Experience From -
Karl King , Jay Hodde , Geri Kilgariff , Mike Erickson , Scott Eppelman , Stephen Simmons , Ray Krolewicz , Jay Hodde#2 , Billie Jones , Jay Hodde#3, Jeff Washburn , Ed Parrot , Jennifer Aviles , Karl King#2, Robert Thomas , Bill LaDieu , Ray Krolewicz ,
Peter Bakwin writes:
"Though many people on this list seem to run 50's and 100's routinely with no ill effects, it takes most of us a lot of years to build up to that and to learn all the pitfalls, and particularly how to avoid injuries."This is an often underestimated point. It takes a lot of TIME to grow the body's organs important for endurance - and you can't see the process at all. How many of us know for a fact how much our liver has adapted for endurance exercise? Virtually none of us. Even for those who think this stuff is BS, it happens whether they know it or not.
Heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, digestive system all grow in response to endurance training. We think we're training our muscles, but most of us had well-trained running muscles by the time we got to ultra running.
It is sooo easy for veterans to think this is all "easy" and counsel a novice accordingly, not realizing that the novice has not adapted and just can't handle it the same as a veteran.
The point is, if you're new to this sport just realize that endurance ability is slow to build. Have patience. The good news is that endurance is also slow to fade, so if you get an injury, don't panic. It's not like 5K race speed which can leave in a hurry if you don't keep it fine tuned.
Peter Bakwin writes:
"Though many people run 50's and 100's routinely with no ill effects, it takes most of us a lot of years to build up to that and to learn all the pitfalls, and particularly how to avoid injuries."I need to concur with Karl and Peter on this one. A 100-mile runner is not made in a day.
It took me almost 2 years of high mileage, ultra training before I was able to finish my first 100-miler. I think I was one of the lucky ones, doing it sooner than most people can even dream of doing. In fairness, though, I was 23 at the time, and we all know that age has an effect on training ability.
I would question Peter's comment on "ill effects", though, as I am a true believer that the 100-miler takes something away from you that is not easily replaced. I don't know exactly what it is, but I think that most people will experience some negative effects due to the distance. Eventually. And that will take different amounts of time and manifest itself in different ways for each of us.
Does that mean I'm telling you not to run 100's? Never. I love the distance, even if deep down I have a sense that it is taking something from me.
Just some musings, no science or proof.
Greg Loomis wrote:
Yes, I believe racing a 100 like that takes something outta ya, but to merely walk and finish one, no, Proof: Hans Deter-W......7 `100's in 8 week span!Greg, Hans D-W and Monica S are exceptions. Most folks could not run as many 100s as those two have and still hold up. Regardless of speed, 100 miles is 100 miles. Ultras are hard on the body. I know quite a few ultrarunners who get caught up in the addiction, run too many, too often, and end up sick or injured for months. And it seems that the odds of breakdown increase when compounded by other compulsions from the past or present...such as alcoholism, drug abuse and/or eating disorders.
If you run ultras, you really need to take care of your body. You're not indestructible, even though you might think you are at the moment.
"I know quite a few ultrarunners who get caught up in the addiction, run too many, too often, and end up sick or injured for months. And it seems that the odds of breakdown increase when compounded by other compulsions from the past or present...such as alcoholism, drug abuse and/or eating disorders."There has to be some kind of curious irony here. I've known more than a few URunners who are drawn to compulsive runner...errrr...ultrarunning, as a 'constructive outlet' or alternative to self destructive behavior. All things in moderation? What's that mean? I guess that if you have a choice in how you manipulate your endorphins or other hormones then you're still in control...'cause you can stop at any time, right? Running, I'm only in it for the chicks, really.
I've been thinking about Peter and Jay's comments, especially what Jay has to say regarding running 100s "taking something away from you." This sounds almost like we all have a finite store of endurance running in us, from which running 100s makes a never-to-be-replaced withdrawal. The distance is not to be taken lightly, and should follow a suitable training and racing build up. But in my mind, being recovered from a race means recovery - whether that takes three weeks or six months. When one is healed he/she is ready to go again, from baseline.Know your limits and your capabilities. Run your own race, and run smart. Just my thoughts.
