Category Archives: Columns

Random articles regarding ultrarunning and the surrounding culture

Humblebragging 101

This was written by yours truly and originally published in UltraRunning Magazine in July 2016

Humblebragging 101

Hey Ultrarunners!  Mid-Pack Zach here with some great tips on how you can step up your humblebragging game.  You didn’t train that body like a finely tuned Ford Pinto and manage to stumble across the finish line – barely under the final cutoff – not to share your ultramarathon experience with the world did you?  It is really too damn bad that our societal norms generally frown upon openly bragging on oneself.  But, there is a solution.  Thanks to all the social media outlets, there is still a way that you can let the entire world know how awesome you are, AND to do it in a way that will maintain your natural humility and non-attention whoring nature!  It is commonly referred to as “Humblebragging”, and I am here to tell you all about it.

Humblebragging is a completely socially acceptable method of spreading the accounts of your legendary ultrarunning exploits and nearly unmatched badassery (and pictures of your awesome bod) using the guise of humility.  Below I have expounded on a few of my favorite ways to humblebrag on social media.

“The Thank You’er”

This one is a classic!  Rather than directly bragging about how you killed this weekend’s 50 miler, simply thank all of the volunteers and race director for making such a wonderful experience possible.  Really lay it on thick and be sure to mention that without everyone’s support there would have been NO WAY you could ever possibly have achieved: (insert totally rad ultra-accomplishment here).  By the time you finish this epic thank you, people will be so impressed by your giving credit away that they will then be blown away by the fact that (insert totally rad ultra-accomplishment here).  No one will ever suspect such a thankful runner as a braggart.

“The Congratulator”

This method entails a long and winding status update about all the ultrahardcore people who despite all odds were able to persevere to the finish and how you were honored to be a part of it and then – here’s the humblebrag – managed to squeak out an: (insert mega gnarly ultrarunning feat here).  By congratulating everyone first you get to sneakily add in your awesomeness at the end.  Works every time!

“The Help Seeker”

One of my personal faves, “The Help Seeker” jumps right to the point and says something like: “During the (insert amazing ultra-endurance performance here) I had to deal with a serious case of (insert super horrific, unpleasant physical result of ultrarunning unfathomable distance here) from mile 3 and still kicked ass – how can I avoid this before next weekend when I will be running in (insert ridiculously crazy and hard to get into ultramarathon race).  This one is super effective because a.) you get to tell them about your badass race and b.) you get to brag about finishing in spite of injury or sickness like some kind of superhuman mutant.  Definitely my go-to humblebrag!

Pro-tip:  Make sure and add pictures!  What good is an epic humblebrag if you don’t include a picture of your cleavage, finisher buckle, massive calves, disgusting feet, muddy shoes, rock hard abs, medal collection, mid-air leaps, etc. etc.  Don’t just TELL the world how awesome you are, SHOW them!!!!  Oh – and all you product ambassadors out there, don’t forget to #hashtag your sponsors!!!!  Just kidding…. we all know you won’t!

Ultra Wimps and Whiners: Kindly Fuck Off.

I apologize in advance if the language, lack of political correctness, or content of this article offends you.  Oh?  Wait as second… no I don’t.  If you are offended by the language, content, or lack of political correctness in this article – YOU are the problem.  If you don’t like it: fuck you, piss off, go cry somewhere else, and stop complaining about stupid shit and blaming others for your problems.

Ultras are equal opportunity destroyers.  Facing fears and enduring hardships in effort to reach a goal that most people never even dream as possible is at the core of the sport of ultrarunning.  Surviving and persevering in spite of agony and despair – by your own choice – is what appeals to most ultrarunners.  There is no place in this sport for whiners and wimps.  With the rise in popularity of ultras there has also been a rise in runners complaining about every minute detail of a race they don’t deem as perfect.  I have seen people whining about a few things that they should accept as their own responsibility.  But there are a couple things that absolutely drive me nuts… HERE GOES.

Aid Station Food and Drink 

How can you expect a race director to have everything you possibly want or need at every aid station?  I actually HEARD SOMEONE in a 50 miler whining at an aid station that there were no hot food vegan choices.  You think this is a fucking hipster restaurant?  You choose a lifestyle like that, you better prepare to pack your own food!  If you have a peanut allergy don’t bitch about the PB&Js, eat the fucking boiled potatoes!  You need to plan for the possibility that the aid stations will have nothing of nutritional value for you – cause guess what – I have gone through aid stations that expressly stated there would be GUs and I ended up carrying a Dixie Cup of goddamn gummie bears and M&Ms.  I fought nausea for a good hour and just about shit my pants in that 50K – but more importantly – learned a valuable lesson.  Take nothing for granted.  Now, I always carry at least 500 calories between drop boxes that are filled with other food options.  There have been plenty of times where the aid was great and I didn’t use my own shit – and that is fine by me.  I can either eat it later or take it home.  No big deal.  Please – take responsibility for yourself.  Aid stations are to be an aid (no shit) to you, not your personal chef.

