Best ever wake up routine (and rediscover how to stay warm)

Cole enjoying the coldIt’s cold. 9 degrees (-13 C) this morning.  21 degrees (-6 C) now.

It’s now or never.  I don’t want too, but I promised myself I would.  I’ll be kicking myself for months later if I don’t man up and do this.

“Which way to the lake? We’ve got time for this right?” Mason nods.

“Good, let’s do it”

I’m committed now.  We drive over the pass. Donner  Lake appears as a  mass of dark water brooding in the valley. We drive along snow-covered roads. The snow-covered houses across the lake look like picturesque gingerbread houses from here.

At the parking lot, some much younger guys are Go Pro-ing their attempts to ski along a rail. “Bathrooms are locked” they helpfully say.

“No worries, don’t need them” I say, privately thinking I can always use that old tactic to warm up a little.

Mason thinks I should jump off the end of the pier.  The thought of going under is terrifying.  I opt to lay out my clothes on the snow on the pier (so I can get some dry stuff on fast afterwards)

I start breathing.  Big deep breaths in.  Focusing on the breath up around my chest. Releasing the breath around the back of my neck, searching for the inner warmth that should come from the brown adipose fat tissue activation.

Gingerly I step in.

dipping a toe in the lake10 weeks ago I started an online course called the Wim Hof Method.  Wim Hof is a Dutch man, who according to Wikipedia: “holds 20 world records, including a world record for longest ice bath (1 hour and 52 minutes). He’s  climbed to 21,982 ft altitude on Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes, completed a full marathon, above the arctic circle at −20 °C (−4 °F) dressed in nothing but shorts, in 5 hours and 25 minutes. He ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water… He demonstrated he is able to directly influence his own Autonomic Nervous System and Immune System. Hof seems to be able to raise his cortisol levels and lower the amount of cytokines (inflammatory mediators) just by using his meditation techniques.”

To prove he’s not just a faker, he gets scientists to test him.  To prove he’s not a freak, he trained a group of 12 volunteers in a University project to do the same thing.  His online course has now trained thousands.  Today there were 9,485 members of the private Facebook page, and the pictures and stories they post are amazing.

When I heard about this on Tim Ferriss’ fantastic podcast with Laird Hamilton, Gabby Reese and Brian Mackenzie I was intrigued.  After watching the Vice YouTube video and hearing Wim on Tim’s podcast I decided to sign up.

Ever the earnest student, I printed the guide, did a baseline for seconds holding breath (retention) and then maximum push-ups, woke early and followed the weekly videos (no you can’t step ahead to the next week until a week has expired).

It’s all filmed at his training facility in Poland.  You see Wim and a handful of students in their gray hoodies and sweat pants sitting on yoga mats in a plain room. His voice is deep (as if coming from deep within his diaphragm) with an infectious laugh, and some hilarious translations (such as “put them in the pelvis” to explain a seated hamstring stretch)

Every morning you do 4 cycles of 30-40 deep inhales and light exhales resulting in a tingly feel as you flush out carbon dioxide and fill up with oxygen.

You will hold your breath 50 to 200%  longer than your benchmark after this first “hyperventilating” cycle.  First surprise.

By the end of the fourth cycle, no matter how groggy you felt getting up, your whole body will feel alive and you won’t even be looking for a cup of coffee.  That is super cool.

After a 5th cycle of breaths, you do push ups holding your breath.  The first time will be more than you did while breathing.  Second surprise.

You then do yoga stretches with a breathing technique (inhale to point of resistance, hold breath for 5 to 7 seconds and focus on releasing blood flow into point of resistance).  You can feel the area release and allow you to go deeper into the stretch.  Third surprise.

Then exercises – headstands (can do), 1 arm crow (success!),and this insanely hard thing called the shelf, which I haven’t mastered yet.  I’d wanted to do a freestanding headstand for years and now all of a sudden it was happening.  Another surprise.

Next, meditation.  5 to 10 minutes. Focus on breathing and the forehead.  You’ll start seeing “stroboscope” lighting in your head.  He says it’s the pituitary gland.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s pretty cool.  The intensity varies (it can be vary faint).  In an earlier post, I shared my experiences with Headspace, and it was nice to try this simple approach

Then the cold showers.  You start with alternating 30 seconds cold then hot, then a minute, by week 7 you’re doing 10 minute cold showers daily.  I won’t say they are pleasant, but within days, you stop gasping when the cold water hits you.

