Twelve Reasons I Should NOT Run A 100-Miler

Jason is advocating greater participation in 100-mile races. I can’t speak for anyone else, but his reasons have had the opposite effect on me: I’m now more certain than ever that I should never try to run 100 miles. He gives a list of twelve reasons one should give it a go, but they all read as DON’T give it a go to me.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t run a 100-miler, and this is in no way a criticism of his post. I’m just talking about myself here. Because that’s what I do.

Anyway, here are his reasons:

1. “There is no good reason to run a hundred miles… Hundreds tax you physically and mentally in a way that is impossible to replicate in our daily lives. Having the courage to face these obstacles is reason enough to make the journey.”

Yeah, see, I’m a coward. I love the idea of “the journey,” but I can barely handle the defeats that don’t hurt so much as it is. Seriously, I just struggled mightily to open a jar, and I felt so much self pity I cried. I don’t think I could handle a 100-miler.

2. “100s Compared to Other Distances… In short, the 100 introduces far more variables than any other shorter distance. That makes the experience a truly unique experience.”

To my ears, “variables” means “misery.” Don’t let the glasses fool you, I’m a simple person. I’m really not very bright. Oh, I still think I’m WAY smarter than average, but that isn’t saying much, is it? Anyway, I like things to be simple. For example, I much prefer the relatively strict guidelines of boxing to what looks to me like the chaos of MMA. Although, I haven’t watched any boxing in years, which has nothing to do with my point, but there it is.

3. “Cheap Therapy… You begin to see your true self in a way that is often surprising if not a little shocking.”

I’ve seen glimpses of my “true self” racing shorter distances, and I think I can say I know where that train is headed. Actually, the “self” is an illusion. I guess that rainbow has been unwoven for me. As it is, I’m skeptical of the whole “therapy” thing, regardless of the price.

4. Required Physical Skills, Lifelong Pursuit… If you have the physical ability to run a slow mile, you have the physical ability to run 100 miles.”

I suppose I am physically capable to run that distance, although the fact that I’ve broken down in distances as short as a half marathon gives me reason to doubt that. What I don’t doubt is that I do not possess the mental determination I witnessed when pacing at the Umstead 100, and that’s supposed to be one of the easiest 100-milers in the country.

5. “The Danger and Joy of Finding Your Limits… Those that have the courage to face the potential for failure have the opportunity to find their true limits.”

I don’t mind failing. I’m quite accustomed to the practice. I suppose it would be cool to find out that I’m capable of more than I previously thought, but is that cool worth the greater likelihood of the cost of the search team required to find me after I get lost? I get turned around on an outnback, for crying out loud.

6. “Intrinsic Rewards of the 100-Miler… There’s something inside that yearns for the experience, and I care less and less about other people’s reactions or other extrinsic motivations.”

The pursuit of speed in shorter distances have pretty much the same intrinsic (and extrinsic) rewards. I happen to find the misery of speed more acceptable.

7. “Problem Solving Practice… Hundreds cause problems. A LOT of problems. You face a litany of issues like dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, glycogen depletion, chafing, blisters, blunt-force injuries caused by falling, hypothermia, hyperthermia, animal encounters, getting lost, altitude sickness, rain, snow, wind, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, swelling, insect bites, and pain in places that aren’t supposed to hurt.”

Yes. Exactly. Doesn’t sound fun to me.

8. “Developing Faith in Your Abilities… Finishing a hundred requires you to silence frequent bouts of self-doubt.”

I need my self-doubt. Without it, I’m insufferable.

9. “Battle Against Yourself… There are times in hundreds where you will want to quit. No matter how much willpower you think you have.”

One of the benefits of being weak-minded is that I can meet these hurdles in shorter distances. It’s kind of like being an easy drunk.

10. “Lifelong Teacher… If you fail to learn, you’ll be punished without mercy.”

I don’t mean to sound like a prude, but I’m not into the whole punishing thing. I’m more of a “reward-based” pooch.

11. “Lots of Hotties.”

So in addition to the likelihood of painful failure, I’ll be reminded of how goofy-looking I am. Swell!

12. “Silencing the Doubters… Try telling someone that runs that far they can’t do something. Anything. It’s impossible.”

I need people telling me not to do things, because many of the things I think of to do are really dumb. So let’s say I run a 100-miler, overcome the pain and misery and awfulness, and finish with a new respect for my abilities to be my own man, then BAM! I have a forehead piercing, and it’s infected.

Lastly, the distance doesn’t interest me all that much because according to people who know much better than I, shoes are pretty much required. If I’m going to run that far in shoes, I’m going to need to train a lot in shoes. I really, really like being barefoot, and prefer the majority of my running to be without shoes. That for me is what it really comes down to. I like my feet.

Barefoot Hike, I Know You Want to Take One

Guy named Ike
With Daddy Warbuck’s trust fund
Ride a bike
Around a hamburger bun

Nonsense
Lyrics
Red Hot
Chili Peppers

Sorry about that. I wrote the title, and really had no choice. I’m sure you understand.

I’ve been feeling the need for a running reset since Ridge to Bridge in late October of last year, but never really gave myself adequate time off. Ever since April I’ve been under-running just enough to avoid hurting myself. The pins, particularly the calves, feel like overcooked chicken.

I didn’t make that up, by the way. “Overcooked chicken,” that is. That pleasant bit of imagery comes from massage therapist Joel Tull, whose services I’ve been receiving in direct violation of The Opposite of Good philosophy. I asked him if he could feel a difference in post-race leg muscles compared to regular old leg muscles. He said yes, post-race muscles feel like overcooked chicken. He gives a discount on massages in exchange for race bibs, FYI.