The Weather 

Holy shit.  If it is cold dress warm.  If it is hot strip naked.  But please…. PLEASE…. do not piss and moan about the weather.  Complaining about the weather in an ultra is like complaining about like complaining about dirt while gardening.  It is dumb.  Part of the fun of ultras is planning for, and overcoming, the unexpected turns that the weather can take the day before (or during) the race.  If your hands are cold, that is your own damn fault.  Whining about it will not warm you up.  Making bad decisions and poor planning does not make it the volunteer’s responsibility to let you borrow a hat and gloves (seen it), give the poncho off their back (seen it), or give you a trash bag to use as a windbreaker (seen it).  Awesome people working the events often do these types of things – but they shouldn’t have to.  Don’t be a dick, be prepared.

The Price 

I have to admit.  I am guilty here.  I have whined about the price of events.  It is stupid.  There are new events popping up all over the country every single day.  All boast a different challenge, a different perk, and a different price.  Let your money do the talking.  If the event does not offer enough value for you – do something else!  If it is a race you have done every year for 10 years, either pay or move on.  There are charity races if that is your thing.  There are for-profit high profile races and low key fatass events.  Find what fits you and go with it.  Don’t go around bitching how you got into a high dollar race – especially AFTER you paid for it.  That makes you look like a total douche.  “Hey man, it was like 400 bucks to get into XXX Ultra, total rape-job.  I am gonna eat as much of that vegan chili as I can to get my money’s worth”  It is a supply and demand system – let your $$$ not your mouth do the talking.

General Blame Shifting

If you fail you fail.  Own it.  Don’t make excuses about how the campers next to you kept you up all night or the hotel sheets were too scratchy to sleep.  Some people are always looking to blame someone or something else.  Work has been too busy…  The kids need too much attention… The dogs didn’t feel like running… I had the sniffles…  The course was too hard… The course was too easy… It was too hot… It was too cold… The RD was mean… My crew was unprepared… My pacer was boring…   ALL EXCUSES.  I had a middle school teacher who loved to say, “Excuses only satisfy those who make them.”  He literally used to make us say it out loud anytime someone in class made an excuse.  If you fail, for whatever reason, own it.  Don’t try and make it not your fault – because in running ultras, the bottom line is that, yes, it is all your fault.

I could name several other things that the (still relatively small number of) whiners and wimps have been doing that just piss me off, but I feel like that I would be borderline whining myself.  I will continue to ignore them, as it is not affecting me and my race strategy – but I just wanted to call them out.  If you think this is about you it probably is.  Toughen up or fuck off.  Ultrarunning is not a sport for insecure, whining, petulant, entitled, fragile, weak-minded wimps.  (edit – it was pointed out to me that pussies can indeed take quite a pounding and was not a good word choice.

Ultra-Community

I often find myself wondering why I continue running ultras.  Why would I willingly participate in an activity that beats my body to the point that walking to the bathroom becomes nearly impossible?  Why is it worth doing when it makes me shed toenails more often than a snake sheds it skin?  I have had blisters the size or dollar bills, gashed knees, and even temporarily lost feeling in the tips of my toes.  I have puked on the trail and crapped in places and wiped with available materials that would classify me as barbaric at best.  Staying awake for 48 or more hours at a time during an ultra (and dragging serious ass at work for days afterward) would most likely not be considered “a reward” by most people.  Ultras (and the required training) monopolize a ton of my time, costs me a small fortune in gear and race entries, take me away from my family on the weekends, and have put me outdoors in some seriously shitty weather for hours and hours at a time.  So…. Why?  Why do I continue to train and run ultras? For the fun?

It is not for the race photos, which I always manage to ruin.  It is not for the finger lickin’ aid station food.  It is not for sweet tech race shirt number 437.  It is not for the finisher’s medal.  It is not for the vanity car sticker that I don’t have any place for.  It is not even for the shiny belt buckle.  My introspections have led me to narrow down my list of why I continue to train and run ultras to two main reasons, one of which is the focus of this article.  The addictive quality in an ultra is the challenge.  In an ultra I can test myself in ways that I cannot in any other aspect of my life.  As life gets easier and more comfortable, physical challenge decreases.  We no longer have to run down antelope on foot, run for our lives from lions, chop down trees by hand, or carry buckets of water miles just to survive.  Ultras are never predictable and you are required to solve problems and adjust if you want to get yourself to the finish. I could go on and on… but I will save that for another article.  The challenge is what gets you hooked early on.  The next reason is what keeps you coming back.