I’m rather compelled by the simple notion that with heating and clothes we’ve lost touch with our ability to regulate our body temperature.   Before civilization, early humans would have presumably died from exposure all the time without this.

All up the routine takes an hour.  If you just do the breathing it’s 20 minutes.  I feel incredibly awake and invigorated every time I do this.  It’s now my absolute favorite way to spend the first 20 minutes of my day.  I’ve been testing different morning routines for the last 2 years including different combinations of journals, gratitude and affirmations, yoga, meditation, and reading.  Breathing wins for me.

Back to that cold lake.  I was surprised I didn’t start shivering when I took off my clothes.  I was surprised I didn’t gasp stepping into the water (it was a relatively warm 48 degrees (9 C) so maybe that’s why).  I expected my fingers to start freezing up on me so I crossed my arms over my chest.  They never got cold.  I kept breathing.

One of the young guys filming the skiing came over and said that’s way more interesting than what we’re doing and shot a little action on the GoPro (maybe we’re on YouTube now?) Mason kept track of time and shot the video on his phone.  Cole got bored, wanted to pee, did snow angels, and as you can see, ate snow.

5 minutes in some shivering started. Decided it was time to get out.  Stepping out was fine.  Reaching for my towel and drying off was fine.  Getting the first layers on was fine.  Then the cold blood from the extremities started to hit my core and the shivering started (they call this the “after-drop”).  Apparently vigorous physical exercise like running or pushups can help offset it.  Like climbing a mountain, it’s not over at the top, it’s over once you get back down.  I shouldn’t have lost focus on my breathing.

As the shivering really kicked in, I needed Mason’s help to get those socks on my wet feet.  Getting back in the car, the shivering came on strong.  It took about 1/2 an hour for it to stop.  I was hungry as a horse that night, guess my system got challenged and needed fuel to recover.

Sometimes it’s good to shake things up and scare yourself.  I was more scared about doing this than running the Miwok 100km in 2011, or 50 miles at 10,000 ft in Park City, Utah last year.

What’s it all good for?  Excellent question.  For me, finding the best way to start my day without caffeine is priceless.  Rediscovering new potential, and redefining  what is possible is priceless.

Everything else is just gravy.  Achieving personal goals like freestanding headstands and improving flexibility is cool.    I’m injured right now from running, so I don’t know if it’ll improve my cardiovascular system.  Haven’t had a cold yet, but it’s just the start of winter.  Still get cold hands (Wim suggests training with an ice bucket). I just made a work trip where it was 30 degrees and I didn’t feel the need for a jacket, hat or gloves.  Lighter weight travel is a nice perk.

All up, great value for $199.

I hope I can thank Wim Hof in person one day.  Maybe share a beer and a few laughs.  We are all amazing.  As Wim would say “breath motherf#%ckers” or less crassly, “enjoy, have fun with it”.  Namaste.

 

Swissalpine 2013: how the Swiss organize a major alpine race

The Swiss have beautiful mountains and brilliant organizational skills. Put those things together and you can have an incredible alpine running event.

Swissalpine 2013 was bloody hot this year (84 fahrenheit, 29 celsius) in Davos and not a whole lot colder on the top despite the odd snow patches. The premier event is K78 (just shy of a 50 miler) which is best characterized as a giant loop starting and ending in Davos,  including a 30 mile warm up followed by a brutal 5000 ft climb, a short dip, another 1000 ft climb to a peak of a nearly 9000ft and then a long 12 mile run down to the finish (starting with a precipitous 2000ft 16% descent over rocks and snow). As the Swiss are particularly precise you can see the exact km marks and elevations here

The exact K42 course profile

The exact K42 course profile

Final approach to Keschhutte - first peak

Final approach to Keschhutte – first peak

Cows on the trail!

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Amazing views up top

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Snow and rocks made for some very technical descents

Having had a ridiculously bad year I opted to downgrade to just the interesting bits via the K42 – see profile pic to right. (The longer explanation of the bad year: over eager training after Boston Qualifying (yay, can’t wait for 2014!) at the incredibly wet and windy 2012 California International Marathon last December set off some persistent left knee issues (jumper’s knee as opposed to runner’s knee) followed by a broken neck (following some ill advised yard work #hiresomeonenextime, #luckytobealive) and then my right knee felt like it was missing out and claimed to be suffering from similar symptoms to the left knee. Despite seemingly endless sports medicine, physical therapy and chiropractic appointments all was not well and preparation was far from adequate and hence K42 not K78)

Those be some big hills up ahead

 

K42 basically skips 20 miles of warm up and “just” does the last 42.2 km (yep a real marathon) of K78. Following a little 5km loop, you do the big climb, dip and descent. No Boston Qualifying times here – add about 30-50% to your current road marathon time (depending on conditions and quality of your preparation)

Coming from the SF Bay Area with a plethora of short (as in 1500-2000 ft) and occasionally vicious climbs, I thought I had some basic level of preparation but the length and steepness of the climbs was certainly both new and challenging. Lets just say there was a lot of “power hiking”

The organization was brilliant – far better than what we typically see in the US. Considering the 9 separate events and probably about 5000 participants there had to be (and I guess the entry fees could fund it).