Longevity is a very interesting and warranted subject. Jay Hodde wrote something in UR recently about phsyical and mental burnout, and how it applied to him after his '97 season of 7 100 milers. It was expsecially intersting to me as I thought his writing echoed the way a hard season of mine in '98 effected me as a runner.
Ever since that season which I extended with very hard barkley training up to the '99 barkley, I haven't ever been the runner I was before. I became sick just before the '99 barkley, which I think I peaked for in Dec likely anyhow, and after the event, after recovering, I was able to train enough to finish Badwater, but even Badwater took place as my health and spirits were going downhill.
I understand Jays' expereince at Badwater in '99, if anyone's ever read about it, and that would have been about equal to my physical and mental state in '2000, 2 seasons after my hard season. I've attempted to explain what I think I have gone and am going through, and I've explained it as not really an aggressive illness, but rather a passive condition, where as I don't think much is wrong, but my body just doesn't have much of a tolerance to handle things, or much of an immune system. It will be interesting to see how Hans and Monica are effected in the long run. Something that might be a factor is they might have been running ultra distances for much longer than myself and Jay, as we were relatively gung ho newcomers to the sport during our seasons.
As I told Jay, the health was the 1st to go, and the mental aspect seemed to come on late in '99. I just have such a passive view about ultra running for the time being. It interests me considerably, but I just don't have an agressive intensity for doing much about it. I'm just waiting for the time when something changes and pushed me back into it, because again, I certainly have much of the apsirations I had for Barkley, Nolans' ect., and even adventure racing, it's just that's it's more thoughts and words than actions. And actions speak louder than words.
While this might not pertain to everone or even many, I think it's simple to consider that how a person can handle things in the long run differs alot. Another mention, as for running 100 milers fast or slow, while it might be "harder" for many of us to run a top time, I don't think it's any harder in many ways overall, the elite ceretainly work hard, but genetics have a lot to say about ability to perform. But regardless, I've always thought back of the pack runners perhaps have it the hardest in the actual races as they are out on the course for often 2 times longer.
At my first trail 100, the Massanutten in '97, Courtney Campbell was finished, showered, and likely home in bed when I was at mile 60 slowly making my way across the rocks. While his effort was exceptional and certainly I'm not capable of such and am not taking anything away from him, even so I'd certainly argue who had it harder.
But that said, all efforts are to be equally respected, but, there is a science to it all that we can't really understand individually or put a finger on, or apply to everyone equally. But it's a long race, a long sport, endurance is the key, not just in the race but overall as well.
Geri, my dear friend, pardon the language, but bull, we are all indestructable. there is nothing amazing about the people you mentioned, except their ability to be smart bout their bodies. People used to tell me that kind of drivel, well I worked at it, and as long as the work is smart the more you run the more you can run. it is called training. I can still run, even without training, I'm just a lot slower, if I resumed old training methods I would be fast again. it really is that simple. If I had hans budget and time I could have run twice as many 100's, certainly every weekend would not be out of the question, with an occasional mid week effort. That is not to belittle his tremendous acomplishment, merely to point out that he has the fortunate situation where he can do all of this, just as I had a situation that allowed me to train the way I did back when I did.
I know what K is saying, but I don't think we're talking about the same thing. Sure, if I train "bigger, faster, stronger" than I become "bigger, faster, stronger". But that isn't what Steve and I are trying to relate.
After my season of 100's in 1997, I continued to race in the fall, eventually giving way to mono over Christmas.
I recovered and trained for the 1998 season, specifically aiming to peak for Hardrock. It worked.
I continued to run and race, not gearing for anything specific, because I knew my next big event was going to be Badwater 1999.
"enough to finish Badwater, but even Badwater took place as my health and spirits were going downhill. I understand Jays' expereince at Badwater in '99, if anyone's ever read about it, and that would have been about equal to my physical and mental state in '2000, 2 seasons after my hard season."Yes, I think it was a delayed response in my case, too. It peaked 2 seasons after the Grand Slam. Mental and emotional fatigue for no explainable reason. Physical injuries occurred, but couldn't be explained by the miles I was training at the time.
