Sunday, March 21, 2010

80 Mile Run

Howard Aslinger Run 3/19-20/2010: 20:10 hours, 80 miles. And then I decided to stop. I was so happy to stop.

In 2006, I heard about the 3100 mile Self Transcendence race in New York City. A handful of runners run around a 0.5 mile block everyday for 16 hours until they complete the distance. A fifty something woman is the only one to have completed all 12 of these. I was captivated by the idea and began looking into ultramarathons. I have as of now completed several 50k events. The Aslinger event was the first 24 hour race.

Going in a race like this is a dream come true. Here I am actually at the starting line. The Race Director, Bryan, shakes my hand. I feel tears well up inside.

The race had about 50 starters, but numerous of them dropped out after 12 hours and a new bunch of runners joined the race for 12 hours. The race started at 7 pm, but I think the clock was a little early. There were 2 women runners (42 year old Angela and 51 year old me), and numerous women walkers (counted in above).

It was soon dark and we journeyed, mostly solo, thru the night. In the morning, I learned I had been running on “Optimist Drive” all night. What a hilarious joke from the Universe.

I mainly ran alone, not being matched in speed; and there was no “scenery.” After 4 or 5 hours into the race, the first pair of lap counters went home and two more came. These learned everyone’s name. And each lap I was greeted with a “Good job Laura.” I got to 50 miles at 6:40 am, 11:40 hours. On that lap, the girl said, “OMG! She’s at 50!” The RD Bryan was there and said, “Good job Laura.” Some girls who walked all night said, “Good job” every time I passed them. Bryan passed me a lot and said, “Good job Laura” every time.

Most of the men were from the St Louis Ultra Runners (SLUGS). A couple of the young guys were really fast, fast as Bryan.

Random scenes: A young black man dressed in Afro-Americana hip with a large costume diamond studded star hanging in the middle of his chest. A middle aged fat white guy on his gang banger Harley and actually flying the colors of a notorious gang. Buddies circle around to admire the bike. Arena park has an arena. It is a 4H arena and they were having a chicken show. I heard them announce showmanship class. I wonder what kids do in rooster showmanship. There was one car that couldn’t figure out the meaning of a barrier and drove right into the course in front of me (f’n go around, I think and maybe even mutter out loud to the open window and smoky dark inside as it passes me); and then the car had to dodge around several more cones to get back out. A doctor at the aid station asked (after an hour of running), “Doin’ ok?” I think, “Dipsh!t thinks I’m going to be in trouble now?”

The bathrooms were inside the 4H building, and very nice. Good thing as my bladder seemed to get full every hour.

Most of the first 45 miles, my brain was busy calculating paces and projecting that I’d get to 100 miles. Then, for two hours I seriously wondered why I was doing this race. Things were starting to hurt. There was not going to be any glory in the next 12 hours; just pain. I e-mailed my Canadian supporters ( and I’m sure I received psychic energy. Anyway I just kept going. After 51 miles, I gave up the calculating. I thought about fueling. I’m glad I brought my own stuff. I didn’t even look at the food table during the night because I couldn’t see it. In the morning, I was looking for something to add to my own electrolyte supply (S-caps). I touched a white thing and found a potato. I dipped it in the salt. But they ran out of potatoes by 10 am. I also ate a couple of bananas.

On having passed the depression of 10 hours and come to the realization of being under 100 miles for 24 hours, what was there to think about? Mostly I repeated to myself the Course in Miracles lesson for the day, “I am sustained by the Love of God.” Some of the time I pondered what this meant, and stopped my calculating brain long enough to consider God’s sustenance. When it comes down to it, ultra marathoning is not about glory. Yes, your friends will be impressed and you can brag about your race later; but to you, it is the amazement of doing something you cannot do under your own will power.

At mile 75, I had been walking only. My blisters were not that bad, but my legs were no longer capable of running. They didn’t hurt exactly but felt fatigued and the knees were saying, “No, we refuse to take one more pounding.” I gave a victory arm raise for the lap counters, Bryan happened to be there again and said, “Good job Laura.” In the next two laps, I knew the end was near. My body was shot and continuing on my ruin it for a long time. I’m not willing to give up a summer of running for the sake of “I ran 24 hours” braggadocio. At mile 79, I asked the lap counter how many I had as I was thinking I’d quit right then. They said 79 and right then, Bryan comes running thru pushing a baby stroller and finishing 100 miles. I couldn’t quit amidst the hoopla, wouldn’t have been right. So I told the ladies I’d quit at 80.

After that I felt great. I felt happy and smart. I knew that I was following the guidance of my soul and not my ego. When I first signed up for this race, I was hoping to ego annihilation and Self transcendence. When I followed my soul, I had reached the moment I was looking for: the end of ego domination. During this boring-axx long-axx run, I had experienced ego deflation at depth. I am cleanly right sized and Self directed. That was my mission. Self transcendence was the definition of winning for me. I won!

What did I learn about myself? I am not a win at all cost person. Or my definition of winning is not what everyone else says. I quit at 80 miles because my body was shot and I had nothing to prove. In other words, I had won. For most others, the only way to win that race would be to stay for 24 hours, not quit at 20. The proof that I won was in the belt buckle.

So often we define winning in terms of meaningless numbers or artificial definitions of standards. Many people are unhappy with their running because it doesn’t meet some artificial definition like Boston Qualifier. Or people set a goal, 4 hour marathon, and then feel bad if they run a 4:02 marathon. I learned from my race that I am free of these standard measurements. When it is time for me to call it quits, I call it quits.

I eat to run, not run to eat, so a reward salad was nice. I slept for seven and a half hours like a rock. I woke up a 4 am but did not get up. I thought about my accomplishment of 80 miles and how happy I am that I knew when it was enough. Then I fell asleep and slept until 8:30. Standing up was a task, but after an hour in the hotel room, I could walk pretty good.

I know I don’t train enough to do a 100 mile race. I’m not sure I’ll ever do another 24 hour race; but at least two more ultras are on my radar for this year. I’m sure I’ll do many more marathons and continue to train 50 to 70 miles per week. I’ll continue to work on weight control and the perfect abdomen. I don’t have a need to do more or better or faster. My running is in the daily ups and down of the hills of Riverside.

Getting on the freeway, I teared up again. It had been quite a journey. 80 miles is a lot; more than I can imagine. I think I’ll do it again next year. Now, for the long drive home….the long drive home….