September 10, 2012: Ultra-Marathon

Even before the actual race, I would have given the Yar Huravit Ultramarathon at least an eight out of ten for sheer insanity. It was a total of 51 kilometers. It took place along a very technical trail. Think lots of big rocks with the trail constantly twisting and turning, climbing and falling. And it started at 4:30 in the morning, when it was pitch black.

But it seemed like an adventure and something new. So I tried to plan for it. I was going to arrive early and plant bottles of my energy drink of choice for endurance events (Sustained Energy from Hammer Fuels.) I would tape up my always tortured toes and maybe have an extra shirt to change into between laps. (The race was composed of three 17 kilometer laps.) I brought energy gels and pins so I could pin them to my shorts and rip one off when I needed the energy. I got advice from many runners about pacing strategy (for runs like this, everyone says it is critical to run slow and take walking breaks.) So I was as prepared as I could be. I set my alarm for 2:30 AM, which would give me plenty of time to drive to the race, get checked in and set up.

And then I slept through it.

I woke at around 4:30, when the race started. I felt a big disappointment, I had been anticipating this race for awhile. I knew there was a two lap, 34 kilometer race starting at 5:30 so I figured if I hurried, I could catch that one.

But when I got to the race, I asked if I could go ahead and run the full course. The woman at registration looked at me as if I was nuts and pointed out that everyone else had started an hour before. But she said if I really wanted to, why not. And away I went, without the energy drinks, gels, extra stuff, (common sense,) etc. Add a couple more points to that insanity index.

The first 15K were very tough. No one ahead of me that I could see, no one behind me. I decided to ignore all that “pacing” stuff and other advice from “smart” runners. I just ran as fast as I could to try and catch up. I thought if I could just catch one person and didn’t finish last, that would be respectable.

I went round a bend and saw a guy right in front of me. That was motivational. I wished him a “Boker Tov” and passed by. Then I just plugged away, slowly moving up past other guys who had been running for an hour more and starting to suffer. After 2 laps of thirty-four kilometers, it did start to feel ugly. But, that also meant that I had finished the preliminaries and now the race would be special.

The final seventeen km were really hot. At the aid stations, the water was too hot to drink. They had some isotonic drinks that were on ice. So I just poured them on my head and got a few minutes of running in what felt like a sweet air conditioner. When I passed the forty-two kilometer point, I said o.k., just finished the marathon, now I just have to throw down a 10K. I can run 10Ks.

I started trying to break down the remaining distance into 500 meter segments. Then at some point, I was just trying to keep the legs going, one step at a time.

Finish lines always look really, really cool. It doesn’t matter how far the race is, how fast you went, or how hard the terrain. Finish lines are all about accomplishment, and pride, and satisfaction. What’s the real reason to line up on a starting line of an ultra-marathon? So that six hours later you can cross a finish line.

During the race, I had a lot of time to think. Too think about life, what we’ve been through, what we still may have to go through, and how to keep everything in the right priority. Maybe just to try and concentrate on the present, and on adventures, sometimes taken with friends in the sunshine, and sometimes when you have to be on your own for awhile, in the dark.

There are times when you really shouldn’t try and be so smart. You have to go with your gut, even if that means going down a road that seems impossibly long and impossibly difficult. You just have to have faith that things will get better at some point, and until then, just do the best you can. Sometimes you have to break down life into small sections, even individual steps.

All of us run “ultra-marathons.” They just don’t give you t-shirts and medallions in the one called “life.”

Next week I hope to finally announce the next big adventure.

(P.S. I actually caught a lot of guys and finished in 10th.)

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