Highlights included:
1) The amazing number of spectators dotted all over the course in even the most remote locations all clapping or cheering “hopp, hopp, hopp”, “bravo” and/or “superbe” and the big stadium finish in Davos
2) The incredible views
3) The ability to get a massage at the two mountain peaks, following the big descent, and at the finish. Given the cramping brought on by the heat and my lack of muscle endurance this was a huge help in getting across the line without hobbling – never had a massage at 9000 ft before by 2 people at once with a magnesium chaser!
4) Access to showers at the end
5) Extremely clear sign posting at start for all amenities and extremely clear course markings (including ribbons laid on ground on either side of the trail across any trail junctions to avoid wrong turns)
6) starting a marathon at 10:30 (very civilized vs. the usual early waking for nutrition, and concerns about getting to the start)

7) Reasonably-priced day care was available all day for parents who wanted to run but needed someone to look after the kids
8) Return train tickets from anywhere in Switzerland and regional train ticket for 7 days included in entry fee
9) A detailed sheet explaining exactly what would be available at each of the many aid stations (water, bananas, alpine bread, granola bars, electrolyte drinks, soup, coke)

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Celebrating with a beer (burger was on the way)

There were a few things they could have done better:
– more frequent km markers in the final 10km and perhaps at each aid station (there were markers indicating distance to go every 5km and at 2 and 1 km to go.
– more generous provisions at the finish line – non-alcoholic beer, water and bananas does not a finish line party make
– not located luggage delivery (think bag drop) all the way round the back of the building up a flight of stairs (enough climbing already!) and about as far away as possible from the showers
– shuttles to train station for outbound trains (these may have been available but I ended up with an hour to kill after just missing my train)

All-in-all an extraordinary experience to cap off an amazing 2 week vacation. Can’t wait to an the next one!

What’s been your favorite overseas running experience and were there any lessons learned for US races?

Review: Barnana Bites replace sticky gels, end stomach upset and calf cramps

barnanabitesOver the last 10 years of endurance events, GU and other energy gels appeared to be a necessary evil for energy and electrolytes.  Unfortunately I’ve found they get harder and harder to stomach the longer the race and the harder you are working. I was getting a lot of gastrointestinal (GI) upset and still getting debilitating calf cramps after about 2 hours of hard exercise. I’ve tried more or less water, salt tabs, magnesium, and potassium supplements all to no avail.

The longer and harder the run, the more likely the issues.  At Quicksilver 50 mile race in 2010 I clearly remember knowing I needed to eat, but just not being able to force down a GU, and reaching for PB&J sandwiches, bananas and salted potatoes instead at the aid stations.

I first tried these Barnana Banana Bites about 6 months ago and found it not only was easy and relatively pleasant to eat no matter how hard I was working, it also caused no GI distress and my cramps were gone. Barnana is literally just partially dehydrated banana (which is why it is chewy rather than like the banana chips we all know), so its packed with potassium, which seemed to be just what my body needed to avoid the dreaded calf cramps.

As you can see from the pic above, they do look a little odd (dare I say unappetizing?) as they are little brown lumps. For me, all the other advantages easily exceeded the issue of appearance.  You can also get a chocolate flavor, but I didn’t see any need to add that to the mix while running.  Amazon sells them in bulk if you want to save a few $, and some Whole Foods stores stock them if you want to try a single pack without paying shipping charges.

For me, a full bag is perfect for a marathon – 1 chew each mile from roughly mile 4 to mile 22. Using this strategy , I ran a personal best (almost 30 minutes faster) at California International Marathon in December using them. You can put them in a sandwich bag and there is no mess like you have with the sticky energy gel packets. Price wise its about the same as doing 4-5 gels in a marathon, so it was a no brainer to switch for me.

So if you’re tied of the gels, this might work for you.  Let me know what you think!

