Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dealing With Pain - Something from the Ultra List

Subscribing to the ultra list is asking for a barrage of e-mails, some only marginally related to ultra running, some not related at all. It is a guarantee of a good Friday joke, an occasional rant about Dean Karnazes and lots of discussion about salt tablets - over and over and over.

Like with anything in life, there's occasionally a truffle hidden in all of that crap. Okay, more than occasionally. I actually really like the list. I just had to train myself to ignore the drivel. I know some of the folks on the list from races and would love to meet many more of them - mostly to tell them their jokes are bad.

A little while ago someone posted a question about dealing with pain in an ultra. The basic premise was: how do you manage the pain you eventually encounter during the late miles of a run. There was much discussion. One of the posts came from "Laz" (aka: Gary Cantrell) of The Barkley (more here). I asked and he allowed me to post it.

i dont know that it becomes easier, so much as you simply adapt.
as you extend your boundaries, distances get easier.
50 miles makes 50 k easier.
100 k makes 50 miles easier.
100 miles makes 100 k easier.
and the first time you are excited to have "only" 100 miles left,
nothing is the same any more.

i look back on my earlier ultras,
and some of the reasons i felt i had to slow down... or drop out,
and i am amazed that i gave in so easily
when i later discovered how much more i could survive.

you learn to take the pain
wall it off in a corner of your mind
and just keep moving.
it doesnt matter if you are having a good day, or a bad day.
the only difference in the two is your time.
you dont think about quitting
you dont think about finishing.
you just keep moving.
because that is what you do.
that is who you are.

it is a useful skill,
knowing how to simply endure.
it is the ultimate reward for running ultras.

i think some people come by it naturally.
but everyone can acquire the skill.
if i can, anyone can.
no one is less inherently tough than me.

This is resonating with me because of my upcoming 200-miler. I will run 100 miles and then think "wow, that was nice, only 100 left". Seriously? I'm really having a hard time fitting that into my brain.

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