Let’s Run An Ultramarathon

At the oh so tender age of 44 I’m going to run a 50k, or 30 miles, in the Tinajas Ultra on March 2nd, basically circumnavigating Colorado Bend State Park (just once as there is also a 100k that I won’t be doing). I’ll turn 45 years young on March 9th, the weekend after (just in case you are wondering, yes, Mike Leach and I share the same birthday). I want to acknowledge that this is only 4 miles longer than an actual marathon and is it really an “ultramarathon” and I’d just tell you that I didn’t come up with the designation, I just get to claim that I ran an ultramarathon and you can’t stop me. I don’t really know why I started to run, but I did and here we are. I started small, like one or two miles, thinking that this was great. I’m getting my heart rate up. I’m ready to party. Then I just kept going.

Why am I doing this? I don’t really know. Sometimes I can’t get out of my own brain and I started thinking about whether or not I’m actually using everything that I’ve been given, whatever that is. I’ve been blessed with health and a relatively healthy body. Am I using it to its fullest potential? When I look back at my life, am I going to want a completely used up body or one where I’ve been careful at every step. In my life, I normally operate with the latter, being careful at every turn, but I’m stepping a bit out of my comfort zone here and trying to use “it” the damn hell up. Whatever “it” is, I want to use it completely up. You can’t really push your limits if you’re not willing to go past what you think you can do.

Well, that sort of thinking just leads to trouble. You know what else is trouble? Inspirational videos of people who are running longer distances than my dumb 30 miles.

There was aa time when we didn’t know where our next meal would come from, water couldn’t just be purchased in bottles when we pleased. I wonder sometimes how far removed we become from who we once were. You know, the nomads, the hunter-gatherers, bodies and will hardened by constant movement, driven by the simple need to survive. How far we’ve softened. Yet here I was, surrounded by several hundred like-minded people from intentionally about to march forward into the dark morning seeking something through the discomfort, via the unknown. What exactly are we seeking?

The Saturday before Christmas I went out and ran 15 miles at Tyler State Park, the first time that I’ve been able to run on trails. Everything else has been on the road. It was really difficult. Much more difficult than running on the road because I had to be present in that moment of looking at the trail so I didn’t trip over some rocks or a root sticking out of the ground. When I got done, I thought that this was the dumbest and most difficult thing I’ve done and the 15 miles represented only one-half of what I would do in March. My calves were screaming and my legs just wouldn’t go any further. I called my wife when I got done and I told her that this was really hard and I wasn’t sure if I could do this dumb 30 mile race, and she said that whatever I wanted to do, she’d be there.

After a couple of hours to recover I was printing off a calendar to figure out how much I needed to be in shape to run 30 miles because I wasn’t about to let something kick my ass before I even tried to do it.

I ran 17 miles on Saturday morning. Right back at it. You can’t run 30 miles unless you run 17. And let’s not pretend that I’m doing something that no one else has done. There’s probably going to be 70 year old dudes and dudettes who have done this for years pass me up on the 100k and I’ll salute them as they leave me in their dust. That’s totally fine, for me, this is really about pushing my limits of what is comfortable for me. I’ve never been a runner. Up until recently, this has not been fun for me. I am uncomfortable for long stretches of time. But being comfortable really doesn’t equate to happiness, or maybe it shouldn’t.

Somewhere along the way, comfort became the key to happiness. Big fancy homes and luxury cars with heated seats, and yet these things, these material things never really seem to make us happy and in the process we’ve softened both mentally and physically. When did we lose our way? I wonder if there’s something in our DNA that strangely finds comfort through this discomfort.

Why am I telling you about this? Well, from what little I’ve done, I definitely realize that I can’t do this alone. You’ll have to suffer somewhat along with me when things aren’t done on time or maybe a post doesn’t get done during the week. Or maybe I take the weekend off (other than making sure that a preview or GTD is up) for the most part. I wanted you know the reason why. I definitely asked my wife if she’d support me doing this because I can’t be absent for 3 or 4 hours on a Saturday morning going off running somewhere in order to long some miles (she has ordered me to get a physical after the first of the year to make sure I’m not going to just keel over).

The other part of this thing is that maybe this motivates you to do something out of your comfort zone. Not everyone can run 30 miles. I’m not even sure I can run 30 miles (never done it before!). Hell, not everyone can run, and I consider myself lucky in that respect that I can still do this and will take full advantage of having an able body that can run long distances. That’s part of my motivation. But maybe there’s been something that’s on the fringes of your brain that you’ve largely put away because you don’t think you can. Maybe with enough time, training (whatever that may be), and dedication, whatever you thought wasn’t possible is now possible. Want to learn a new language? Let’s do that. Want to learn how to properly run a WordPress site so you that you can fix this sometimes hellacious blog? Love it. Want to be more present for the people you love. Just work on putting down your phone, or turning off the television every day.

Do not be comfortable. Do not rest on your laurels. You can do something that will at sometimes be incredibly painful, but worth the pain and the sacrifice when you get to taste that sweet, sweet beer at the end of a race (Hell yeah brother I’m already planning this!) or whatever that carrot is that you hope to reach when that time comes. You and I are not guaranteed any sort of success. Sometimes you can plan and train and do all of the things that you’re supposed to do and still fail. The cramping that my legs get after mile 15 is short of a disaster for someone that wants to run 30 miles. But if we’re going to be great in 2019, we can’t let fear of the unknown determine the trajectory of accomplishing that goal. There will be pain on the way and we’re about to go embrace the hell out of that.

Don’t waste that time, time, time. You’ve only got so much of it, let’s use it up doing something you never thought you could do.

Whatever “it” is that you decide to do, don’t be comfortable. Use “it” the damn-hell up, leave nothing on the table. Be your absolute best. No matter what “it” is. It is time. Make it difficult and make it ambitious, but whatever you do, don’t be satisfied. Let’s be great.

What’s your ultramarathon for 2019?

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