The Community.  The ultrarunning community is like none I have ever been around.  The cross section of people you find at ultras is extremely diverse.  Women and men from all walks of life, race, nationality, religious background, and socioeconomic classes can be found at ultras.  The shared hardships become the common denominator that binds a very eclectic group.  Strong and lasting bonds (a marriage in my case) are created in even very short times of shared suffering.  This fact means that as you participate in ultras – as runner or volunteer – the more and stronger bonds you create!  Humans are social creatures and bonds with others is what enriches our lives more than any personal accomplishment ever could.  Around these bonds, a culture of community is formed.  Runners support each other; I have witnessed runners sacrificing their own races or their personal comfort to help someone in greater need – giving away valuable food, water, even their own gear!  I have seen volunteers go above and beyond every expectation while caring for those challenging themselves on the course.  From massaging nasty, blistered feet to lubing sweaty armpits, the commitment shown by aid workers is unbelievable! Watching the winner of the race stick around for many hours cheer in the final finisher is something I have never seen outside of an ultramarathon.  This is a strong community.  Once built, an ultrarunning community will begin to function as a family would – members relying and supporting each other, sharing triumph and sorrow, laughter and tears -a situation evolves where the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.  Ultimately, the ultrarunning community becomes more about spending time with friends rather than just getting to a finish line.  Evenings before races spent nervously discussing strategy and nights telling stories of pain and fatigue after a long hard day on the trail with close friends is what makes all of the sacrifices worthwhile.  And beer.

Ultra Lessons Learned

This post is inspired by a presentation given by Dr. David Horton – yes THAT David Horton – the night before the 2014 Epic Ultras Prairie Spirit 100 in Ottawa Kansas.  His presentation was “Lessons Learned from 100,000 Miles of Running”, and it had a great impact on me.  Not only did his words of ultra-wisdom echo in my mind while running that race, the excitement and passion he exuded while sharing his experiences have stuck with me ever since.  While I am nowhere near covering 100,000 cumulative miles on foot yet, I have been competing in ultramarathons since July of 2010, and I have learned a lot and changed a lot in that five years.  Not only have my body and mind been tempered by the challenge of training and running ultras, but so has my attitude and perspective on ultras, and life in general.  It is my sincere hope that maybe a fraction of what I share in this column will stick with you and inspire you like Dr. Horton’s did with me.

There Is No Easy Way

In ultras, the only way to get it done is to study and train.  Study and learn the skills you need to accomplish your goals and then go put them into practice.  Train your body and mind to do what you are asking them to do.  You cannot expect to go run a 100 mile ultra after you finished your first half-marathon.  Yes it has been done before, but what HASN’T?  Life is the same way – if you want something, it is attainable – but in most cases not without a high level of commitment.  Finding and maintaining motivation to meet your goals is the hardest thing in ultras.  I feel this applies strongly to everyday life as well.

Pain Really Is Temporary

Be it mental or physical, pain in an ultra (and life) is temporary.  Yes there are some pains worse than others, and some never truly leave you.  But over the course of life (and ultras), you willexperience pain – the difference between being successful or not lies in your ability to “ride out the storm” and get past the pain.  It will hurt, you will suffer, but if you are persistent and keep moving forward, you WILL get past it.  It is possible to build a tolerance to pain – effectively making you a tougher runner and person.

Failure is an Effective Teacher

Some of the hardest, and best, lessons I have ever learned in my five years of running ultras have not come in PR’s when everything goes right.  Failure has taught me things that success never could.  The sting of failure will help burn into your mind the mistakes you have made, allowing you to draw on those experiences in the future.  If you choose to accept responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them, failure can be a powerful motivator as well as a vehicle for personal improvement – in ultras and everyday life.

Hard Work Pays Off

Hard work is the cornerstone of ultrarunning.  Without hard work you can’t train effectively, eat effectively, or do anything else effectively.  You get what you put in.  Are you really going to be surprised if half-assed efforts do not yield the results you are looking for?  Maybe this is just restating my first point – but yeah – it is THAT important.

 Judge Your Success Based on Your Effort NOT the Achievements of Others

I cannot stress this enough.  In ultras there will ALWAYS be someone faster than you.  There will ALWAYS be someone slower than you.  Nothing frustrates me more than when people say things like, “When will I be a REAL runner?” or “Can I call myself an ultrarunner now?”  Set your goals for YOU!  What do you want to accomplish and when?  Once you reach that point, re-evaluate and set new goals.  Do not compare your times, distances, or achievements to Meb or Krar to determine your success or failure.  Stop comparing apples to tire irons.  It makes no sense and is a waste of energy.  Just like in life, your ultrarunning goals should be a function of what you want to achieve and how much work you are willing to do to get there.  Focus on YOU – that is the variable that IS directly in your control.

