Your First Ultra Marathon. My First 100 Mile Race. Why?

by | Jul 13, 2018

“What’s your weekly mileage?”

“Are you ready?

“It’s going to take how long?”

Why would you ever do that to your body?”

“I could never do that.”

Not enough. Probably not. At least a whole day. It’s not about what happens to my body. Yes, you could.

I dove into the ultrarunning community when I signed up for a 50-mile race (having never ran more than 10 miles), ‘loved it’, and launched Wicked Trail Running. Once I crossed the finish line of that first ultra marathon, my eyes were opened. What seemed like a super-human feat, once impossible, was now behind me.

What else can I do?

Look at those people. They’re going to do 50 more miles!

I’d caught something. My understanding of challenge the way I interpreted the world around me had been permanently altered. I had a burning desire for more.

We’re going to give you the tools to Go Farther, Run Faster, and Live Stronger.

All in ONE weekly email!
Sign up NOW to receive weekly posts!

 

With only two weeks until the day of my first 100 mile race, it honestly doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’ve spent so much time thinking about it on my own terms, I don’t often stop to think about how others think of such a feat, such an adventure, and how I once thought of it. And how I’m actually going to run 100 miles in a few weeks. [Update: its done. Read about it.]

I once thought marathon runners were crazy, let alone ultra marathoners. What’s the point? Why do people run races of 100 miles?

I now look at it another way:

Why aren’t more people jumping on board and running an ultra marathon? Is it dangerous to explore one’s mind, one’s capabilities? Is it abnormal to push the limits to see if a person has what it takes?

I wanted to see if I had what it takes…

On April 7 2018, the day of my first ultra marathon, it rained for 12 hours and the temperature stayed well below 45 degrees. It turns out a windbreaker can’t cut it as a rain jacket; I was soaked by mile 20. With only two spare shirts, I had to be careful. I had to keep moving.

I was completely unprepared for the type of clothing the weather necessitated. I walked about 10 of the last twelve miles, peed on my own hands multiple times to warm them up, and refused to take hand warmers because I knew the 100-mile runners would need them much more than I did in a few hours, when the sun went down. The last lap of the 12.5 mile course was the most difficult; I was chilled to the bone wearing only a long sleeve polyester shirt (soaked) under a veil of a windbreaker (more soaked) and running shorts in 45 degree rainy weather. I had been running for over 8 hours. To further my physical deterioration, I had attempted to dry off at the last aid station and had wiped all the BodyGlide off of my nipples. They were now chaffed raw.

Discomfort was a mild description.

With all this discomfort and cold and rain, my mind never left me. I was never distraught. I was never in a place of fear or regret. I sang stupid songs in my head and out loud as I limped along, my fingers gripping my shirt to prevent it from further chaffing my nipples. I peed on my hands to warm them up and kept my mind on the next aid station and eventually, the finish line. I had a “Why?” -a purpose- and that warmed the embers within me. I never thought I wouldn’t finish.

This run was just another hill…

While my clothing choices left much to desire, physically I was decently prepared; I finished in 10 hours 41 minutes and 26 seconds, a time that is burned in my mind. That’s about a 12:49/mile pace. Not bad for a first ultra marathon only weeks after my first marathon. Mentally, I was where I needed to be. I didn’t get frustrated or upset, I had positive thoughts the entire time, and I finished with a smile and a deep breath of relief.

Now, in early July, I am only weeks away from the most physically demanding challenge of my life; I feel similar to how I felt for the Umstead 50. Only this time, I must repeat the distance back to back at the Burning River 100 in Cleveland, Ohio.

This is my first of what I hope to be many 100-mile races.

And if someone asked me today “Are you ready?” my answer would be: “I have no idea.”

Because I don’t. I have no idea. Can a person ever proclaim that he is ready to run for 24+ hours having only ever run for just under 11 hours? At what point is pain just pain and it doesn’t get worse? What mile will be the hardest? Will the mild elevation changes of Northeast Ohio play to my advantage, or is it still enough to dismantle my legs? Does anyone have an advantage in his or her first 100 mile ultramarathon? What exactly does it feel like at mile 70, 80, or 90?

I think when people first set their eyes upon 100 miles, these are the questions they ask. I haven’t talked to many people about their first 100-miler experiences because frankly, I never thought the experiences of others mattered much. Its 100 miles; suck it up and keep moving.

