Thursday, June 25, 2015

Random Thoughts on Running a 100 Miles

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.”~ Henry David Thoreau
One of many signs posted along the course of my first ultra: GCI 50k
I'm now two and a half weeks into my first post-100 recovery. I've had some time to think about the whole experience and to experience the whole after-the-fact thing. And there are some thoughts that just keep popping into my attention deficient brain. So, I'm gonna write them down 'cause I don't know what else to do with them. 

Random thoughts:

1) For me I knew running 100 miles would be 99% mental:
Fact: it was at least 99.9% mental. I ran nothing longer than 26.2(ish) miles while training - Yes, 3 marathons in 3 weeks is great, and lots of high-for-me mileage weeks, but it ain't 100 miler training - not in the traditional/rational sense. My kind of training, for me only (I'd NEVER recommend this to others) was pretty piss-poor for a 100. Especially a first hundred. Of course foolhardiness is easier when you have no idea what you're in for. So, chalk one up to innocence...or ignorance...or stupidity. That innocence is now gone forever. Knowing what I know now, I think some things would change...or maybe not.
"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." ~ Henry David Thoreau
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. – Henry David Thoreau - See more at:
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. – Henry David Thoreau - See more at:
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. – Henry David Thoreau - See more at:
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. – Henry David Thoreau - See more at:
2) I had a picture in my mind's eye, and that's all I needed:
Since the race allowed you to stop at the 100k finish and call it good there and receive an official finish (though no AG/place ranking), without changing ahead of time, I knew from the get-go that leaving for the last 38 miles would be tough. I also knew that there was no way I was going to stop there. I saw myself, over and over again, finishing that 100 miles. In my mind it was daylight and I was clearly finishing a race, so I knew that what I saw was the 100 mile finish, not the 100k finish. This is probably some form of visualization, which I've practiced, not on purpose, but just because that's how my mind deals with things, since I was 12 years old (this was the first time I remember doing it anyway) - the night before the NJ State diving meet. I lay in bed seeing myself do each and every dive flawlessly. The next day I did what I saw and left with the second place trophy (I guess it wasn't flawless ;).  You may call this silly, but I've learned over the years that what I see in my mind matters tremendously to the outcome. 40% of the 100 miler field did not make it to the 100 mile finish. I assume some dropped or didn't make cut-offs. But many stopped at the 100k mark. It is a little cruel that the race lets you do this, but it's also a major test of will.
Set your mind where you want to be. Keep that image before you and don't let it go.
The soul can not think without a picture. ~ Aristotle 
3) I ate things I've never eaten while running before:
When I got to the Emma Carlin AS at ~14 miles, I grabbed the baggie from my vest, filed it with boiled potatoes, dumped a ton of salt on them (Mmmmm. I LOVE salt!) and continued down the trail, happily munching away. Now, I've never eaten potatoes on a run. This is a BIG no-no. We all know this. But I never gave it a second thought. I looked at the table of goodies and thought to myself "What sounds appealing" and that's what I grabbed. Turns out it worked, for me. Then when I got to the 50k AS I again looked for potatoes.
I must have looked confused, for a volunteer asked: "Can I help you find something?"
Me: "I'm looking for potatoes"
Vol., pointing: "Last I knew those were potatoes."
Me: "They are?" I picked up one of the pale, off-whitish oval things. I squeezed it between my fingers. It was all spongy. "These are potatoes?"
Vol: "Yes. Canned potatoes."
I held it, tentatively. "I've never had canned potatoes."
Vol: [speechless with an expression of non comprehension]
I bite into it. Tasteless, mushy, gritty, ick.
I look at the table. I grab three PB&J sections, fill my baggie with pretzels, and I'm off again.
From that point until the bitter end I am a PB&J eating machine. No. I've never eaten PB&J while running, nor cookies, which as it turns out, get me through miles 76-90ish. And the pretzels. So many stinkin' pretzels! Yeah, never eaten those while running either. With the exception of bottle upon bottle upon bottle of HEED and a couple Luna bars and Clif Shots, all the other things I ate were new to me. Luckily I have a pretty forgiving stomach. And when I started feeling queezy I kept it all down, again, by asking myself, "What sounds appealing" and that seemed to serve me well. Sometime the simplest things, the things that make sense, work even though they go against everything you've been told. There comes a time to trust that.
Let's face it. I did it all wrong, and yet it worked out pretty alright.

4) As with most hard things, when you are going through it you say over and over to yourself  "Never again. I will never do this again. Never."
I said many many times to Sandra and Abbie and Jeni, at some point far into the run, that I just couldn't stop now because I've gone all this way and I don't ever want to have to do this again and if I don't do it now then I'll have to do it again! And the thought of having to do it again after getting to this point of no return, of having to do it again, because of course I WOULD have to do it again if I didn't do it now, well, I just couldn't handle the very possibility of that. This wormed insidiously into my brain over the last 7ish miles with LOTS of very steep, loose ups and downs - the thought that I might fall, break my arm and not finish. Oh my god. That would just kill me at that point. No no no. Neuroses at its best, I assure you!
But of course, as we all know, some of us are very good at forgetting about all of that. The seconds of happiness and deep down contentment drown out the hours and hours of misery. And as many friends prepare to begin the Western State Endurance Run this Saturday morning, I am suffering from the deepest, most profound sense of envy. The problem is, that the contentment and satisfaction fades quickly. And then you want more. More of what? More of THAT.
Things that matter to you, matter to you, no matter how hard, no matter how much they hurt. And when you follow your heart, these things grip you and never let go and allow you to do things you once thought impossible.
"Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a mater of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved" ~ William Jennings Bryan
And some more bits 'o thoughts:
The lungs take longer to recover than the muscles. This I was not expecting.
Yes, it does take longer to recover from 100 than from a 50, or 26.2, physically and mentally.
Post-race depression still hits, it just take a few extra days.
The support and kind word of others increases the deepness of the felt experience exponentially.
(Likewise, those who take the opportunity to put you down or make jabs, really suck!)
You will feel able to deal with things you never knew you'd have to deal with or could deal with.
You will rely on people, even if you hate relying on people, and that will make the experience richer.
You will doubt the whole thing ever happened.
You will have moments where you think it's still yet to happen.
You will want to do it again.
You will acknowledge that you're nuts for wanting to do it again.
You start combing through UltraSignup daily.
You will hatch new plots you never fathomed 6 months ago.
Things will matter that may not have mattered before. Experiences, all experiences, change us if we let them - and hopefully for the good.

And, in case there's any question, this all has to do with much more than running. Running, like life, is so very simple, and not easy at all.
“Running makes you an athlete in all areas of life…trained in the basics, prepared for whatever comes, ready to fill each hour and deal with the decisive moment.” ~George Sheehan


  1. Very interesting post, enjoyed that, thanks.

  2. Caolan 1 what WOULD have been appropriate training for your first 100 miler?

  3. Fascinating blog post! you touched on alot of key points that I never really sat down and put thought into. I really liked the interesting little tid bits; I love random little facts like that.

  4. Your posts have more meaning for me. write my essay review thanks for sharing.


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