Okay gang, here’s what. I use one website to meticulously plot my runs. I use another to log my runs and write my daily reports on the Janathon, and then I go to the Facebook page for the event and see that I forgot to “like” the page, so I’ve been busy. Oh, and I ran a lot. The Janathon is an event where you run every day and blog about it. I haven’t received any feedback from the organizers or participants because of three reasons: 1) running is a solitary pursuit and most of the participants are total strangers who share progress via assorted social media networks, but don’t share themselves 2) I forgot to ‘like’ the page, so I don’t even get any feed from the site to comment on, and 3) no one gives a shit. Very good.
This entry gives me a chance to try to humbly express what it was like to plow through the two most grueling weeks of training I have ever endured in my 41 years sheathed in the carbon-based monkey suit issued to me at my unceremonious befleshment. That’s right, I make up words. That adds a bit of instability for the reader – deal with me. Not that I’m too lazy to write with conventional expressions, just that there are things for which a jumble of words fail to describe with any sort of beauty or clarity, that the tired old phrasings are lugubrious and sedentary. Take the word “ultra”, for example. It’s a prefix, not even a proper word. I realize the beauty in using an affix preceding a stem word to describe something seemingly without a proper ending. Ultras don’t stand alone.They break out like rashes, and spread through gear, weekends, inflaming blogs and dreams and small talk with spicy bits. So, an ultra is sort of an emergent crest of beginnings, an area of potential. It’s not so much of an event as it is a high-point in a collection of efforts notable in their relative value to the participant.
The training leading up to an ultra is like the roots of a tree spreading out underground. Apparently, many trees have an equal amount of mass shoved down into the rocks and soils of the planet, and without this base, the tree would topple over in a slight breeze. Without the foundation of a good training program, one will not run an ultra well. It will be full of a lot of falling, swearing, cramps and moaning and so on. If you train well, there will be lots of falling, swearing, cramps and moaning, and it will be okay. The training program needs to be about coping with harsher conditions. I don’t think of it as trying to find new forests of suffering, but rather establishing foot trails leading through orchards of anguish. That sounds rather dramatic.
So, coming up on the third of the third and fourth installments, I found myself already deep in training. I could have titled this Catching Up With a Tired Person: Pretty Fucking Easy To Do, Or Is It? The weeks in January were to run, respectively: 60, 75,75,50 miles. I had already been pushing myself beyond that program, so I ran 75, 90, 71, and will be shooting for 50 this week. It was a memorable two weeks last, with a peak on January 16th at 91.69. I peaked early. I prefer going into a race already ascending my next cycle of training, running at about 90% as opposed to 100%. I’d rather doubt my ability a little bit than think I’m at the best ever of my bestest efforts besting my bestness and so on. I’ll just come away with disappointment that I didn’t run across a continent or something ridiculously epic. A few days later I ran a 50K. I actually strained my heart. It felt sore. Little red flags going up everywhere, I turned what I’d planned on being a 100 mile week into a 71 mile march of humility.
What carried me through the week with the 50 K bookends on either side of it was watching a documentary about the 2012 100 mile run around Mt. Fuji in Japan. In the middle of this run-every-day effort, I averaged around 9 to 12 miles a day, hoping to tire and degrade myself sufficiently to deal with the later stages of a 100 miler, one like the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji 100 . The film focused on a few runners, dipping into their stories, what qualities made them different, and so on. Heroes fell, others emerged. A race of such magnitude is an animal all its own.
