Alas, tis true… I’m registered for my first 100-mile ultra marathon – The Badger Mountain 100 in Richland, WA. No, I don’t know why. Well… not entirely….
It’s event that will take 24 hours or more (hopefully less…) to complete. Ironman races take half that time, and even with Uberman where I was out there for multiple days, I had the chance to rest overnight before starting the next leg of the journey. The 24 hours of persistent movement. It’s just something I want to experience.
During Uberman, I watched the sun rise and set in the same day twice in three days – first over the Pacific Ocean then in the Mojave Desert. The experience brought a calm about the endeavor – that I travelled not across a distance, but through the day.
The day of this 100-miler, the sun will rise at 6:52am on race day and set at 7:16pm that evening. I’ll watch the sun begin the day just before we toe the line, then I’ll run all day, and if I’m on pace, I’ll watch it set right around the midway point. Then I’ll go all night and cross the finish line at sunrise on Saturday.
There’s something wildly intriguing about this.
But seriously… why do a 100?
Even before completing my a 50-mile ultra in December 2015, I’ve long had the thought that I wanted to give a 100-miler a shot, so I am.
Three Ironman finishes are pretty satisfying and I’m happily done with those. It’s overwhelming to look over the bike transition area in the early morning hours – 3000 sparkling bikes lit up at 5:00am by flood lights, racked and awaiting the return of their owners, one-by-one, to enter the hamster wheel bike and run courses. The crowds, the congestion, the constant stress about transitions, the 30 pieces of gear – wetsuits, Body Glide, bike pumps, helmets… The cowbells. The music. There was a time all of this was magical for me. And even more, the training is more than I’m willing to bear. That’s why my end to Uberman was so emotional for me. I knew that was it. I was done.
I knocked out three huge swims since 2015 – Alcatraz (2.5 miles), a Tahoe crossing (11 miles) and the Catalina Channel (23.74 miles). I feel pretty damn good about that part of my endurance event portfolio, and I’ve got absolutely no desire to get back in the water. I was at the gym last month to cancel my membership and figured I’d fit in a quick workout. As I walked past the pool to the locker room, I watched a lap swimmer hit the wall and flip back for the next 25 yard length. Then I smelled the chlorine. I thought I was going to vomit. Yep, I think I’m good with swimming for now. (Another good reason to skip Ironman races…)
Cycling has never been my favorite. I like going all out on a flat. I like ascending a big hill even if I climb like an anvil. I like the shorter rides where I’m pushing out intervals and sucking hard for air, but my back always aches by the third hour of a long ride. The best part of a 50, 70, or 90-mile ride is when I hop out of the saddle knowing that I’m done for the day.
I’ve done a few century rides. They’ve taken me to places like Palm Desert, Sonoma and along the Pacific Coast Highway. I’ve biked the Sutter Buttes. While I see the camaraderie in big groups, I’m usually trying to separate from a pace group that seems to be bothering me. Doing the “Death Ride” isn’t on my bucket list. I’d rather Everest if I’m going to put myself through that.
So what’s left?
Running, with all it’s simplicity – lacing up my shoes and heading out for a run. It’s my default. Running is what I couldn’t do before or after knee surgery, and for a time, it’s what I thought would never return to me. It’s what I do when I need to de-stress – I can always run a lap or two around the neighborhood any time of day or night. I can walk out my front door at 5am, turn off my headlamp and run in total darkness along the olive grove with the stars. I can run down the middle of the road because it’s too early for cars. I can stop to watch the sky turn purple, then orange, then yellow with the sunrise over the Sierras.
On the trail, there’s total peace and quiet. No kicks to the face. No blinding white caps. No gear shifts clicking. No mid-pack Ironmanners passing me on mile 79 just because the want to reach the top of the roller first, only to pass them back on the downhill because I weigh more or have a better bike.*
Sure, there’s gear, electronics and nutrition. It’s just that running is the most basic of our human movements – using our legs to move from one place to the next.
During my Uberman training, I spoke with Max Wunderle. Max was the second-youngest person to ever swim around Manhattan Island (28.5 miles at the age of 17). In our conversation, Max asked me why I was doing Uberman, and I couldn’t answer the question. (Heck, I’m still not sure why and it’s been three months since I finished.)
Max told me this:
“You’re doing it because you don’t know if you can.”
Yep, that’s probably right. 100 miles is a long, long way. 24 hours is a long time to be be moving. I might get bored. might get injured. It’s hard damn work just getting to the starting line. It’s just something I need to do, to prove to myself that I’m willing to start… willing to try… willing to see if I can.
* I’ve had phenomenal experiences at my Ironman races, and I wish EVERYONE well that makes an Ironman effort. I know exactly what it takes to get there –training, family, schedule. It’s just not my thing anymore…