Someone asked me: "Have you ever had a toenail turn black and/or fall off?"
Well, yes, actually I have, most recently after my Chicago 50m. It was my second toenail on the right. It actually doesn't hurt that much. I was even surprised to find it loose. However, this is never something that I am proud of. It most certainly is NOT something that I would ever take a photo of and then post.
Yuck! That's too disgusting even for me with a strong stomach!
However, there are many ultrarunners who are even more demented than I am. For confirmation, please see the St. Louis Post Dispatch Article that was published on March 5th, 2007: Ultra Runners: When a Marathon Just Isn't Enough showing Jan Ryerse wearing his infamous necklace. Apparently, he is looking for "donations."
For close-up photo of this necklace, open Scott Dunlap's Trail Runner blog at: Making-A-Toenail-Necklace .
I warn all of you- if you have a weak stomach- DO NOT open the close-up photo posted at Scott's blog!
All of you ultrarunners and trail runners out there.. DO NOT… I repeat… DO NOT buy the Asics Gel Trail Sensors.
I purchased a pair of Asics Gel Trail Sensors as my most recent trail shoes.
I found them to be comfortable and with great traction off-road. They are unique in that they have a 4-pod heel. They looked great.
However, part of the outer sole fell off on both shoes in the SAME run and in the SAME location on the sole. This was after less than 200 miles of use! There was not even any wear onto the sole and the other parts of the sole are already loose too! I consider this to be a serious design flaw.
I go through innumerable shoes per a year and because I am always trading them out at different times, I keep track of the mileage religiously to know when I need to think of getting new ones. Because I spend a lot of time in my shoes and go through a lot of them every year, I value performance over looks. Who care what your shoes look like when you are alone on the trail anyway?
It is really annoying when a shoe falls apart like that. I shalll not be purchasing an Asics shoe again.
Twenty years ago, I used to run on the track and cross country teams in high school. But I never fully enjoyed the competitive atmosphere of racing. Perhaps that was because I was (and still am) a slow runner who never had much chance of placing in races. Maybe it was because at the time, I already had more than enough competition in my life such as trying to get good grades, get into college, then medical school, residency and so on.
Back then, success in a race for me was when I finished not last!
I have always loved going out for long and slow runs on trails and quiet country roads. I enjoy the warm feeling of relaxation and increased energy I felt afterwards. I love being out in nature.
Unfortunately for my running and my health, like many folks, my life soon became busy with school, career and family commitments and I gave up running for almost 20 years.
The years of sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits and long hours at work caught up with me. A family member who had not seen me for awhile commented on how much weight I had put on. Measurement of my percent body fat revealed to my surprise that I was actually overweight. To my dismay, an honest and hard look at myself in the mirror confirmed it.
I had always been the tall, thin kid in school who never had to worry about what I ate or what I weighed. Indeed, in elementary and high school I was quite the opposite. I worried about not being big or muscular enough. Thus, admitting to myself that I was now both overweight and out of shape was difficult.
By profession I am an endocrinologist who is also board certified in the subspecialties of nutrition and lipidology. I devote a large amount of time dealing with the complications of our sedentary lifestyle and the associated conditions of overweight and obesity. It was ironic for me to be out of shape when I spent a large portion of my medical practice advising my patients to eat right, exercise and lose weight.
So I decided to stop making excuses and start running again. I did not want to be a hypocrite for not following my own advice.
At first I could barely make it a half mile without becoming winded. My body ached in places that I did not know could ache. Trying to run the way I had twenty years ago resulted in the typical runner’s overuse injuries such as shin splints and iliotibial band strain. Many times I was frustrated and just wanted to just give up.
Despite the frustrations and set backs, I kept at it and slowly and surely increased my mileage. After a couple of years, I lost thirty pounds and got to the point where I could easily run as far as 20 miles at a time. I loved the feeling of being able to comfortably go for miles and miles. Though I did not go fast, there were times I felt as if I could almost run forever.