These are just a couple of the key things that I have learned in the last five years.  I sincerely hope you are able to learn your own similar lessons from ultrarunning and draw the parallels to your everyday life.  My life has been deeply enriched in a multitude of ways, while I simultaneously improved my mental and physical health – all because I participate in a fringe sport where the competitors are most commonly referred to by the non-ultra crowd as “insane”.  It is somewhat ironic that through pain and suffering are you really able to enjoy the pleasure and sweetness of life.  That’s the big lesson.

Nobody’s Perfect

PST100-2015-2657The many crazy, wonderful people that I have met while running or volunteering at ultras have overwhelmingly been of extremely high character and integrity.  They have also shown a willingness to share and sacrifice in ways that may actually make things harder on themselves in order to help someone else reach their goals.  Ultrarunners are tough, hardcore, and sensitive all at the same time.  Even amateur ultrarunners can be meticulous planners and organizers and execute a game plan like a professional athlete.  Ultrarunners can train relentlessly and grind thru the tough times in tough conditions and get the job done.  They are fun as hell and can joke and tell stories with the absolute best of them.  And beer… don’t even get me started on the variety and quantity they can consume.  They are a truly unique breed.  The bottom line is that ultrarunners are freakin’ awesome!

BUT – nobody is perfect – and chances are that if you start to think too highly of yourself and your abilities – you will be a total dick sometimes.  So, read closely, and don’t “be that guy”.

Here are the 5 Ways that Ultrarunners SUCK.

1.  They smell awful.  When you are constantly training and drenched in your own salty sweat and other bodily secretions, you get pretty immune to it.  Your favorite running gear only gets washed up a couple times a week (or month) and is usually just hung up to air dry. After all, you will be running again tomorrow.  And the shoes…  You run a few hundred miles and a pair of shoes, and they reek.  End of story.  Then the funk gets transferred to the car.  It does not come out.  And no guys, spraying some Axe Body Spray is not helping.  Do us all a favor, throw those shorts away and invest in a car with leather seats.

2.  Their relationship with food will drive you insane. They will eat it. All.  Assuming of course it is on the newest diet they are on.  All fat, no fat, no animal, no sugar, no carb, high carb, all plant, organic, grain fed, free range, all powder, all fast food, keto, paleo, Karno…. and so on and so forth.  Don’t spend too much on that initial “new diet” shopping trip because your ultrarunner spouse will likely be on a new one  in a month or so – a diet that suits training for that flat course WAY better.  And if they are like me personally, it’s not the composition of the food, but the vast quantity.  My brain knows I don’t need 5000 calories after a 4 mile run, but it does not seem to care.

3.  They are know-it-alls. Sorry people, but it’s true.  Basically every single one of my articles is telling you something I think you don’t already know.  The ultra-community has a propensity to think that because something works well for us that it is universal law.  They also realize that it is absolute fact that because, “this one time a gel gave me the runs” that it is poison.  Not quite.  Keep experimenting folks, maybe you will find something that you can push on other runners as the best (or worst) ever.  Or better yet, you could keep it secret to maybe gain a little edge.

4.  They will One-Up you on everything. If someone is telling you about this really steep hill they climb on long training runs, it is not totally required that you tell them about the place that is twice as steep and uphill both ways.  We get it… You work hard!  Great job.  It is the same with races.  If someone just got done telling you about how hot and humid your last 50K was, telling them that it was way hotter than that in your last 50 miler kind of makes you look like an ass.  Swapping stories can be a lot of fun, but please don’t do it to try and diminish the accomplishments of others or try and make yourself look like some sort of immortal douche.

5.  They take way too many selfies. Ultrarunners and selfie pics on the trail go hand in hand like tortillas and Nutella.  Me on a mountain, me in the desert, me at the finish line, me on the largest damn crater on the Moon!  Hell yeah you look good, and that is a kick-ass race – but please stick to posting the excruciating detail of your daily workout and leave the photography to the pros!  And no, thirty-two hashtags don’t make it better.  #wealreadyknewyouwereawesome  Ultrarunners and social media could be a whole other article.

Please keep in mind that I am including myself in all of the above listed items.  Hell, I should have started each list item with “we” or “I” rather than “they” or “their”.  Before you send out a lynch mob of ultrarunners with torches and pitchforks (how scary would that be?) just keep in mind that I found it very hard to come up with this list.  My running friends are basically the best overall group of people that I have ever been around.  But like I said earlier, taking yourself too seriously and treating others poorly is really the only thing that will truly make you suck.

