Arbitrary Goals

The “time” just provides a framework to allow you to get to a place where it’s going to be hard. If you just did it casually, it would be much more comfortable, and I don’t think it would be as transformative or profound, on a personal level.

So, I use the “time” as a beacon, or a motivator—whatever you want to call it—not to break a record, but more like if you challenge this time, it’s going to get you to a place where it’s going to be uncomfortable and hard and … you’re going to learn something.

Really loved that bit of Joe Grant’s Nolan’s 14 interview. It captured one reason a lot of my hikes turn out the way they do. I like being outdoors and have a few regular haunts. But sometimes I can’t talk myself into getting out until I have a “gimmick”, I call it. Some silly goal. Can I do 40 miles in a day? What’s it like to hike an all-nighter? Can I cover X distance in Y hours… with no running allowed? What if I hiked the same 3-mile loop until I lost my mind? So I put myself in these odd situations, and at times I’ve found myself 20 miles out from the trailhead, thinking, “Well, 20 miles to get back home. The only way home is to put the hours in… so might as well get on with it.” I go through all these emotional roller coasters and eventually there’s a certain peace that comes along, but only after I’ve really stretched.

A Hole

A while back I went trailrunning with an old friend. We went off trail at one point and cut through the woods toward nowhere in particular, toward wherever we would end up. We came across a hole in the ground. Holes are inherently interesting – something missing, a ready-made mystery, and you can fill them up with whatever stories you want.

We hauled up a long branch and eased it down the hole ’til we hit bottom. We marked the spot at surface level and drew it up again, like we were checking the oil. We stretched out on the ground next to the branch to measure it out. Six feet plus five-and-a-half plus, oh, maybe three-and-half. We had ourselves a fifteen foot hole, maybe two feet wide, and no explanation. Didn’t need one.

We dropped a pine cone down and listened for it to hit bottom. It took a while. I thought about dropping in, just to scare myself a little. I think I could have gotten back out. Pretty sure. Probably. As long as the mossy sides weren’t too slick. I wondered what reception was like down there.

Is the sub-2 hour marathon imminent? Don’t hold your breath, and here’s why | The Science of Sport

So a man who runs a 59-min half marathon will not be able to sustain two back-to-back 60 min half marathons. It’s just not possible. And so therefore, before we can even consider the sub-2 hour marathon, we need to look at the ability over the half marathon. Until humans can run a half-marathon in under 58-minutes (and here, I’m talking low-57), it will not be possible to produce 59:59 twice in a marathon.

And that can be taken one step further, to 10km. If you are going to see a 57:x half marathon, then you should also be seeing a 10km that is substantially faster than the current 26:x. The 10km performance required to run a 57 is probably in the high 25s.

I’d never considered that. We may get there, but sounds further away than I thought it would be.

Is the sub-2 hour marathon imminent? Don’t hold your breath, and here’s why | The Science of Sport

Gannet & The Grand: A Wyoming Whirlwind Tour | The Ultimate Direction Buzz

On speed in the outdoors (after summiting Gannett Peak in 9 hours):

I used to be of the opinion that speed isn’t important. And, in an absolute sense, I don’t think it is. In a relative sense, however, I think that one’s speed does matter. This is because–relative to one’s innate ability–striving to operate as close to that ability as possible requires a level of commitment to the craft and presence in the moment that I have yet to achieve by other means. For instance, because I wanted to move quickly when climbing Gannet (or any mountain), I made a point to study the map carefully, read other trip reports, solicit advice from friends who had already made the outing. Not to mention spending countless hours in the mountains building skill and fitness (and having fun!). Without the impetus of speed I would’ve undoubtedly taken a more lackadaisical approach that likely would’ve left me irresponsibly underprepared, with less respect for the mountain, and, ultimately, less connected to both the landscape and the community of enthusiasts who venture into this gem of a mountain range. Going fast requires–above all else–paying attention, and achieving that fleeting measure of grace where my effort and abilities are meshed perfectly with the challenge is a huge motivating factor in what I do. I find that this practice of paying attention is one of the more instructive and valuable takeaways that a trip to the mountains offers me. Plus, I’m just really inspired by wild landscapes.