But now, as I stare down the barrel of one long run, I’m listening to others’ experiences. Did you have doubts? What was your peak weekly mileage? Was there any moment of the race you thought you’d throw in the towel? What was the hardest part? Is it really all in your mind? (Turns out: YES)

I’m sharing my thoughts for other would-be 100-mile-runners.

As I prepare to tackle this Wicked Trail, I feel calm. Either I have trained enough, or I have not; its too late to try and catch up. I genuinely don’t think the training matters after a certain point, unless the podium is your goal. I believe it really is all in your head and I think anyone reading this could traverse 100 miles in 24 hours (or so).

Yes, even you.

This is why I’m doing it; I’m not a great athlete, I had never run an official race until four months ago. But does it matter? When the race clock hits 24 hours at 4 AM on July 29 and the morning darkness is thick and the air chilly in Cleveland, everyone on the trail will be exhausted. Everyone. Time, distance, and dark will leave everyone in the same shoes, not realistically capable of continuing. But we’ll remember the first ultramarathon we ever signed up for because, quite honestly, that probably wasn’t realistic either.

And so, we’ll run on…

Training for this 100-miler did not go according to plan. I have battled Achilles, hip, and foot issues all on the right side of my body due to running and non-running activities. My peak mileage was never where I wanted it to be and last month I adopted a “healthy not ready” mindset that I would take my body to the starting line healthy and simply put one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish line. This decision gave me peace; I was no longer racing a clock to squeeze mileage in. I was preparing my mind and body in a way that carried no anxiety or hurry.

Stretch more, run less, and lots of lunges became my approach.

But again, does preparation really matter that much? Yes, and no.

It is essential to prepare to a point of confidence in oneself. Do not misunderstand me; I have done 50 miles and have continued to strengthen, run, and stretch in preparation for the 100. But I am not anxious about my lower-than-planned mileage and my handful of hiccups with lower body strains.

I am ready. Even if my training log doesn’t say so.

And you are too, you would-be-100-mile-runner reading this. Or you who would embark on your first ultra marathon.

Just show up to the starting line and start running. It will end, and the pain will pass. It will be worth it. As the pain passes by, something will be left…

A hardened man or woman who just traversed 100 miles. A person who can shut the voices off and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Over and over again. Regardless of circumstance.

Anything life can throw at you, any hill that rises in front of you, will be easier after your first ultra marathon. Its more than just a belt buckle and a great set of finish line photos for Instagram.

The moment will never die.

I was running this evening and came up to a steep hill, a hill I’m familiar with. I have always trained to run faster and harder on hills because no one else does and it builds the glutes. Most people take it easy on the hills, if they run them at all. As I was gasping up this steep incline today, I realized something: my first ultra marathon was, and this 100 mile race is, just a long and steep hill.

Too many people avoid the hills or use them as an excuse to slow down. We all have these hills in our lives. I challenge you to not slow down on the hills, to not take it easy, and to search them out.

Look for the hills.

If you find them and run them hard, harder than anyone else, you’ll build your glutes and hamstrings and grit and confidence. Then, when another hill comes along, a Wicked Trail you didn’t plan for, you’ll be ready. Your legs will be strong, your mind will understand the value of the hill, and you’ll run up it, passing everyone who wasn’t prepared, who chose to avoid hills and remain comfortable in life.

You are building a mindset few people possess. Comfort is a lie, and if you don’t challenge yourself on some hills, you’re too comfortable. Life is going to swing hard and knock you way down. Go find a hill, a Wicked Trail…

When you find a hill, whether it’s a jog tomorrow morning or a 5k or your first ultra marathon or a bench press PR goal, remind yourself of the value bestowed upon reaching the top; you will be that much more prepared for the next hill. And the next. And the next.

What is your ‘hill?’ Your Wicked Trail? Go find it…

Written by: George C.

Written by: George C.

Writer, Wicked Trail Running

When he's not running with his Cattle Dog, Cowboy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, George likes to kick back and keep the content on Wicked Trail Running fresh and engaging. He's got a few Ultras coming up in 2019, so if you need to get in touch with him, the local parks and greenways around Raleigh are a good place to start looking.

He really doesn't like cooking, so if you've got any quick vegan smoothie ideas or recipes, shoot an email to george@wickedtrailrunning.com. He also enjoys talking about running, mental toughness, and the art of mindset alteration.

