Coming to Terms With Reality
I live in Sacramento at 37′ above sea level.
The nearest “mountain” is a thirty minute drive away from my house.
I’m at home with the kids during the day. They’re 2 and 4 years old.
My wife isn’t a “supportive” ultra wife. Eight hours runs on the weekend do not make for a happy home life.
So what in the world makes me think I can train and compete in mountainous ultras?
I’ve had some time to think about my DNF at Headlands Hundred a few weeks ago. As cliche as it is, I’ve turned that negative into a positive by dealing with my reality and adjusting my expectations from this sport I love so much and after the initial realization, I couldn’t be more excited about this new chapter.
It’s first imperative that I address my issues and needs a runner. I’ve been running since I was a kid. Youth track, HS cross country and track, post-collegiately, road, trail, ultra-distance, track, etc.
It’s also in my blood. My folks are both competitive masters runners and my younger sister can and will kick your ass in a road race. When we’re together we talk about running. Roads. Times. Workouts. Trails. Shoes. Races. Family PRs. Beer. You get the idea.
I love to compete. 5k on the road, 12 hour on the track, hundred miler, Strava segments online, 50 miler, half marathon, whatever. Hell, I was racing in the corn maze last weekend (much to my wife’s disgust…”Eric, they’re kids! This is supposed to be FUN!!!”) because the map we were given had a “finish” banner indicating the end. If they don’t want it to be a race, don’t put a finish line!
I never win, but I like to push myself against the clock, others, and myself. As I wrote in my DNF report, dragging myself across a finish line is no fun. I’ve done it and I don’t like it.
Which has led me to the realization that at this point in my life, training and competing in hilly trail ultras just ain’t happening.
I know, I know, there’s more to running than competing, and there’s no one who appreciates a verdant and desolate trail more than I do. Disconnecting from all technology and people and just running like a damn animal in our most primal way is something I love to do and wish I had more opportunity to do.
Instead, I’m focusing on what I can do. I can put in solid bike path miles pushing a stroller. I can do hill workouts in the parking garage. I can do stroller-less runs early in the morning before my wife and kids wake up. I can run local races that don’t have me out all day. I can use my natural running talent to my advantage. I can race and be home by lunch!
So for the next few months I’m dialed in on marathon training. It’s taken me quite awhile to be able to write that, but it feels good to get it out there. Consider this my coming out party.
The thought process goes like this: If I can get in solid marathon shape, I’ll be able to run halfs, marathons, 50ks, occasional 50 milers, and any trail race (while depending on some freakish natural hill ability I got from my German ancestors), be happy as a competitor, a member of my family, and be ready to tweak my training towards longer or shorter events as I see fit.
Yeah, yeah, roads suck. My legs will get hurt. I’ll get injured. Trails are the awesome-est and road runners are wimps. I get it. But I also get the reality that I don’t live in a truck at a trailhead without kids or a wife. I also know what Candice so deftly pointed out in this post that marathons are really freakin’ hard and I don’t feel for a second like I’m whimping out.
I’ve been running for 25 years and have run two road marathons. Both were California International Marathons and though I can’t find the results, I believe my times were 3:29 and 3:07. Or something like that. I’d done a 50k before my first marathon and was in trail shape. My target race right now is Surf City Marathon, 2:55-ish is my goal, and am pretty confident I can get that done. 6:40mpm pace will set me up for great leg speed in trail races and when I find flat ultras (hello? little help here? Where’d they all go?!?), I’ll be able to use that to my advantage.
So will I miss the trails? Of course, but I’ll still be out there. I’m running TNF 50 in December and will be training hard for it. I’m most likely running New Years One Day a few weeks later, but will be focusing most of my effort on shorter events.
My kids have been on some killer rides/runs on training runs over the past few years as I take them offroading in the stroller on the trails near my house and that won’t stop. There’s very little in life that makes me happier than that actually…hitting the trails with my kids while they’re yelling “faster! faster! yay bumps!!!” as I focus on keeping the buggy in control.
So there’s my reality. I’ve faced it. I’m doing what I can to stay happy and competitive and savor my time on the trails and this seems like the best realistic option for me.
Has anyone else tried something like this? Taking moderate ultra fitness and road speed and tried to transfer it to marathon speed…while also keeping up endurance fitness that’ll get me through some planned events. Am I asking for too much?
See you on the trails…err…roads.
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