Last October I ran/ (cough cough) walked a 26.5 mile trail marathon.
I guess one could say it was an ultra-marathon because in the running community anything over a 26.2 mile marathon is considered an ultra, but cmon! it was only.3 miles further.
Over the years I’ve pursued many ways to torture myself. Several half-marathons and a couple full marathons back when I was in my 30s, an attempt at the Leadville 100 Trail Run at 41 (got pulled at mile 40), and a 50 miler at 43 (completed). This last performance was probably the slowest pace I’ve ever ran. Due to recovery from achilles tendonitis, I wasn’t able to do much training at all.
For some reason, since moving to Colorado 6 years ago, I have (at some point) decided to take on even more physical challenges. There’s been the above mentioned runs, but also multiple long distance bike rides, and several (21 so far) Colorado 14er summits.
(Colorado has 54 mountains that are above 14,000 feet.)
Now I’m planning an epic 157 mile bicycle trip to Glenwood Springs from Denver for summer 2016 with my son and some friends.
All this has not come without problems. I spent the first 2 years living here with Plantar Fasciitis. It felt like I was pushing a nail in my heel at every step. Then came on a bad sprain that I got from running in the crusty snow in winter. Followed ever so painfully by tendonitis in my right ankle which was cured by acupuncture. As soon as it was cured my left ankle “kicked” in with the same problem that could only be fixed by not doing anything (mentally punishing). Add in several instances of swelling feet, knees, aching back?, cuts, bruises, and a multitude of blisters you get to feeling a little beat up. (Gross huh?)
So why, why, why do I keep doing this? I’m not a professional athlete who spends all of his time training, racing, and recovering. I’m your basic, and as horrible as it sounds, middle-aged weekend warrior who works his real job 50 plus hours per week. I have work and family (6 kids), a yard to take care of, and an early retirement to plan.
Here’s why. There are so many of the finer things that are just better after experiencing this type of suffering. It is the absolute pleasure that follows after the fact. The first hot shower you get when you’re done is the best shower you could ever have. Same thing goes for first time sitting in a chair, first dry clothes, first meal, first time being spooned by your significant other, and your first through 6 beers! Oh the beer…:)
Plus it’s the camaraderie between friends and people of the same interests. The times that they look at you on the trail and, genuinely, ask how you’re doing. The cheers you get from complete strangers along the course and at the finish. The people you meet. Twice I’ve got to go on runs and talk to my ultra-running hero Scott Jurek. Arguably the greatest distance runner of all time.
I guess that sums it up. This I say with an aching back, and tight hamstrings as I sit here in the what looks like the dead of winter typing away. I’ll be lacing up shortly as soon as the temp gets above 25 degrees.