For those of you not familiar with the term, an ultramarathon is a race that is longer than a traditional marathon (26.2 miles or 42.195 km for those of you using that kooky metric system). If you are thirsty for more useless knowledge you can read more about this topic on the ever reliable wikipedia.
Most people that I talk to think that ultramarathoning is a crazy idea, and that only crazy people would do something like that. I used to think the same thing when I first heard about it. But once I did a few marathons, adding a few more miles didn’t seem so crazy. 50Ks are like the marijauana of running – the gateway. After all, they are only about 5 miles longer than a marathon, and that isn’t so crazy right?
So you can see how the progression goes. First I did some 5Ks, then a couple of half-marathons, then some full marathons, then a 50K, then a 50 miler. After the 50 mile race, the 50Ks seemed pretty “easy”, so I did some more of those. Now I am training for a 100K – the next logical step in my pathway to insanity.
Now I am getting around to the stupid part. The training “season” for long races like that are pretty long themselves (unless you are really stupid and just up and do a 100 with minimal training – but I’m not naming names here). And you have to train through all sorts of weather and conditions. Most ultras are on trails, so that means most training is on trails. The majority of my runs have been less than exciting. They consist of countless steps, a few missteps, consumption of junk food I would never eat in “real” life, and chatter with my crazy friends that sometimes requires an NC-17 rating. My recent runs, though, have been different and, in essence, stupid.
Last week, the northeast was in the grips of an intense heatwave. Temperatures were consistently in the upper 90s and even over 100 degrees. Last Thursday was especially hot, and we were in an “extreme heat advisory” according to the weather dudes. As luck would have it, my friend – we’ll call her Jenny*- and I had already planned to do a long trail run that evening. Knowing that it would be 5 degrees or so cooler where she lives, we figured we’d be okay. We left that evening at 5pm and it was 99 degrees. BUT, I swear to you, it was cooler in the woods. We each had 70oz of water, salt tablets, and knew that there was water at the halfway point. We did fine throughout the run, and navigated the last 30 minutes or so by the light of our little flashlights. We got back to her house a little after 9pm, having covered 18 miles. So far, so good. The plan was to gorge on pizza and to drink the 22oz bottle of Southern Tier Jah*va Imperial Coffee Stout I had bought for just such an occassion. After I showered, I started feeling a little woozy. I drank a bunch of water but it didn’t help. I took one bit of pizza and was a goner. I got terribly sick. My hosts are a crazy couple ultrarunners, so they had my lay down, got me some V8 (SALT!!) and water. It took me a while to get to the point where I could drive home. It sucked. It was like having a really terrible hangover, and it lasted until the next evening. Lesson learned: Obey extreme heat advisories when you sweat as much as I do. It was impossible, apparently, to keep up with my fluid loss. Despite drinking about 130 oz of water and taking salt tablets, I was still down 4lbs at the end of the run. Oops!
That brings us to today. I had this grand plan for getting in 23-25 miles before I needed to get ready for our friends’ wedding. I was going to be able to do all of the miles within a 3ish mile radius of my house. It was going to be great. I got the first 7 in, and then hit the trail up the mountain out back. I got about 3/4 of a mile up and then saw a bear. He was right in the middle of the trail. He looked at me; I looked at him. I thought “S%&# what do I do now?”. He thought, “That stupid bipedal doing on my trail?” I have no idea if he was alone, or if his posse was hanging around. It seems like there is just one around, but it’s hard to tell. He was on the news the night before, so maybe he thought I was the paparazzi and wanted to take his picture. At any rate, he ran away and I was left there by myself. I called my husband and asked if I should turn around. Knowing that my life insurance policy isn’t all that great, he told me to turn around, all said in a tone of “duh”. Well, I might be stupid but I am not a complete idiot. I listened to my husband.
I didn’t even begin to address all of the other things that happen during these runs. Oh my goodness. I’ll save some of that for another day. Let me finish up by saying that we are going to a wedding, and I am wearing a short (just above the knee) dress. The dress is pretty hot, I must say, but my legs look terrible. It looks like someone tied me up at the ankles for [gonna have to censor that one]. I have cuts and scrapes from low-lying weeds and thorns. My legs are cut up and bruised, and people probably think my husband beats me. Nope – I’m just a stupid ultra-trail-runner.
* Names were changed [slightly] to protect the stupid.