- DONNA 110 (2/14-2/15): 110 miles in 16:54 (1st place, course record). (The Donna 110 is a stage race, with 84 miles on Day 1 and then the 26.2 with DONNA marathon on Day 2; I ran 13:26 for the first 84, and then the next morning, ran a 3:28 marathon);
- EVERGLADES ULTRAS 50-mile (2/21): 7:43 (7th overall);
- DAYTONA 100 (2/28-2/29): 21:25 (while I wasn't "racing" anyone, I still wanted to post a semi-decent time on my own course...);
- CROSS FLORIDA ROUTE 40 "ROMP" (3/7-3/8): 116 miles in 22:56 (1st place, course record).
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.
(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.
(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:
Bob Becker is the best race director in the business, and his kindness, professionalism, and good nature shine through in everything he does. His EVERGLADES ULTRAS race is truly unique in Florida. I ran it the first year (2012), when the "trail" was more like an "underwater rain forest," and I was eager to get back this year, as the trail was clear, dry, and pristine. The race did not disappoint in the slightest. And those on hand got to witness the entry into the world of ultrarunning of David Kilgore, a former Pac 12 runner who just blistered the 50-miler in 6:02!!
Next, the DONNA 110 holds a very special place in my heart. Run in conjunction with the National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer, the 26.2 with DONNA, the course showcases the best of what Jacksonville has to offer. Additionally, my family has been particularly hard-hit by breast cancer, and I can think of no more worthy foundation to support than the 26.2 with DONNA Foundation.
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.
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.
3. what I learned (or at least was reaffirmed).
Looking back, I guess I should not have been so surprised, because we all constantly undervalue what we are truly capable of doing. I see it all the time in my runners; they are consistently breaking through pre-conceived "limits" to new levels. As famed ultrarunner/expeditioner Ray Zahab always says, "limits are 90% mental, and the other 10% is in your head." I cannot argue with that sentiment :)
(2) The Florida ultrarunning community is a treasure to be cherished: If you ever lose faith in humanity, show up at a Florida ultra one weekend. You will invariably be surrounded by some of the most kind, giving, hard-working, and all-around good people that you will ever meet in your life. It is my absolute honor to be a part of this group and call so many of you my really good friends.
(3) We all run for our own reasons, and judgment about others is just plain dumb: Over the course of the 386 miles that I raced over the past four weekends, I had a lot of time to think. And one theme that kept popping up in my head is just how individual our sport is, and just how different our goals and motivations often are for any given race. Personally, I run for all the reasons I mention above. But that's just me.
People that claim to know the "true nature" or "real meaning" of ultrarunning -- or look down on those who DNF races as somehow "inferior" -- are best given the Taylor Swift treatment (i.e., "Shake it Off") :) Judgment is dumb. There are so many reasons people like to run: competition, for fun, for the social aspect, to push boundaries, to lose weight, to gain weight (seriously), boredom, to try something new, because they lost a bet, so they can drink more beer, so they can avoid drinking, because they are getting chased by a tiger, whatever.
We are not professional athletes; none of us are getting paid to race. Ultrarunning is a participation sport, not a spectator sport. It is about me, and you, and us collectively. Why on earth would we ever question someone else's motivation to run? I thought about this frequently during those long hours over the past month. We are all on our own journeys...
4. Until next time...