(Note: this is an authentic review.  I’ve had no contact with the owners or makers of Barnana Banana Bites and received no compensation or free product)

The one critical flaw that turned my Nike+ SportWatch GPS into a non-functional piece of jewelry

I was so excited to get the Nike+ SportWatch GPS a couple of years ago for Christmas. It was stripped down to key functionality (distance and pace, time, backlight, upload results to cloud), offered some nice options (add a foot pod and a HR strap) and looks cool (one of the few watches I’ve ever owned to receive multiple compliments)

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All show, no go!

The watch has worked well, with one critical and debilitating flaw that has turned it into a piece of jewelry. In technical gear Nike has exhibited the “all show, no go” syndrome (for example, the Nike Running cloud software looks fantastic but has limited useful functionality when it comes to reporting) and this watch has ultimately suffered from this.

Critical Lesson: Design for partial failure conditions (aka, always provide a workaround)

The watch relies on what appeared to be a very clever USB connection hidden in the strap buckle (see photos).

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Now you see it

Now you don't

Now you don’t

This is the only way to recharge the device, and to upload runs, clear memory, update watch firmware and settings via the Nike Connect software on PC and Mac.

Unfortunately the wires between the USB plug and the watch itself are not robust and partially failed (of course about 3 months after the one year warranty) and despite numerous calls to the nice folks at Nike Support and multiple attempts the watch is no longer recognized as connected by the Nike Connect software. It can still be recharged however.

Doesn’t sound too bad right? Can still use it to record runs and manually record the distance and time, right? Well yes, until the memory fills up and one discovers there is no way to delete what is in memory, either through a simple erase capability on the watch (best) a device reset (ok), or running down the power (painful, but doable), and the watch will not record new runs once the memory is full.

Final injustice? Watch is not repairable or serviceable in any way.

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Where the band meets the watch is where the connection failure occurred

So I’m left with a chunky piece of jewelry that tells the time. Another failed piece of running technology (more reviews on more devices to come)

My plea to product designers: think about failure conditions and how your device will work (or not) once those occur and always provide a workaround! Even if that means just making it repairable.

Ever owned a piece of technology with the same flaw? I’d love to hear your stories.

Simple tricks for improving your success with New Year’s Resolutions

resolutionRecent research suggests you are ten times more likelihood of succeeding with New Year’s resolutions if you explicitly commit to them (such as by writing) vs. just thinking about them – it’s the difference between intention and commitment.

How incredible is it that 46% of those explicitly making resolutions are maintaining them after 6 months vs. 4% of those who don’t? That seems like pretty good odds to me – you have nearly a one in two chance of long term success with a resolution if you write it down!

If you want to increase your chances of success further, make resolutions some or all of these:

  • Specific (how many, where, what, by when)
  • Realistic (lose 10 or 20 pounds not 100 pounds in weight),
  • Public (fear of embarrassment if fail), Shared (who’d let a friend down – share a goal to run weekly or train for a specific race)
  • Competitive (challenge a friend to beat you in achieving the resolution)

So to increase my own chances of success, related to this blog,  in 2013, I will:

  1. Enter and train specifically for 4 marathons or ultras, at least one international, in locations on my list of places to travel to.
  2. Post on training, racing, eating, travelling, and hopefully useful “life hacks” like this once a week.
  3. Have folks over for a dinner I will cook using at least one new recipe once a month.

So far, (if I can count New Year’s Eve!) I’m off to a good start.

  1. Entered the Napa Valley marathon for 3/1, the Gorges Waterfalls 50k on 3/31 on the Columbia River, and the Swissalpine K78 in Davos, Switzerland.  I’m hoping to get into the UROC 100k on 9/28 from Breckenridge to Vail.  That’ll take me to Colorado destinations like Vail, and Oregon destinations like Bend and Ashford (I’m planning an awesome running and craft brewery road trip around Oregon after the 50k) and a chance to visit Switzerland and see the alpine stages of the Tour de France.
  2. Resurrected this blog with this post and a list of topics.
  3. Cooked for 4 last night from a bevy of new cookbooks that I received for Christmas 🙂 Zuni Cafe’s cookbook Roast Chicken with Bread Salad  along with Roasted Root Vegetables and a Squash, Farro and Black Rice salad from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.

Ok. I’m committed. What are you committing to?

Here’s to succeeding at our resolutions in 2013 🙂

2011 Way Too Cool 50k Enhanced Course Map

I’m one of the lucky ones who got into Way too  Cool 50K next Saturday.  The official course map I found hard to read, and a little annoying in the way it was cut up.  Personally, I like to see course elevation, directions and distance between aid stations all on one page.