Badwater was a disaster, and I walked off the course after running 26 miles.
I've attempted to explain what I think I have gone and am going through, and I've explained it as not really an aggressive illness, but rather a passive condition, where as I don't think much is wrong, but my body just doesn't have much of a tolerance to handle things, or much of an immune system.I would explain it the same way. My condition now is different than it was in 1999-2000, because I admit that I'm got getting the training time I need. I know how to fix my current state. But what was going on in 1999 and early 2000 wasn't something I could fix. I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
It's a lot like trying to recover from an injury. If you don't know what the injury is, how are you supposed to recover from it.
Steve and I have gone through something that we don't understand, something that taking our condition to a physician *probably* would not reveal. "Doc, I feel great, but I get mentally and physically fatigued at mile 60 of my 100-mile race."
It will be interesting to see how Hans and Monica are effected in the long run. Something that might be a factor is they might have been running ultra distances for much longer than myself and Jay, as we were relatively gung ho newcomers to the sport during our seasons.Actually, before last year, Hans and Monica had never finished a 100-miler (if I remember what they've told me). I prefer not to talk about them specifically, but I've gone public with these thoughts in general (see the March UR Letters to the Editor, in addition to the column Steve referred to).
As I told Jay, the health was the 1st to go, and the mental aspect seemed to come on late in '99. I just have such a passive view about ultra running for the time being.Yes, this is the same thing that I experienced. There seems to become a certain lack of tolerance to the conditions. You get to the point where you ask yourself "why", and you just decide to stop. Or just not enter. Or enter, then just not show up.
It has become harder for me to "want" to finish. And maybe this is different from the initial mental anguish I experienced in 1999, but a changed has occurred and it hasn't been a conscious decision.
I've been known to stop during a 100-miler if I can ask myself the question, "Where would I rather be than right here, right now?" and I can truthfully come up with an answer other than "no where". That is why I travel to my races alone. That is why I try not to drive to races. That is why I force myself into a location -- so I won't find something better to do until I'm done running.
Another mention, as for running 100 milers fast or slow, while it might be "harder" for many of us to run a top time, I don't think it's any harder in many ways overall, the elite ceretainly work hard, but genetics have a lot to say about ability to perform. But regardless, I've always thought back of the pack runners perhaps have it the hardest in the actual races as they are out on the course for often 2 times longer.A 100-miler is 100 miles, whether you do it in 16 hours or 30. To say that the 30-hour finisher is not working as hard as the 16 hour person is an insult to the guy who doesn't have the genetic ability to run that fast. It also means that lack of speed does not prevent the type of thing Steve and I are trying to convey.
PS. Neither Steve nor I are very fast.
Just some musings. I still don't know what it all means.
I agree, Scott! Anytime you toe the line of an ultramarathon you take a chance of doing damage to your mind, body, and soul. After finishing 261 of these crazy running events called ultras, I feel I'm change in someway each time. At times there is the law of diminishing return in terms of miles and races. I've gone through periods of my running life when I was off in terms of speed and enjoyment. Time will changes your feelings. Deciding to run a 100 miler is like deciding to fall in love after a divorce. Your taking a chance of feeling pain again, but oh think of the pleasure.
Rod Hasker wrote:
Has depression been ruled out? Lyme disease?I haven't really thought about Lyme, to be honest.
It's hard, however, for me to look back and objectively talk about depression, becuase I need to admit that I was unhappy with my job while I going through all of this. So maybe, in your moment of seriousness, you've hit on something that I've never seriously considered before.
We all know that stress is stress and that the body can't differentiate the stress of running from the stress of family or work life. So maybe, in tilting the "stress balance" as a result of the Last Great Race (in my case), I just went over the edge and have taken a long time to return. Fixing the job situation has helped tremendously, however. It's just eaten into the training time and limiting how much I can race.
