Chasing 100 Miles: The Allure of the Buckle

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I want to know what it feels like to see the sunrise twice on the same run. Seems like a logical reason, right? I want to join the buckle club. Well it’s real now, it’s for really-real happening. All 100 all at once.

Sometimes in life, we risk-takers and limit pushers get an idea planted in our heads. It’s a little seed that grows into an infatuation and we know there’s a big probability that we’ll end up taking the risk in an attempt to reach a goal. Often it doesn’t matter how crazy or far-fetched the goal may be . It’s scary to make that jump. There’s always a very solid possibility of failure lurking around the corner but that’s one of the things that makes it so worthwhile. Anything worth doing isn’t easy. It may end up being be a one-and-done kind of thing or it could be the beginning of several future endeavors. That being said, I’ve had this idea for a couple of years and though it sounded downright insane at first (“I could/would never do that!), something in the Universe said to me, “now is the time. If you’re going to do it, do it now.” I believe if you’re not occasionally doing something that scares the holy hell out of you, you’re not really living. For some people it could be getting married, having a child, moving to a foreign country or opening a business. For me, that thing is wanting to see where my limit lies. I want to see how far I can push myself mentally and physically and how I’m going to deal with things when I falsely think I want to quit. I want to run a hundred-miler.

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I want one just like this.

I clearly remember the first time I ever heard the term “Ultrarunning.” It was a chilly, cloudy October afternoon in 2013 and I was sitting in the passenger seat of a rental van somewhere in rural Tennessee alongside my new friend David. I’d known him about 12 hours at the time but this guy was interesting. Like, let me ask you tons of running questions interesting. The five of us in the van had little to no sleep as we were enduring the last few hours of the Ragnar relay, waiting on our sixth runner to arrive at the exchange point. I happened to be a last minute replacement runner for someone who had to drop out so less than a week earlier I had no idea I’d be doing this relay. I questioned my possible lack of ability due to absolutely no preparation for this particular event but I figured, eh, what’s the worst that can happen? I’d been marathon training and besides, it’s only 18-20 miles combined over three legs. What the hay, sure. David and I are making conversation to stay alert and though I didn’t realize it at the time, the seed that would grow into a Mammoth Sunflower was planted. It went something like this:

“David, what’s the farthest you’ve ever run at one time?”

“A 50 mile Ultra.”

“What’s an Ultra?”

“Any distance longer than a marathon.”

“50!!? Miles, not kilometers??? That’s amazing, how did you survive?”

“You put one foot in front of the other until you can’t anymore. You just make up your mind and do it.”

“That’s crazy. I might run a 50k someday but that’s IT!”

This conversation took place 2 months before my first road marathon. Even that seemed insurmountable at the time but I wanted it and I wanted it bad. I had to try at least once. If I hated it, I never had to do it again. The Rocket City Marathon came and went, I didn’t crack my 4 hour goal but I was within 7 minutes of doing so and I was pleased as pie with that. I was hooked. I was in love. I wanted more. I knew if I could do 26.2 without hitting “the wall” or wanting to give up then I should try to push the envelope a little bit more and see where, exactly, would I want to give up? What is my absolute breaking point? Certainly it had to be a 50k. I couldn’t fathom more than 31 miles in one day. Hey, self, just try it once and you can say you’ve run an Ultra, if nothing else.

Forward to April 2014, I first met my now friend Emily at the Grand Viduta Stage Race. She had an amazing story of completing the Pinhoti 100 six months prior to meeting her. I didn’t know what a Pinhoti was, nor had I ever heard of it, but I knew this was my first time being aware of the mystical hundred-miler. I needed to know more. I’d heard of 50, but 100?! Tell me more about the chaffing and terribly painful blisters, about running through the night, the sleep depravation and the being awake and moving for 30 hours and the hallucinations of people throwing beach balls into the trees. You have a picture of your feet at the finish line? Lemme see it, I won’t get grossed out. That looks terrible! I need this in my life! But not lil’ ol’ me, I could never do that. You must be a super human cut from a different cloth. I will live vicariously through your stories. I will try a 50k and it ends there. I mean it.

Forward to August 2016. To date, I’ve completed seven 50k’s, a 60k, a 53 mile stage race, two 44 mile stage races, one 200 mile relay as a team of 6 and most recently, my first timed event of 10 hours in which I was comfortably (that’s relative) able to net 40 miles. I guess you could say the Ultrarunning hobby stuck and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Currently I’m preparing for my first 50 miler and as training runs, I’ve registered for three 50k’s, a 32-miler, two fall marathons and one winter marathon. Side note, you can easily break the bank doing this. Whoever said “running is an inexpensive hobby” is grossly uninformed. I have a full plate to say the least and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I work so I can have experiences, not own material possessions. I expect this hundred miler to be one hell of an experience and I surely intend to get my money’s worth!