The first 8 miles - flattish but prone to navigational errors

It appears the first loop is more prone to errors than the rest of the course despite being only 8 miles, judging by the directions, so for these reasons I put the first loop on page 1 and the second on page 2.

The business end - the last 23 miles

These are definitely not pretty, but hopefully they are functional and readable while running 🙂

Obviously a huge thanks and credit to the writers of the instructions, and the Fit 2 Run, Inc. folks who did the topo maps, hence the source credit on the bottom of each page.

 

Please let me know of any errors you find, or if you know the actual mileage marks of some of the turns as I had to guess some of them by eyeballing the map and interpolating the instructions.  I’ve uploaded it as a PowerPoint show (.ppsx) so you can edit in PowerPoint with your own annotations or just print it as is.

WTC 2011 50k course

Hoping you may find these useful, and hoping to see you out there on March 12th 🙂

12 reasons why you should run an ultra instead of a marathon

Finishing at Quicksilver – my daughter is running me in 🙂

I’m still a little baffled by my recent experience successfully completing the Quicksilver 50 miler. Like much else in ultra-running it appears counter-intuitive. Maybe I was just lucky.  Isn’t 50 miles supposed to be way harder than a marathon? Shouldn’t the body break down after 8 ½ hours of running, leading to some sort of self-actualizing moment? I think I heard trail running is growing faster than any other sport. For those of you looking for a challenge to get you motivated to get fit, I offer 12 reasons why your next challenge should be an ultra instead of a road marathon.

1. Way better bragging rights
It seems like every man, woman and child has run a marathon by now. Tell someone you’re running a marathon and they’ll just nod and wish you luck. If you say you’re running an ultra, you invariably pique their interest. Almost no one even knows what an ultra is, let alone has run one. When you explain its longer than a marathon the average person’s eyes widen in awe. Bonus: the easiest ultra is 50km, which most people will confuse with miles, so you may well get credit for 50 miles, even though you’re only running about 31 miles.

2. No one cares how fast you run it
After your first marathon, it’s all about how fast you can run it. Can you qualify for Boston? Because no one know what on earth an ultra is, they have no idea how long it should take. Especially if it’s in kilometers. Add in the fact that every ultra trail is different with staggeringly different terrain, and that when things go wrong, the minutes can really add up, and you have completely unpredictable race times. And once you start talking about being on your feet for over 5 hours, everyone is so amazed by the duration, they never get around to computing the velocity.

3. Fewer injuries (you can run the next day)
If you’ve ever run a road marathon, if you don’t get injured trying to make it to race day,  you know how beat up you are after you finish, hobbling around. Not so with ultras.  You can even start training for them injured and still finish just fine.  After my first 50km race, I ran 6 miles with my wife the next day. A week after Quicksilver, I ran 10 minutes faster than I ever have on one of my favorite 13 mile trail courses. They say you should only run 1 or 2 marathons a year because of the damage it does.  There are people running ultras every other week.  My theory on this one is that in a road marathon, if you’re running for a specific time, you’re redlining the whole way. You want to cross that finish line, completely spent without a drop of energy left in your body. On an ultra, you always run within your means to avoid blowing up. To give you a sense of this, if I put the hammer down in a trail run, I invariably get crippling calf cramps after about 2 ½ hours, no matter how much water, electrolytes and/or salt tabs I take . As soon as I back off 5-10% in effort, I can run 8 ½ hours without cramping. Just like a car can only redline for a short time before overheating, we humans can only keep going if we stay consistently below the redline.

4. Walking is encouraged
There’s a certain degree of animosity in road marathons between the runners and walkers. Not so in ultras. And only the top contenders can actually run up those hills. Mere mortals keep heart rates under control – see the comments on redlining above. If you want to finish, don’t waste your energy running up the hills. Once the perceived exertion, or heart rate (if you’re using a HR monitor) hits your lactate threshold, time to back off and walk. But learn how to bomb the down hills – such an easy way to make up time.

5. More happy people
If you’ve ever been in a marathon, you’ll know there’s a large number of extremely tense people. They are very stressed about running their best possible time. At an ultra, people are there to have a good time, take it easy, and enjoy the scenery. There is no prize money at stake – everyone gets the same t-shirt or finisher’s medal. So there’s just a ton of goodwill and camaraderie.

