am and it was already 82 degrees outside. It wasn't long before I saw my first sunrise of the run.
Life Lesson #2 - Vanilla Ice Is A Genius
I've always tried to model my life after the sage wisdom of wise, poetic, pasty white musician Vanilla Ice and his lyric "Ice, ice baby." I'm allowed to call him pasty white. Takes one to know one. I brought three coolers with tons of ice, ice baby, water, soda, and Tailwind knowing the temps would be scorching during the run. Once at the track I found this hose that I soaked myself in every few laps.
This was a blessing and a curse. I think keeping myself wet was the only way I was able to keep running in the heat. I would wet myself (that just sounds wrong) and then be completely dry two laps (1/2 mile) later. So I'd wet myself again. (Not that kind of "wet myself".) But this also completely soaked my shoes so I had a case of Sloshy Shoe Syndrome for literally 60 miles. After the run my feet looked like a chewed up Big Mac. My feet have entered mental health therapy to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Life Lesson #3 - Accept What You Can't Control, Take Advantage Of What You Can
I was willing to have perma-wet feet in exchange for staying a little cooler. With no control over the temperature I just dealt with it. But I tried to get everything going in my favor that I did have control over. Which basically boiled down to my attitude and what pair of shoes I wore. I went with the Altra Olympus for the extra cushion and the fact that they're super comfortable. They were excellent.
Life Lesson #4 - Ignorance Is Bliss
Enormous thanks to my friend Shelly Thomas and Hurricane High School for helping with the logistics of the run. Their track is the nicest I have ever run on. The only down side is that from the track you can see the school marquee......which shows the current temperature. Sometimes that would be better NOT to know. The high for the day reached 107 degrees. It was intimidating to watch the temp slowly climb. I imagine that's what it feels like to run inside a fireplace. In the underworld.
Life Lesson #5 - Friends Are A Blessing
Late afternoon was difficult. I hit a rough patch for a while. The track was radiating heat and it felt like I was standing under a hair dryer. But every once in a while a friend would stop by and say hello or bring a little treat and it lifted my spirits. Melanie brought a banana and Hostess donuts. Michelle brought a smoothie. Matt brought a Slurpee. Angel brought a popsicle. Lyle brought a smoothie. Shannon from Arby's in Hurricane brought some awesome sandwiches. Katrina brought a Slurpee and some candy. Leif and Melissa stopped by to make sure I was still alive. Lyle came back and brought a cookie and the most delicious substance known to mankind: Dirty Dr. Pepper (Dr. Pepper with coconut syrup.) I never asked anyone to come, and I felt so touched by their kindness.
Life Lesson #6 - Smiling and Jumping Make Everything All Better
I try to smile and be positive during races. It's not that I'm always having fun. (Sometimes in the moment what I'm experiencing is anything but fun.) It's not that I'm always happy. (Inside I might be feeling seriously grumpy.) It's not that it isn't hard. (Running has never come easy to me.) BUT I'm convinced that a positive attitude makes an ENORMOUS difference. Having a pity party doesn't make anything better. Taking a jumping picture is a great way to break out of a funk. Maybe that's why I have to take so many of them. Mile 50:
Life Lesson #7 - Be Thankful For What You Have
From the track I could see Smith Mesa on the horizon. In the Zion 100 you climb to the top of Smith Mesa, around 1,000 feet in less than a mile. I love trails here. I love the trails there. I love trails anywhere. (Sorry to go all Dr. Seuss on you.) I run almost all my miles on trails but doing 100 on trails in this heat just wasn't feasible without spontaneously combusting. So I just enjoyed the track and enjoyed the mesa from a distance.
Life Lesson #8 - There Is Nothing More Important Than Family
In the evening Mel and the kids came over to share a few laps with me at the track. It was so awesome to see them. And for a little bit I almost forgot about the huge temper tantrum that my legs were throwing.