Until next time… Be Epic!

Zach Adams

Setting the Pace

PST100-2015-2657I was recently asked, “Zach – your crewing article was great, but I am not really wanting to sit on my butt for hours just to pop blisters, make sandwiches and fill water bottles…  what about pacing?”   Well, “fictitious friend”, that is a great question!  However, for the purposes of disclosure, let me start with a disclaimer.  I have never actually paced another runner during an event.  This being said – I have utilized pacers in a wide variety of race distances and terrains during ultras.  I have also not utilized pacers – so I feel confident I can speak with authority on the subject matter.

First and foremost – and I cannot stress this enough – make sure that you are FAST ENOUGH to keep up with your pacer.  I personally have had to leave a pacer behind that could not keep up with me and ended up leaving said pacer alone in the dark in the middle of the night.  While I felt bad for her, I was feeling amazing, and was going to take advantage of that.  Another friend’s pacer decided to quit during his “shift” and did not run again for a year.  To avoid this situation, don’t agree to pace someone that you are likely unable to match speeds (and preferably push).  Also, be careful to assume that just because it’s the late miles of a 100 you will be able to keep up with a normally much faster runner – I have seen some ultrarunners run faster the last 10 than the first 10.

Secondly, don’t whine and complain about how bad YOU feel.  Chances are you have been out there much less time than your runner has, and the goal is to help THEM.  Your pissing and moaning might make them run faster to get away from you, but most likely they will just get very annoyed and take it out on the crew at the next aid station.  Best case scenario, your runner might just put in her earbuds and crank the Metallica – take the hint.

#Zandi - Shay featuring Johnny and the Daves
2014 Honey Badger “Van Clan”

Next order of business; be prepared.  I am talking “Eagle Scout” prepared!  Learn and study the course! Know the distance between aid stations.  Just like Dad driving to the family vacation destination, you can expect to hear “Are we there yet?”  Know your runners goals and push hard to exceed them!  Find out what you can do to help your runner and the crew when you roll into the next aid station.  Don’t forget to remind them to eat and drink, then take a mental note of when and how much.  It is important you do not let them get behind; else you are making things harder on the both of you.

Finally, and this is sometimes overlooked, HAVE FUN!  One of the best things you can do is help your runner keep their mind OFF the pain, the race, and the other hardships.  Crack jokes, sing songs, tell stories.  ENGAGE your runner to help pass the long arduous hours and distract them from the task at hand for a bit.  Some of my best pacer experiences were not because my pacer kept pushing Heed and Hammer Gels, but telling dirty jokes and sharing (and sometimes OVERSHARING) personal stories.  It really makes the low times much more bearable.

I could give you a thousand more tips on how to be an effective pacer, but if you follow the four simple rules above, you will be successful.  If you are interested in being a pacer but have not been asked, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE!  Post availability on forums or Facebook pages!  It is a great way to see part of a course or race without ponying up the entry fee!  You may also make some great friends.  Last summer, I assembled a team of 4 complete strangers who spent more than 27 hours in the scorching Kansas heat for a guy and his gal that they barely knew – and now they are now my lifelong friends!

Until Next Time…. #BeEpic!

Zach Adams

Crewing Basics – Not All Fun and Games!

zachIf you are not a runner yourself but have ever crewed for a runner you probably have no trouble remembering your first time.  It is pretty unforgettable.  You probably felt like a fish out of water.  At the very least, you probably wish you had been told that “cheering someone to the finish and re-filling a water bottle” would likely turn into “rubbing a sore buttcheek, stuffing nasty-ass, bloody socks into your pocket, and cleaning up what looks the remnants of a grizzly bear attack every few hours” – all while potentially being treated “gruffly”.  You probably wish you had a manual.  I gotcha’ back, Jack!

Here are my 5 tips to crewing for an ultra 50 miles or longer.  Enjoy!

