T-minus 42 hours and counting. Give or take. Countdown to what? Yet another ultra-marathon. This time a fifty-mile race in Morrison, CO (home to Red Rocks). About forty miles west of where I live in SE Aurora, CO.
So why am I running a fifty mile race? Especially since I have already proven, well over ten times that I can compete this distance. In fact I have gone longer? What exactly have I done so far?
- 3 Ironman (2.4 mile swim – 112 mile bike – 26.2 mile run)
- Double Grand Canyon Crossing (roughly 46 miles and 20,000 feet of total elevation gain / loss)
- Too many marathons to count (counting training, the number is in the fifty range)
- Ten ultra-marathons (anything over 43K, which is a marathon)
There’s more. It’s a long list. But you get the gist.
How Old Are You?
This past June I turned fifty. I will admit it’s a birthday that awakens you a bit. But I didn’t wake up with this fear of, life is closer to a closing chapter than beginning. I better start accomplishing things. Not at all. Nor do I have regret as to what I have done, not done and what I have failed at over the past fifty years.
In life you’re either growing or your dying. And it has nothing to do with age. You’re ether on the road of self-discovery or mediocrity. You’re either suffering through discovery, or suffering through anguish at what you hate to do. Either way you’re going to suffer. It’s impossible to avoid it in life.
Over the past few months, some interesting things have happened in my life. Some I will share today, others tomorrow, and some, I’m not sure when. But the moons in my life seem to be aligning in a pretty neat and foretelling way. For now, let’s shift back to this weekend’s fifty mile race and touch on the former subject(s) in future discussions.
So how do you run a fifty mile race?
Slow. Painfully slow at times. With walk breaks on the hills. The key is keeping things anaerobic. Where you can easily carry on a conversation throughout. Simple way of monitoring pace. Another way is more obscure but very telling.
Apparently the body does a good job of deciding who is booted off the island first. By that I mean, when effort rises and the body senses a need to prioritize which organs to protect the most, it will start to divert blood flow. Away from those it feels are less important and towards those it deems more. The stomach, sadly, is the first “victim” if you will.
The result? You can’t eat. Anything you try and put down just feels horrid. Whether you throw up or simply can’t swallow what previously seemed super-tasty, your body won’t accept it. And we’re talking fun stuff. Candy, cookies, anything but healthy. So what happens when you can’t eat? Your body shifts to burning more and more fat. Digesting muscle to get protein (I think that’s the science, but this isn’t a science blog, so let’s go with that answer).
Fortunately you can tell before this happens. In my case, my body will start to swell around my wrists and fingers. Pretty quickly. And substantially. So much so that during races, apologies to my wife, I don’t wear my wedding band. Just my watch. And if / when I sense swelling, I slow the pace down.
Let’s Eat & Run. You Game?
Here’s a bit of irony for you when it comes to ultra-running. Whereas most run to lose weight. Ultras are all about eating. And absorbing as many calories as easily as possible. So when you find a gem like below, you load up. Great ratio of carbs to protein. And even better. A whopping 240 calories in one cup. That’s jammed packed.
Here’s another photo of what it takes to get through a race for my support team (my wife Tracy, and two lovely daughters, Allie and Ashlyn). My wife is lovely too by the way.
Fun Facts About Running 50 Miles
- 5,750 calories burned (1.64 pounds of fat)
- 160 ounces of fluids drank (some spilled)
- 40,000 steps taken (some shuffling)
- 2,000 calories consumed (hopefully, but tough to accomplish)
The race is completed. Another finish. A bit of suffering out there. Especially since I was unable to drink fluids from mile 35 to the finish. It became a mental victory in many ways. And those are often the most rewarding. And my first trophy as a 50 year old. Third place in my category.
If you have ever listened to David Goggins (strongly recommend you do), you will know his reference to hitting a wall. And rather than stopping, you have to run alongside the wall until you find a door. I knew I was likely going to have to run around the wall. Being pretty dehydrated, I didn’t anticipate any doors. But I did anticipate running around the wall.
Fortunately, that visual helped me over the last ten miles. And I needed it. I lost five pounds and weighed a whopping 148 pounds later that evening. My celebratory bourbon had to wait 24 hours.
Me at the finish!
Me at the one of twelve river crossings. Super cool to do!
Me at mile 25, half way there.