What is the price of success to become an ultrarunner? I think in life, we all want to be successful at something. We all have dreams we want to pursue. Whether it’s getting a promotion at work, going back to school, or running the Vol State 500K. The real key to success is not however thinking about the dream itself. Imagining yourself in a cap and gown with sheepskin in hand or standing at the finish line at some race is helpful in terms of positive visualization, but it does very little in the grand scheme of things for actually achieving the goal.
The way to define whether you have what it takes to achieve your goals is not to fantasize about what achievement looks like but to think about what misery looks like. This seems like a somewhat negative approach but it prepares you for the reality. If I want to measure my chances of completing the Vol State 500K, I need to be thinking about whether I’m prepared to run 100+ miles a week in preparation. I need to be prepared to suffer in TN heat and humidity for 10 days straight. I need to know that I will be hungry and tired, I might get lost in the dark and have blisters that eat my feet. These are realities that I must be prepared to face and over come to “live the dream”. So rather than asking what is my dream, I should be asking myself, what level of suffering am I prepared to face – that will dictate the chances of succeeding in my dream.
Another case study is the Barkley Marathons or for those of us mortals, the Barkley Fall Classic. Since the release of the documentary, that brings light to the lore and legend of what many consider to be the hardest race in the United States, there have been many in the running community who fancy they are up for the challenge. Some days, I admit that my husband and I are victim of this passing fantasy. Here is a post from the Race Director, Lazarus Lake, regarding both the Barkley Fall Classic (BFC) and the actual “big kid” Barkley Marathons. Below is what Laz thinks is necessary to succeed:
“Here is an interesting fact, for those of you who are thinking you will one day join the small number who have completed 5 loops at the big barkley: Robert Youngren wrote a fantastic race report last year, about his serious attempt at 5 loops. (Maybe he will post a link on here, it is a fascinating glimpse into the world of 5-loop aspirants) It is no secret (or won’t be after you try to capture a Croix) that people who succeed at Frozen Head have to run everything runnable. Being serious about doing the deed, Rob went out in the company of the people who get deep into the race with a chance at 5. Do you know what they were doing on the way up Bird Mountain on the first loop? They were running… FAST… The first climb you hit in the BFC is defined as “runnable.” If you are one of those people who include it as “walk all the uphills,” you can take finishing 5 at the big barkley off your dream list…. Maybe you can walk it and still get a Croix at the BFC….
But, I will tell you this much about the 2017 BFC. Running the runnable sections, even when your soul cries out for relief, is going to be more critical to getting the Croix than ever before. You better put on your big girl panties when you get dressed on September 16.”
So I asked myself in the middle of a somewhat benign 18 miler yesterday, that felt like I was dying, am I running up ALL the hills? Am I running fast? Am I working as hard as I can every minute of every mile? And I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t. And until I’m prepared for that level of suffering on every training run, the Barkleys and perhaps the Vol State 500K are still dreams. But tomorrow is a new day and another chance to test my resolve.