  1. Make a plan. Have yourself a little “parlay” with your runner and find out what they want, like, and need.  From food to gear choices, know in advance how they race.  Ask about weaknesses and strengths and help them maximize and mitigate both accordingly.  Don’t go in blind and try to figure it out as you go!  You could end up being more of a hindrance than a helper.
  2. Have as much fun before the race with your runner as possible. When it comes time to get ready to run, shit gets real.  Most ultrarunners I know take it fairly seriously and are pretty intense – as early as the night before.  Ask what you can do to help, but for the most part, allow them to do their own thing.  Make yourself available to help out with whatever asked – but let them run the show.
  3. Move fast, think fast, act Do not make your runner wait on YOU.  Know exactly where their gear is, where their favorite drinks are, and what food choices are readily available at a seconds notice.  Anticipate what they might need and get it ready even if they may not end up needing it.  Make suggestions until something sounds good.  You might have tons of potentially helpful stuff available that your runner more than likely has forgotten about.  Remind her.  Always grab more than you need.  Ask them on the way out what they might need NEXT time.
  4. Be positive! Your runner has likely has been waiting a while to see you and needs a good pick me up.  Yell!  Scream!  Holler!  Smile!  Hug! Be obnoxiously loud to the point that other crews are annoyed by you.  I am speaking from experience when I tell you, this boost is better than any can of Red Bull when you are at a low point.  You can rest later… bust your ass to show your runner how excited and proud you are of them.
  5. Have an ace-in-the hole. Call a loved one at the lowest point.  Break out a surprise gift.  Get homemade cards from the family saying “Stay Strong Daddy!”  Have something ready for that spot where continuing is almost  Piss them off.  Tell them they have worked too hard to quit.  Be creative – what your “ace” is will vary dependant on the runner, but find something!

I am not going to include this as a tip – but I think it is important to mention – cut your runner some slack!  Don’t get all butt-hurt if they snap at you.  Don’t quit on them or stop being positive and supportive because they cussed about the water being too hot or the soup too cold.  They are doing something VERY DIFFICULT and don’t mean to take it out on you.  Be there as a punching bag or a shoulder to cry on if that is what they need.   Ultimately the BEST way to learn how to be a good crewmember  is to get FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE – so get out there and help someone earn that finish!

Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!

Zach Adams

5 Ways Ultrarunners Are Exactly Like Newborn Babies

zachWhen you run a one-hundred mile foot race, it is easy to think of yourself as some kind of superhuman.  After all, you are voluntarily covering a distance on foot that a percentage of people very close to zero ever even attempt, much less succeed in accomplishing.  A bloated feeling of strength, power and invincibility is not surprising, considering people in modern times are more entitled brats than hunters and gatherers.  Unfortunately, running for periods of time this long does things to your mind that change your perception of reality – even to the point of hallucinations.  It’s no surprise that our crew, pacers, and others might see us in a totally different light during a hundie.   I would argue that there are way way more similarities between ultrarunners and newborns than there are between ultrarunners and your friendly neighborhood superhero.

1.       Eating:  Every time a crew is finally ready to relax, their hungry ultrarunner is begging for something to eat.  It doesn’t matter if they just hammered down a burger, some fries, and an Ensure – they still want more.  Even more like a newborn, they will fall asleep while eating, only to wake up begging for more.  They will refuse food yet scream about how much they need to eat.

2.       Barfing:  Ultrarunners barf.  A lot.  They barf because they ate too much.  They barf because they have empty stomachs.  They barf because they ran too fast, or got too hot, or got winded, or the air got thin… etc. etc.  Luckily for most crews, they feel it coming, warn you, and don’t barf on your shoulder like an actual newborn.

3.       Sleeping:  Where is the best place to take a nap at 3:48 am after 83 miles?  Just like the newborn that will fall asleep eating, bathing, or being dressed, an ultraunner can (and will) fall sleep anywhere.  Laying on the gravel, sitting at an aid station, laying on a concrete cistern, the back seat of Dave’s car – hell why bother stopping, just stumble along in your sleep.

4.       Pooping:  Another way that 100 mile zombie runners are like newborns is how they poop.  It doesn’t matter if they are wearing a diaper or not.  I have seen runners drop trow and leave steaming piles behind logs, off bridges (that might or might not have been me), directly on the trail itself (don’t be that guy) , and have even heard plenty of horror stories about runners not quite getting their compression shorts off before the “mud flood” comes.   The point – just like a baby, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

5.       Crying:  Especially late in a 100, most ultrarunners will turn in to bawling babes.  About everything.  We cry because we are happy, hungry, hot, cold, tired, sad, and any other reason you can think of.  I am pretty sure it is required that your crew chief carries a Costco size box of Kleenex after mile 80.  Oh… and we DEFINITELY cry when we cross the finish line.  More tears there than the hospital nursery before feeding time.

So there you have it.  Hundred mile runners are very similar basically really tall newborns that wear expensive shoes.  And just like newborns they grow and evolve eventually overcoming the massive challenges and obstacles of life every step along the way.  Just try not to get mad at them if they cry and whine so much that your ears are bleed, puke in your car, or burn your sinuses with the most foul smells on the planet… they really can’t help it.  It’s just part of growing up and getting to the finish line!

Be Epic!

Zach Adams

Ultra Burnout

What is runner burnout?

