Monday, March 24, 2014

The 100-Mile Mystique

Today, I announced that once again, I would be training for the 100 mile race held in Huntsville, Texas in January. Once again my wife looked at me with raised eyebrows. I could read her body language, and it was not one of admiration. Howver, she knows me, and she knows that arguing about it will not change my mind, nor cause me to reconsider. Yes, I want to run it. What is the mystique, you ask? Not sure, but maybe this blog will help me understand it myself.

For me, I believe it is all about two things: (1) the training, and (2) the challenge.
For an ultra runner, there's no greater challenge to set a goal, train, and then attempt the feat in which you have placed yourself. It's the same thing for most runners. You have this conversation in your head, you plan it out, you try to imagine the possibilities of succesfully accomplishing your goal, and then you do the ultimate: you sign up. That's where the fun begins.

As far as I know, there are no pre-packaged Hal Higdon training programs to follow. Not many people have run a hundred mile race, so there's not the usual chatter at the water cooler, listening to someone's tale about how they suffered through their latest 100-mile race. There are some individual blogs and training articles addressing the event, but they are as different as day and night. Some people advocate 120 mile weeks, some advocate running three times a day, while others say do massive back to back long runs.

Largely, it is up to the runner to discover the best plan for themselves, and sometimes, that includes a trial run. Most people fail their first time out, and then, through all the experiences of the training process, and the failed attempt, you learn.

So, for me, I have learned what kind of training works best for me, and I'm constantly trying to improve in certain areas. Train too hard and you might injure yourself. Train too lightly, and you won't have the strength and endurance to finish. There are also a number of other challenges that must be overcome: (1) proper hydration: how much to drink, what to drink, and how to carry it with you...for the next 24-30 hours.
(2) Food: what to eat, how many calories to consume to keep energy levels up for the event. Some of the big questions are: what will my stomach endure,or won't endure.
(3) The weather: how to deal with rain, wind, snow, heat, cold, for a period of 24-30 hours of running in the elements.
(4) the Mental side: how to cope with long hours or running, the pain, the loneliness of running at night, and other factors.
(5) strength and fitness: will my body endure the punishment of pounding the ground for the duration of the race?

There are many other concerns and factors that need to be learned in order to complete this race, so there lies the challenge, and the mystique. How far can one go? What are the limits? How do I train to accomplish this taks? Those are the questions that I ask myself as I gear up for another run at the 100 mile distance.

Although it is a constant challenge and learning experience, I revel in the process, and can't wait to hit that trail again. The training starts today, and I'm looking forward to it.

See you on the trails,

Dr. Jerry Hollingsworth