Friday, April 26, 2013

Running on Salt

Well, this one should be short.
Have you ever pushed yourself to the limit of what you think you can do physically?
Most people have no idea what they are capable of.  They haven't pushed themselves to their limit.  Limits obviously differ for everyone.  Our limits are different at different times.  Training, mindset, perseverance, all play a role in how far we can go.  As far as running goes, for some people their limit is a 5K, they can't fathom running a 10K, let alone a marathon.  For a lot of runners, the marathon is the ultimate goal.
I used to work with an Engineer that ran in the US Olympic Marathon Trials.  He was fast, very fast.  His speed made my "speed" seem positively pedestrian, and it is.
After he found out I ran my first 100 mile race, the guy was in awe of me doing something like that.  He was floored.  His comment was "I can't imagine running one step beyond 26.2".
Well, I found out today what my limit was for today.  Last week I wrote about my experience running the Zion 100.  To recap, I had an absolute blast.  Probably the most fun I've ever had running 100 miles.  I ran within myself, didn't push, and felt great the entire time.
The week after I ran Zion, I did no running at all.  I got a massage, ate, and sat on my butt.  Recovery time.
By Wednesday, I felt good to go.  No residual soreness, the legs felt ready to have a go at another 100 mile race.  Two in two weeks, back to backs, one right after the other.  I knew of a couple others that had recently done the same thing.  They were my age, if they could do it, by golly, so could I.  I had announced to a lot of people my intention.  Maybe I shouldn't have.  Oh well.
But Thursday I had a bombshell dropped on me.  I lost my job.  Yep, unemployed.  It's not the first time this has happened, but it's still a shock to the system.  BTW, anyone looking for a good Manufacturing or Process Engineer?  I'm your guy.  Lean, Safety, Product Compliance, Quality, I can do it all.
Needless to say, Thursday night was not a good night for sleep.  Not only that, but all of the sudden, my head wasn't in the game.  I seriously thought about just bagging the race and staying home.  But all I would have done is fret and worry.  Instead, I finally got up early and headed out to Wendover, UT for the race.  I figured that a good long run would allow me to think, sort things out, maybe even come to some conclusions on what to do next with my life.
Race day was gorgeous.  Not a cloud in the sky, temps around 40 at the start warming up to the low 70's.  Perfect (for me) running weather.
I toed the line at at 7am, we (all 46 of us) took off across the salt flats.  Keep in mind, the first 13 miles of the race were on six feet of salt.  Flat as your tabletop surface, hard, interesting.  You could look around at the nearby mountains without worrying about taking a header on a rock.
I chatted with a few friends during this time, but after awhile, the field spread out and I was by myself.  Time to think.  And I did, but not too hard.  I was here to have another good time running 100 miles.  And I did......for awhile......for about six hours.
My running was easy, much easier than last year when I ran the same race.  Roughly a 10 minute pace for the first 22 miles and the third aid station.  Yeah, that's a lot of non-stop running if you're planning on completing a 100.  No climbing up hills, just flat running.
Things went great for those first 22 miles.  Indeed, they went great for the first 30 miles.  I was running easy, trying to keep my pace down.
Didn't matter, my running came to a grinding halt at about 30 miles.  I ended up walking a mile to the next aid station.  My legs hurt.  I felt like I had already run about 70 miles on them and I still had 70 miles to go.  My  toes hurt.  I bruised them at Zion, and they weren't healed.  Toenails were hitting the underside of the shoe uppers and it hurt.  I had to curl them to keep them from doing that.
Up to this point, I had been having fun.  I was well hydrated, well fed (think grilled cheese with bacon at one aid station).  My mood was good, it was a great day.
When I got to the aid station at 31 miles, I sat down to think and evaluate my options.  I was looking at a very, very remote 20 miles coming up.  If I dropped at the aid station out there, I wasn't getting back until the next day.
My legs and toes were telling me I had reached my limit for today.  That was it, there was no more.  Could I have walked?  Sure, but it wouldn't have been fun, and I do this stuff because it's fun, not because I have to.
So I made the fairly easy decision to drop.  I was still in a good mood, I still felt good except that my legs and toes were very sore and tired.  I actually enjoyed sitting in the sun while waiting for a ride back to the start.
After I got back, I drove into town and pigged out at McDonald's.  Yeah, I like to do that sometimes.  The food is always consistently mediocre, but that's fine. 
So, what's your limit?  Has it changed over the years?
Sorry there's no race pictures.  I didn't take any this year.  If you want to see what the course looks like, check out my last year's race report here.  It hasn't changed any from last year.
However, here's a picture of my two grandchildren because they're so stinkin cute.


  1. Sorry about your DNF, Jim. It sounds like you made the right decision. Some days are like that. Rest up and you will be running strong soon. I'm sorry about your job also. I hope you find the perfect job that makes you happy. :)

  2. sorry to hear about your job. But great job getting to the starting line anyway and making it thirty miles. Now I will start hoping and hoping and hoping that this job situation does not affect the Buffalo run.

  3. Sorry to hear about your job. And sorry the race didn't work out for you, but 30 miles one week after a 100 miler is more than impressive!

  4. You are a warrior, you won't be out of job for long......the DNF is meaningless in the whole big picture. Maybe you should rent your expertise as a Brewmaster--the Ginger Beer was awesome!