Follow George on Instagram @georgecarterc!

Book of the Month:

Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is a dive into the demons that plagued David Goggins -elite ultra endurance athlete and Navy SEAL- through his early life and an exploration of what it took for him to become a master of his own mind against all statistical odds. His tools for mental stimulation and growth are useful for anyone interested in venturing into endurance sports, becoming a better person, and mastering his or her mind. A must read!

Light 2 Light 50 Race Report: First Ultra Marathon Victory

Ultra marathon running isn't about winning, unless it is. Ultra marathon running is subjective; a person's journey through the darkness, down the Wicked Trail, is driven by his or her own passions, fears, and desires. This journey into pain is driven by his or her own...

Ultra Marathon Training: Crush Expectations

Most people running their first, or second, or third ultra marathon carry expectations into the race. They had training expectations; they planned the miles and hours they'd have to train, running and strengthening and stretching their way to ultra endurance. When...

Fasted Running Is Your Best Friend: 3 Reasons To Try It

For thirteen miles, I felt invincible. For the final three, I wasn't sure I'd finish. I felt like I did near the end of my first 100 mile race, although with much less lower body-body pain. It was an ultra marathon replication. I smiled during those long, arduous...

The Best Ultra Marathons: Is Yours On The List?

"What's the best ultra marathon?" Is it the most remote or adventurous like Marathon des Sables, the most challenging like Badwater or the H.U.R.T 100, or is it simply your first 100 miler, the one that breaks you into the world of ultra-endurance? Is it the race that...

Ultra Marathon DNF: Yes, You Failed. Yes, It’s Okay.

I was perusing some online ultramarathon running groups last weekend and came across a post about DNFs in ultrarunning. DNF stands for "Did Not Finish;" the participants name is not published and no belt buckle is awarded. The DNF is dreaded by many as hot-spots and...

UltraMarathon Pain Management: The Pain Cave

What is your perspective on ultramarathon running? Adventurous and exhilarating? Calming and therapeutic? Full of pain and suffering? Pain management has much to do with your perspective on running an ultramarathon. What is your perspective? Why do you run an...

share this post

Your First Ultra Marathon. My First 100 Mile Race. Why?

by | Jul 13, 2018

“What’s your weekly mileage?”

“Are you ready?

“It’s going to take how long?”

Why would you ever do that to your body?”

“I could never do that.”

Not enough. Probably not. At least a whole day. It’s not about what happens to my body. Yes, you could.

I dove into the ultrarunning community when I signed up for a 50-mile race (having never ran more than 10 miles), ‘loved it’, and launched Wicked Trail Running. Once I crossed the finish line of that first ultra marathon, my eyes were opened. What seemed like a super-human feat, once impossible, was now behind me.

We’re going to give you the tools to Go Farther, Run Faster, and Live Stronger.

All in ONE weekly email!
Sign up NOW to receive weekly posts!

 

What else can I do?

Look at those people. They’re going to do 50 more miles!

I’d caught something. My understanding of challenge the way I interpreted the world around me had been permanently altered. I had a burning desire for more.

With only two weeks until the day of my first 100 mile race, it honestly doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’ve spent so much time thinking about it on my own terms, I don’t often stop to think about how others think of such a feat, such an adventure, and how I once thought of it. And how I’m actually going to run 100 miles in a few weeks. [Update: its done. Read about it.]

I once thought marathon runners were crazy, let alone ultra marathoners. What’s the point? Why do people run races of 100 miles?

I now look at it another way:

Why aren’t more people jumping on board and running an ultra marathon? Is it dangerous to explore one’s mind, one’s capabilities? Is it abnormal to push the limits to see if a person has what it takes?

I wanted to see if I had what it takes…

On April 7 2018, the day of my first ultra marathon, it rained for 12 hours and the temperature stayed well below 45 degrees. It turns out a windbreaker can’t cut it as a rain jacket; I was soaked by mile 20. With only two spare shirts, I had to be careful. I had to keep moving.