As someone who has done a bunch of ultras in one season (ten 100 milers and two 50K's in 1999), I can respond to the thread with some experience. There is more of a mental breakdown than a physical one. That is why some people can continue racing well and others suffer for a while before they can come back to racing. I suffered from the mental breakdown to some extent after finishing my ten 100's, more because the experience was completed than because of the races themselves. I think that Hans and Monica will have no problems with this until they have to stop their streaks. That's when it really hits home. As for the physical aspect, Ray K is correct about it just making you stronger. However, the more you race, the more chance you have of an injury. That's just the price we pay. I, as a slow back of the packer, rarely get an injury. However, being slow, places more stress on me mentally in a 100 than the physical abuse. I was always pushing the cutoffs (finishing last at Western States with 3 minutes to spare and with 5 minutes to spare at LT in 1999). This took a lot out of me.
Both Hans and Monica ran their first 100 milers in 1999. Hans had been "collecting" marathon finishes for some time and, I beleive, he holds the record for the most official marathon finishes in one year. Monica is new to the sport and still rather young by ultra standards. She will be the one to watch to verify the breakdown theory, whether mental or physical. I wish them the best of luck and look forward to seeing them at Massnutten again this year.
Yes, I think it was a delayed response in my case, too. It peaked 2 seasons after the Grand Slam. Mental and emotional fatigue for no explainable reason. Physical injuries occurred, but couldn't be explained by the miles I was training at the time.Nearly every serious runner has experienced periods like this - things just don't go right physically or mentally for no apparent reason. I tend to believe that there usually IS a reason or reasons, but it's not always possible to identify. I'm sure that hard racing and training can play a role - it has in my own personal case.
But everyone's different and what will cause some people to breakdown physically or emotionally will be no problem for others. And what works fine for one person one year might destroy them the next year. We are constantly changing in response to our environment. I also think that very few people have removed ALL the other stresses from their lives so they can concentrate 100% on running - I'm not sure I would want to even if I could. So if you haven't removed everything else from your life, then it is not just the100 milers that is the problem - it is the 100 milers plus the other stresses.
I have had the opportunity to talk with several Kenyans training in this country about their lifestyle both in their training groups here and at home. Most of them don't do anything except run, stretch, eat and sleep. One of my friends is in the FILA training program in San Diego and upon going there and doing nothing but run for 10 weeks, she improved from not making the Olympic trials to a 2:32 marathon at Chicago.
Most of us have chosen lives with more stresses in them. Each of us has different physical and mental abilities and different things we can and can't handle. These are not excuses, they are simply factors we have to take into account when deciding how hard and how far to train and race. It should be no surprise that many of us sometimes push beyond whatever our own personal threshhold is at any given time, and wind up injured, burned out, or depressed.
I wouldn't want it any other way!
It is interesting to read these accounts of burnout and I'm not thinking about a 100 miler simply because I have arthritis and such an attempt would probably wreak havoc on my system. I do not want to crash like I did several years ago and I do want to run at least another GCII and a 50K or perhaps other challenges including a hoped-for goal early this fall. So as you all are discussing this, I'm reading carefully for clues and suggestions and thank you for doing so on the list rather than privately. What follows is my experience but the above paragraph is really what I wanted to say, besides thanks.
Eleven years ago and after about 10 years of running trail ultras and flat longer events consistently I had a banner year of running including a personal best at the age of 45 on a shorter course (8 miler in the Saguaro National Monument) and then kicked off late fall by running the Grand Canyon Double followed a week later by the New York City Marathon. Then along came several weekends running our trails here (usually nothing less than 20 miles and several hours out) then a very fast (for me at 7:30 pace) Phoenix Half Marathon followed by our trail series and then the Old Pueblo 50 miler in March. Then I absolutely crashed. I had run smart, eaten well, slept great, rested appropriately (for the level of fitness I was at at that time), had remained injury free and had felt I'd really been tuned into my body. The 9:58 time I ran for the 50 miler was surprisingly easy (although you could not have convinced me to continue on if a 100 miler was a possibility) and I could walk up and down stairs the next day and didn't have any aches and pains (maybe the endorphins had kicked in, I don't know). But then I caught everything from anyone who so much as breathed in the same room as I did for several months and that fall had a very hard time running even a 30K on the flat! I attempted a marathon early the following year and finished it in about 4.5 hours (PW) and decided at that point to simply get in a daily run and try to make 20 miles a week. This has lasted now for 9 years. Later, I corresponded with Karl King about adrenal gland exhaustion, etc. and still believe that there's a link here. Other unrelated stressors were at work, too, re the sandwich generation thing but in all I simply had to cut way back. I now feel like I'm stronger again (and being retired helps) and have been gradually building up my mileage. Interestingly, a key warning sign for me (and I wonder if other older women are experiencing this) is the return of hot flashes for a day or two whenever I push too hard. Once I rest, they go away again.
