Ultramarathon Training With a Supportive Family, and Seizing Opportunities.

I started training for a 50K trail ultra-marathon nearly 3 weeks ago. As far as ultra’s go, this distance is sort of for the junior varsity at 31 miles (many races are 100k, 100 miles, or even farther), but for me this is a hugely satisfying undertaking and an attainable goal. I’m thinking of doing the Wild Duluth 50K –  http://wildduluthraces.blogspot.com , but there are a couple other trail ultra’s that I’m considering. The main thing is they need to be on trail in the woods ascending and descending interesting terrain and topography.

Nothing beats a family supporting you in working toward big goals, and I think we all need significant goals that require the support of those around us. Though the schedule didn’t technically allow it, I needed yesterday to be a big training day. With another 8-12 inches of snow set to hit over the next day and half, I really wanted to take advantage of the amazing 40 degree sunny day. The entire family shifted things around a bit so I could thread the eye of the needle, and I ended up ripping out an 8 miler in 66 minutes. Now most runners know that isn’t super duper brag worthy, but for your’s truly that was pretty darn good. It’s the fastest I’ve run at that distance since breaking both my ankle and leg a couple years go (which derailed my ultra-marathon ambitions at the time).

I ran straight into the sun down the Lakewalk past Fitgers, and soaked up the sun like a plant that had been hidden in a closet all winter. The sun was about 45 degrees from the horizon and blasting straight through me. What a wonderful feeling up here near the north pole between blizzards! Oh how I love my new sunglasses.

Lake Superior was tremendously beautiful. The sun, being incredibly powerful this time of year, melted much of the ice that had blown in during the last Nor’easter. The water was a brilliant cerulean blue, and was riddled with small icebergs bobbing around. A few small flocks of ducks, waiting for inland lakes to thaw, happily plied the waters as well. The ice along the shore was thick in places, stretching out 20 feet or so into the sea, and the brilliant white created a stunning contrast to the stunning blue water. The backdrop of the aerial lift bridge and other popular city sites was a pleasant change of pace from my usual wilderness wanderings. Of course my dog was oblivious to the splendor, and just wanted to go go go. An eight mile run for my 20 pound pooch never ceases to amaze me. She got a good workout, but I wouldn’t say it was a truly epic day for her though. Tillie can go further.

On the way back I stopped to watch the black bear that I’ve described here several times (see pictures in the post prior to this). I could tell that it is becoming more and more alert as it notices and watches people that catch its attention. It looked like a circus bear as it pawed a large branch with all four paws. Anyone in Duluth should head down to the Lakewalk between 36th Ave East and Tischer Creek and check him out before his instincts lead him out of there. He must be confused though, given that we have another snowstorm rolling in here. I suppose he could complain if he wants to, but the rest of us need to relax. This snow will melt really fast on sunny days to come. It’s fun to be a part of a record setting snowfall for April in Duluth, considering well over a century of recorded history that has gone before us. Take it in and make the best of it. One of the keys is maximizing the beautiful days, such as occurred yesterday.

During the run back I was past by a gentleman older than me, perhaps between 45-50, with a full head of silverish white hair. I was starting to drag at the time, but his friendly outgoing demeanor was extremely encouraging, so I picked the pace back up. In such scenarios, don’t compare yourself with the runner that just passed you (or whatever area in life interest takes you). He or she may be on a shorter or longer run, an easier or harder day, etc. Rather, I find it helpful to be encouraged and spurred on by their natural gift, positive attitude, and graceful form. His friendly smile and jovial banter as we crossed paths caused me to finish my run pretty fast, and more importantly has given me greater confidence in the long road ahead that awaits. 8 miles on a relatively flat path is a far cry from 31 miles on one of the toughest ultra-marathon courses in the entire midwest with many thousands of feet to climb and descend down an extremely hilly and rugged course. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other, and we’ll get there.

“Excuse us sir, but could you direct us to some tasty grass and flowers please?”

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