I ran the Vermont 50 Bike & Ultra event in Asctuney, Vermont (www.Vermont50.com) on September 24, 2006. This is a well-organized race, across the beautiful mountains and scenery of Vermont, with over 1000 bike racers and about 100 ultra runners split between a 50K or a 50 Miler. I had done the 50K last year, my first ultra, and found it difficult then. Thought that after a year of training, the 50 miler was more appropriate this year. It was much, much tougher!
This race is uphill or downhill, very few sections of flat terrain. About ½ dirt roads (mostly hills that go on forever) and ½ vertical trails, it was particularly difficult this year because the rain created a mud pit. Going downhill was about avoiding a spill, going uphill was about getting traction. Lots went wrong for me, including doing a couple of extra miles when I got lost. At the 32-mile mark, I was totally trashed with no hope of recovery. My wife was offering me a change of socks and shoes, food, whatever... I didn't take any of it. I simply had a feeling of desperation knowing that nothing would help me. I managed to pull through and finished in 10 hours and 30 minutes, about 1 ½ hours slower than what I though would have been a reasonable time for me. Still, about half the runners finished behind me.
I learned a lot about myself in this run. I now know why I enjoy running these long distances. It's because they replicate a lifetime in a compressed amount of time. Life is about learning how to deal with its vicissitudes and tribulations. Life has a way of dealing you periods of euphoria and despair and everything in between. I believe that life is about learning to deal with these, growing in the process, and becoming a better person for yourself, your family, and society at large. An ultra race, in relatively short period of time, takes you through these emotions and affords you the opportunity to have a mini lifetime within your lifetime. Learning to deal with everything that happens during the race grows you as a person and provides you with an intensive course for the real lifetime.
My next ultra is in 8 weeks, the JFK50 in Hagerstown, Maryland, which I will be running for the second time this year. This will give me one 50k and two 50 milers for the year. Next year, I will probably do a 50 k, a couple of 50 milers, and one 100k as the training races prior to my Western States 100 mile run.