Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Old Race Reports

Since I have a few race reports from past Ironmans floating around in various places in cyberspace and the nether regions of my hard drive, I decided to try to consolidate all of them here on my blog. So, this is just a head's up that some new "old" posts have shown up in my Archives (over on the right side of the screen). They are all reports from Ironman Wisconsin races...

"Steve Emmert, You Are An Ironman!" - IMWI 2002
Iron Again - IMWI 2003
"Irondaddy!" - IMWI 2004
My First Ever DNF - IMWI 2005 (not so much a report...more of a "what the hell happened?")
IMBrrr! - IMWI 2006 (not so much a report...just some brief reminiscing).

And, just to keep this list complete:

"All The Way To The Finish Line" - IMWI 2007


Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Journey Into A New Unknown

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
- Helen Keller

I really don't know from where the idea came. I don't think it was a sudden epiphany. I think it was more like a seed that floated into my brain some time ago and waited there to sprout. I've thought about it before, but not all that seriously.

There was nothing particularly special about the moment. I was recently listening to a triathlon podcast with a coach talking about one of his older athletes who had been trying for years to win his age group at Kona. He mentioned the guy's history, like how he'd completed the Western States Endurance Run a few times some twenty years ago. For some reason that I cannot understand, that's when the seed sprouted. I was suddenly a bit overwhelmed with the thought as my mind painted the picture of a new challenge.

Western States was the first thought, but I knew that couldn't be the first step in this new journey. What I knew was this: I had a need to try something new, and it's called ultrarunning. Ultrarunning is a term applied to running distances beyond the marathon distance. Western States, for example, is an infamous 100 mile run through the challenging terrain of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. So, I set off to learn a bit more about the sport, and about Western States. Western States is not for a newbie to ultras. Entrance to WS100 is via lottery, and you have to qualify to enter the lottery by running a race of at least 50 miles within a specified time.

I remembered having seen something about an ultra distance race in the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin. At Kettle Moraine, they offer both a 100 kilometer and a 100 mile run. Since 100 miles as a first ultra would be absolute lunacy, I set my sights on the much more reasonable distance of 100K. That'd be 62 miles if you are metric-challenged.

The run is entirely on trails, in an area I know fairly well as I have mountain biked there many times. It's challenging terrain, over dirt, rocks and tree roots, with numerous hills. The 100 mile course consists of two different out and back sections. The first section is a 62 mile out and back, and this section serves as the complete race course for the 100K. The 100 milers then continue on from there for another 38 mile out and back section. The 100K includes about 7200 feet of climbing and descending. The cut-off time for the 100K is 18 hours, and the cut-off for the 100 milers is 30 hours.

It will be a very different kind of event compared with an Ironman. Ultras, and the ultrarunner community are known for being laid back and friendly. It won't have thousands of spectators, a live webcam, or bleachers packed with screaming supporters at the finish line. What it will have is a couple hundred athletes comprising a tight-knit community of a unique breed of runner, their faithful supporters, a dedicated crew of volunteers, and an overarching ambition to continue moving forward.

And so the challenge is set. At 6:00 AM on June 7th, 2008, I plan to be on the starting line of the Kettle Moraine 100K Endurance Run, taking my first step into a new unknown...probably feeling very excited, and more than a little nauseous. My goal now is to arrive there healthy.

I don't know if I can, but I know why I want to try. I want to try because I don't know if I can.

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."
- George Sheehan

Oh, and if you're wondering, this in no way changes my 2008 Ironman Wisconsin plans. It just presents a rather sizable obstacle in my training plan ;-)