I was completely unprepared for the type of clothing the weather necessitated. I walked about 10 of the last twelve miles, peed on my own hands multiple times to warm them up, and refused to take hand warmers because I knew the 100-mile runners would need them much more than I did in a few hours, when the sun went down. The last lap of the 12.5 mile course was the most difficult; I was chilled to the bone wearing only a long sleeve polyester shirt (soaked) under a veil of a windbreaker (more soaked) and running shorts in 45 degree rainy weather. I had been running for over 8 hours. To further my physical deterioration, I had attempted to dry off at the last aid station and had wiped all the BodyGlide off of my nipples. They were now chaffed raw.

Discomfort was a mild description.

With all this discomfort and cold and rain, my mind never left me. I was never distraught. I was never in a place of fear or regret. I sang stupid songs in my head and out loud as I limped along, my fingers gripping my shirt to prevent it from further chaffing my nipples. I peed on my hands to warm them up and kept my mind on the next aid station and eventually, the finish line. I had a “Why?” -a purpose- and that warmed the embers within me. I never thought I wouldn’t finish.

This run was just another hill…

While my clothing choices left much to desire, physically I was decently prepared; I finished in 10 hours 41 minutes and 26 seconds, a time that is burned in my mind. That’s about a 12:49/mile pace. Not bad for a first ultra marathon only weeks after my first marathon. Mentally, I was where I needed to be. I didn’t get frustrated or upset, I had positive thoughts the entire time, and I finished with a smile and a deep breath of relief.

Now, in early July, I am only weeks away from the most physically demanding challenge of my life; I feel similar to how I felt for the Umstead 50. Only this time, I must repeat the distance back to back at the Burning River 100 in Cleveland, Ohio.

This is my first of what I hope to be many 100-mile races.

And if someone asked me today “Are you ready?” my answer would be: “I have no idea.”

Because I don’t. I have no idea. Can a person ever proclaim that he is ready to run for 24+ hours having only ever run for just under 11 hours? At what point is pain just pain and it doesn’t get worse? What mile will be the hardest? Will the mild elevation changes of Northeast Ohio play to my advantage, or is it still enough to dismantle my legs? Does anyone have an advantage in his or her first 100 mile ultramarathon? What exactly does it feel like at mile 70, 80, or 90?

I think when people first set their eyes upon 100 miles, these are the questions they ask. I haven’t talked to many people about their first 100-miler experiences because frankly, I never thought the experiences of others mattered much. Its 100 miles; suck it up and keep moving.

But now, as I stare down the barrel of one long run, I’m listening to others’ experiences. Did you have doubts? What was your peak weekly mileage? Was there any moment of the race you thought you’d throw in the towel? What was the hardest part? Is it really all in your mind? (Turns out: YES)

I’m sharing my thoughts for other would-be 100-mile-runners.

As I prepare to tackle this Wicked Trail, I feel calm. Either I have trained enough, or I have not; its too late to try and catch up. I genuinely don’t think the training matters after a certain point, unless the podium is your goal. I believe it really is all in your head and I think anyone reading this could traverse 100 miles in 24 hours (or so).

Yes, even you.

This is why I’m doing it; I’m not a great athlete, I had never run an official race until four months ago. But does it matter? When the race clock hits 24 hours at 4 AM on July 29 and the morning darkness is thick and the air chilly in Cleveland, everyone on the trail will be exhausted. Everyone. Time, distance, and dark will leave everyone in the same shoes, not realistically capable of continuing. But we’ll remember the first ultramarathon we ever signed up for because, quite honestly, that probably wasn’t realistic either.

And so, we’ll run on…

Training for this 100-miler did not go according to plan. I have battled Achilles, hip, and foot issues all on the right side of my body due to running and non-running activities. My peak mileage was never where I wanted it to be and last month I adopted a “healthy not ready” mindset that I would take my body to the starting line healthy and simply put one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish line. This decision gave me peace; I was no longer racing a clock to squeeze mileage in. I was preparing my mind and body in a way that carried no anxiety or hurry.

Stretch more, run less, and lots of lunges became my approach.

But again, does preparation really matter that much? Yes, and no.

It is essential to prepare to a point of confidence in oneself. Do not misunderstand me; I have done 50 miles and have continued to strengthen, run, and stretch in preparation for the 100. But I am not anxious about my lower-than-planned mileage and my handful of hiccups with lower body strains.

I am ready. Even if my training log doesn’t say so.

And you are too, you would-be-100-mile-runner reading this. Or you who would embark on your first ultra marathon.

