Kaibab Plateau. Grand Canyon. 20 degrees. Conditions: snow, wind, rain. Not ideal for a 50 mile run. Then again, what would be ideal?
I set a goal at the beginning of the year to run 50 mile and 100 mile races this year. 1 down, 1 to go. Halfway through that goal here are a few initial reflections:
It's a lonely road so find inspiration wherever you can. Most people will probably say running 50 miles is crazy. So finding someone or something that will keep you going is crucial. For weeks I felt physically spent and several long runs resulted in afternoons on the couch. Watching inspiring Messi and Steph Curry videos on Youtube kept me going. Whatever works.
Little adjustments make large differences. I'd run a few marathons and half-marathons before training for this fifty miler. I would say an overall rule of thumb is that the longer the distance the bigger the impact of slight adjustments. Not drinking properly before and during the beginning of the run doesn't really matter on a 6 mile run. As the mileage increases though it will come back to haunt you. Same with preparing for blisters, chafing, nutrition.
Discipline. There's a point during training where I had a choice to either give up and start going through the motions or start really enjoying the discipline of training runs, eating right and sleeping right. This Vince Lombardi quote inspired me through this period: “I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline." I definitely believe that everybody can cultivate that discipline when pushed.
Legs, legs, legs. Even though the race took place between 9000 and 7500 feet, I didn't feel all that winded or light headed or out of breath (probably helps that I live in Denver at a little altitude). Most of all, my legs hurt. A lot. This relates to the last point but for sure on my next run I will be spending some more time on hills and on the squat rack.
Just go for it, you can do it. It will seem crazy until you start training for it. But, accomplishing something I wasn't sure I could accomplish is incredibly empowering and makes me question what other limits I might be placing on myself. Probably not a bad thing.
Ultimately I see running as a very concrete way to challenge my limits. Often I hear people I look up to talk about pushing beyond their limits, moving forward through difficult times, expanding their capacity. Sometimes I find doing so difficult in other areas of my life as I don't have very direct feedback loops set up (something I'm working on) and I'm unclear which direction I should be moving in. Distance Running and endurance sports, though, provide clear opportunities to improve and expand my limits.
With that, on to the next 100.