High desert running is hard. There's no getting around that fact, just like there's no getting around the mental punch of undulating, sandy, slickrock, winding singletrack, exposed fire roads, heat, cold, and skin ripping plants. The reward, of course, like most remote and harsh places, is the beauty and sense of being in a place where you, the human, have little if any control over your surroundings. The soft life (and self-imposed complexity) of most Americans is stripped raw in the desert. One safe way to experience it is to run a 100 miler where you are babied by the organizers who work hard to make it a balancing act of soft civilization and wilderness.
Everyone knows the Leadman Series is my target this year. The fact that my training has been focused only on it since November 1st illustrates that. The fact that I've designed a 9 month schedule so highly customized to the Leadman races, especially focused on the 100 run, 100 mtb, and 50 mtb, shows that. So, why race so many mountain bike events (6) ranging from 20 miles in length to 160 miles (18hrs)? Why run the gnarly Sage Burner 50k (after racing the equally gnarly Half Growler 32 mi and Full Growler 64 mi all in consecutive 3 days)?
Why run a 100 miler in Zion?
1. I've always looked at life like a rubberband. The further you stretch the pain and suffering, the easier it is to stretch it to that point next time and then you stretch it a little more. Your perception stretches. What was perceived as difficult or maybe even impossible is now ordinary. I rode my first 100 mile century when I was 18 and it was the biggest thing in the world. It was so hard that I nearly just stopped around the halfway point. I was on a Miyata that was too big for me and wore clothes I bought at Good Will because I felt they resembled cycling clothes (the shirt was a yellow polyester leisure shirt with a white vertical stripe - something you'd see Steve MacQueen wear in a 60s film). I finished that ride. The rubberband stretched a bit further.
2. I recover fast. I've pushed myself or been pushed to the limit (they're always temporary limits - there is no permanent line you can't cross - anything is possible) many times to the point of failure. I've done it on the bike. I've done it in running. I've had it done emotionally. At that point of failure, if you get back up and say Fuck You and push on with some will deep inside like the puddle in a deep dry well, you're stronger. You've just stretched that rubberband. As Woody Allen said: "I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That's the two categories. The horrible are like, I don't know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you're miserable, because that's very lucky, to be miserable."
I don't know why I just quoted Allen. Something about that just rang true to me the first time I saw that film when I was a kid (I was an over-thinking kid, abnormally concerned about things like world overpopulation). Regardless, the connection of the rubberband analogy and recovery is obvious. I was shelled after my first 50k - couldn't walk for a few days. Now I can bounce back from a 100 and run another 100, if needed, in less than two weeks (real 100s, like Hardrock and then Grand Mesa). Is it the actual physical recovery or is it the perception of recovery that enables that? Regardless, things that used to be "painful" are now ordinary.
"Why is he rambling about these seemingly irrelevant events leading up to Leadman?" you may likely be asking yourself, and, "Why am I still reading this self indulgent garbage?" you may also ask yourself. I don't have the answer to the second question but to the first question I say. Because it prepares my mind for the tasks at Leadman. The mountain bike races I'm doing are more technical than the Silver Rush 50mi mtb. They are longer than the Leadville 100 mtb. Zion is more difficult than the Leadville 100 run. They are all scheduled to fit snugly into my 9 month training plan with ample recovery. They stretch the rubberband.
"What happens when the rubberband snaps?" you may wonder while sipping your tea at your work cubicle, wasting time at work reading this drivel.
Death. The metaphor of the snapping rubberband is Death. Up to that point is living full.