Just show up to the starting line and start running. It will end, and the pain will pass. It will be worth it. As the pain passes by, something will be left…

A hardened man or woman who just traversed 100 miles. A person who can shut the voices off and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Over and over again. Regardless of circumstance.

Anything life can throw at you, any hill that rises in front of you, will be easier after your first ultra marathon. Its more than just a belt buckle and a great set of finish line photos for Instagram.

The moment will never die.

I was running this evening and came up to a steep hill, a hill I’m familiar with. I have always trained to run faster and harder on hills because no one else does and it builds the glutes. Most people take it easy on the hills, if they run them at all. As I was gasping up this steep incline today, I realized something: my first ultra marathon was, and this 100 mile race is, just a long and steep hill.

Too many people avoid the hills or use them as an excuse to slow down. We all have these hills in our lives. I challenge you to not slow down on the hills, to not take it easy, and to search them out.

Look for the hills.

If you find them and run them hard, harder than anyone else, you’ll build your glutes and hamstrings and grit and confidence. Then, when another hill comes along, a Wicked Trail you didn’t plan for, you’ll be ready. Your legs will be strong, your mind will understand the value of the hill, and you’ll run up it, passing everyone who wasn’t prepared, who chose to avoid hills and remain comfortable in life.

You are building a mindset few people possess. Comfort is a lie, and if you don’t challenge yourself on some hills, you’re too comfortable. Life is going to swing hard and knock you way down. Go find a hill, a Wicked Trail…

When you find a hill, whether it’s a jog tomorrow morning or a 5k or your first ultra marathon or a bench press PR goal, remind yourself of the value bestowed upon reaching the top; you will be that much more prepared for the next hill. And the next. And the next.

What is your ‘hill?’ Your Wicked Trail? Go find it…

Written by: George C.

Written by: George C.

Writer, Wicked Trail Running

When he's not running with his Cattle Dog, Cowboy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, George likes to kick back and keep the content on Wicked Trail Running fresh and engaging. He's got a few Ultras coming up in 2019, so if you need to get in touch with him, the local parks and greenways around Raleigh are a good place to start looking.

He really doesn't like cooking, so if you've got any quick vegan smoothie ideas or recipes, shoot an email to george@wickedtrailrunning.com. He also enjoys talking about running, mental toughness, and the art of mindset alteration.

Follow George on Instagram @georgecarterc!

Book of the Month:

Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is a dive into the demons that plagued David Goggins -elite ultra endurance athlete and Navy SEAL- through his early life and an exploration of what it took for him to become a master of his own mind against all statistical odds. His tools for mental stimulation and growth are useful for anyone interested in venturing into endurance sports, becoming a better person, and mastering his or her mind. A must read!

Light 2 Light 50 Race Report: First Ultra Marathon Victory

Ultra marathon running isn't about winning, unless it is. Ultra marathon running is subjective; a person's journey through the darkness, down the Wicked Trail, is driven by his or her own passions, fears, and desires. This journey into pain is driven by his or her own...

Ultra Marathon Training: Crush Expectations

Most people running their first, or second, or third ultra marathon carry expectations into the race. They had training expectations; they planned the miles and hours they'd have to train, running and strengthening and stretching their way to ultra endurance. When...

Fasted Running Is Your Best Friend: 3 Reasons To Try It

For thirteen miles, I felt invincible. For the final three, I wasn't sure I'd finish. I felt like I did near the end of my first 100 mile race, although with much less lower body-body pain. It was an ultra marathon replication. I smiled during those long, arduous...

The Best Ultra Marathons: Is Yours On The List?

"What's the best ultra marathon?" Is it the most remote or adventurous like Marathon des Sables, the most challenging like Badwater or the H.U.R.T 100, or is it simply your first 100 miler, the one that breaks you into the world of ultra-endurance? Is it the race that...

Ultra Marathon DNF: Yes, You Failed. Yes, It’s Okay.

I was perusing some online ultramarathon running groups last weekend and came across a post about DNFs in ultrarunning. DNF stands for "Did Not Finish;" the participants name is not published and no belt buckle is awarded. The DNF is dreaded by many as hot-spots and...

UltraMarathon Pain Management: The Pain Cave

What is your perspective on ultramarathon running? Adventurous and exhilarating? Calming and therapeutic? Full of pain and suffering? Pain management has much to do with your perspective on running an ultramarathon. What is your perspective? Why do you run an...

share this post

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