On a recent Friday evening after getting out from a long day at work heading straight home was the enticing thing to do. Would be wonderful to sit in my warm home with my wife and kids or head out for dinner and a beer at one of the many great brew pubs in my town of Bend, Oregon. But instead I donned a rain jacket over my running clothes, put on a headlamp and gloves and readied to brace the elements outside. It was the middle of January and the weather was not very appealing to go for a training run. It was dark, rain with sleet fell and the route I had chosen to run on was either soggy, muddy, snow covered or all three at once. So what was it that got me out there when it would be so easy to just head straight home to the creature comforts that awaited? It wasn’t sheer determination to venture out after my wife texted me she was forgoing her run in this “cold rainy snowy stuff”. I wasn’t jumping for joy to have an opportunity to run in water soaked shoes with cold feet and having icey rain pelt my face. No, what actually motivates me on days and nights like this was what lies in the near future. I had already signed up for three races that were coming in the months ahead. The Eugene Marathon, a speedy road race distance I hadn’t done in a couple years. A new local race called The Wild Outback 50k a distance I hadn’t raced in a couple years as well. Lastly a mountain race called Beaverhead Endurance 100k with average race elevations I’d never attempted before.
About a decade ago ago when I first began running after each marathon race I’d take a month off to recover. I felt like my body was on the verge of falling apart from the effort and saw no reason not to take it easy for awhile. Eventually I’d start running again, but only casually with no plan or goal in mind. Before I knew it the winter season was fast approaching and it was time to crawl into my running hibernation mode.
The downfall to this strategy I found was once the warm seasons returned and I felt the pull to be outdoors running I realized I had lost much of my previously hard earned fitness. It seemed I was almost starting over again as I returned to the roads and trails. After several years of this foolhardy approach it finally dawned on me that maybe year round training was the way to go. Who’d of thunk it?! But I was lacking motivation. I continuely would start and stop then restart my running. Even the fact that I used running as a form of excercise to help me with my mental health was not enough to get me out there consistently. So what I did was sign for a new type of challenging race. I was drawn to races that would push my limits and challenge my physical and mental limits. However I was intimidated by the thought of running an ultramarathon. Just a few years prior I ran my first road marathon and ran in a local half trail marathon yearly, but running longer than 26.2 miles on not flat, smooth roads but on uneven, hilly or even mountainous terrain just made this runners knees shake. So I decided to get my feet wet by running a marathon length race on trails. My mind was comfortable with knowing I could complete the distance and I figured I’d start doing some hill training, which until then I avoided like the plague, and I’d be just fine. Needless to say the race proved more difficult than I imagined, but I got it done. A seed was planted as I realized how much I loved running on trails in Nature much more then on pavement. Yes, it was more challenging and I hurt after this race like I did after my very first marathon, but I loved it and was now hooked. So for the next calendar year I signed up for not just my first 50k but three of them. Coming off the heels of completing the Silverfalls Marathon I was plenty excited to start training for these greater challenges. As there was still much unknown to me about running ultra races I had plenty of motivation to keep training as the seasons changed. When the next racing season came to an end and it found me having completed all three ultras I realized how better fit I was when I trained year round. I also came to the realization having a huge challenge ahead of me gave plenty of reason to keep at it year round.
The next racing season I signed up for the Gorge Waterfalls 100k. Not only would it be my first race at that distance but it would have more vertical then any race I’d previously done and it also was my first Western States qualifier. It didn’t take long for this ultra newbie to start dreaming of his first hundo. This early spring race got me out the door repeatedly during the worst winter days as I really wanted to complete and do well in the race. That year I raced and finished three 100k races and one 50 miler. As the next couple of ultra racing calendar years came and went I continued to employ the same motivational technique. No longer being a rookie to ultras I knew I’d have to train properly or not only would I suffer throughout a race but might not even finish if I was unprepared. So now every year like many runners I get the itch to quickly sign up as announcements are made for the next seasons races. I give myself permission not to wait for it’s important to search out for ones that will somehow challenge me in new ways, offer to take me to new locales and experience new things which in the end keeps me from going into runners hibernation.
As I got halfway through my chilly run I actually found myself having a good time. As I thought how this run will help me to experience many more wonderous running adventures in better conditions and I soon felt the miles click away.