Ultra Midlife Crisis: Reach the Beach, the Stone Cat 50 and Philosophizing

stone_cat_TR_2013_logo_whtbkgd[1]This post is about an Ultra Midlife Crisis. No, I didn’t hit 43 back in June and decide to buy a sports car, start dressing in hip clothes, have an affair, or begin pushing my children to excel in sports and academics to make up for my own shortcomings. No danger of any of those things, since I am, in order, too cheap, too geeky, too much in love with my wife, and too amazed everyday at how cool the kids are turning out with only gentle prodding. Nope, once again, here’s a post about running. In this case, ultra marathons, which are technically any races longer than 26.2 miles, but typically are often 50K, 50 miles, 100K, or 100 miles.

I’d said (a few times, when I hoped no one was listening) that when I finally cracked three hours in a marathon, it might be time to switch focus and try something new to stay fit. (I imagine Kristen might have hoped it was shingling the roof or re-tiling the kitchen floor.)

I subsequently ran a sub-three-hour marathon personal best in April 2013. Later I mulled over how much faster I might expect to get. Maybe a bit, but I am absolutely maxed for training time. Cannot add a single mile to the mid-60-mile weeks I ran to train for Boston. Work’s busy, family is busy and I can’t take time from either, only from sleep. So that means it’s not likely I can set 2:45 in my sights for a next marathon target. And the years keep going by.

But looking at my overall racing results, it’s evident I do better longer distance than shorter. Or to put it another way, the longer the race is, the more I seem to be able to keep up with, or maybe sometimes even outrun, folks who’d leave me in the dust in a 5K, 10K or half marathon. Or to put it another way, I’m slow but stubborn.

All of which suggests, hey, why not step up to a 50 miler? (Because most of these are on trails, you idiot, and all you have to do is see a root to go sprawling.) Perhaps my plodding gait and large reserves of stored fuel (fat), will give me an advantage. And most of the ultra plans I researched didn’t require any more miles than I run for marathon training, just miles with a different focus. I might even be able to take six runs a week down to five and actually save time. EFFICIENCY AND TIME MANAGEMENT!

Coinciding with this desire to do an ultra, our competitively-fast 12-person master’s runners team for Reach the Beach unanimously retired after two years of second place for age group. But that was okay, as I’d missed running the 6-person, “ultra” version of RTB, which I’d run a few times prior to that. You get more for your entry fee and spend a lot less time waiting for your turn to run. So I found a bunch of 40-something or almost 40-something sub-three marathon-running guys who feel the same way, and one of them with a wicked sense of humor, suggested a name: Ultra Midlife Crisis. It was the perfect team name to write on an RTB van. “Ultra,” reminding other teams that we were running double the miles each that 12 person teams were running. And “midlife crisis,” reminding the kids on the course that we are old. You do not want to get passed by an old guy, do you?

So with the team roster set, I still vacillated about the other “ultra” – whether to put a 50 miler on the calendar or run another marathon this fall and try for something under 2:58. Which seemed anti-climactic. So after returning from a crazy month of work travel, in a happy delirium of jetlag and familial bliss, I entered the lottery to get into the Stone Cat 50 miler, which is 50 miles of loops through Willowdale State Forest down in Ipswich, Mass. I ran as a pacer for my friend Curt on the last 25 miles of the race a few years ago and quite liked the trail, the time of year (November), and the vibe (very laid back and small in scale, especially in contrast with a big city marathon). Yesterday, down in NYC taking David to a Junior Olympics meet, I found out I was in.

So here I am with a six-man RTB team and an official entrant in a 50 mile trail race. I’ve got a solid 17 weeks to get in shape for the latter, and many friends with ultra-running knowledge to tap for training advice. It may go well, may go horribly. Either way, I’m well and truly excited – because midlife, late-life or just starting out in life, some of the most crucial parts of the ride are new experiences. They are the flash that allows the memory to capture the next frame in the film, slow time, and keep it from simply washing over and away with it all.

For anyone interested in how training and run go in transition from a 3 hour marathon to (maybe sub 8 hour?) 50 miler, check back here. I’ll try and update as I go.