Where It Started
The year was 2016 and I had been pretending to try and run for a couple years without any sustained success. After a crash course of condensed 5 weeks of actual training I ran my first ever race, a local half marathon. I soon began looking around for how to improve and quite quickly stumbled upon a local trail running series….and then my real journey began. I fell in love with the trails and knew this was the place for me. It reminded me of being a kid, except now in my mid-30s, there was something about being able to capture that pure joy of just you and nature. The draw of ultras is a unique thing. As of today, I am still searching for the bottom of this rabbit hole.
My Journey to 81 Ultras
My first ultra was in August 2016, and I still recall the immense pain and sustained cramps I felt on the day. I knew very little about nutrition, let alone a proper training plan. However, I was excited and overwhelmed with my own satisfaction of achieving something I did not know was initially possible. Shortly after I completed the race and forgot the acute pain of the event, I was searching for my next ultramarathon, which I found about 6 weeks later. My cadence of endless ultra-running was born as I capped off 2016 finishing 3 ultras.
Just over 14 months after starting to run I found myself taking on my first 100 Mile race. I utilized many training races to build up my fitness and confidence heading into this event, as this was my 10th ultramarathon at that point. This is something I still do today because I love the thrill of a race and there is no better way for me to train for race conditions, than being in race conditions. I then finished off the 2017 calendar year with my second 100 Mile and a rising total of 15 ultramarathons.
My Lessons Learned, Tips, & Tricks
I’m well aware of the ultra burn out phenomena and try to keep myself in check by doing the following:
1. Find a great trail community. I have been lucky enough to be a part of a couple great ones: Edmonton Trail Runners (ETR), 5 Peaks, Trail Racing Over Texas (TROT), and the rabbit team community the past few seasons.
2. Pick races and events that excite you. Have fun! I am always on the look out for new adventures (if family life allows it). I have a long bucket list of to-do races in my lifetime.
3. Stay consistent. I keep relatively lower volume training compared to a lot of other 100 Mile runners, but I stay consistent. I have run at least 200 miles every month for 40 months now. I usually run about 6 times a week, with only a few long runs built in. Of course, make sure you build in your rest and listen to your body.
4. Embrace the lows in ultramarathoning. Runners, and humans in general, always talk about the good times but in ultras, just like in life, there will be low points I can guarantee this. I encourage you to embrace these and realize that you can get through them. Lows in a 100 or 200 Mile make you feel alive! I’ve been in so many low points that were absolutely terrible but by simply moving forward and getting calories in I know that my body and mind can pull through them.
- I have stopped and sat on a rock questioning my sanity (multiple occasions).
- I have been in the middle of the woods desperately wanting to just give up.
- Puking on the side of the trail is not uncommon.
- I have cramped up so bad my legs locked up and I fell, had to use a tree to be able to push myself back up hard enough to get my muscles to bend and relax.
- There are lows in ultramarathons, you can not run away from all of these.
5. Enjoy your training. I can’t add too much to this. Mix it up, pick fun routes, explore new areas, try different trails, or perhaps join some friends to run with and share the miles.
6. Have a great support system. Training and racing ultramarathons take so much time and commitment. I am lucky to have a very supportive partner in my wife and she often even comes to help crew me with our 4 daughters. My daughters are my inspiration but also the best supporters.
Trail and ultra running can be more than just a hobby or a sport. It can be a gateway to being a better human if you allow yourself to find the balance between work, family, and your passion out there on some singletrack in the mountains or just in your local area. Over the course of my now 80 ultramarathons, I use all the past experiences to help make me a better person. Running in 80 ultras is just a number. We all have an age that is a number. Don’t let a number define you or try and craft a narrative around it. Just get out there and live, no matter what that means to you. For me I will continue to run trails and race ultras, hopefully inspire my daughters and perhaps even others along the way.