UltraMarathon – What Was I thinking?

I wasn’t… I’m kidding, of course. I’ve seen it said by others that if you want to set a goal that really motivates you, it has to be a big scary one that really gets you inspired. Well, for me that was a half marathon. Now that I’ve done two half marathons, I feel like I need something bigger. The next logical step would be to run a marathon. In fact, that was my and my wife’s goal – to run the Mississipi Coast Marathon this year since our first half marathon was at the same race last year. However, for some reason the idea of running a marathon just wasn’t doing it for me. I needed something bigger.

At our last half marathon, a trail race through the beautiful Bogue Chitto State Park in Louisiana, there was a 50 mile ultra going on that same day. Something about that struck me. Seeing those guys completing their first loop as we all got ready to start the race, knowing that they had three more to go was awe inspiring. That feeling wouldn’t leave me. THIS is what I wanted to do. I wanted to run an ultra. I mean, even the name sounds awesome. Ultra. “I’m an ultra runner”, now that has a nice ring to it.

I knew that 50 miles would be out of the question at my level of training. What about a 50k? Could I handle the training for a 50k? I contacted Doug Hay, author of the blog, Rock Creek Runner, about his “Discover Your Ultramarathon, A Beginner’s Guide to Running an UltraMarathon” book to ask if it would be advisable to go from a half marathon to a 50k. He said it should be doable, so I bought his book. The guide is chock full of good information, and the training plan starts with mileage on the Saturday long runs that is less than a half marathon, and the mileage during the week isn’t much different that what I would run anyway. The plan is 20 weeks for a 50k. I found a race that is exactly 20 weeks from the week I bought the guide. I haven’t signed up yet, but for all practical purposes, I’m going to run it.

The first week got off to a rocky start. Our long run was supposed to be 11 miles. We had a wedding to attend that day (my Mom and Dad got re-married, yay!) and were pressed for time. We hit Percy Quin State Park in McComb, MS since it was on the way to where the wedding was. We were only able to squeeze in 8 miles, though it was a good 8 miles. The trail was rough – lot’s of roots, mud and obstacles to dodge.

The next week’s long run was at Bogue Chitto in Franklinton. We took turns running our 12 miles on the trails there while the other watched our two boys. I went second, and was already a little tired from chasing them for two+ hours. After that run, I was hungrier than I’ve ever been in my life, and began to question why I was doing this. Fortunately though, that feeling subsided after I got some food and a shower. I think I need to pay more attention to how I fuel before and during these long runs, which will become more important the longer they get.

So far so good, although I do have one concern. I try to eat healthy (being a vegetarian is a big part of that), but long runs make me crave absolute crap for more than a day afterwards. I find myself quite prone to eating candy, drinking sodas, and generally pigging out. According to Map My Run, I burned 2400+ calories on the 12 mile run, which I realize is more than a person should even eat in a day. Still, I hope that fueling properly before and during will help me not make such bad eating decisions.

The toughest part of all of this is finding the time while it is still daylight, and holding down a job, two kids, and a very active church life. So far though, I’d say we’re dedicated. Let’s see how we feel about it when the Saturday long run is 22 miles!

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