Back when I had never run more than 26.2 miles, I would try to picture myself as an ultramarathoner. And when I did, I pictured a stronger, fitter, faster athlete. A tough, ripped, running machine.
I figured that I’d run a 50-miler and develop my ability to burn fat for fuel and improve my endurance, and then I’d go ahead and break three hours in a marathon this fall.
After all, once you’ve trained your body to handle 50 miles, a marathon is child’s play. Or so I thought.
Today I’m actually a weaker runner than I was nine months ago, when I qualified for Boston and decided to do what I considered impossible, to run a 50-miler.
I’ve lost muscle. I’ve lost aerobic capacity. Most importantly, I’ve lost the competitive drive to get out there and pound the track/trail/pavement until I feel like crying, puking, or both.
I know exactly what went “wrong.”
Ready? Running trails and hanging out with ultramarathoners is really fun.
When I trained to qualify for Boston, I drank customized, homemade sports drinks before and after every workout. With my ultra friends, I drank beer after runs.
Before I started running ultras, I hated drinking caffeine before races—I just didn’t like how it made me feel. With my ultra friends, long runs became fun (not work), and a cup of coffee and a bagel beforehand were only fitting.
And the worst part of all: I realized that I could succeed at ultrarunning without working hard.
The problem was in how I defined success. In a 50K or 50-miler, all I had to do was finish and I’d be happy. Not so with marathons, where anything short of a PR would have been a disappointment.
And once simply finishing became the goal, the mindset changed. Completely.
Why suffer through a track workout when I can log 10 easy miles instead?
Why run hills when I’m allowed to walk them?
What to Do About It
I don’t mean to downplay the difficulty of the sport of ultrarunning, and especially not the people who do it. It’s a tough sport, and they’re the most hardcore bunch of runners I know, while at the same time being a blast to hang around with. The problem is in my own approach to it.
The answer is not to stop running ultras—and good thing, since I’ve got another 50-miler in Vermont in about 10 weeks. No, the answer is to try harder. To train with the intensity that I’d train if I had a time goal. (Perhaps, to set a time goal at all.) And to understand that even though I might be able to relax and let the ultras come to me, what I need to do is go get them.
I am lucky that at right around the same time I was thinking about this, and pondering whether I had it in me to commit to training hard again after 9 months of really fun, relaxing running, I had the opportunity yesterday to see Brendan Brazier speak. And then I got to meet him, which was really cool since he’s a constant source of inspiration for me.
I also bought a few of his sports nutrition products: Vega Sport Performance Optimizer and Vega Sport Performance Protein (affiliate links, by the way). Both are products I’ve reviewed on this blog, and I truly believe they’re the best plant-based supplements you can buy, but they’re expensive enough that I’ve had trouble justifying the purchases in the past.
The way I’m looking at it now is this: If my spending a few more bucks than I usually do puts some pressure on me to actually get my butt out there and work hard enough that supplements make a difference, then that’s a plus. This type of thinking has worked for me before, and it’s going to work for me again.
Today I plan my training for the next 10 weeks. Tomorrow I start. With a new attitude. Who’s with me?
Vegan Supplements: Which Ones Do You Need?
Written by Matt Frazier and Matt Tullman.
I’m here with a message that, without a doubt, isn’t going to make me the most popular guy at the vegan potluck.
But it’s one I believe is absolutely critical to the long term health of our movement, and that’s why I’m committed to sharing it. Here goes…
Vegans need more than just B12.
Sure, Vitamin B12 might be the only supplement required by vegans in order to survive. But if you’re anything like me, you’re interested in much more than survival — you want to thrive.
So what else do vegans need?