John "lakewood" Fegyveresi

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Foray Into "Timed" Events

I've spoken in recent posts about how over the past few years, I've found much enjoyment from time spent on trails.  Hiking (specifically thru-hiking) has been the primary catalyst for this relationship, but trail running has also helped to keep that passion kindled.  

So how do I explain the occasional oddity like Badwater.  Why would someone like me, so attracted to the great outdoors and the trails, have any interest in running something like Badwater, or even Vol State for that matter?  Both of which are pavement pounding road races.  Certainly the geology and grandeur of Death Valley were partly to blame for my desire to participate in Badwater, but there is also something else fundamental to my crazy endeavors... something that many ultrarunners and adventurers alike often refer to:  An intrinsic curiosity for new challenges.  

In addition to an obvious love of the trails, I think there is this aforementioned fundamental notion at the root of ALL of my adventures.  This notion, and it is ridiculously cliche', that I am absolutely curious to challenge myself in new ways.  I think of it like this.  I will always love the outdoors and hiking along those beautiful single-track trails, but I also like to simply experience different types of challenges.  Nothing should ever feel monotonous, so why not mix things up?  I suppose partly for the fun of it, partly to see if I might find a hidden passion for it, partly to see what my body and mind are capable of, and partly...well....because I can.

So where's this going....

Many of my ultrarunning friends and acquaintances have run "timed" ultras.  Quite simply, for those of you that don't know, a "timed ultra" is simply a race that has a fixed time, instead of a fixed distance.  Usually the goal of such a race is to see how far you can go over a specific time limit.  A race will be say, 24 hours, and you run as far as you can in those 24 hours.  Almost always, this type of race contains small, relatively flat loops that you repeat.   I have never, in my 5 years of ultrarunning, had a desire to run such an event.  The thought of repeating a small loop over and over and over for 24+ hours had no appeal to me, and frankly, I thought it never would.

Three days ago, I was looking for something to run mid-May, somewhat close by.  I stumbled across the "3 days at the Fair" race in New Jersey.   This race takes place over three days, offering several different timed events, all taking place on a 1 MILE LOOP.  Yes you read that correctly, it's a 1-mile loop repeated ad nauseam (often literally).  WHY ON EARTH would someone like me even consider such an event?  Well, simply, because it's the exact type of event I would NEVER consider.  I'm curious about the type of people that I'll meet there, I'm curious as to how I'll mentally keep myself together after potentially hundreds of repeated loops, and I'm curious what I'm capable of.   I'm curious...and I've never run something like this before.

So I signed up.  I have no idea what to expect, how long I'll last, how many miles I'll go, or if I'll enjoy it at all...but I want to at least try it.


Ultra Monk said...

I was there last year. Very nice event. But get some cushy shoes cuz its pavement and you are used to dirt. You can park right on the course. The bathrooms are great and have nice showers.

EJ said...

So you were looking for a little 300 miler in mid May??? Like so many of us are:-) You know I'm not an ultrarunner...yet(I'm actually training for a 6hr race in June 8th on an 800 metre loop), so what do I know right? That is the main reason I try not to comment on your racing, training plans(not that this seems planned)and hope that you are getting/seeking advice from others with more experience. But with my limited knowledge it has seemed to me over the past few years that you race much more then anyone I know. Not only a race every month but every other week in some cases. It seems excessive to me and always has but you always found a way to make it work and I have been amazed. However...with your recent posts about losing your passion for running it appears that you have put much of the blame on letting your running become more about the calculations(you love that stuff) then the sunsets and views(you love that stuff too). In a way blaming your, "apathy" on "racing", your races instead of enjoying them. I would like you to consider also that simply the number of races you choose to run could be your problem or lead to problems. I think you agree that one can't have both a high "quality" of racing and a high "quantity" of racing. You sacrifice one for the other. I surmise(I do alot of that) that if you cut down the number of races and actually had a goal race which all other running related activities were gear towards that you would find that, "racing" is not the evil cause of your "apathy". Having said that we all have to choose which path suits our needs. One year it might be the path of "quantity", the next year "quality" may prevail but trying to have both is where the problems arise.

Lakewood said...

EJ, you bring up a very good point. Perhaps I'm losing some of my passion simply because it's become too commonplace, and the races themselves are becoming routine. I've thought of this...and I've also thought of the injury and health risks a lot. I guess what I've thought of the most though is if I really just enjoy running, say, the mountains of leadville, why not just go out there and run 50 miles on my own? Why does it have to be a race? I think the answer is that first it gives me an actual commitment, and it allows me the chance to see other runners and trade stories. There's also something nostalgic about it too, going to these events that I've participated in yearly, and I know I won't be able to go back to the places forever.

SO your are right, I probably do too many of these damn races (although I do have ultra friends that literally run an ultra every weekend - and I think they are crazy!). I suppose for me, with the frustration and head-banging I do on a daily basis with my research, having these "marks" on my calendar gives me a known "play-day" to look forward too. I have realized lately that I don't really care as much about my time/place as I thought I did, and it's just getting out with a group of other "crazies" to do something different, challenging, and outside...brings me back that missing piece of fulfillment that I so easily lose sitting in a sterile office every day.

With all this said, I would comment that I have NO desire to run 300 miles. My goal is to simply do what I feel. I may end up running for 6 hours, and then setting up my canopy tent, and simply crew for others. Or...I may run for 4 hours each day. There's no way I'm trained to run more than 100 miles and I know from my badwater experience that after about 120, my body starts to get angry :-)

Not sure what else to say, but there's a lot more in my head. I think about this a lot, especially lately. The "whats" and especially the "whys". Truthfully, I have been feeling that urge and that pull lately towards another long hike...but I just don't see how it can happen anytime soon, or if I could stand being away for that long now. A lot has changed since my AT days. But I think in my heart, that day will come again.

Anonymous said...

" Nothing should ever feel monotonous, so why not mix things up? "

ummmm . . . so you signed up for a 1 mile repeat loop course ??

Ii don't know lakewood ... sounds like an ultra cop out.

;) ha. really? NJ Ultrafest - that's about as painfully monotonous as it gets.

Lakewood said...

Ha...yeah I suppose running this event does seem counter-intuitve to the logic I just put forth. You are more than likely right, and I will end up simply crewing for others. I guess what I was getting at with the "monotony" was not so much a literal context of individual events, but rather participating in the same type of events all the time. So while running a "repetitive loop" does seem (and probably will be) quite monotonous, I think it will be an entirely new type of mental challenge that might perhaps help me get through those tough miles late in other races.

I suppose I would never know if I would like or hate an event such as this unless I actually try one no? I guess this was the monotony I was referring too

At any will be a neat learning experience regardless :-)