It’s been over three years since my last ultramarathon.
Since then, I’ve weathered an Achilles injury and surgery along with various non-running distractions, leaving me unsure as to whether I’d ever do another ultra. But now I’m sure. 2014, the 10th anniversary of my first race beyond 26.2 miles (the Cle Elum Ridge 50K, for anyone interested in such trivia), will also mark my return to such races.
My long-dormant interest in going long returned unexpectedly last month when I was in McCall, Idaho for a wedding. On a whim, I decided to circumnavigate Payette Lake, a distance of about 20 miles. Suddenly I was an ultrarunner again, at least in spirit — aching to go far rather than go fast, happily committing to a multi-hour journey and the attendant logistical challenges of refueling and bathroom stops. It was a satisfying outing, and there was no heel pain at the end, just the dull protests of overworked muscles.
I’ve since increased my long run to 29.5 miles, rediscovered the art of eating while in motion, and started picking races. My current plan is to do the Bridle Trails 50K in January and the Mad City 100K in April.
In returning to these sites of past success, I’ll need to manage my expectations carefully. Not only will I be slower than before, but the competition may be faster.
An example from a different race: when I won the JFK 50 Mile in 2009, my time of 5:50:13 was the 2nd-fastest in race history. In the past two years alone, four people have surpassed that: Michael Wardian (5:43), David Riddle (5:40 and 5:45), Trent Briney (5:37), and Max King (5:34!).
It would have been just about impossible for me to keep up with those guys when I was in my prime, so what chance would I have against them now? I’ve become — sigh — “a top masters runner,” rather than a top runner period.
Despite all of that, it will feel good to get out there, post some times, and then try to improve.