Life Lesson #9 - Patience Is A Virtue
I always hated when my dad said that. But it's true. If ultramarathons have taught me anything, it is patience. I've learned that when times get really tough, you just have to be patient because things will get better. It's guaranteed that at some point things will get really ugly. But if you hang in there it will get better. I knew if I could make it through the heat of the day I'd feel better when it started to cool off. I was rewarded with some beautiful clouds, a few drops of rain, and one of the most amazing sunsets I've seen in quite a while.
Life Lesson #10 - A Happy Stomach = A Happy Run
I brought some snacks like Fig Newtons, chips, candy, and gallon jugs of Tailwind that I mixed the night before. (I labeled the caps O for Orange and R for Raspberry). Having premixed bottles helped so much at the Jackpot 100 that I figured it would work well at the track too. That was the only thing my stomach tolerated consistently for the entire run. This isn't some kind of paid endorsement for their stuff. It really is awesome. Anyone who has run a 100 miler will testify that keeping your stomach happy is one of the hardest parts of an ultra. My running made a big shift when I started using the Tailwind.
Once it got dark my friend Jess came to run a few miles with me. Jess paced me the first year of the Zion 100 when the race took me 35 HOURS(!!!) and has seen me at my absolute worst. I appreciate her friendship. And Angel came to the track a few times during the day and ended up getting a total of 25 miles!
My son Jackson begged and begged to stay at the track with me for the night. I told him he would get so bored. But he said he'd just walk while I ran. That little creature ended up getting in 13 miles before going to the car to sleep! I admire his determination.
Life Lesson #11 - Aside From "The Clapper", Pizza Is The Most Amazing Invention Ever
5 years ago I was training for my first marathon when I read the book "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnazes. He talked about how one night he went out for a run that was so long that he ordered a pizza to eat while running. To think that a human being could run that far. Mind. BLOWN. Fast forward to five years later. It was almost midnight and I was around 70 miles in. Me and Jackson pulled a Dean Karnazes and got ourselves a pizza. Sitting there on the bleachers eating pizza at midnight with my son was my favorite part of the 100 miler. (I was surprised when I saw that Dean had shared this picture on his Facebook page. Cool!)
Life Lesson #12 - It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn
From about mile 70 on, the run was very difficult for me. My legs were so sore, I was so tired, and every step was a challenge. Words can't describe how daunting and humbling it is to be at mile 70, feeling so beyond exhausted, and knowing that you still have potentially another NINE HOURS (and 120 laps!) to keep going. That is a dark time. Literally and figuratively. I got a little bit of a boost when the sun started to come up. And speaking of that - how crazy is this sport where you see TWO sunrises during the same run? That is hard to fathom for me.
Life Lesson # 13 - The Only Way Out Is Through
The last ten miles were silent, alone in my little pain cave. By this point I had started running the straight parts of the track and quickly walking the curves. Every step was so hard but I wanted to keep moving as fast as I could to get it done. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Mel and my daughter Kylee came by to visit on the second morning. I must say that my wife is awesome. A few weeks ago in church I said "I think I want to try running 100 miles around a track." Instead of saying "You're a lunatic!" she said "When were you thinking to do it?" I might as well have been asking if she wanted to go to Dairy Queen. I'm so thankful for her support and encouragement.
Life Lesson #14 - Only Trust People Who Like Big Butts. They Cannot Lie.
Granted. It's completely unrelated to this post, but a valuable lesson nonetheless.
Kylee wanted to run the last mile with me. I told her she didn't need to do that, but I was so happy that she insisted.
Finally after around 26 hours 55 minutes I finished 100 miles at the high school track. A few people commented that this sounded so miserable. And of course at times it definitely was. Although I figure "so miserable" is code word for "excellent mental training for upcoming adventures."
The heat was my biggest hurdle by FAR. When I finished I felt demolished. There was no jumping to be had after this one. The only thing my body had left in it was to do this:
Life Lesson #15 - We Can Do Hard Things
Our bodies are remarkable things. We are capable of so much more than we know. I've found that if we are willing to challenge the boundary of what we think is possible, a breakthrough can happen. It will hurt. It will be hard. But it can happen. Miracles....like running 100 miles....can happen.
"I never ran 100 miles. I could never do that. I ran one mile a hundred times." Thank you guys so much for your support and encouragement!