Monday, July 26, 2010

The Big Five Zero: My 50th Ultramarathon!

(Bill Gentry on his way to a well earned 100th ultramarathon finish! Photo by Bobby Gill)

My great journey into the ultramarathon world began at 7am on November 20th, 2004

I just turned 29 last month, and if you asked me six years ago whether or not I would be able to finish a marathon by age thirty, I might have said no. This past winter I started compiling a list of my ultramarathons, and road marathons, and realized I had been cranking out an impressive number of runs. As it turned out, barring major injury, ultra number 50 was going to happen at some point in 2010. The number 50 caught me off guard, as it seemed it only took less than six years to reach this rather big milestone. The most staggering statistic in all this is that between 2004 and 2007 I ran less than a dozen races. This means I ran about 33 ultra events in 2008 and 2009 combined, which was aided by the fact that I literally ran 3-4 ultra events a MONTH at times during those years.

For the record, there may be events included in my overall tally that people may not count as a true ultramarathon. I have completed quite a few "Fat Asses", which are simply non-competitive runs of ultra distance put on by running clubs. I only included one 31 mile training run, and one 34 mile pacing effort, which I only "counted" as ultras because of their 7-9 hour duration and terrain.

This all brings me to this past weekend. On July 24th, 2010 I completed the Catherine's Furnace 50k. Run organizer Jeff Reed had to make notable changes from last year's course due to road access issues. This new set of circumstances allowed for runners to choose from a myriad of distance options, all of which allowed runners to cut the run short. Given the fact the daytime high called for 101 degrees, and a heat index over 105, many runners found these shorter options especially welcome. Other runners would find these shorter options increasingly desirable as the day wore on and the thermometer climbed over triple digits.

(Scott Crabb and Greg Zaruba leading down the Pink Trail. Photo by Bobby Gill)

There's not a lot to write about the run itself. I used the run as a means of catching up with friends that I never get a chance to see during races. I was more than happy to let the fast guys gallop ahead without feeling any need to chase them down, or try to keep up. Instead, I decided to run with my buddy Bill Gentry who was running Catherines 50k in order to achieve his own milestone, his 100th ultramarathon finish, an odyssey he began in 1991. The trio of Bill, myself, and Amy "Flame" Brown stayed together for almost the entire run and were often in the company of other runners. The climbs were good, the stream crossing fabulous, and the volunteers wonderful. It's been a very long time since I ran an ultra from start to finish with the same person,and in fact it had been over four years since I had done so.

The run was indeed very hot and humid, yet always seemed to be on the comfortable side of things due to the shaded trails and occasional breeze. Every now and then the trail would be exposed on an uphill climb, and it was hard not to notice the sun beating down on your shoulders. Despite the scorching temps, Bill and I had no doubt that we were going to finish the true ultra length option for the run, although we were given plenty of offers to cut the route short by 4-5 miles. On the way back to the finish, our companion of 27 miles Amy Brown trotted ahead, and I stuck with Bill. Bill had encouraged me not wait on him, but I insisted that I was going to be his wing man and guide him into his 100th finish. So, me and Bill chatted it up for the remaining miles and coasted it in for my 50th ultra finish, but more amazingly Bill's 100th.

I wonder how many 29 year olds have finished 50, or more ultras? There can't be many, but I'm sure in the coming years more and more runners will reach that mark as ultrarunners tend to be getting younger and racing more often. If things stay on track, I'm due for 100 ultras by the time I'm 35. That being said, I'm in no rush to see how fast my 100th will come. If you combine the mileage of the 50 marathon and longer running events I've run, then I've already surpassed 2,000 miles of total distance. In fact, the distance covered is now more than running across the USA at it's shortest route (Jacksonville, FL to San Diego, CA is 2096 miles).

Here's to the next 50!

1 comment:

And Miles 2 Go said...

Fun hangin' with you all day, Mike. Amazing that you've done so much so far. And also that you are still FAST when you want to be so.

Here's to many, many more finish lines for you, dude.