The Conundrum of Facing the Ultra Challenge Again
Reflecting on my running journey, the ultra was a test I promised I’d never endure.
“I’m not that crazy!” is what I told myself, my husband, and all of my friends. Of course, I also said that about running a marathon, but I was crazy enough to try that, too.
Truth be told, I’m actually pretty jealous and impressed by my friends who run ultras on a fairly regular basis. Their persistence and tenacity are something to admire. I’m just not sure that’s exactly who I am. Loosely translated, perhaps I haven’t reached that level of insanity yet.
My best friend, the instigator of all great shenanigans involving running, is signed up for the same ultra we ran together last year, the Freight Train 50k. Am I crazy enough to do it again? I’m not sure yet.
Maybe it’s the course on the High Bridge Trail in Farmville, VA, an old rail line that consists of endless pea gravel and dreary winter trees of December that are deterring me. Of course, the route is punctuated by the High Bridge, which, considering that it’s two out and backs, makes up about 2 miles of the 31.3 mile route. The bridge itself is quite lovely, perched at what seems like a mile over the Appomattox River.
Did I enjoy doing that? Again, I’m not sure. The pain wasn’t that much different than running a marathon. You simply endure it for longer. But you do feel 100% more badass casually mentioning that you ran an ultra last weekend (or month, season, or year.)
Runners don’t need an excuse to drop facts like that into casual conversation. It simply spills out of our mouths.
I suppose I feel challenged with finding my why for running a second ultra. Surely I would beat my abysmal time from last year. That may be reason enough.
I did learn a few lessons from my effort last go round. If I choose to run this race again, I will KT tape my knee to ensure that my patellar tracking issue doesn’t cause problems. I was forced to run quarter-mile intervals for most of the race last year. I now have a hydration vest I’ve had lots of practice using. And I will certainly stay overnight in Farmville after the race.
Driving almost an hour and a half both ways in the dark and rain was less than ideal. I don’t even know how I did that now, other than I had to.
Plusses for this race include the super long time limit thanks to the concurrent 100k race, the amazing race support at the aid stations, and how well organized the event is. There was even food for vegans at the finish party! With the race in early December, it’s also timed really well to use a fall marathon training cycle to prepare for an ultra race.
If you are looking for a “first ultra” event, the Freight Train 50k is it. Non-technical trail with very little thought about where your feet land. You only cross four roads the entire time, with the worst of those in the town of Farmville itself, where the drivers don’t necessarily get the whole “state law to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk” thing, even with signs explaining it. Sigh.
Last year, my bestie convinced me to sign up for this misery on the last day that guaranteed a shirt with your entry. She was lucky I had consumed two adult beverages before she texted me. Otherwise, my rational mind would have taken over.
If I decide to run this race this year, and that’s a very big if, I hope that the last three miles of my run won’t be in a torrential downfall like last year!
Of course, I could choose to run a different ultra marathon, right?
So is ultra running my thing? That’s the conundrum.
Ultras are fun, right? Or am I just a special kind of crazy? Don’t answer that question.
After my fall marathon, I’ve decided that running an ultra isn’t the best idea for me right now. I am going to let my body rest and heal.
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.