“Any idiot can run a marathon. It takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultramarathon.” – Alan Cabelly
Well, it’s about time I “officially” announced something that I’ve shared on the Book of Faces, you know, because this blog is the official site for official announcements, at least where running is involved: I’m training for an ULTRAMARATHON. Spell check is trying to tell me that “ultramarathon” is not a real word, perhaps implying on some sort of metaphysical level that an ultramarathon is not a real thing. On some levels, it feels like it isn’t real, like it’s some sort of abstract concept. I have a feeling though that come April 27 it is going to feel wicked real, as we say ’round these parts.
Some of you may be wondering what, in fact, is an ultramarathon. In short, it’s a race longer than the traditional 26.2 mile, 42 kilometer, marathon. Generally speaking, the shortest “ultra” of a set distance, as opposed to a timed race, e.g. a 6 hour race, is 50 kilometers, 31.07 miles. After that, the next step is usually 50 miles, then 100 miles, with 12 and 24 hour races rounding out the mix. My chosen race will be the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) Spring Classic 50K in Weston, MA on April 27.
So the question you may be asking, and the one that I sometimes find myself asking, is how did you end up in this situation? I ran my first marathon in 2009 and thought that was it for me as far as long races went. Christopher McDougal’s Born To Run introduced me to the world of ultrarunning, planting tiny seed in my brain. While I’m still not convinced of the merits of barefoot running or chia, I did love the descriptions of these runners testing their limits and spending hours and hours in nature. Despite having sworn off marathons, I ended up running Boston again in 2012. Even though it was a death march of a race, it was still a great experience, and one I’m happy to have had.
Fast forward to post-Hartford Half Marathon, when I resolved to focus my training on 5Ks and 10Ks for the spring and summer. I was perfectly at peace with the decision…until I saw something about the TARC Spring Thaw 6 Hour race in March in Andover. Thinking that it would be a fun thing to do, a race that was in my town and one I could at least partially do with Rebecca, I signed up for it – only to find I was on the wait list. Well, the wheels were in motion now, and there was no stopping them. My friend Thor suggested I instead sign up for the 50K at the end of April. So, I asked Rebecca, who is supposed to be the gatekeeper for these kind of crazy ideas, about it. Being the supportive wife she is though, she said I should go for it! Within the span of about 15 minutes I went from focusing on short races to having signed up for one ultra and on the wait list for another. Blurgh.
To aid me on my journey to 50K, I’ve enlisted the services of Sage Canaday, one of the top ultrarunners in the country at the moment and winner of the Mt. Washington Road Race. Sage has me on a plan of slow miles that has my legs feeling fresher than they have in a long time. I guess gunning it every workout isn’t such a hot way to train.
I know the 50K is going to be a whole new world of sensory experiences. My two marathons have both been Boston, which features roaring crowds and constantly changing scenery. The ultra will be 5 laps on a 10K trail loop. I’ll have to carry my own water and fuel (to an extent, there is one aid station at the beginning of the lap). I anticipate long stretches on my own, but I’m looking forward to both the mental and physical challenges presented by the distance. It’s going to hurt, a lot, but I have a feeling it’ll all be worth it at the finish line.
TARC Spring Classic 50K: Bring it on.