As a surprise birthday present, I signed my husband up to run the Pinhoti 100, a point-to-point 100 mile (mostly) singletrack trail run through the mountains of northern Alabama. This run is supposed to be a real ass-kicker and not for the faint of heart, with many a serious ultra-runner having DNF’d in the past. Just looking at the elevation profile of the race (see below) would make the average person exhausted.
Of course, that’s not news you can break as an actual surprise the day before the event, especially to someone who isn’t expecting (or training) to run 100 miles. So in mid-summer I hauled his first gift—a brand new Nathan hydration vest—out of hiding and let him know the feat I had set out for him to accomplish. Thankfully, he was THRILLED and spent the entire night looking at the race information at a Christmas Eve level of excitement. Although, I did catch glimpses of green pass over his face (ever so briefly) as he thumbed through the 20-some-page runner’s manual from the 2012 race.
He would be running his first 100-miler right before his 40th birthday, giving him just over four months to dig deep. As the news spread, it wasn’t long before jokes about a “newly renewed life insurance policy” and “she’s trying to kill you” started going back and forth between friends/family. It didn’t help matters that I also took him skydiving for our anniversary this year.
But, in all fairness, this ultramarathon dream was and has always been his (and only his). He had been talking about ultra-running for years and how it was something he was going to do… that ever elusive someday. I could see he was bored with the easy-peasy 5k and 10k (and even half marathon) races we were doing on a regular basis. He was running circles around me. Literally. No exaggeration.
By the way, it was INFURIATING. I knew I was holding him back. I wanted him to have his own “thing” and leave me to my 50-state half marathon goal—a goal that for me, was challenging and rewarding, and checking some sort of happiness box that I needed in my life (without crippling me simultaneously).
Then one day I stumbled (maybe not so coincidentally—who knows) across an online article about a kid who was collecting belt buckles from the ultramarathons he had been running. Seriously, a CHILD—who is a pretty phenomenal young athlete and whose entire family is avid runners—but still!
I did some digging and became fascinated with the world of ultra-running. Already a long-time fan of Dean Karnazes, I started reading article after article from others like Scott Jurek and Adam Campbell, clicking on websites galore, watching GoPro cam footage on YouTube of random people—which is only slightly creepy, right?.. I don’t even remember how I came across the Pinhoti—maybe I queried ultras in November and it just so happened that the Pinhoti was 1) in Alabama, 2) in November, 3) trail/mountain running. Whatever it was, I knew this was the one for Teddy.
Teddy has been a serious runner since his first cross-country meet. After high school, he joined the Army and went Airborne Infantry before wising up and getting a better gig in the air traffic control tower. His last MOS led him to doing secret intelligence stuff with maps and GPS and… I swear I do pay attention to what my husband does for a living (most days). He served for nearly 15 years running and rucking through mind-numbing suck, deployed for 18 months at a time. He’s never had one injury from running. He has no physiological or biomechanical faults. He never backs down from a challenge. Giving him a big target like a 100-mile race didn’t seem crazy to me.
My husband is also a spectacular procrastinator. If it didn’t need to be done 10 minutes ago, it doesn’t get done. Without a deadline, it was always going to be one more excuse, one more year putting it off, one more fill in the blank that would keep him from taking the plunge into ultramarathons.
I can’t do the 30-mile training runs for him, let alone make him travel 100 miles on foot in 30 hours or less. But, I can give him advice on nutrition, fueling, and preparation for the race. I can motivate and help him to mentally prepare. I can take all the guess-work out of when to be where and what comes next, so that all he has to do is run, which is what he was born to do. I will be there to crew and pace him along the way. I am excited for him and I know he can hit this target. If he doesn’t, I know he’ll be back again the next year, and the next year, and the next year after that until he does—whether he knows it until 4 months prior or not.