Putting into practice what I learned in my first 5-K, I bounced a half-marathon on Labor Day. It was extremely hot and humid and I knew that I needed to slow my pace down to save myself for the finish. Around mile 9, bouncing through an Army base, I found myself getting passed – a lot! My first temptation was to pick up the pace and find a group I could run with. Instead, I calmed my thoughts, and realized that I was on the pace that I had trained for, and that I was going to be fine. The final mile of this race was on a boardwalk with the Atlantic ocean glimmering on the left, and a row of spectators lined up on both sides. Just before the boardwalk, I was passing a lot of people, who had stopped, trying to straighten themselves out for the run up for a glorious finish in front of all the spectators. After all, you don’t want to puke in front of that many people when you finish. Somewhere, in storage, there is an iconic photo, (in my eyes) of that finish. I am crossing the finish line with a huge smile on my face, while many of my fellow runners look like they are in extreme pain – like all runners looked to me before I started running. Not only did I finish the race strong but I finally broke 2 hours for a half-marathon, which was huge for me.
In our daily lives we can all experience glorious finishes that we store up for future reference but to do so we have to know that the pace we are running is the correct pace for us. Staying on pace requires disciplining your thoughts and your body to make sure you have enough in you to finish the race strong.
Living an ultra life means finding the pace you were meant to run and then enjoying the race no matter what everyone around you is doing.
Those who know me know that I start every new attempt as if I can’t get there fast enough. They could probably have predicted my first race. I lined up, a stout 235 pound, bouncing man in my Kangoo boots, for my first 5K and went off like the wind with the “real” runners at a breakneck pace. I felt great until mile 1 and then the wheels fell off. I couldn’t breathe. I wasn’t sweating. My heart was beating through my shirt and worst, all those people I had passed were passing me by as I had to stop on the side of the road and check myself to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack.
I didn’t have a heart attack but I learned something really valuable that day. If you don’t run the pace that fits your body, you’re in for one hell of a run and you won’t feel very well when you finish. In running, starting too fast is a recipe for disaster and you have to find your pace and keep with it throughout the race, knowing your training – both mental and physical – is what is going to make for a successful race for you.
This may shock those of you like me but guess what? We have to find our own pace in life also and run the race of life just as we are training. “Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I will not be disqualified for the prize.” (Paul to the Corinthians) It’s difficult to find the pace at which you are designed to go because we want to keep up with the Jones’ around us and we don’t want to fall behind. The bad thing is, that just as in racing, when we go running into life at a pace for which we haven’t trained and maybe we aren’t even designed to run we wear ourselves out a lot quicker.
Living an ultra life is about discovering your pace and sticking with it, everything you do in life is about finding the pace and sticking to it no matter what it looks like everybody around you is running.
It’s a beautiful fall day, the trees are exploding with color, the sun is shining brightly and you’re making time down a mountain trail. Suddenly you begin to look around you thinking “there’s a lot of growth under my feet, this doesn’t even feel like a trail”. Now you know you’ve gone and done it again. You’ve lost the trail! This happens to me all the time and it costs me time and extra miles but by back tracking slowly I can always find the trail again and get back to enjoying the day and the trail. But it always throws me off just a little, now I’m a little slower, a little more cautious to keep track of the trail and the end of the run feels like relief rather than total elation.
We do this in life also. We lose the trail. Thinking we are on our way to our goals in life and BOOM, something happens and we’re off track. Unlike trail running it isn’t as simple as just back tracking to get back on the trail. Sometimes we never get back on the trail. Maybe like me, you think you’re going to be this great writer in the genre of a John Updike tilting at windmills of social ills, yet end up being a salesman. Losing the trail can be painful if we don’t do one thing. This one thing is what separates you from having an ultra life rather than a run around the block life.
This one thing is simply this, make a decision and begin to live it. To live an ultra life you practice this over and over until you do it all the time. If you know you started on this trail, but you lost your trail, your heart is telling you that you’re supposed to be on it. Make a decision and begin moving toward it. It may take some back tracking or it may take some total 180 degree turn but first you need to make the decision and run with it. This is living an ultra life.
Happy trails and come back later for more encouragement from Living an Ultra Life.
In January of 2014 I was reviewing life and preparing to turn 50 that July and I kept thinking “how could I significantly indicate to my Self that turning 50 is the second half and it’s going to be stronger than the first half?” I had completed my third marathon after having just started running three years before in November and was feeling kind of burned out running with 30,000 of my closest friends and was looking for something different. In the middle of the night I thought “That’s it! I’m going to run 50 miles on my 50th birthday!” Now if you’ve met marathon runners before you know we’re kind of anal about our training and if your training schedule says “Run 20 miles” and it turns out there is a hurricane going on you still go out and run 20 miles because the day of the race you don’t get to decide not to run if the weather is cruddy. So never mind that my birthday is in July and the weather was bound to be at least in the high 80’s and most likely in the 90’s nor that I had never done more than a marathon before. I decided that I was running 50 miles on my 50th birthday. So I charted out a course around my beautiful city of Sheridan WY and began training. Birthday morning came and before the sun had risen I was out on the streets getting my inside city miles in before it got hot. I headed out into the country on a series of dirt roads and in 12 hours I had finished my 50 miles and knew that I had begun the second half of my life strong. Shortly after I found out that there were other crazy people like me out there and that they were called ultra marathoners and there were races to run ultra distances and I decided there and then that I would run ultra races so in the last two years I have now completed six ultra marathon races and am working up for my bucket list ultra marathon of 205.5 miles in the Taos 200 in 2018.
Along the way “ultra” has become a lifestyle and teamed with my motto of Live With No Regrets I am testing the waters of putting myself on the line on a daily basis, to go beyond what my mind and body think I can do and put it all out there, to go for it with everything I have. This website is the beginning of living a life to the full and not constantly going back to a life lived with “what ifs” and “if only I had”.