Thursday, April 12, 2012


      Its strange to think that 12 months ago I didn't know what Ultra endurance running was. If you had said Western States or Hardrock or asked me who Killian, Geoff, Dakota, Scott or a plethora of other names were I would have looked at you with a blank expression. Its bizarre in that we go though life living in our own little worlds blissfully unaware of so many of life's experiences. How many other people, events, passions, achievements, may exist that we know nothing of ? At 56 years of age I could not have imagined that I could have run several ultra marathons let alone climb tens of thousands of feet in the process.
     The hours of training, a brand new education on nutrition, the highs and lows of physical endurance have all contributed to quite a unique year. I read of men and women who have been doing this all their lives and whose feats of physical endurance are quite astonishing. They normalise it of course. To run 100 miles for 30 hours or more, whilst climbing the height of Everest (Hardrock) is to them just what they do. I have no idea how hard this must be; my little 50 or 60 k efforts only give me a small glimpse of what they must go through to achieve their goal. I am full of admiration, for they not only complete these distances but they race each other at the same time. In my last 50k the winners were practically sprinting the whole way and the top guys do this for 100 miles and through the night.
Half way up Climb No1
Half way up Climb No 2
       The biggest single physical challenge of my entire life takes place in a little under 3 weeks time. The distance, height, horrendous terrain, weather, etc all make for a truly daunting prospect. I am not only nervous I am utterly terrified. If, or should I say when, I complete this goal I will undoubtedly take stock of how far I've come in such a short time and a period of reflection may be in order.
    When you are in the middle of one of these things and the mental fatigue kicks in, its quite  an odd place to be. To keep going when you want to stop is pretty tough to get through and on my last 36k training run another emotion began to reveal itself.......loneliness. I am pretty happy with my own company so this was a very odd feeling. Normally I am focused on the run itself as well as the sounds, sights and smells of the incredible beauty surrounding me; this was a very weird feeling and not something I'd come across before. I have done quite a few big training runs of late and perhaps this was the cumulative effect. Its been said that ultra runners have to look within for support and motivation because there are very few spectators offering any encouragement and besides most of the training is on your own anyway . Some runners take music with them (I take nothing) and sometimes you can just drift off but normally I'm focused on every step. I hope this feeling was a one off  because along with pain, exhaustion and  mental fatigue I don't need another problem. If I sound a bit fed up it may be because I have been training intensely on hills and mountains since the 'Way to Cool 50' and these things can take their toll. I am concerned because, by my estimates, this race could be nearly 10 hours. That is a long time to be running up and down loose, hard volcanic terrain.
View to the top of Climb No 3 in the distance
A normal path!
       Now novices and 'normal' people will no doubt agree with me but for the tough 100 mile guys they will probably think I am  being pathetic. C'est la vie. During my last run  I passed a family out walking who had seen me hours before whilst they were having a picnic. They asked me if I had been running all this time and why? I think the guy's wife nearly had heart failure when I told her I'd started at 9:30 that was now 3:00 in the afternoon.
       To put this race into perspective my last ultra was 50 k and took me 7 hours and I believe I could have done it a bit quicker because in comparison to this race it was a lot flatter with long smooth paths. This is 52 k and about 7 Empire State buildings in elevation gain......but though daunting, that is not the problem.....the problem is the surface. In some of the pictures you can see the rock and stones but its like that nearly the whole way and after many hours your entire body gets 'beaten up'. This terrain plus the height could easily add another 3 hours to my time. I'm not sure if its good or bad that I know this area so well because I am acutely aware of the task.......I know some runners prefer not to know and like to run on virgin tracks and they may have a point. Alexander asked me if my last big 36k run had been fun......well I think you know the answer. I'll keep training and I will do this race and then we shall see. Ultra running is a combination of the mental, physical, emotional and the spiritual Apparently one of the goals of this type of hard core training is to toughen you up both mentally and physically........hope it works.
      After running over 6 hours in training two days ago I felt fine and then yesterday I bent over to pick up a letter and 'pulled' my lower back. Ridiculous. Anyway I decided the only way to deal with the problem was to do one hour of hill repeats......that fixed it. Well I don't know if it fixed it but I certainly couldn't feel the pain anymore!...........I think it got lost in all the other ones :)


  1. So happy to read your post this morning Phil - You have entered another dimension - Sometimes macabre, sometimes cautionary, this has changed your life to what IS possible! Can't wait to read the next post!!

    Are you eating lots of QUINOA? It is a wonderfully nutritious super-food that Lance & others like him swear by......

    1. Actually my son is a big Quinoa fan as well, so I will up my intake.....and start stealing his.

  2. Just read this post and I have to say it is awesome! Very inspiring and motivational