I’m thinking about getting back into ultrarunning.
A dozen times a year, I’ll be following a race on iRunFar – be it UTMB, Hardrock, Western, whatever. And I’ll wish I were there, running. I’ve never done any of those races – don’t even know the courses. But I feel as if I’ve been to each before. When I initially became interested in the sport, I wanted to run Leadville, because that’s what I grew up reading about as a high school runner. I thought I’d run Leadville once and then move on to something else.
But now I know there’s so much more to the sport. And there’s an itch to do more.
I’ve got a decent bucket list of races I’d like to do: UTMB, Western, Rocky Raccoon, Cavalls de Vent, Tahoe Rim Trail, Vermont, the Canadian Death Race, Pine to Palm, Comrades, Thunder Rock, Miwok. And the list of cool races grows longer by the year. It’s easy to get excited when you’re at home at the computer planning your schedule.
Until you remember how much time, energy, and money you have to put in to get there.
While I love running and I love the ultrarunning community, I don’t want the sport to consume my life. When I ran ultras before, it not only took up too much of my time running, it took up too much of my psychic energy when I wasn’t out on the trails. I was almost always thinking about ultrarunning – checking blogs, obsessing over times and splits and nutrition. It got to the point where I struggled to focus on anything other than running. Running was an escape, and I was constantly escaping. My work product suffered; my relationships suffered. Things that I used to care about, such as music and writing, faded into the background.
I want to be an ultrarunner again, but only if I can do it without having it define who I am. My life is healthier and more balanced now – I don’t need an escape. I have my own law practice. Unlike at the old law firm, I can’t just tune out and let someone else handle the workload. My success is my own responsibility (I suppose that was always true, but the truth now has more immediate consequences). I don’t want the love of running to overwhelm my other professional or personal passions. If I feel as if it’s getting to that point, I’m going to pull back.
For now, I’m not committing to anything. I’m trying to pick up my volume of running and tough hiking. My training philosophy for ultras is to get as many runs of 80 minutes or more in as possible, building up to three-hour runs and then a handful of back-to-back long runs (four to seven hours). I’m still struggling to manage 80 to 100 minute runs consistently. But I'm seeing incremental growth and small milestones.
In early February, if my body handles the training well, and I’m still feeling motivated, I think I’m going to sign up for the Zion 100 in April. It’s only 12 weeks away. That’s not much time to go from not-that-fit to 100-mile ready. But if I handle the training right, 12 weeks should be enough time.
If I do it, my plan is to go without a watch, without splits, and with no expectations or goals other than to have a great day outside and to finish. The course looks inspiring, and I'd love a long day out there. Not sure if I’ll get there or not, but I’m ok with however it works out. I’m excited to see how it all unfolds.