What is an Ultra?
Most of you have probably figured out an Ultra involves running of some nature, but want to know more. I thought it might be nice if I would explain a bit of what and how an Ultra event goes down! As well as how I came to want to accomplish the goal of running one!
So after last weeks blog post and numerous hash tags including something Ultra, the burning curiosity of the Ultra manifested itself in a series of questions from followers....
What is an Ultra?
Like how far is that?
Do you get to run it over a period of days?
Why would you want to do this?
I think the most important thing is in understanding the why behind the desire to run an Ultra; therefore, I am gonna start there! The year was 2009, I had never ran a mile let alone knew or understood what a 5K was all about! In fact the last time I tried my hand at running was in high school. To be brutally honest, I sucked at it not to mention felt inferior when I tried! So... no I did not letter in Track & Field! I actually never set out that day in the spring of 2009 to even run a mile. It all begin at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on a dare. I found myself standing there to go Rim to Rim in one day. A challenge accepted from a guy & his son who had done it several times. I thought heck yes, I am country enough to do this...if they can, I sure can...it is on!
That morning as I stepped over the South Rim down the trail it was a cool high 30's. I was so in awe of the landscape the trip down to the bottom flew past in just around 3 hours. I hiked, galloped and frolicked my way to the bottom only to realize my quads were trashed. The guys both decided they would run ahead...I did not realize they were determined to beat me out of this huge hole. I was so naive not really understanding; I could get lost, I could get injured, I could die! Obviously I did not die as I sit here reminiscing about that fantastic, magical moment. I actually lost to the son but beat the dad out despite a huge storm system and a pot load of donkey poop running down the trails as I hiked up to the North Rim switch back after switch back. It was only the next morning when a couple of park volunteers congratulated me then told me the danger of trying such a feat! That day I completed just a hair over 21 miles with lots of vert just shy of a marathon. I returned home and started frequenting the trails at Lake Murray State Park and never looked back. Shortly thereafter, I read about Ultra Running. I recall me telling my friend about these runs in the woods that last so long you setup tents and have crew members. I told her, "One day I am gonna do this!"...then I ask her to crew me. Now you know my WHY and how I got started. In between then and now a lot of miles, injuries, life setbacks and such have happened. But never once did I lose sight of my goal which was always looming in the back of my mind!
So there you have it an Ultra is...any distance over 26.2 miles performed on trails vs roads with the help of a crew and a pacer as running into the night is the norm. The 100 miler seemed to be a popular distance, yep you heard me 100 miles. This was to be run all at one time with the option to have a crew at the aid stations along with a pacer after a certain mile...right then and there I set my sights on running an Ultra. I am still not sure if 100 miles would ever appeal to me, but I did want to run a 50 miler before I turn 50. I have my sights set on a 50 miler in April 2018. We shall see how the Universe cooperates with me!
A couple of months towards the end of the year in 2016, I started planning some personal development strategies for the coming year (as I do every year). I really thought about my mindset and how I given into doing only things I knew I could do...my motto had evolved into, "I am too old for pain!" I was great at avoiding it at all cost! I felt this mindset was dragging me down making me weak! Billy Faith has no time for being weak. So...the Ultra Santa Fe came to mind after hearing about it when I was in the area running a road race...The Buffalo Thunder. I logged on at 12:01 am New Years Day when registration opened and entered my first Ultra a 50K which is 31 miles. The goal was to learn to embrace being uncomfortable.
Ultra Santa Fe will take place in The Sangre De Cristo Mountains and Foothills surrounding Santa Fe, New Mexico. The race follow single track trails through high alpine ponderosa, mixed conifer forests, and the piñon and juniper covered foothills of The Sangre De Cristo Mountains attaining a maximum elevation of approximately 12,000'. The Ultra is going down for me at 7 am on Saturday, September 2, 2017. I will make my way around the mountain taking in 31 miles with 8,500' of vertical climb at high elevation. There will be 6 aid stations serving fuel, 2 drop bag sites at mile 9.2 and mile 23.9. In addition to all the logistics there are cut-off times at each aid station. If you should not meet these you are escorted off the course with a DNF (did not finish); therefore, to answer "Is this done in one day?"....YES that is the goal. You keep moving until you finish or DNF! Now with all that being said, this event is going to be tough physically and mentally.
I have intentionally came in a bit under physically trained. I have prepared for the majority of this race with mindset training. I am curious how this will compare to having trained physically and not focusing on the mindset. I will toe the line taking what the Universe gives me that day. Mother Nature is unpredictable, anything could shake out! My goal that day is to arrive early, rested and with a great mindset! My strategy of making my cutoff times...well I am just gonna keep gliding in the moment over the trails. Will there be suffering? Sure there will be given the nature of the task. To handle the suffering my plan is to to focus on being grateful for the ability to be out on the mountain, thriving on the movement among nature and to maintain my love for the earth below my feet. I have said and done it before...if your suffering just smile. It changes the dynamic of the task!
To say I have no fear is really not true. As I arrived the locals started planting the seed that the altitude would get me. At first, I fell for this and let it fester. Then I decided to take my own advise. I am leaning back and letting it pass by! I will not dwell on what has not already happened. I hope this answers any questions and will publish a debrief after the Ultra wraps! I hope to be able to share information with the goal to inspire others to embrace a trip outside of their comfort zone. Because lets face it...if you do not try you might not find your jam! Looking forward to getting this done and moving on to a 50 miler! Then we shall see what is next!!! Until then, let us Love One Another, Kick Fear to the Curb and Embrace our Life as we only get one!
Peace, Love & Light