For four consecutive weekends over the last month -- starting with the DONNA 110 here in Jacksonville (Feb. 14-15) and ending with the 116-mile Cross Florida Route 40 Romp (Mar. 7-8), I ran . . . and raced . . . an ultra. Here was my schedule and results:
Over the course of those four weekends, a lot of people asked me why I ran -- and raced -- so hard for four consecutive races. And a lot more people questioned my sanity. Well, here's why I went through that schedule. First, though, here is one factor that had nothing to do with my self-imposed suffer-fest:
-"To set some sort of record or impress anyone": In the grand scheme of things, my four weeks just is not really that noteworthy. My friends Liz Bauer (30) and Ed Ettinghausen (40) own the world records for most 100-milers in a calendar year. So what I did over four weeks, they basically did over 52. And even though I may have raced four consecutive ultras at a decent pace, I still cannot even belong in the same conversation as a guy like Mike Wardian, who raced something like 40 marathons/ultras in 2014, winning many if not most of them.
My point is that I am not a professional runner, and I never will be. Rather, I'm a 38-year-old former college baseball player who really likes to run. I'm a solid ultrarunner, sure, but the North Face isn't knocking on my door anytime soon to give me the "Rob Krar package."
So here is why I ran those races:
2. what drives me.
(1) To become a stronger runner: As a lifelong athlete and as a litigation attorney, I clearly have a competitive streak inside me. With some big races on my schedule starting in a few months -- KEYS100, BADWATER 135, and SPARTATHLON -- I know I need to up my "game" if I want to challenge in those highly-competitive races. So I set out to push beyond my comfort zone; to push beyond my perceived limits, both mental and physical. (Note: I am not going to say "don't try this at home," or something equally inane. But I will point out that I raced over 30 marathons and even more ultras than that -- including 15 races of 100 miles or longer -- over the course of past 15 years before attempting this past month's schedule. So take that for what it's worth to you.) :)
(2) To develop mental "arrows" in my "confidence quiver": As any of my Team Zwitty runners will readily attest, one of my favorite workouts for them is a 10-mile "progressive tempo run" on a treadmill, where they start at a fast pace for the first mile, and incrementally increase the speed every mile thereafter. When done at a full effort, it is a brutal workout. (The current record on my team for that workout is 57:24, which is stupid-fast (somewhere around 5:40/mile for the 10 miles).
I'm not a sadist, so why do I put people through that workout? It's so that they can feel what it is like to truly suffer during a relatively short workout, experience pushing through pre-conceived "limitations," and feel that sense of elation/confidence when they finally nail the workout.
For me, the last four weeks were my own "progressive tempo run"; each subsequent race was harder than the previous one due to the cumulative load from the previous weekend. But after each successful run, my confidence grew proportionally. Ultrarunning is a hard, hard sport. We all have our own goals, desires, and dreams for ourselves in the sport. But without rational confidence, we will not succeed. And confidence cannot be faked; it has to be earned. Each time you meet a new goal in training, you gain a new mental arrow that you can use when things go south -- which pretty-much will inevitably happen -- during your goal race.
(feeling it during the marathon portion of the DONNA 110)
(3) I just really like being around the Florida ultrarunning community: Alex and I have been part of the FUR family for four years now. It is quite accurate to say that almost all of my best friends in this world are people in the Florida ultrarunning family. Over the past 4 years, and especially over the past six months, I have had the pleasure of really getting to know a lot of you guys, and there is nowhere I'd rather be on any given weekend than running or helping out at a race. (Note: I use "guys" as a gender-inclusive term, as I don't live in the 1950's, which is about the last time anyone really used the female equivalent of "guy" ("gal"))!
(4) The four specific races I ran are special to me: The whole reason I decided to attempt the four consecutive races in the first place was that I just love all of them:
The foundation raises money for (a) cutting-edge research at Mayo Clinic, and (b) to help women in the Jacksonville area deal with the financial burdens of living with breast cancer.
I will run the DONNA 110 for as long as I am able, and I am also very honored to have the 26.2 with DONNA Foundation as the official charity of the DAYTONA 100, and to be able to raise funds for this terrific and vitally-important foundation.
Given the dates of the EVERGLADES ULTRAS and DONNA 110, and also given the fact I felt I needed to run the DAYTONA 100 course before opening up registration to the public, the only date that really worked for me was the weekend after EVERGLADES, February 27-28.
I have been running road marathons and ultras for 15 years now. I have run some of the biggest and most iconic races in the world, such as the Badwater 135, Bob's KEYS100, the 153-mile SPARTATHLON, and the incredible 175-mile ULTRA-MILANO SANREMO in Italy. I've also run many of the biggest marathons like Boston and New York. By now, I have a very clear view on what I think "works" at an ultra and what does not. So when I designed the DAYTONA 100, I sought to incorporate the best aspects of all of my favorite races. In a very real sense, I built my "dream" race: flat, fast, scenic, and with mild temperatures. (That being said, it still is 100 miles long, and I'm not planning on installing a 100-mile moving walkway on the course anytime soon, so the race must still be taken very seriously). At any rate, I was not going to miss out on running my own race :)
Finally, I was just too intrigued by the thought of running from the Gulf Coast to the Ocean in one day, so I could not pass up the Cross Florida Route 40 "Romp" this past weekend (from Yankeetown to Ormond Beach). Directed by "George/Scott" Maxwell and my good friend Sue Anger, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to spend the weekend with some really great people.
(5) Alex: One of the best things about the past four weekends -- especially the last two (DAYTONA 100 and CROSS FLORIDA) -- Alex and I got to spend a lot of time where it was just the two of us. Just she and I against two 100+ mile courses. There is something very emotional, special, and connective about sharing an ultra with the person you love! (And trust me, it is every bit as hard to crew a point-to-point ultra as it is to run it...).
Hi, welcome to the Zwitty Ultra Endurance Coaching Program!