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Once a padawan, now a freaking Jedi. I run really far, I write a bunch, and have super powers that allow me to grow amazing facial hair.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Many Ailments of an Ultrarunner

It comes as no surprise that running ultra distances, typically in remote places, and sometimes in less than ideal conditions has it's hazards. Ultrarunning isn't the safest or most comfortable thing you can be doing with your time, but as they say, the juice is worth the squeeze.

Unless You're Trying to Squeeze
Chuck's Lemons...

My Top 3 Running Ailments (With Firsthand Accounts)

1. Bonking (a.k.a The Wall)

No it's not the greatest double album in the history of music... it's the utter breakdown of your entire physical and mental being. Commonly referred to as "hitting the wall" or "bonking", this ailment comes well into a long training run or race. Biologically it's when your body depletes it's glycogen stores and can't get the lactic acid out of your muscles fast enough. You are nauseous, light headed, your legs cramp up, and your kidneys feel like they are being stabbed.

But Dammit I Looked Good
Doing It.
My Story: I have hit a "wall" running road marathons, usually hits me around mile 18 or so. I have only completely bonked out once though and that was during my first attempt at 77 miles. The heat that day paired up with poor training and even worse nutrition had me puking my guts out after the first 19 miles. I literally couldn't keep down water, gel, food, or even a Tums tablet. I dropped out to live and fight another day.

2. Chaffing

Unless you failed your 3rd grade science class, you at least know a little bit
about friction. Well, when you run for hours on end normal rubbing of body parts... under your armpits, between your thighs, even between your ass cheeks... is exaggerated. The result is raw, bleeding, and unbelievable pain. You might not realize it during the race, but you had better get a tub of Vaseline ASAP. Don't forget to tape your nipples either, because that ever so slight movement of your shirt is going to have you lactating blood.

My Story: You can't avoid chaffing altogether, but you can reduce how bad it gets. I learned the hard way when I was a rookie, not realizing it until the hot water from my post race shower hit my ass. I let out a cry that sounded like I was having Satan himself exorcized out of me. Then it hurt to use toilet paper for a week. My tip to you is be generous and all inclusive with some Vaseline before and during a race, get a pair of compression shorts, and always duct tape or put band-aids on your nips. (Duct-tape sticks better and won't fall off, but you may need to shave your sasquatch-like chest hair first.)

3. Temporary Insanity

Most people know that running messes with the dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain. It's like a poor man's Prozac. My theory though is that strenuous enough activity results in these balances to go haywire for a bit. It's why people cry at the finish lines of races all across the country or in some cases, completely go ape shit in the middle of race. Your physical body is working at a abnormally effecient level, burning fuel, moving stuff around. Your mind does it too. If you get off on a tangent inside your head it can screw you over. You stop thinking about the task in front of you and your mind wonders to what kind of person you wanted to become, the meaning of life, why bad things happen to good people, and it will all make you nuts. Your not racing anymore, your wallowing in whatever crazy idea your brain shifted to the front.

Running and Copenhagen are My
Only Addictions.

My Story: This is tricky because running to me is therapeutic most of the time. Sometimes though, it takes me down memory lane to things I'd rather not be thinking about. On a training run in the Winter several years ago in Ohio my mind wandered to back to Iraq. I literally stopped in the middle of the run at 2am and sat in a pile of snow for 2 hours until I got past the woe is me attitude and ran home before the sun came up. It happened at my last race too. I had a great first 20 miles, bullshitting with another runner the whole time. Then we separated and I ran alone. Having just lost my Mom a few weeks before to cancer, guess where my mind went? I dropped at the next aid station, nothing wrong physically, but my mind was not where it needed to be to finish. The solution is to have a self-talk plan for when things like this go down. Songs to sing. Positive memories. To-do lists. Anything.

As you began to run longer and further you may encounter these and others. Some other favorites, both from my own experiences and other runner's include:

-Temporary Blindness (Rarest of the rare.)
-Hallucinations (Typically reserved for 100-mile + runners.)
-Broken Bones (One trip over a root should clear this one up.)
-Animal Attacks (Going to happen eventually, hopefully it's a small dog.)
-Loss of Toenails (The truest sign of being an ultrarunner.)
-Shitting Your Pants (I always run with a bandanna a.k.a emergency TP.)

While I have experienced all but a few of these as a byproduct of running, it has been and always will be worth it. You will know what I mean when you cross your first finish line.


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