Sunday, December 11, 2011

Moment of Insanity: First Ultra Sign Up

The conversation in the Tajlili house went something like this last night:

Me: "I did something that I probably should tell you about."

Megan: (hesitantly) "...what?"

Me: "I signed up for a 50K on April 1st."

Megan: "Is this an early April Fools' joke?"

Me: (silent, sensing the irony)

Megan: "How long is a 50K?"

Me: "31 miles"

Megan: "Why would you do that? Isn't 26 long enough? You want to do more than that?"

She had a good point. I've been a wreck after every marathon I've ever done. I usually end up curled up in a sleeping bag or giant piece of aluminum foil, shivering cold, with lines of salt running down the side of my face. And I wanted to run 5 more miles? My first marathon was so painful that I swore that was the longest I'd ever try to run.

"You're turning into one of those people..." My wife then went to the kitchen counter, and pointed out the flier I had strangely enough received that day for the Second Empire Grand Prix series, which is usually a series of road races (mostly 5Ks) in the spring and fall each year. If you run enough races and/or place high enough in your age group, you get invited to an awards banquet at one of Raleigh's more expensive restaurants.

"Why wouldn't you do this instead? You get a free dinner if you do this."

I didn't even need to look at the flier closely to point out, "no way. that is more miles than a 50K!" (in total)

Nothing against Second Empire or the Grand Prix (I've done a lot of these races -- they are usually well organized, reasonably competitive, and have decent courses), but the thought of pounding the pavement for 7 5Ks, 2 10Ks, and a half marathon -- or a race nearly every weekend for 5 months was simply horrifying compared to one 50K.

Yes, I had signed up for my first over marathon distance race... the Mountains to Sea 50K at Falls Lake. At the last moment, I had a way out -- I could have signed up for the more reasonable 12 Mile distance, but irrationality took over and I clicked the 50K. After putting in my credit card number and clicking submit, it was done. The next day, I checked the entry list and sure enough my name was there under "50K"... there was no turning back... what was I thinking?!? "Maybe they'll cancel the race like last year..." I was thinking. I was already having doubts.

I signed up for many races this winter and spring... this was going to be end of it, I promised. I did point out this race was only 2 weeks after my marathon. "You're usually really beat up after a marathon. You need some rest." Megan, the non-runner, and hence, voice of reason could not make sense of why I would subject myself to 2 26+ mile races over three weeks. And she was right.

"We'll see how this goes..." I said and wisely we chose to change the topic of conversation but the debate continued swirling in my head.

Wasn't the 50K actually a much better call than a whole series of road races?

Let me break it down like this:

Driving:

Grand Prix
10 separate drives back and forth to Raleigh: 30 minutes each way for me, 2 gallons of gas

50K
1 drive to Falls Lake, about 40 minutes

Edge - 50K

T-Shirts:

Grand Prix
10 more cotton T-Shirts... but do I really need more T-Shirts? At some point, doesn't 'more' become a burden?

50K
Hopefully one technical shirt that says "50K" (don't let me down Bull City Running)

Edge - 50K

Race Music:

Grand Prix
Road races have become a new stream of income for low budget DJs, who previously were limited to middle school dances, weddings, and (in some parts of the US) Bar Mitzvahs. Now they are hired to blast pop music in an effort to energize and motivate a crowd of people that would probably rather be in bed at that particular moment on a Saturday morning.

Is this what you want stuck in your head running ANY distance?


All that's missing with the race entry fee are the 3D glasses.

50K

At an ultramarathon on the trails, you are more likely to hear this



Edge - 50K

(in full disclosure, Run At the Rock -- a highly respectable trail race -- decided to blast Party Rock at us just before the start, which meant that was stuck in my head for 14 MILES!)

PR Potential

Grand Prix
No chance, my road 5K PR was set on a point to point net downhill. In 1998. It is the most battle tested of any of my PRs. It isn't going down, ever. Doubtful that I'd take down my 10K and Half Marathon either.

50K
as long as I finish...

Edge: 50K

Time Spend / Cost

Grand Prix
Start with the hour per race of aforementioned driving. Add in that you usually need to get to a race at least half an hour before to park, pick up a packet, warm up, and have the race DJ pump you up to LMFAO and Justin Bieber, go back to your car to find your iPod, play some more music to get a different song stuck in your head, and get back to the start before the gun goes off.

The race itself, for better or worse, will be over fast. Grab some gatorade and free swag, cool down, and then wait around for at least an hour for results or an age-group award (if the field wasn't stacked). The part probably is optional... but dammit, I want my $10 IO Sports Gift Card for winning 3rd in my age group.

Cost for 10 races at $20-$30 a pop will more than pay for the dinner award, and then some...

10 races is probably a 30 hour commitment over 5 months... and even 6 (the minimum to get an award) would be about 15-20 hours.

50K
I'll be "done" training/racing by April 1, hopefully before nightfall, and in time to play another April Fools' joke like convince Megan I had so much fun I signed up for a 100K.

Cost was $55, or barely more than $1/K. Find me a sanctioned 5K that is under $6.

Verdict:

50K wins.

And so, it looks like I'll be taking Megan out to dinner at Second Empire on my own dime in the spring...

Just to be clear, I have nothing against road racing. For some people, getting even the start line of a 5K is a great accomplishment. I'm just looking for something new, and I'm sure I'll be back some day...

My road racing 'career' lasted about 7 years longer than Ashton and Demi

Running and Music

I'll give a more detailed posting on this topic at a later time, but I listen to a lot of music when I run -- at least when I am not running with other people. People complain that music today is terrible, but I would venture to say it is as good as it ever has been, but the problem is there are too many outlets, and it is often hard to find the good stuff. I find quite a bit on NPR.org that I like, and each month SPIN puts out a free playlist where I've actually been introduced to some pretty solid acts throughout the year.

Anyway, here is a link to my Running song of the month.

I don't usually listen to punk, but this entire album from this raucous Toronto based band seems to transcend the genre (David Comes to Life one of my few entire album purchases of the year, and was SPIN Magazine's 2011 album of the year). This is the third song in, which about 2 minutes in erupts into a long, continuous, and hypnotic instrumental. Perfect for barreling down the Tobacco Trail solo at near tempo pace.

My next post will be my highly subjective top running songs of the year.

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