I really wanted to sit down and write something about how hard it is to prep for an ultramarathon, but all the beginnings I wrote in my head seemed stupid. Of course it’s hard to train for an ultra. That is the point, to do something really hard.
As usual though, what I imagine, the story I craft in my head, is different, somehow much less glamorous and heroic, than the reality.
Even a Wednesday training run fills me with fear, because a Wednesday training run is a half-marathon, and it was only Saturday that I ran 24 miles, ran until I was soaked, ran until my legs both felt like the bad wheel on that one shopping cart. Is it possible that pain scars you and doesn’t just make you stronger?
What I want, if I’m honest with myself, is to run 30 miles in near total comfort. This is not possible. I recognize that. And yes, training is meant to make you more comfortable with the row you intend to hoe, but I have a hard time seeing how the event, the actual 50km “race” is going to be comfortable in any way.
And here we are, back again. This is what I signed up for.
What is obvious isn’t always obvious. There is some element of delusion in all of these things, some willful forgetting. I crave the afterglow of the thing, the mental trophy of having endured it. And so I suppress the knowledge that getting there will not just cost the 6-8 hours on race day, but 12-24 hours of real hard work in advance.
I am dragging myself through. My Achilles tendonitis burns and jolts. My right ankle swells and aches. I seem to be in a constant, running, pitched-battle with dehydration. My back hurts.
I stretch and roll and make sure I am always drinking something. I obsess over the weather, looking for the cool, dry spots to work in. Fuck me, it’s exhausting.
It’s worth saying that it’s not all suffering. There is some flow on the trails. There are good conversations. I still look forward to running. I still love the woods, and I don’t regret signing up or committing to the project.
But I needed to say that it’s hard, that it’s consuming my mind and body in ways I didn’t expect even though I should clearly have expected them. Or maybe I expected them, but discounted how struggley it would be, ever ambitious, ever in denial.