Back to the seed: I’ve become friends with some of the greatest and kindest human beings I’ve ever met in my entire life since the obsession took hold. Another true statement, they are also the most aggressive enablers I’ve ever met. They’re like drug pushers. Try it, just once. It’s fun. I’ll train with you. I’ll register too (DON’T FALL FOR THAT ONE). You begin to think, “If so-and-so can do it, I can do it too.” Then the fear of FOMO sets in. Fear of missing out. I don’t want all of my friends doing that race and having fun without me. I can’t let you suffer alone. Misery loves company. Fine. I’m in. That’s the pattern. This isn’t my first disco, I’m well schooled in how ya’ll work your mojo. Don’t play on my weaknesses and don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you can convince me that swimming is fun and that you can turn me into a triathlete! But I digress…. these people told me a myriad of stories about their experiences doing hundred milers. Cary, Megan, Emily, David, Suzanne, Christy, Benj, Scott, Lisa, Laura… I can name at least a dozen more people I am proud to call friends who have spent countless hours putting in the hard work it takes to earn one of those gorgeous shiny buckles. (If I omitted your name, friends reading this, I am so sorry. I respect and admire you just as much. There’s so many of you beastly badasses and I’m grateful you are in my support circle!)

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Oh snap, ya’ll.

The more I heard about it, the more I thought “maybe… just maybe. If it were that horrible people wouldn’t repeatedly do it… It can be done!” I am most certainly NOT down-playing all of their hard work training and I’m not trying to make it sound like it’s easy-peasy, or like anyone can run 100 miles. What I am saying is that it became clear to me that I might actually be capable and worthy of joining the buckle club someday. Maybe. Strong maybe. But only if I train smart and decide to do it for the right reasons, not just because it’s a concept I’ve fallen in love with.

I’d be remiss in saying that some of these friends didn’t complete the journey on their first try. I’d never use the word “failed” because if you toe the line, you’ve already won a piece of something that can’t be bought. There’s a multitude of reasons why a runner may not be able to complete this but you have to be aware of those scenarios and prepare. In fact, I’ve come to realize that a lot of runners complete these Ultras not by doing all the right things all at the right times, but because they’ve been able to PREVENT all of the wrong things from happening! Prevention. And proper planning does  prevent…. well, you know. That’s why this is so scary to me, it may not actually happen. Here I am making it Facebook Official, putting it out there for all of the internet to see and I may not be able to pull it off. That’s part of the allure though. Where there is a possibility of failure, great things are accomplished. God alone knows how this story will take shape and what my end result will be. I am ok with that.

The registration process in itself is frightening enough. I did my research, I asked a thousand questions to the people I listed above and they were all kind enough to spend hours sharing their experiences with me. Free advice. Amazing. Priceless. I ended up choosing the Lake Martin 100 for a variety of reasons.

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That was scary. It only took me 3 days to hit the “submit” button.

It’s a series of loops, like a figure 8 with a loop on the side, equaling 25 miles. Obviously you do this loop 4 times and I know from experience that I do well with loops. Some people hate them and much prefer point-to-point but I love me some loops for days. I like repetitive, I can break things up so much easier. I trick myself into thinking that all I have to do is complete the loop I’m doing. Another bonus is the 2 aid stations on the course and the fact that you are never farther than 7 miles away from their aid or your drop-bag at any point in the race. I’m expecting 12,000 ft. of elevation gain based on my research and I go into this with the mindset that I will make it happen. Best of all, it’s part of the Southeastern Trail Series and I love me some David Tosch races. I’ve participated in several of his events and am comfortable knowing that I’ll see some familiar faces there. His aid stations are always very well thought out and full of amazing choices. Another built-in comfort is that this race is 3.5 hours within driving distance from home and as I stated earlier, you can go damn near broke doing this! At this time, I don’t want to figure travel expenses into my first stab at The Hundo. Let’s talk about that next April, after I’ve had a month to recover and will know if I ever want to DO and/or attempt this again! As I write this, I have 31 weeks to prepare and my 100 mile training officially starts at 26 weeks out. Right now, my focus is directed towards the 50 mile buckle for Tunnel Hill. In the back of my head though, I do it knowing it’s only preparation for something much bigger. Twice as big. 

Ultrarunners seem to have a way of secretly wanting to one-up each other. Definitely not in a bad way or an “I’m better than you” kind of way, not at all. It’s more like seeking out the “who is the craziest amongst us?” title. I’m not trying to out-crazy anyone with this though, I just want to join the Buckle Club. I’ll let you know how that works out for me! Thanks for reading and seriously, I will need your prayers. Just remember, NEVER SAY NEVER because that’s a guarantee that one day you will.

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Loopy-loop loops.

 

*by the way, David has since gone on to complete 2 hundred milers. Just illustrating my point.

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