Simply put, I think of burnout as the point at which the hobby of running, once much loved, becomes nothing more than work. You aren’t running as much as you used to and when you do they suck and aren’t much fun. It may even get to the point that you are only running out of a sense of obligation or habit. One may experience a general lack in motivation to go faster or farther, where once a sense of excitement and accomplishment was the predominant driving force. When you get to the point that you can think of a thousand things you would rather be doing aside from running, you are more than likely burned out. Chances are if you have been running ultras for a significant amount of time, you probably have been or will be burned out on running at some point. Maybe it will come after a long stretch of huge training miles and a very busy race schedule. It may come when you have been burning hours you could be sleeping to keep up on training because “life has gotten in the way”. Whatever the cause, the point is, it happens to the best of us.

What can I do about it?

My first case of burnout came after nearly an entire year of training and racing with the ultimate goal of finishing my first 100 mile ultra. Tons and tons of miles, some hard run races, and an annual mileage total nearly doubling my previous highest had me very well prepared for the October 100 miler I had picked out. It also had me set up for a case of burnout. The strenuous year and accomplishment of my goal left me with quite a running hangover. I was kind of lost without the goal that I had been working for and when I did run it was not much fun – even after the aches and pains of the 100 went away.

After a couple months of this I decided to see what I could do to pull myself out of the funk. Here are a few things that I think contributed to pulling me from the brink of nearly quitting running ultras and propelled me into an even better year than the one that had been amazing, while simultaneously kicking me in the teeth.

  1. Reflect on why you started running. Was it to get healthy, compete in a race, run with a group, or scratch something off your bucket list? Taking a look at your original motivation might just help you put your current situation in perspective and help you find the passion once again. Isn’t a bit of silent meditation and reflection something you normally do while running anyway?

2.  Re-evaluate your goals. Do you want to PR some specific race or distance? Do you want to tackle a course of distance that has previously been unattainable? Do you want to lose some weight and get stronger? Whatever your goal is, tailoring your running specifically to the accomplishment of these new priorities may help get you back on track. It could be the new motivation you need to make those workouts feel more exhilarating than a day working in the widget factory for minimum wage.

3.  Sign up for a race that scares you. By taking on a challenge of epic proportions, you might scare yourself into working harder than you would if you were just kind of seeing what comes up. In my experience, having a particular goals race that you know will kick you square in the nuts if you don’t get ready for it is a strong motivator to lay off the pizza and beer and go grab some hill repeats instead.

4.  Just go run. One of the things I do when I am just not “feeling it” is to just go. Set a schedule for 14 days and follow it without question. It takes you back to when you first started running and didn’t know what you were doing – you just followed the almighty schedule. No motivation required. The schedule says 4, you run 4. No motivation needed. If you are supposed to go run 16 you go run 16, without excuses. I think this works because it makes running a normal part of your routine again. Rather than trying to talk yourself into going out for a run, you do it because the schedule says so. When the scheduled days are done, you just keep with it because it has become routine and feels weird not to. Either way, you are still moving and running continues to be that important part of your life that you might have begun to take for granted.

5.  Find some running buddies. Find some new people to run with. Joining a new group of runners might be very helpful in breathing some new life into your love of running. A new group means new people to talk to and share race “war stories” with. It might inspire people to tackle some of the challenges you have already taken on, or vice versa. Sharing the experience with new people may help you gain a fresh perspective on running and help you win the game of hide and seek with your own love of running.

6.  Run somewhere new. A change of venue could be just what the coach ordered. I know I personally have a tendency to run the same routes over and over and over and over… My 5 mile route has been a staple for close to as many years, and when I need 10 or 15, I just do more loops. If you look closely you can see the groove in the road created by about 200 pairs of running shoes. If you had the nose of a dog, you could probably smell me on it. The point is, running past the same tree, farmhouse, and water tower can get just as old as a morning rush hour commute. Mix it up! Drive to a different town or trail. Go get on the treadmill of a new gym. Just changing your scenery may help you regain the elusive “fun factor”. This is one instance where I am telling you to go find out if the grass really is greener on the other side!

7.  Rest. Don’t overlook the importance of taking some time off from time to time. When was the last time you didn’t run for a full two week span? Do something different. Swim laps or ride a bike. You won’t lose your massive ultarunning base if you take a couple weeks off. I have a feeling a recharging of your metal batteries is going to help you way more than not running for two weeks will – especially if you replace the activity with something else physically demanding like pickup basketball at the YMCA or an adult soccer rec league.

You will surely notice that some of these things work better for you than others, much as everything else in ultrarunning.  Ultrarunning is a sport of trial and error and what works for one may not for another. Just like fueling during a race or finding the best shoes, there is no “perfect” way to pull yourself out of a funk. I suppose if all else fails, you can just quit. While you might regret it later, I certainly don’t mind less competition in a given race. Hell, it might even help me get into one of those big lottery selection races some day!

