Often times, we train for goals that are so demanding the overall cost is the health and wellness we strive for day in and day out. What is the cost of running a ½ marathon, a marathon, or an ultra-distance race? What about an Ironman or any other event that may last from a few minutes, to a few hours, or even a few days? The training demand to prepare, compete, and complete events of this magnitude is a daunting and sometimes grueling process. In the end you have a shiny medal, a body, a mind, and a soul that have taken a beating for months.
Over the years, I have come to realize that the majority of training for a marathon, ultra running and multi-sport events is cyclical and can also vary greatly from athlete to athlete. The basic template however looks something like this: get fit, get specific, go longer, compete, recover and repeat. During my first few years racing, I would race every weekend leaving little time for proper recovery. Racing multiple times every few days if possible. I raced road running, triathlon, off-road events, to include anything and everything in between.
Eventually the clock became my enemy. As I got faster, I needed my finishing time to be faster. Distance also became my enemy. The further I ran, the greater the distance I needed to go to feel accomplished. So each season, I pressed on. Always pushing harder, further and faster. As the need for faster times and longer distances grew, the lines between “key” races and training races was blurred. In addition, as the distances increased along with the time demand, the pressure I put on myself to finish faster and faster became a very stressful pursuit. Just training for the next race became such a chore. The whole process became "paralysis by analysis." Fun was no longer a consideration. At the end of most races, I would cross the finish-line without a smile. Just start planning for the next 'big" challenge.
In just a few short years, I went from amateur body builder to someone who had a sub-12 hour Ironman, sub-3 hour Boston Marathon, and over a handful of respectable ultra-marathon finishing times. However, In order to accomplished these things, I had to sacrifice my body to achieve my dreams.
Sometime in late 2009, I didn't feel good. The toll on my mind, body, and soul was clear. My mental edge was starting to dull. What started as "running from demons" and became chasing dreams, eventually evolved into an unhealthy habit Thankfully, the overuse injuries (tendonitis, tight hamstrings, sore shoulders ex.) that I was training through for the previous 2 years, ultimately caused me to shut down for of a few months and get some much needed R&R (rest and recovery).
Since those early years, I have adapted training and nutrition protocols while limiting my long distance training and racing in ultra events. Even with the occasional ultra-distance event, often times I ask myself, why would I train for such demanding events? What draws me in? Or better yet, what draws me back to the starting line?
The truth is, I don't care much for running (swimming or biking either). I don't have a preferred distance. Ultimately, the answer lies in the challenge. At the most basic level it becomes primal. How you look, smell, and what you're wearing is no longer important. All that vanity fades away. Your only cares are food, water, shelter and safety. There have been many times during the later stages of a ultra or multi-day event that my mantra became "DNF." DNF or Do Nothing Fatal. Just drink, eat, and move forward. Always hopeful that you can reach deep enough to "weather the storm" and reach the finish-line.
Training for Ultra events, has allowed me the opportuity to step outside the "humdrum" existence of modern society. I am able to achieve things that don't seem likely for a guy like me. Training with the purpose of battle. A battle not with others, but with my own physical, mental and emotional limits. To display the will to endure a self-inflicted punishment. A cruel and unusual punishment that will make me want to quit a million times. To be tired, hungry, thirsty and sore. The body aches and the brain aches more. It's not for money or fame, just my own personal victory. A way to feel alive!
What draws you in?
Train Hard, Eat Smart, Rest Often.