Month 6 Analysis: 1 Marathon, 1 50 Mile Ultramarathon and a whole bunch of running in between

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Month 6 was a grind. I ran a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Coming from a guy who loves the weight room and excels in the physical, quick hitting nature of fast twitch sports, running that much was far outside my typical comfortability.

Last month I ran a lot as well but in a training setting, whereas this month, I had 2 actual races: My first marathon, and my first ultramarathon, both together equaling as many miles as I put in ALL last month (76 miles).

Crazy, yes. Stupid, maybe. Necessary, I think so.

My 365daychallenge goal is to become an expert in grit, and consistency. Putting your body in a lot of discomfort, consistently, but finding ways to adapt and achieve, is what I sought out to do. I would say for this month especially, mission accomplished.

I definitely underestimated the pain I would endure by trying to complete such large challenges on such short notice however.

I’ve really only been running for 7 weeks. That’s a very short period of time in the grand scheme of marathons, let alone ultramarathons – which by the way, is anything longer than marathon distance, 26.2 miles. And I didn’t just choose a mini ultramarathon that was 5 km longer than a traditional marathon, I chose a 50 miler! Which is equivalent to basically back-to-back marathons.

And this is where the story begins.

Chapter 1 – “Get ready to suffer”

When I let a friend of mine, who is a well-accomplished runner, know about my 50 mile ultra she texted me, “get ready to suffer”. And she wasn’t wrong.

My marathon in early May was tough; my feet hurt, my body was in pain, but I ran the whole thing. I didn’t cramp, I didn’t feel sick, and I was back running 3 days later. Not the best post marathon feeling of all time, but considering 13 miles was the longest distance I had ever ran prior to my marathon, and with only 4 weeks of training, my time and healing was considered pretty good.

Chapter 2 – “Post-marathon”

The post marathon scene is actually quite humorous. It looks like a mini-war zone. 200 people limping their way to massage tables, eating anything they can get their hands on. I was no different. After my massage and food intake, I hobbled my way to my car which was parked WAAAAY too far away (bless my mom and dad who couldn’t find a closer spot to park) but I was incredibly grateful to have their support waiting for me at the end of the run nonetheless, so I can’t complain.

Post marathon, I biked for a couple of days to get my feet back under me, and alleviate as much pain as possible. Thankfully the pain didn’t last too long, and I was back out running some decent distances by the following Wednesday.

I really had no choice either. I was set to run back-to-back marathons – which is labeled an ultramarathon – May 26th, 20 days post marathon. A proper tapering is around 3 weeks prior to your event. But due to my condensed timing, I was forced to put some decent miles in very close to my ultra. I needed to get in a couple decently long trail runs prior to my ultra, as I had yet to experience trail running even once in in my life. Nothing like saving it for the last minute.

Chapter 3 – “Fun, yes. Enjoyable, no.”

Running for me has been bitter sweet. It’s been fun to get back on the road or trail and just pick up and go for 10-12 miles at a time, embracing the peaceful nature running offers. But with that, due to my very intense and short period of running thus far, a lot of pain has been connected to my runs, mostly in my feet.

Besides the less than ideal discomfort, my body felt relatively strong and prepared for my ultra. Granted the longest I’d ever run consecutively was my 26.2 mile marathon 3 weeks prior, and anything past that would be a personal best and unknown territory, I still felt like I was going In with fewer aches and pains than pre-marathon, and I was mentally prepared to battle for 10 plus hours.

Chapter 4 – “Prepare for unfamiliar territory”

With a lot of sports, you can make your training harder than your actual event. With ultrarunning, it’s a bit difficult as there is a tapering process where you need to get the body back to as close to full strength as possible roughly 2-3 weeks prior to the run, which means shorter distances of running to prevent any strain. And you rarely run 50-100 miles in one go as part of your training. If anything, you pound miles and miles throughout months of training on your feet and legs to get them as comfortable as possible with running for hours on end. And hopefully this equates to a somewhat manageable experience at your event.

So with that being said, there is a ton of uncertainty in clocking miles your body has infrequently or in some cases, never endured before all in one go. I was planning on running 10 hours minimum in this ultra, with my longest previous experience being only 4 hours straight. That’s a huge difference and that capriciousness is something to take very seriously.

Chapter 5 – “Finally, competition once again!”

Month 6 afforded me my first competition in sport since wrestling in University over 2 years ago! And I was ecstatic to be back.

Competing with others, and in this case this time around, competing more with myself.

