“The Pain”- The secret to training for my first ultramarathon

A few months ago, after finishing an 8 mile run, I told my brother Mike about it. He asked if I “felt the pain?” I responded, “uh, my knee hurt a little I guess.” He just said, “hmmph.”

Last month, when I did my 10k and I was telling him about it, he asked me again if I “felt the pain?” I told him about how I had to really push myself and ran it faster than I usually do because I wanted a good finishing time. He had a better reaction than the first time but it still didn’t seem like he was all that impressed. Well, the guy runs 100 and 50 mile ultras pretty regularly. I kind of figured that 10k (around 6 miles) would not sound too impressive, especially because he knew that I could run much more.

I stumbled across an article online where this guy advises new runners training for a marathon to not worry too much about mileage and worry more about speed and pushing yourself through 1-2 mile workouts. He said that during a marathon you’ll have to reach down deep in order to make it all the way across the finish line so you need to push yourself to the point where you think you can’t run anymore, and then keep running until you’re done. He was basically talking about “the pain.”

I talked to Mike and told him that I understand what he’s talking about now. He told me about how he trains for each one of his ultramarathons. He told me about this 16 mile loop that he and my youngest brother Justin (the other ultrarunner) always do starting a few weeks leading up to the race. He told me that if I do that loop and just push myself to finish it as fast as I can, “don’t worry about your pacing, or minutes, or run\walking, just run for as long and as fast as you can. If you can do that, you can finish an ultra. That’s ‘the pain.’ The whole race is a pain and the only way you’ll be able to finish is if you can deal with the pain.”

Yesterday, even though I woke up feeling very lazy and all I wanted to do was watch tv and maybe get up and go to the gym later, my wife convinced me that we should go on another training run. Last week, she rode the bike alongside me while I ran 7 miles. This week, I was supposed to do a longer run somewhere between 14-16 miles. Race day will be here soon and I knew that she was right. I need to get my running done. We borrowed a bike from my brother and headed to Huntington Beach.

It was a great day for running. The weather was real nice. One of the many perks of living in Southern California. I parked my truck near the pier and took off running west towards Los Angeles. The plan was to run 7 miles out and back. That would be exactly 14 miles and as long as I didn’t chicken out on my way to the 7 miles, I knew that I would have to complete the entire 14 miles because there was no other way back to the truck. Sort of like burning the boats behind you so that they only way is forward.

I kept it at a good pace the entire time. I would run a quarter mile, walk a quarter mile, and repeat. Since the walking breaks felt pretty long, I pushed myself to do the running parts pretty fast so I could cover more ground quickly. I figured that later in the run I would be doing the running parts much slower so I better move faster now.

I was feeling good when I got to the 7 mile turnaround. I was keeping the same pace. I would only stop occasionally to take a picture. Like I said, it was a nice day out.

I ate a banana and a quest bar for fuel, and I was drinking water the entire way. Around mile 10 is when things started getting tough. The sun had gone down now and my legs were starting to hurt, but I still had 4 more miles to go. Gotta keep moving.

I started enjoying my walking breaks a lot more, but still forced myself to run every quarter mile. It seemed like the closer I got to the finish, the more tired I felt. I guess because I knew I was almost done and my legs were just thinking about break time. I finished the run in 3 hours.

I was tired. The drive back home seemed to take forever because my legs, back, and feet were hurting. I just wanted to get home now, kick off my running gear, shower off, then get comfortable in bed and watch some Friends.

I dropped the bike off at my brother’s and told him “I felt the pain.” He smiled and said, “Good! You need it. Now go out and do it five more times before the race. Like Mickey told Rocky, ‘for a fight that last 15 rounds you need to train 15 million rounds.'” Looks like I have some more running to do.

I was sore last night but woke up fresh as a daisy this morning. I guess that means my recovery times are still really good… or maybe I’m turning into Wolverine.

9 more weeks until Tough Mudder

16 more weeks until Born to Run ultramarathon

8 more months until EC100