Where was I? Right. Reset. Another barefooty thing I’ve been wanting to do more of but not doing at all was hiking. As a kid, I didn’t run but I loved to walk. I especially loved the woods, where I would pretend I was some ancient mythological hero or another looking for monsters to fight and damsels in apparel appropriate for a Conan the __fill in the blank__er book cover to rescue.

I think I make it pretty clear that it was the fictional damsels, and not I, wearing said apparel. If you were unsure, I hope this addendum sufficiently clarifies the issue. If not, well, think what you want.

The problem with hiking as a runner is that after running, I rarely have time/energy to go for a hike, especially in the very hot summer. If I take a running break in the winter, then it’s too cold for me to hike barefoot. So the timing of this reset works out perfectly: this is the summer of the hike. Here are some pictures from a four mile out-n-back trail behind the local high school:

Interestingly, I tend to kick things (accidentally, not in anger) less when walking the dogs. I think it’s because my mind wanders when hiking solo. Me? A wandering mind? You’re shocked, I’m sure. Anyway, there’s been quite a bit of barefoot trail hiking of late. Maybe if I keep at it, I could one day have the confidence and ability to be competitive in a trail race without shoes.

I might kick a rock or a root from time to time, but I find the hiking to be pretty easy and enjoyable, regardless of the difficulty of the terrain. Sometimes I’ll be slow and deliberate over the technical stuff, other times I’ll just sort of bound over it. There’s lots of arm flailing to my method; I’m sure I’m the picture of grace out there. Nothing really hurts to walk on, though, at least on the trails traveled so far. “I could totally do this for forty or whatever miles,” I’d say to myself right before I’m humbled by another round of Whack-A-Toe.

So that’s what’s been going on, barefoot-wise. While I may not be running, I will be racing next weekend: a canoe race down the Dan River with Iris. We both have canoeing experience in our youth, and even canoed together a few times early in our relationship, but it’s been a while since then so I’m studying youtube videos on paddling technique.

So there you go, hiking and canoeing. I feel so three-dimensional.

In case you’re wondering what that bit at the beginning was about, well, here:

This song makes me think of delivering dog food in Brooklyn.

Failure Recovery With Floss

“People who smoke cigarettes, they say ‘Man, you don’t know how hard it is to quit smoking.’ Yes, I do — it’s as hard as it is to start flossing.”
- Mitch Hedberg

I knew it was going to happen. Walking the last mile of The Scream, I tried to really imprint into my memory how I felt: accepting of my fate, proud of my effort, and completely, thoroughly spent. I wanted to remember because I knew a shipment of disappointment and self-criticism was in the mail, scheduled for a Tuesday delivery. Sure enough! I woke up that morning thinking, “a stronger person would have been able to run through it and hang on to at least give ac a run for his money. I had only a mile left!”

Fortunately I had a dentist appointment scheduled on Thursday. Officially I was there for a cleaning, but really it was a Moment of Truth. I felt confident I was prepared to be judged, and that the emperors of the dental colosseum would give me the ol’ thumbs up of approval. I had been training for that appointment for over a decade.

My last dental appointment was about ten years ago. Which coincidentally was around the last time I played chess. That is, until the morning after The Scream. AC, quite understandably wanting to stretch the record to 9-0 (in favor of him) challenged me to a game. It played out EXACTLY like the race: I started strong, then went defensive, then had nothing left.

Someday I’m going to beat that guy at SOMETHING.

Anyway, my teeth. I decided long ago that of the many variables of life, oral hygiene is one that I could control. The value of flossing is probably the least controversial bit of health advice out there. I didn’t know when my next dental appointment was going to be, I was just going to take care of my teeth as if all of the dentists of the world got teleported to a different dimension, presumably one with a serious cavity problem.

Five days after my failure at The Scream!, that being July 19th, at 1:45pm EST, I was handed a victory ten years in the making.

“I have been looking forward to this,” I told the hygienist. I assume she gave me an odd look. I don’t know for sure, because I’m not really an “eye contact” type of person. “I’ve been very disciplined with my flossing regimen, and I’m confident my hard work will pay off. Please, don’t hold back in your critique of my work. That is, in the unlikely event you’ll have any.”

“I’ll be brutal,” she replied in a “it’s probably best to humor this weirdo” tone of voice. Sharp objects in hand, she started digging around my teeth like an archeologist.

“Oh, and before you begin, it might be of interest to you that I have a mighty powerful gag reflex. So, there’s that.”

She did her best to make my gums bleed, but my gums said “bring it.” After a while she realized what she was up against, and redirected her efforts to what the real job was. That being mere touch-up work on the art that is my chompers.

“Tremendous,” she exclaimed in shock when finished. Yes, seriously, no poetic license here, she said “Tremendous.” The Dentist guy came in to inspect my mechanisms of mastication himself. He inspected with a quiet reverence, then said, “In all my years… I, I don’t know what to say. It is an honor, sir, an honor, to be allowed to witness such an exquisite objet d’art.” He then bowed his head and humbly offered me a toothbrush.

That’s how I remember it. I get fuzzy on details sometimes, but that was certainly the gist.

“Say,” he said, “are you that barefoot running guy? We’re on the road the same time most mornings.”

Now instead of thinking “there’s that barefoot guy” when he sees me, my dentist will think “there go the best set of chompers I’ve ever looked at with a tiny mirror.”

I guess the lesson in all of this is that while sometimes you got what it takes and sometimes you don’t, anyone can be a winner with a disciplined flossing regimen.