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Quitting Ultra Running

Yup, I’m going to stop running ultras, at least for awhile.  I need to decide if I will still run Rocky Raccoon 100 in four weeks, but no more after that.

My wife has long told me that I don’t know my limits.  I thought I did.  She is right though. 

This weekend I ended up with hypothermia on what was essentially just a training run.  I don’t know how low my body temp actually got, but 18hrs after I stopped running and was indoors, it was barely over 95F. 

My mind is strong – a necessary trait for ultramarathoners.  But I’m not smart enough to know when to quit.  So, until I can learn when to stop, I need to stick to shorter distances, where I’m less likely to do permanent damage to my body.

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6 Comments

  1. trueindigo says:

    It’s a hard balance when you are trying to endure. Decisions like yours are difficult. Be proud of recognizing a need to draw back and look carefully at what you are doing. Well done.

  2. That’s really interesting. I bet a lot of ultramarathoners struggle with that- maybe it is a characteristic that draws people into it since you kind of have to not know when to stop!
    Good luck with your decision on the Rocky Raccoon.

  3. Wow! It’s always hard for us as runners to know our limits. Good for you (and your wife) for recognizing that we are only human. Great post.

  4. tlsylvan says:

    Wow, that must have been a scary wake up call. Did you feel that cold when you were running? One of my fears training for ultras is that I won’t know when to mentally push past discomfort or when I actually need to stop.

    • I felt cold while I was running, but it wasn’t that bad. I was keenly aware during the run that hypothermia was a real possibility, and I felt like I was keeping good tabs on my condition. I kept thinking that my mental clarity would noticably drop, or my pace would slow. My pace remained surprisingly consistent, even after 30+ miles. For me, that’s the scariest part of it – that I knew the dangers and truly felt like I was still ok. Even when I was shaking like crazy after I stopped running, I still didn’t think there was anything wrong with me.

      I’m still working through my thoughts about the event, and I’m sure there’ll be at least one long blog post about it. Running ultra’s forces you to walk a very fine line – you have to push your body past the point where the natural stopping mechanisms kick in, but you can’t override those so much that you kill yourself. I’ve learned that I am incredibly good at pushing through pain, but am absolutely horrible at recognizing when I need to stop. Until I learn to be a better judge of how my body is doing, it’s just not safe for me to be running these super long distances.

  5. triplantpower says:

    A scary thing to read for having just finished my first ultra (50 miler)… I always think it’s funny how when people ask professional endurance athletes what the difference between them and the amateurs is, it’s never the amount or intensity of the training. It’s always, “amateurs don’t know how to rest and recover”. Hopefully you figure it all out and I’ll see you on the trail someday (even if it’s just a 10k!)

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