6. It seems like you get better as you get older
The proportion of folks in their fifties, sixties and seventies running ultras is way higher than for marathons. I’d like to think this is because they’re just plain wiser. And they obviously have a lot of time on their hands. But given all that free time, the running must be pretty fun for it win over all the other recreation options they could choose. And finally it can’t be too bad for you, if seventy year olds are still doing it.

7. You can eat whatever you like
In the world of marathons and triathlons it’s all hi-tech energy drinks, bars, gels and powders. Hardly what Michael Pollan would call “food”. At ultras there are typically bananas and oranges and cookies and potatoes and PB&J sandwiches at aid stations. There are tales of people eating pizzas at aid stations. Chocolate milk, turkey sandwiches and burritos are popular. Not only do you need a ton of food if you’re running for this long, but you’re stomach tends to enjoy real food much more than gels or other concoctions. At Quicksilver I couldn’t get gels to go down, but my body was just taking as many bananas and potatoes as I could eat. Because you’re not redlining, your body can digest more complex foods. And of course, if you’re running all those miles and burning all that fat, you get to eat more in general, which is a huge plus.

8. No more speed work
Every time I’ve tried to add speed work to improve my marathon times, I’ve got injured. With ultras, if you’re going anaerobic, unless you’re actually in a position to win a race, you’re going too fast. Just not necessary. Ok, you need to run a lot of hills. But the best training is literally time on your feet learning how to run long, easy and smooth, and how to burn fat. You’ve got about 2000 calories available as glycogen from carbohydrates, but 50,000 from fat. No amount of carbo-loading is going to meet your needs, so your body has to be comfortable using those fat stores – that means you need a few long (3 hours plus), slow training runs.

9. Less time training
Despite these long runs, you really don’t need to run that much.  Arguably you can get by with less than you need for a marathon. A lot of marathon programs involve up to 6 days a week of training with mileage in the 30-50 miles per week range. Much like my training for the Quad Dipsea, I ran Quicksilver with 12 weeks of training in the 25-50 miles per week range based on just 3 days per week of aerobic training: a long run (12-32 miles) on the weekend, up to 1 hours in the gym with some combo of bike/elliptical/stairclimber/ fast hill walk/ fast run, and a medium 6-10 mile run. I even stopped the yoga and stretching. I periodize each 4 week bracket into 1 hard, 2 medium and 1 easy week, and do 2-3 longer long runs (18-32 miles) and 1-2 shorter long (12-16 miles) runs per week. I try to do 2 races as part of the prep – around 20 miles long for a 50km, or 50km for a 50 miler. These build confidence and simulate the challenges of trying not to run too fast and how food and drink go down when you’re running a little harder. . As I said, it’s all counter intuitive. How can one do so little, and still run strong for nearly twice the distance and over twice the time of a marathon?

10. More fun
Trust me it’s a lot more fun to run 3 hours in the woods than 3 hours on the road. The scenery is way better. You’re mind calms down in amongst all that nature. Plenty of time to think through all your problems. You get to witness the passing of seasons as wildflowers come and go, the trails get muddy and dry, the creeks and waterfalls get full and then empty. And because you’re not redlining, no need to spend the afternoon in bed recovering.

11. You don’t need to buy any fancy gear (but you can if you want to)
In your first ultra, don’t be tempted to try to outrun the old-timer in a ratty old cotton t-shirt, cotton shorts and beaten up no-name sneakers. I tried this on in my first 30km trail race, and was trashed by a guy matching this description who ended up coming second in the 50km on that day. Mind you that was 10 years ago, and the front runners now are typically sponsored, and most people are wearing all manner of technical gear. If you’ve got the cash, it’s can be fun to buy a bunch of gear. It’s just nice to remember you don’t need it. If the Tarohumara regularly run 50 miles in sandals and a tunic, so can you.

12. If you listen to audiobooks, you can “read” a book a week
This is a bonus. You can appear amazingly well read even if you don’t like reading (which I do, but if you’re not travelling, and if you fall asleep when trying to read horizontally, it can be hard to find the time). Sometimes it’s great to just run for the sheer pleasure of it: no watch, no HR monitor, no headphones, just taking in the sounds and sights of the forest. Other times, a good book can be a very enjoyable way to pass the time on a long run. I’ve enjoyed listening to and learning from: Crush It!, Outliers, The Big Short, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and most of all , Born to Run on my long runs this year.

If you’ve already made the switch to ultras, I’d love to hear your reasons for switching.  If you’re thinking about it, what’s stopping you?  Have fun out there.