You go talk to the mountain. Some of its thoughts are too big to hold. Try to let it go, and leave the mountain to its burden [gong hit]. Don’t get wrapped up in other people’s races, concentrate on one’s own progress and delight in the effort one may find oneself capable of offering the mountain [gong hit]. Don’t eat weird foods that give you red butt [gong hit]. Take drugs like Lance Armstrong [no gong, sorry]. I suspect the winner of every ultra to be rockin’ the EPO and such. Sorry, people like Lance have dishonored endurance sports for me. Lance Armstrong can go eat a bag of Oprah dicks. Seriously, he was probably good enough to win races, and then he had to get all U.S. military complex and erase his moral center. But I don’t feel any animosity towards him – probably shit tons of athletes were using drugs -still are, and the media singles him out rather than all of them. I was buoyed by the struggles of the runners in the huge circumnavigation around Mt. Fuji, and horrified by the arrogance of Lance Armstrong. That was my last week, basically. It even gave me hope knowing I was running clean, and who knows if the doped-up medal holders could do the things I did without the crutch drugs like EPO and HBH and stuff. So, thanks Lance, for making me feel good about my own trials and trevails.
Really, all I did was tell myself to do it. Go run. Every day I went out and ran an hour to two and a half hours. I never carried any water or anything else. I’ve been forcing myself to run slower through deprivation of goodies like water, electrolytes, carbs. When I made stuff up, excuses and anxieties, I put little beards on these things in my mind and set them upon their tiny little pirate ships and pointed them to unknown places upon the distant horizon of my brain ocean. Go find yer booty elsewhere, argh, and so on. I destroyed my trainers, morphed my metaphorical structure from trees into pirates, but it doesn’t do the unraveling I’ve experienced the true justice it deserves.
About halfway through last week I gave up two hours running one night to paint six dozen rabbits and a moon upon a 16″ x 20″ canvas. I keep jumping forwards and backwards in the last two weeks, losing the linear anchor to describe what was going on. The second week of my training ended with a 50k I ran one early morning with lots of moonlight and rabbits about. I’d already planned to do the rabbit painting, then I saw a bunch of rabbits, then I did my painting, and I sat down to write about it a few days ago but saw a weird video that had a bunch of rabbits in it, had a dream I was on a pirate ship, and ended up not being able to put a cohesive narrative down because I was too utterly tired. And my heart was sore. Little red rabbits everywhere, running through the everlasting twilight preceding this 100 mile race that Hitler Trujillo cooked up for me to run in a couple of weeks.
The Fuji run has elevation gain, but nothing like what I’m going to accomplish – do this four times:
Deep down, when I run, I am meditating about possible ability, weavings of potentiality arising from material, conjuring my spirit from my flesh while experiencing that energy within. There was an answer inside me almost immediately when I heard of this 100 mile challenge of which I have been asked not to blog, not to divulge any information about. The answer was, “Yes, yes I can.” The mountains are always there. When I go to talk to the mountains, I will bring my new words to describe how I will run over them. Words like “snazzy” and “Beyonce'” and “fartlek”. Mountains have lots of respectable words like “elevation”, “incline”, “descent”, and all of those words rock, yeah, they have weight, they have undeniable presence, and consequence. My job is to bring my joy to the mountains.
So, I finish the middle part of the Janathon, which is also the pinnacle of my ultra training cycle, with about 160 miles run. My goal was to run 262 miles this month. Piece of cake. I’m looking at hitting 300, and that’s some razzle dazzle.
My trainers are shot. The soles are half-peeled off. I ran to every small town around Brownsville, the ghost town where I live, in all sorts of weather, with lots of nobody to share it with. I’ve never gone three weeks running every day. Now I have. I’ll be able to say I’ve run a Janathon, though running with rabbits, and whiny ass pirates and trees and selective nomenclature has been fun. I’m so utterly tired I’m having a hard time keeping this line of thought from devolving into a muddling of impressions. I ran on grass, on roads, over corpses, over hypodermic needles and smashed cell phones and around bottles and garbage and boulders cleaved from cliffs with the fresh beards of ice rushing down the faces of the slow roads on these hills. I went foot deep in snow for hours at a time. Body nearly broken. But I know I could do more. I’m left with a sense that I’ve done more than I ever had, and I still held back, cheating myself of an ultimate effort, saving it for an ultra, which is a great way to run another ultra, and ultimately, this is just a training session for an ultra which is, in turn, a training event for the Oil Creek 100 miler to be held in November. So I don’t care how ugly this gets, because I’ll be happy.