Sunday, April 24, 2011

When should a dream just remain a dream?

Warning to both of you readers!
This is nothing entertaining here . . . at all!  Realistically, there is NO REASON to read this.  I've just written it to help me sort things out.  And I do believe I feel slightly better now.  But seriously . . . save your time and skip this one.


I can't help but be torn between two saying:
  • Never, ever give up! and
  • Some things are just not to be!
My dream is really quite simple (and cheap!) . . . complete a 100 mile endurance event.

The dream has been with me now for about five years.  It started in 2007 soon after becoming a member of the Mangum Track Club.  Trust me . . . these folks are a REALLY bad influence on you!  And it became a full-fledged goal when I paced the last lap with Cam Kelly and saw him accomplish this seemingly impossible feat.  I've now tried to accomplish this twice and failed both times.  So now I'm thinking about this dream.  Should I try again?  Or not?

For me three major questions come to mind:
  • Can I realistically do this?
  • Should I try again?
  • Should keep on with my current strategy or re-train  to use a different strategy?
 Can I realistically do this?
I honestly do believe the answer to the first question is yes, it is possible.  Men and women much older then I do this regularly.  And my health is good.  So this should be possible.  Period.

Should I try again?
This is not quite so clear.  It's a lot of work . . . and pain.  And why?  What is the point really.

Quite frankly I really don't like where my fitness is right now.  In order to run the Umstead 100 I've spent literally months in training.  My strategy was to go slow and steady.  So I trained to walk every two minutes and run one.  I thought this was smart.  Now I'm not so sure.

Today, even on a 3 mile run, I'm finding myself walking!  And when I try to run faster then normal, I get out of breath quickly.  I hate to think of how long it would take me to finish a 5k right now!!

Plus, walking is now a mental habit I would need to break. Especially if I decide to move away from this 100 mile run goal.  Heck, today find myself walking and there is no physical reason at all to walk!  I just do it.  Strange.

I honestly believe a shorter, harder run gets you to a better level of fitness then where I am right now.  So, once I decide about this 100 mile goal I know I want to work to improve my speed.  I did for awhile last spring/summer and results came quickly.  It's not really all that hard to do.  I know I can.

Simply add intervals and hills one or two days each week.  And convert my long run to a shorter, but harder tempo runs.  There is work to do, sure.  But it's no harder then what I've been doing.  Just different.  And it would take way less time!

I was never really a fast runner but I wasn't the slowest runner either!  My best 5k was a 20:01.  Certainly not really fast, but respectable.  Convert that to what I might be able to run today . . . maybe 22 or 23??  That would be a good goal to strive for probably.

Should keep on with my current strategy or re-train  to use a different strategy?
So . . . IF (and I do mean 'IF') I do decide to try another 100, the remaining question is what is the best strategy for me so that I maximize my chances of achieving this dream?  Is it a continuation of my current strategy, or should I change my approach and re-develop my fitness to support a new strategy?

To answer this I have to know why I failed in the past.  Realistically you never know for sure.  But I believe I pretty much understand . . .

My first failure was not at an official 'race.'  Instead, I staged my own attempt.  My failure was likely a combination of several factors . . . 1) insufficient miles of preparation, 2) the day I chose to run was the first really hot day of the year, 3) I didn't think through a good approach for a crew and pacers.  These three things doomed my first attempt.  Notice I didn't say that trying this alone was a failure factor.  I run alone a lot.  Even at the Umstead 100 I was running alone most of the time.  It is nice seeing others while you run, but I'm not sure it is a real requirement.

My Umstead 100 failure was a combination of two factors . . . 1) a mental collapse and 2) dealing this the physical pain.

The mental collapse began when I realized that I was moving too slow to finish within the 30 hour time cutoff.  I passed 50 miles at 14:51.  Maybe I was just having a not so good day.  Maybe the hills got to me.  No matter . . . the second 50 miles just couldn't happen in another 15 hours!  While I had taken two bathroom breaks and two clothing changes during the first 50, I had slowed to only infrequent run intervals.  My last 12.5 miles took me 4 hours and 50 minutes and I walked it all!!!  That's just over a 23 minute per mile pace . . . only a moderate walking pace!

And I was hurting pretty bad.  Its hard to explain the pain.  But trust me . . . it hurts a lot!  I do know I could have kept going and now I'm wishing I had.  For sure I had at least one more lap )12.5 miles) in me . . . and possibly two.  But I'm questioning if I really could have finished the full 100.  I'm not so sure I could have.  Even with an unlimited cutoff.

But if I trained to run faster, realistically how much would this help?

More information
  • In some ways I could look at my Umstead 100 failure as a training run.  
  • Two weekends after Umstead, I traveled to the Va 24 Hour race and completed 56 miles and I knew FOR SURE I could have gone further if needed to assure that our Team Awesome won the ultra relay.  (We didn't . . . Team Awesome finished with over 800 miles . . . almost 400 miles more then our nearest competitor!).  I walked from about 30 miles on . . . I believe due to being tired from Umstead, but I kept a good walking pace.  So this, too, could be considered another training run.
So the questions now are:  Should I try again now?  Or should I re-train and attempt it again next fall?  Or should I just say to hell with this 100 miles goal of mine?  This really isn't something anyone can tell me.  It's something I've got to figure out for myself.