Competition always gives you an insight into who you are at your core that only competition like this will do. The mental and physical daily grind is one thing, but the actual event, where there’s no turning back, and no “I’ll take it easy today”, changes how to view obstacles and how you approach life.

Your perspective changes and the challenges and tough times you once viewed as tiresome or difficult, begin to look much less daunting. It’s a beautiful thing that more of us need to allow ourselves to experience.

By not testing ourselves to new heights, people’s lives gets harder because what they choose to experience is more comfortable by the day. Comfort doesn’t teach you about yourself. It tells you what you already know. Challenges however make you problem solve, persevere, apply grit to the highest level, and stimulate your body and mind. These are the characteristics that build you into a more durable, productive individual.

Chapter 6 – “The Run”

The 50 mile run itself was a little taste of hell.

Like I foreshadowed earlier, this run was far outside my wheel house this early into my training. But, I purposefully signed up for events that would test me to extremes both mentally and physically, and this race did not disappoint.

The course was broken into four 20 km loops. For a total of 80 km or 50 miles.

Chapter 7 – “Loop 1 – 20 km -12:5 Miles in”

The first loop was strong. My body felt great, my pace was controlled, and I was learning how to run the trail with more intelligence and finesse.

Chapter 8 – “Loop 2 – 40 km – 25 miles in”

My second loop fortunately still felt solid. I ran all the parts that were runnable aka those not on a steep incline, and I felt like I fueled my body appropriately. Though my pace slowed, which was expected, I felt comfortable going into the third loop.

Chapter 9 – “Loop 3 – 60 km – 37.5 Miles in”

The third loop however hit me fast. I felt my pace drastically start slowing about half way into this loop, much like my pace did in the second half of my marathon 3 weeks prior, only difference this time around, was that my pace was slowing after 30 somewhat miles, which means this time 3 weeks ago I was done running.

Nearing the end of my third loop, my legs were moving with little urgency; the breaks became more frequent and my vigour drastically declined.

The unfamiliar nature of this distance had hit me. My lack of education in terms of no electrolytes, and lack of salt intake affected my body in a major way. I started to cramp in my left leg. The cramping was not a physical sign of weakness, it was more so the body telling me I lacked the proper fuel, and nutrients to keep a solid running pace. It was an unfortunate scenario, as I still had some work to put in.

Chapter 10 – “Loop 4 – Final Loop – 80 km – 50 Miles”

Before starting my fourth loop, I grabbed my roller to reduce tightness in my leg, knowing it would definitely be needed during the final 12.5 miles. As I came into my fourth loop, my legs were gone. I had a cramp all the way up from the left hamstring up to my left gluteus medius.

As much as I tried pushing through, each time I tried to run, I began to aggravate my left side even more. Walking even became a point of pain, where every step I would feel a sharp tightness in my feet and left side of my leg. I mentally accepted this and committed to a long final loop. It was the longest 12.5 miles of my life. 4.5 hours of slow jogging and mostly walking with a cramp. Not fun. But I got through it.

As I came around the final bend, I pushed my body to resemble a slow jog. My legs were probably barely moving any faster than walking pace, but my hands moved as if I were still running. My parents were once again there to cheer me in.

Chapter 11 – “I’m officially an Ultra runner”

After 12:35:07, my body was in some pain to say the least. But I was officially done, and I had completed a 50 mile ultra. I ranked 70/141 participants.

Chapter 12 – “I’ll enjoy this moment…before I have to do it again”

As I pulled my shoes off, the top of my feet had swollen, my tops were covered in soars and a few of my toes naturally had some sexy blisters attached to them. As my mom and dad pulled around the car, I laid on the grass in discomfort. But I was also very content. It’s a weird feeling. You’ve just put yourself through so much pain, voluntarily mind you, and a pain you can’t really prepare yourself for, and now it’s all done. Back to do it again in a couple of months.

A hot bath and meal later, and I was in bed, 4 days way from calling month 6 a wrap.

~

As much pain as I went through in my run, which there was no shortage of during the 12:35:07 that I was on the trail, it was all worth it, like challenging yourself always is in a weird sort of way. The confidence I took from that run is unmatchable and something that will keep all life’s problems in perspective.

This is why I keep doing what I do. It’s the reason I’ll train when I don’t feel like training, and it’s the reason I commit to unfamiliar, inevitable painful experiences; they make you stronger, grittier, and more productive in other areas of your life.

When you lack self-confidence in yourself, it’s very difficult to live a genuinely comfortable life. That’s why it’s so important to force yourself into these situations, where you are forced to grow, forced to fight, and forced to develop confidence in the person you are becoming.

Challenge others to think bigger...
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