Ed Parrot writes:
Most of us have chosen lives with more stresses in them. Each of us has different physical and mental abilities and different things we can and can't handle. These are not excuses, they are simply factors we have to take into account when deciding how hard and how far to train and race.That's a very nice summary. The so-called "burn out" factor has gotten some serious study.
We're talking about something related to endocrine system function. Jay is right when he observes that the body is reacting to all current stress, and that can be from many more sources than your long run schedule for the last 4 monts, or how many 100's you did last year.
My personal observation is that any given ultra was not that hard to recover from if I had a good time running it. If I was happy with the result and looking forward to the next one, recovery was pretty good. My worst recovery emotionally was from an ultra where I was running well but dropped after I lost a ton of time trail hunting on a poorly marked trail. I found my way, but my run was down the tubes.
Some folks who live to run may have little trouble with recovery. But most people will eventually trash part of the hypothalamus-pituitary system if they just keep piling on the miles. Some will not. Some will run fine, but have job or other personal problems that do a number on them. Whatever, if you feel it coming on with the kind of feelings that Jay described, it would be wise to examine what's going on in your life and figure out how much of your energy you can afford to devote to running. There are no easy answers - you'll just have to work it out for yourself.
There is some kind of mental block some people have concerning speed, that is how fast you can finish a race and what is the harder effort, slower or faster.
If you are slower in a hundred it can be harder to do the event. More time on your feet can equal more blisters, food is more problematic, with a longer time period to keep awake. Your body is probably not as relatively fit as a faster runner making the effort very hard when you start to blow up. Very fit runners can still move well at half speed.
I have been very unfit and fairly fit during my 100 runs and from personal experience the slower runs done when I was not fit are much harder to complete. Additionally when I raced bicycles after 10 years of training I achieved a fitness approximately as good as an 2:20 - 2:25 marathon runner and I like to say it was relatively easy to hammer for hours on end. Twenty years have gone bye; I am in 4:45 marathon shape now and just finished a 53-mile hilly ride, thought I was going to die. Never thought I was going to die when I was young and in shape.
There is no magic about being fast. You train and if you have good genetics you will be fast if not you will be slow, it's that simple. This does not make a slower runner some sort of inferior athlete, on the contrary, many slower athlete train harder than the gifted athlete plus have no reward other than finishing. If you're training for an Olympic gold medal, first place in a race or money, it can be easier to commit the time and effort need to be very fit.
We of course can applaud the gifted athlete and the amazing performances they are capable of, but this does not diminish the equally amazing accomplishments of less genetically gifted athlete.
Very interesting thread. I am a 51 year old mid to back of the packer in my 5th year of running ultras I still consider myself somewhat of a newbie even though I have participated in 23 events. For the past year and half I have been working with Kevin Setnes to help me maximize what potential I have. This is what I have learned:
I have run 100 miles in 13:58, 23:00, 29:42, 31:20, and about every time in between, they were all 100 miles, with their own demons. Training helps, smart training helps more, and the longer the race the less natural speed is a factor. 8 minute miles yielded 10th place (first woman) at the recent GNC 100K. Nine minute miles almost yeilds an American record at 24 hours 10's a WR at 48, and so on. You wanna try something hard try to break 2 minutes for a mere half mile. Train for that result for 2 years, and be amazed at your ultra times.