I ran my first 50 mile ultra marathon last week
Posted Aug 3rd 2011, 14:59
I know you're expecting lots of pretty pictures and jokes, but I ran for over 11 hours on Saturday and I wanted to write about it.
If you want pretty pictures and jokes come back next week when I resume my regularly scheduled Oatmeal-flavored comics.
Despite my reputation as a bloated, forest-dwelling sex offender who subsists on a diet of jelly beans and malt liquor, I'm actually really into running.
In my early twenties I noticed my body had begun to take on the "computer guy" shape:
Watching myself slowly becoming something resembling an overweight Tyrannosaur, one day I just I "Forrest-gumped" it and started running. Since then I've done a bunch of marathons, one half-ironman, a couple sprint triathlons, and a variety of 10ks, 5ks, and other races. My brother turned 30 earlier this year and to "celebrate" I convinced him to run an ultra marathon with me. An ultra marathon is anything longer than the standard 26.2 mile marathon, and the one I picked was the 50 mile White River Ultra. The course is a rugged climb over two mountain ranges, with a total elevation change of over 17,000 feet. I trained by spending the past couple of months running 50+ miles a week over Washington's forests and mountains. I spent a few weeks in Japan as well and ran in 105F heat with 90% humidity, as well as doing an overnight, low-oxygen climb of Mt. Fuji.
If you've ever run a marathon before, you know how important pace can be. I obsess over my Garmin watch and time my splits so that I finish in a certain time, and I never, ever walk. This was not the case during the White River Ultra. Most of the time the climbs were so steep that even the veteran runners were walking. At one point there was a six mile incline which went up nearly 3,000 feet, and the last 1.5 miles of this climb was completely covered in snow and the race directors had spent the previous week digging stairs in the snow and attaching safety ropes so runners could get through this section without having to crawl. To put it in perspective, I ran the Seattle Rock & Roll Half Marathon in 1:30, which means I averaged a 6:52 minute mile. During White River, I averaged a 14 minute mile pace.
My brother and I made a plan to stick together.
We had no goal time in mind, although we lightly hoped to finish in under 11 hours in order to qualify for Western States next year.
Shortly after the snow-covered stretch ended, my brother's legs began to cramp up. He lives in Southern California and due to the heat outside he trained by running 30 miles at a time on a treadmill. Despite being in great shape, his legs simply weren't used to the hills.
The cramps kept getting worse and by mile 33 he could barely walk, and he kept bending over and making terrible sounds and shouting cuss words I'd never heard before.
He managed to tough it out until the end, but as soon as he stopped running his legs completely locked up and he had to go into the medical tent. Eventually the cramping subsided but in order to combat it he'd taken a ton of Tylenol throughout the race -- nearly 6 grams of it. His complexion turned ghost white and he had huge bags under his eyes. On the ride home he kept making horrible wretching sounds; they were like burps mixed with dry heaves mixed with the sound of a bald eagle being strangled. My brother is an ER doctor and in between these horrible noises he self-diagnosed that he was overdosing on Tylenol and his liver was trashed.
A friend of mine ran White River last year and convinced me to run it with him this year. All three of us started the race together, but my friend took off early and was ahead of us the entire race by about 20 minutes. I didn't see him at the finish line, but he emailed me later and told me that he'd had some kind of seizure due to dehydration. His body had redirected all blood flow to his skin and organs, and as a result there was insufficient blood flow to his brain. He blacked out and woke up in the ER with fluid tubes attached to him.
Despite 2/3 of my running buddies sorta having near death experiences, I'm actually really happy I ran the race.
I felt strong the whole time and due to my obsessive hill training I never felt completely obliterated.
Even the day after the race I wasn't particularly sore, just malnourished, sleepy, and my toenails are falling off:
The run itself was surprisingly enjoyable. After you've been running for 8+ hours every little thing becomes an incredible luxury; at mile 21 I drank a cup of flat Mountain Dew and I swear it tasted like unicorn tears. At mile 43 I ate a PB&J sandwich and it was like eating the entrails of a fallen angel. The pooping issue was funny, too. There's no Port-a-potties out there so everyone craps alongside the trail. I ran behind a couple of female school teachers for a few miles and they both had recommendations for the softest kind of tree moss to use when wiping your bum during a race. I managed to bottle up my movements with chewable Pepto Bismol, so fortunately there were no mid-race poopies for me. During training, however, I went for a 21 mile run on Tiger Mountain and got lost. I'd been running for 5 hours and it was getting dark, meanwhile my bowels went crazy-apeshit-monkey-bananas on me and I wound up spraying poo all over the trail. Upon returning to my car that night I hung my head in shame at the atrocities I'd committed. I felt like a beast -- like I should stay in those woods for all time and live amongst the animals. Hearing these two ladies explain the proper etiquette for crapping during White River made me feel less shameful about the nightmare shitpocalypse I'd sprayed all over Tiger Mountain a few weeks earlier. It also explained the aroma of human feces that kept over through the trail every couple of miles.
GETTING TO THE POINT, this was the first race I'd ever completed that I did not receive any kind of medal. Usually everyone that finishes gets a medal in a marathon, but due to the exclusivity of the race (less than 300 runners), I think they put the money from the entry fees to much better use by providing us with wonderful aid stations and a delicious post-race BBQ.
That being said, I still want my goddamn medal. Draw me one, upload it to imgur or wherever, and put a link in the comments on this blog post. The drawing with the most number of "likes" in the comments will receive a big bag of Oatmeal merch from the shop.
The funnier your drawing, the better. For example: "The Oatmeal's calves glisten like dew drops on the face of a newborn doe," or perhaps a drawing of a silverback gorilla with surface-to-air missiles where his penis should be. Things like that.
P.S. The point of this blog post was not to gripe about the organizers of the White River Ultra.
On the contrary, they did an amazing job and the runners were incredibly well supported.
I simply wanted an excuse for my readers to draw funny medals for me in the comics.
Please don't misinterpret this post and react like this douche.
Update: thanks for all the medals!
Because a lot of the later submissions got buried in the comments, I ended up basing the winners by just choosing the ones that I liked best. I tried to list as many as I could here without making the page too gigantic. Truthfully it was really hard to rank these because 99% of them made me laugh out loud.
Created by Happy Simpleton
Created by All Statistics
Created by Will Nightingale
The 5th place winners created medals not for me, but for Jeff:
Jeff's medals. CONGRATS BUDDY!
More of my favorites. Thanks again for all the submissions!