One of my problems is I'm not sure I can just 'give up' this goal as long as I feel like there is a chance I might be able to do it.  But in some ways that exactly what I want to do.  Let's face it, my running is excessive and compulsive.  I know it.  But right now, I just don't have anything to take it's place!

I'm mulling all this over . . . and I guess I need to decide pretty soon if I'm going to try this again this spring.


  1. Frank,
    I may have already told you this. I made 5 attempts before I finished my first 100-miler. The thoughts of it ate away at me year after year. I knew I would never be satisfied until I completed that distance. You can't give up, you have to keep trying until the mission is accomplished. You CAN DO IT and you have friends that will help you get there.

  2. Mark . . . I did know about all your efforts. And I was there when you 'closed the deal' and finished Umstead! Made many folks cry!

    I've decided I will try this again. And soon! It may be failure #3 . . . but who knows . . . maybe success #1! But it will be attempt #3 and there is something to be said for that. Stay tuned!

    Oh . . . and I had no idea you read my blog!! Thanks!

  3. Frank, glad you decided you're going to try again. I'm in the same shoes, except I'm only on attempt #2. Still thinking about Beast of Burden in August.

  4. There are differences between goals and dreams. Both are sought, but in different ways. Dreams are desires that might happen, but most likely will not. When I was young, I had a dream of being a brain surgeon. That certainly did not happen and I was not really upset when it never happened. Goals are much different. Hopefully a goal is something attainable through hard and diligent work. You have a goal of completing a 100 miler and I personally think you can do it. Desire will get you through the last 4th. Physical ability has to get you through the first 3/4th's. You have to figure out how to get to 75 miles so that the desire can pull you through the pain cave. You have to change something to get you to that 75 mile mark. Maybe it is going to a 2 or 3 day event so that you do not have an issue of a time constraint. You can do that now. There is a 3 day event in NJ soon where you will have 3 days to go 100 miles. True, that is not a 100 mile race. If you want to run 100 miles in a 100 mile race, then your training is lacking something to help you get there. You talked about leg speed. I don't think you need speed work, but long tempo runs will certainly help in that area. You also need to improve your walking speed. Maybe get on the treadmill and make yourself walk 12mph. I have been with many people who will leave me on the walks. I have to run occasionally to stay with them. They are more efficient than I am, but to walk like that they work on the treadmill with their walking. They will even put the treadmill on an incline to work on their climbing. Maybe you go out on a Friday night after working all day and go for a ten hour run/walk. That would certainly help your body become more accustomed to running while tired. DNF's are not failures unless you learn nothing. You have had two attempts at running 100 miles. It might take three times or it might be more, but if you truly want to complete 100 miles, then you keep striving towards that goal.

  5. Frank, I have been reading your blog for a couple of months and you're quite an inspiration! You put a real face on this crazy ultramathon community! I've run my first marathon a few months ago but I've done bicycling brevets for about 5 years now (albeit a much smaller community than the ultras). The brevet series consists of a 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k rides. I'm getting ready for the 400k the second time this weekend (I've never attempted the 600k). The rides are two weeks apart. The nice thing about it is throughout the series, you know where you stand. After the 300 a couple weeks ago, after 13 hours in the saddle, I thought "that's enough for this year" then a week goes by and I'm thinking "I can do the next one!" I'm not sure where I'm going with this rambling comment. Maybe something in between, "it's a building process" and "I can identify with you."

  6. @bparquet - Thanks for reading my mindless dribble. Sorry you don't have much better to do!! :-) I have not heard of biking brevets. I'll read up on them but they sound interesting. Only thing appears to be you need to ride a bike!

    @Rick - What a thoughtful and insightful response. Thanks. Guess this is a goal now. But if there are too many failed attempts I'll convert it to a dream! Love you thought about getting to 75. Trying a 100 this weekend . . . I realize there is little chance for 100 this time. But I'm going to try. Who knows. But you're probably right that I need to change my training and race strategy. That definition of insanity . . . I hear you!

  7. I will be thinking about you. Have little goals along the way.

  8. Frank - you are a determined crazyman. For the simple fact that you had a schoolboy's shit-eating grin while bouncing through puddles at Hampton, I KNOW you can get to your goal -- even if it takes you miles through what everyone else may consider horrible conditions - to get there. Running makes you HAPPY - and that's all that matters to keep those feet moving forward.

    - Alanna

  9. i know it seems weird to spill your thought process like that, but it actually helped me a lot. i have the same concerns about my first half (laugh it up!) and read your blog for inspiration. it was nice to hear those thoughts in someone else's head, and hear you overcome the doubt.

    thanks. i feel stronger just having read this.

  10. Hey Anonymous!

    Anytime someone is trying something they've never done and is challenging themselves is cool. No laughing . . . EVER at that! EVER! Your first 1/2 marathon IS a challenge. Sounds like its time to meet it!!


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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.