I registered for my first ultra marathon today, the Run Woodstock 50M. My wife thinks I'm nuts, most of my friends have given up on me, and I'm pretty sure that my brother is trying to take a life insurance policy out on me.
So as I sit here looking at the training plan I got from Scrunners.org, I find myself trying to find the exact point where I lost my grip on my sanity. I ran track in high school, but I was no super star. I was much more interested in pretending I had a chance with the cheerleaders than to put in the training needed to be a real runner.
In the early 2000's I did a couple of sprint triathlons, and ended the 2002 season with the Detroit marathon. My 5:05:00 finish was enough for me at the time and I had no desire to continue training. After the marathon, I let my running legs grow weak and let my gut grow bigger. My life became pretty sedentary for several years. I may not have been healthy but I was sane.
The Muddy Buddy
Then in 2007, my cousin, Don, asked if I wanted to run in the 2008 Muddy Buddy Chicago with him. I read the description of the race (a six mile race leap frogging running and walking), and thought "heck, why not? I used to run in high school so I can do this." Boy was I in for a rude awakening. I highly underestimated this race. You can read my short write up here, but to sum it up, Muddy Buddy kicked my ass.
At this point, someone a little more sane may have thrown in the towel and said, "FU Muddy Buddy! I'm going back to my friends, Ben and Jerry. But something in me snapped that day. Somewhere between fighting for breath while biking up that last hill and struggling to keep myself from swallowing too much mud, my grip on sanity began to slip.
I left that day with the resolve that I would return in 2009 and force a rematch. It wasn't the other runners that I was gearing for but that damn course. There was no way I was going to let 6 miles of dirt and mud get the best of me. I guess the vendetta I had against the Earth should have been a red flag that I was starting to lose it. But I thought nothing of it. Instead I went home and started mountain biking and trail running every chance I got.
Early in 2009 I found out that Muddy Buddy was coming to Michigan a month before the Chicago one. This would give me a good practice run before facing my opponent in Illinois. After conning, I mean convincing a friend of mine to do the Michigan race with me, we trained for several months for the race. You can read about the race here if you want, but the short version is that we did a decent job and I finished the race feeling pretty good.
In much better shape and feeling pretty confident I packed up my family and headed to face the bastard that humiliated me the year before. Although our time was worse than the year before, I felt great after the race. The Muddy Buddy did not win this round. The write up can be found here.
So the humiliation of 2008 was avenged and I was in the best shape of my adult life. At this point a sane person might have relaxed and enjoyed the spoils of war, but there was now a hunger in me that was not yet satiated.
Bump and Run
It was early 2010 when another friend told me about the Muddy Watters Bump and Run trail series. It was a small local race that promised to be challenging and muddy (apparently it's possible to become addicted to mud) so I signed up for the May 2010 race. I continued my trail running and thought I would actually have a chance of doing well on this race. Once again I underestimated the race and had my ass served to me on a plate, this time I was given a side order of poison ivy. Read all about it here.
Once again, getting beat down by a race infuriated and invigorated me. I would not be beat by this race again. As soon as I got home I signed up for the July race and up'ed my training regimen. By throwing in some strength training and doing burpies at every mile during my run I got stronger and stronger. By the time the July race came, I felt good. I got a group of friends to run this race with me this time. I started off the race great but ended up missing a marker and got lost, adding a couple miles to the race and got poison ivy AGAIN! The race write up is here.
"Enough of this bullshit", I thought and signed up for the October Cider Slam. This time I continued the extreme training but I got smarter and started training in the same park as the race. I was not going to get lost again. On race day, even though we had to run this one in costume, I did not get lost and did not get poison ivy. Read all about it.
So there I was, I have beaten the Muddy Buddy, I have beaten the Bump and Run now it's time to relax right? Of course not. During the summer of 2010 my insanity seemed to take on a life of it's own.
I spent hours looking for more races to do. I read about the Warrior Dash and signed up for the Michigan 2011 event (look for a write up in July). It doesn't seem to be too hard (how many of you are seeing a "pattern of underestimating"). After signing up for the Warrior Dash, my Muddy Buddy cousin let me know about the Tough Mudder. When I read about this race the insanity in me flexed in excitement and before I could regain control I found myself registering for the race.
Since I couldn't reign in my insanity I thought I could at least try to stop underestimating the races. I have bumped up my strength training and running schedules and every month I'm stronger and faster than the last. So when a friend asked me to join her and her sister for the Flying Pig marathon, I jumped at the offer. It sounded like fun.
I didn't really think this one through either. Apparently a marathon in the beginning of May means training in Michigan winter. Since I refuse to run a single mile on the treadmill, this meant several runs in single digit weather, dealing with snow storms and icy roads.
Now I'm one week from the marathon and running a short taper run when I hear the whispers in my head.
What are you going to run after the marathon? You have all summer to train, what are you going to do? Not another marathon, you're already doing one of those. You need something harder. Harder than the Tough Mudder and a marathon combined. Hey how about one of those ultra's you're always reading about? Sure you can do a 50k but that's only 6 miles more than the marathon. Do you really think that's tough enough. Hey how about a 50 mile race. That sounds pretty fun. It shouldn't be too hard. Heck you're half way there already.
So before I knew it, I was registered for the Run Woodstock 50 mile. I can't help but wonder where the insanity is going to end. A 100 mile, Hardrock, Badwater, Athens Ultra Fest? There is no telling where I'll end up, but I'll make sure to keep you all posted on my spiral to the dark side. Hopefully I'll even drag a few of you there with me.