|Pacing my friend Larry R to an AC 100 finish|
Once I was on a run with a couple and we were talking about church. I’m not sure how it came up, but they mentioned that running was their church. Really?, I said to myself. Isn’t church about giving back? What have we runners become? Then I started running ultras. And before long I volunteered at the finish line of a race. Then I spent a weekend doing trail work, and then I paced a fellow runner through a 100 mile race. It’s not a lot, but it's something. Something that, when I look back, I’m just as pleased with as I am with finishing my own races. Unlike running 5ks or marathons, or doing triathlons or riding criterions, ultra running asks for something more. It asks you to give back. And this, I’ve come to learn this year, is what I like most about our sport.
This one is still work in progress, but I felt it worthy of mention because I believe it’s had a big impact on my running the last few years. It’s taken me until now to realize, through my own experience running 100 mile races, that the equation is real and not just my imagination. What is it? “It” is not meant to be a scientific formula, but rather a kind of ultra aphorism. To break it down “E” is for energy, while “F” is for fat and “P” is for Protein. Which means, of course, that when it comes to running long, and I mean really long--like 100 miles--that there is no substitute for fat and protein to produce energy in the human body.
Of course there is much to write about on this. There is the scientific perspective, which I will spare you here but will address more so in the weeks to come as I begin to explore the OFM (optimal fat metabolism) diet with my training in the coming season. To summarize this point, if you are still sucking down gels and carbs by the mouthful to get through your racing and training, you are not only polluting your body, you’re blocking it from tapping into its own natural, deep and efficient energy stores.
In the End, It’s the Journey that Matters.
|Relaxing atop Mt. San Gorgonio before Leadville|
If I could only write about just one thing, it would be this. Mainly because, when it comes to ultra-running, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the event. Whether it’s a personal record, a do-or-die commitment to finish an extreme race, or some other kind of goal, we all tend to get obsessed with the event itself. And when we do, we forget about the importance of the journey that gets us there. And when we forget that, I believe we become slaves. Slaves to our ego and to our obsessions.
Sure, we are all motivated for different reasons. And I’m still trying to figure out what motivates me. But there is one thing that I have learned along the way. And that is that if I am unable to appreciate what I’m doing while I’m on my way to doing something, then I’m not likely to get there. Let me just leave it at this: stop every once in a while. Smell the pine trees. Look at the horizon. The clouds. Take off your earphones. Then listen.