Some runners I knew suggested that if I like going so far, I should try a marathon. I declined. I never enjoyed the stress and competition of racing back in high school. I told them I had absolutely no desire to race again. I love running for the sake of running. Beyond being a physical activity useful for maintaining fitness and health, running had become a form of meditation for me, a quiet time to be alone with my thoughts and a time to clear my mind. These were all more than enough rewards for me. I had no need to run in any races again; I had nothing to prove.
Then one day a patient of mine who was an ultramarathon runner suggested that if I like to run for so long and so far, I should consider ultramarathoning.
Like everyone else now asks me when I tell them that I run ultramarathons, I asked him: "What's an ultramarathon?"
He explained to me that ultramarathons are foot races longer than the 26.2 miles of the traditional marathon. Many of them are run over difficult terrain, off-road or in challenging weather or other conditions.
He also made a clear distinction between racing an ultra vs. simply running in one. He explained that “racing” is about competition, fast times and beating your opponents, but on the other hand “running” is all about enjoying yourself and having a good experience.
He assured me that because of the difficulty of finishing, the long hours on the trails, and the small numbers of participants, ultramarathons are much less competitive. In his experience, ultrarunners are much more supportive of each other than are many runners are in the traditional shorter races.
"Hmmm…," I thought to myself, "running ultramarathons sounds totally insane!..That's just perfect for me!"
I decided to see if I might train for and complete at least one race at the ultramarathon distance. After finishing my first 50-k race, I was hooked.
This blog is a collection of stories and thoughts about my experiences ultra and trail running. Thank you for allowing me to share these with you. I sincerely hope that you all get as much satisfaction out in your personal and professional endeavors I have out of mine.
Life is too short for us to do any less!
Run on, friends, run on!
Winter is finally upon us in North-central Wisconsin. With the lower temperatures and the snow, it really is beginning to feel like the Holiday season. I actually prefer running in the cold and dark mornings by head lamp instead of the muggy hot humid weather in the summer. My belief is that you can always put more clothing on when it's cold but when its hot you can only take so much off and you will still be hot (and maybe even arrested if the neighbors complain).
Yesterday I did a nice easy 8.3 mile long run, my longest since the Chicago Lakefront 50 mile Ultra. My muscles feel back to normal and surprisingly my leg turnover seems even better than before. Those three weeks completely off from running seem to have done me some good.
It is now is the off-season but already I am thinking of potential ultras to run in 2008. My family and I will be relocating to Rapid City, South Dakota around or after March. I am looking forward to starting my new job, making new friends, reconnecting with old ones and discovering new running trails. I look forward to the challenge of running at a little higher altitude and steeper terrain than the flat lands where we live now.
For my spring ultra, I am tentatively thinking of doing the Rocky Mountain Double-Marathon on Sunday May 25th 2008 which is Memorial Day weekend. It is only at 8,000 to 8,700 ft or so and mostly on gravel/dirt roads, so it should be very doable. It is located in the Medicine Bow National Forest near the Vedauwoo rocks between Laramie and Cheyenne. They also will be running a half-marathon and well as regular marathon that weekend also. That would be a nice option to have if I end up with an injury or some other problem and am unable to do the entire 52.4 mile double-marathon. From past experience, I have learned to never count on anything in regards to future races and running ability.
A few weeks before this, I am also thinking of doing the Greenland Trail 50-K Ultra on April 18th as a long “training” run before the double-marathon a few weeks later. It is on the Front Range of Colorado between Denver and Colorado Springs. I have friends down there so I would be able to combine that race with a trip to see them.
Later in the summer, there is the Lean Horse Hundred and Half-Hundred run on the George Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills. Obviously, it is much too early for me to be thinking that far ahead in the future. However, if I ever do move up to the 100 mile distance, I think that would be a good one for me to try first, being that it is on a flat gravel bike/hiking “rails to trails” path. Thus, it might be “easier” than some of the other hundred mile races; if it is possible for 100 miles to ever be "easy." They have a very nice Black Hills Gold belt buckle for the hundred mile finishers that I'd love to have someday.
There's plenty of time to dream of future races. For now, I am going to enjoy the off-season and get out to do some cross-training activities such as X-country skiing and snowshoeing. I also am going to make sure to spend some more time with my family; they have been so supportive in putting up with my time-consuming passion.
Keep on running!