Gannet & The Grand: A Wyoming Whirlwind Tour | The Ultimate Direction Buzz

Missing the Point | RyanHoliday.net

Getting up and going for a run everyday doesn’t need to be “justified” a few months later by competing to finish an arbitrary number of miles in a certain amount of time against a bunch of other unhappy losers. No, you run because keeping a healthy body and clear mind is part of your job as a human being. Because its a commitment you made to yourself that you’re obligated to keep no matter how tired, how busy or how burn out you feel. In other words, it’s practice—proof of your ability—in always having a little bit extra in you.

Missing the Point | RyanHoliday.net

When it’s midnight and it’s raining and you’re on the steepest hill you’ve ever climbed and you’re bleeding from briars and you’re alone and you’ve been alone for hours, it’s only you around to witness yourself quit or continue.

The Believer – The Immortal Horizon. One reason I “enjoy” long days hiking.

SweetH2O 50K 2011 Race Report, or How to Run an Ultramarathon with Only Three Weeks’ Training*

New favorite t-shirt
I had talked about doing the SweetH2O 50K for the previous 4 years, pretty much since it first started. I’d put it on the That Would Be Cool to Do list every year, and when springtime rolled around I’d forget about it/chicken out/go traveling/kick myself for not registering. After a nice wake-up conversation with a friend, I decided it was time to put up or shut up. This would be my first ultra… and my first marathon**, technically.

“Training”
Emphasis on the air quotes. I’d been out for a long (~30M) hike/trailrun about a month before the race, but that’s somewhat typical for me a long day in the mountains. I took my time, took lots of breaks, and didn’t really think of it as a training. I didn’t even remember the 50K was coming up until about a week later. I registered on March 23. The race was set for April 16. Between those two dates I did a grand total of 26.5 miles of running, which I now find funny/brilliant/lucky but at the time had me a bit panicky. I figured I was pretty much screwed overall fitness-wise, so I focused on hill-climbing runs, keeping the core muscles in tune (situps, pushups, planks, various leg raises, etc. etc.), and lots of stretching. I’m lucky I’m young and resilient. Next time, it would be wise to plan ahead and take it a bit more seriously.

Highlights from the Race

  • Being so nervous at the starting line that I had to leave the pack and face the opposite direction before the gun fired. And then I was fine.
  • Settling in at the very back of the pack, where I knew I belonged, for the for few miles with a couple other guys also running their first ultras.
  • Ridiculously beautiful morning weather! Perfect.
  • A giddy, loopy, ridiculously fun runner’s high/ Transcendental Experience of the Union of All Things from ~8-12M.
  • Tripping and falling into a creek at the ~16-mile mark. Soaked from neck down.
  • Passing people. I’m human.
  • Drinking a nice cold Mama’s Little Yella Pils at ~22M. Aid stations rule.
  • Metabolic crash into my own personal hell at ~24-27M. This was a dark place, a highlight only in hindsight.
  • Finishing in 7:47 (#141/250) and not feeling all that bad.
  • My awesome new shirt and hat.

Philosophical Observation
One part of the race route (a giant loop, run twice) is an out-and-back spur to an aid station. This is a maybe 2-mile round trip where you have runners going both directions. The brilliance of the course layout is this spur comes after a nasty section of just brutal hills, and the second time you run the spur is right around the marathon mark, i.e. when it’s hot and you’re crashing. But this is also the only time you cross paths with your fellow runners. And the thing is, everybody is cheering everyone else when they pass by. “Good job. Keep it up. Stay strong. Not much further. Looking good. You’ve got this. Doing great.” I don’t want to get too hippie-dippie about it, but it is amazing how much these platitudes can lift you up, and how quickly I fell into saying them, too. And when you remember that they’re coming from people who are every bit as tired, sore, thirsty as you are and just as likely to be in their own hellish mental state… there’s something special there. You feel grateful to be out there, struggling, but supported and somehow maybe saying something another person needs to hear. Life lesson.

In Conclusion
Now that I finally gave myself a chance, I think I’m hooked. Next stop, 50M.


*Misleading title. Please don’t follow my advice.
**I have little to no interest in road marathons, unless I hear about a really amazing course somewhere.