Until Next Time…. BE EPIC!

Zach Adamszach

EpicUltras.com Blogger

The Stereotypical Ultrarunner

zachIn the five or so years I have been running ultras, I have seen quite a few changes.  The first, and most noticeable, is the massive increase in popularity.  In 2010, ultras (in the Midwest anyway) were somewhat few and far between.  A runner might have to travel 6 hours or more to find a race at all, and there were very few options through the course of the year, even ifyou were willing to travel.  In 2014, one must pick and choose based on courses, buckles, distances, course support, and a zillion other factors. It seems as though there are new races popping up all over the place every weekend!  The massive rise in popularity has increased both participation and public exposure – in both traditional media and social media.  Between my runner friends, runner pages, and groups, my Twitter and Facebook feeds read like an AD/HD version of about 12 issues worth of UltraRunning Magazine.

This increased exposure has increased to the point that now even ‘non-runners’ are at least cognizant with the concept of ultrarunning.  Guys like Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Christopher McDougal, and others have made ultrarunning seem less of a fringe sport for total psychopathic sadomasochists and maybe even somewhat mainstream. Maybe…  Along with this newfound recognition, I have noticed a trend among non-runners beginning to group all ultrarunners into one homogenous group tagged “ultrarunner” – a new stereotype of sorts.  How awesome is that guys!?  We got our own stereotype!  By definition, a stereotype is an oversimplification of the group as a whole, and in a lot of cases, the shoe fits.  But there are a few traits that I feel like are commonly attributed to ALL ultrarunners that I really feel are more often mostly inaccurate.

1.)  All ultrarunners are a bunch of hippies who just bum around and only work the bare minimum to survive. FALSE!  There are a certain number of these ultrarunners living a lifestyle recently coined as “dirbag” who are out there truly living the ultra dream, but they are not the majority.  Nurses, cops, small business owners, stay at home moms, CEO’s, and teachers are professionals you will find at almost every ultra.  Most of the ultrarunners I know have full time jobs, families, and as many or more responsibilities as any non-runner.

2.)   All ultrarunners are health freaks who measure and count every free-range, organic thing they eat and drink. Most are vegans who hang out at whole food stores and plan their next barefoot run across America.  NOPE!  Most of us eat what we like, because we like it, and in whatever quantity we choose.  Fast food is NOT the devil and we don’t mind sucking down the occasional triple cheeseburger and washing it down with a giant butterscotch milkshake.  Yeah, there are a many health conscious ultrarunners out there because better nutrition does make better runners.  However, most of us will never step on a podium and are MORE THAN SATISFIED just to stumble across a finish line – just before cutoffs- to collect our buckle and vanity sticker.

3.)  All ultrarunners suck down tons of craft beers the night before and immediately after every ultra. NADA!  We will drink just about any kind of beer, wine, liquor and sometimes don’t even wait until we have finished the race.  And believe it or not, there are many ultrarunners who don’t drink at all, although I am personally not sure why.

4.)  All ultrarunners hate themselves and are just punishing themselves somehow. INCORRECT!  The pain of running ultras is a beautiful contrast to the Western hemisphere’s push toward achieving absolute comfort in all things.  Feeling the pain lets you know how great you have it in your everyday life.  It is not a punishment…it is a reward!  We aren’t doing it because we hate ourselves, we are doing it because we LOVE ourselves enough to get out of our comfort zones and live life – in spite of the pain.  To push past limits defined by others and sometimes even limits we place on ourselves.

5.)  All ultrarunners are obsessed with running and it is all they do. NOT TRUE.  Ultrarunners by nature have a very wide range of experiences.  Chances are that is what led them to the sport.  Driven by the desire to take on new and exciting challenges can lead to many different activities.  From my experience, ultrarunners excel in a wide variety of activities that take significant commitment – from writing, music, art, and theatre to auto body repair, hunting, gardening and motorcycle riding.  Not stunted by a fear of the unknown, ultrarunners are well prepared to tackle ANY challenge.  Hell I am in a group that meets bi-weekly to play old school, roll the 20 sided die roll playing game Dungeons and Dragons. (My character is a pretty badass level 2 Half-Elf Rogue).  But yeah, we do run a lot – it is pretty necessary when running distances over 26.2 miles.

After all the time and miles I have spent on the trails with ultrarunners, I would argue that the ONLY thing that we ALL truly have in common as the group labeled “Ultrarunners” is the desire to take on the physical challenge of running an ultra as a way to living a highly fulfilled life.  There are similarities among us but just like the case of the “perfect” running shoe, there truly is no one-size-fits-all personality of an ultrarunner.

Be Epic!

Zach Adams