Stories of an ultra runner and adventurer: an obsessive approach to the outdoors by Candice Burt

Thursday, February 27, 2014

When Ultra Runners Go Too Far

I love the title to start with because that's just what we do isn't it? My challenge here is to outline a few common mistakes ultra runners, especially 100 mile runners, make as they explore the fuzzy line between unique and crazy. The line that separates pain and masochism. The experience of being alive and the one of being a slave to routine or ideology. I'm going to start with the most egregious threat to ultra runners:

1. Avoiding Caffeine in preparation for a Race: this is probably the most no good idea I've seen all my friends practice. Here's why you'll never see me do it: it just sounds sucky. Why would I avoid my most pleasurable taste adventure in the morning for a massive caffeine jolt during a race? I say prepare your body for massive doses of caffeine during the race by indulging in the weeks before an event. Cup of coffee in the  morning? Why yes! Two shots on vanilla ice cream? Bring it on. Triple Americano for the drive to Portland? Hell yeah. All 3 in one freaking awesome caffeine enhanced day? It's called 100 mile training. That way when you have 40 gels during your 100 miler that each have a shot worth of caffeine, you'll handle it in stride.

2. Trying to finish under 24 hours: I added this for you 100 mile newbies. You all want that sub-24 finish. It doesn't seem to matter if it's Western States or Hardrock. Run by feel and you cannot go wrong. Run by time and you will go wrong. Don't worry if this doesn't make sense. It will after you've done a few or after Karl Meltzer passes your went-out-like-it-was-a-flat-5k-butt.

3. Buying Peace of Mind: Be careful making last minute purchases before a race. They are almost always a bad idea. As we get nervous about a race, our mind tries to think of things that will make us feel better: maybe I need that more burly pair of trail shoes. Oh man, maybe I should buy that super starch that everyone says will give me more sustained energy.  I think I need new shorts. That waist pack might be a better idea than my backpack. Let go of the fear, you have everything you need 'cause you're here, right?!  You can't buy peace of mind no matter how hard you try!

4. Wearing Gaiters: Ask yourself these three questions: 1. Is it snowing and/or am I going to run in the snow? 2. Will I be running Plain 100?  3. Am I wearing hiking boots, a rucksack and sporting hiking poles? If you answer no to all three questions you are not allowed to wear gaiters. Trust me it will simplify your life.

5. Running for Miles instead of Fun: Goals are good, but stubborn ultra runners are not.  If you find yourself making laps around your car to get an even 30 miler, you have a problem. Gosh darn it if we don't find ways to make runs harder and more miserable. I like the new take on training where athletes track their running by hours instead of miles. You just can't judge a trail run by distance.

6.  Wearing a Shirt while Running: Totally overrated unless you live in Bellingham, Alaska, you're albino, are wearing a pack or it's wintertime in the mountains. Ok, so maybe shirts won't go away entirely, but it sure is fun to feel the freedom of bare skin during our little dance on the trail! No one cares if you don't like your belly, dig it!!

7. Obsessing over Splits: Ahh, it feels good to feel in control.  But it's all a big beautiful illusion my running friend, take it from a running control freak like me. Splits Smitz. Better to spend that time carbo loading on another IPA and watching Breaking Bad.

8. The Good 'ol Training Race Ego Bust: If I beat your ass in a race I don't want to hear that you were just using it as a training run. C'mon stoke my ego a little better than that! But seriously, no need to have elaborate explanations for your performance. It is what it is. A finish is a finish. Nice work!

9. Overtraining to get Stronger: This one is for me. It's the rest time that makes us stronger, paired with good training. Rest Candice rest!!!!

10. Late night Drunk Race Registration: Perhaps the real reason why 100s are selling out?!  Cheers to that!

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  1. OK, saw myself in more than a couple of those... also thinking about Karl M coming bat-sh*t back at me in the dark on my way out at Bighorn... bout scared my "went-out-like-it-was-a-5k" butt to death!

  2. I love my gaiters. I don't love sand in my shoes.

    1. haha, I figured I'd get a little heat from the gaiter wearers.

  3. Haha, these are terrific! I especially laughed out loud at #8, as it also found a home on a list I wrote this week ...

    + Totally agreed on gaiters :)

    Thanks for sharing, Candice!

  4. Hahahaha, Thank God for drunken signups!!! You know, I'm always hesitant to show off my beer belly, and get sunburnt being from the 'Ham, but maybe I'll give it a shot next time I'm running through the trees like a gnome. I'm signed up for the Nanny Goat 24 hour event this May, and my goal is just to feel good and see how far I can go. Friends are pressuring me to buckle, but I don't want to kill myself. I really love this. Thank you for sharing :)

    1. Beer bellies are hard earned! Show with pride my friend!

  5. I do like that you qualified gaiters for Plain...reinforces my thoughts that I need to try a pair :)

    1. Yes, I'd definitely use them for Plain. there's a time and place, even if it's fashion, lol

    2. Gaiters at Plain are nearly worthless. That satanic dust will get thru any humanly-constructed barrier. Waterproof gaiters over neoprene socks might slow it down.

      Good luck with that. :)

  6. I guess I can use your blog as an excuse when I go shirtless at a race. Does that work for women and men? Does a sportsbra count as a shirt?