At the ripe old age of 37, I seem about as capable of resisting peer pressure as I was as a 20-year-old. Luckily, now I choose my friends more wisely so the things that I agree to do are at least legal, although often totally outside my comfort zone. When my friend began talking about her need for a 100-mile belt buckle on run after run, without hesitation I told her I’d help pace her.
That 100-miler has come and gone, now. My bad ass friend did it. I did my part. And I learned a lot … a lot of reasons that I will never, most definitely ever effing run a 100-miler.
The 100-miler she ran was the Pine to Palm 100-mile Endurance Run in southern Oregon, a race that boasts 20,000 feet of elevation. I circled the weekend on my calendar, bought a new pair of trail shoes, and prepared myself as best I could for crewing and supporting my friend all day and then running with her the last 33 miles through the entire night. Which, as the date grew closer, in addition to running lots of miles on trails, involved vocally expressing my anxiety to my other running friends about what the hell I’d done by agreeing to this craziness. What did I learn?
1. $200 (or more!) makes for one expensive belt buckle.
Who in the hell wears a GD belt buckle? No, seriously? Does anyone actually wear them? Are you supposed to display them? What’s the deal?
Besides, I’m not even a medal chaser. So a belt buckle?! That inspires me even less. At least you can hang a medal on your bedroom doorknob to warn you if your kids are coming in during “Mommy & Daddy Time.” But a belt buckle? Is this a rodeo? Do I look like a cowgirl? No. No, I do not. I don’t even own a belt, let alone a belt of the type to necessitate a (big and ugly) belt buckle, that I would never, ever wear. Nope.
2. Life is hard enough without paying for manufactured suffering.
That’s right. Life is hard. So I might as well pile misery upon misery or rub some salt in an open wound and sign up for 24 hours of sleep deprivation, physical toil, and extreme emotional drainage, not to mention moments of existential crisis of the highest degree. 100-mile races should be renamed for what they really are: all-you-can-suffer buffets.
No thank you, I went through that with experimentation in college, pregnancy, child-birth, and then the rearing of a collicky baby, among life tragedies that don’t belong in a Friday rant.
I don’t need to sign up and pay for 24 hours of reminders of why I love my IUD or why I am glad that 2006 is ten years in the past. And sleep? Sleep is good. Particularly after a hard run. Running gives me a natural high, a clear-headed endorphin rush of positivity that makes me feel like I can accomplish anything. 100-milers are a different drug: one that gives you those crazy flash-back hallucinations reminiscent of a very, very, bad trip that you have to spend hours talking yourself out of and convincing yourself that everything will be okay. You will come down (in 47 more miles). This will end (in half a day). You will live (probably).
3. No matter what you call it and no matter what you did for the first 50 miles, hiking is not running.
Call me crazy, but there doesn’t seem to be much running in ultrarunning. I mean there kind of is, in the beginning, but then … then it turns into ultrahiking. Some people even had those hiking poles. Of course, I’ve never used those poles and maybe I just don’t know how awesome they are. After a certain point, ultrahiking turns into ultrashuffling, all to the tune of ultrawhimpering when the pain from being on your feet for so long robs you of any conscious thought or conversation skills beyond the occasional gasped f-word or moments of ultrasobbing. But, I digress.
4. Isn’t the purpose of running on scenic trails to enjoy nature rather than staring at one’s feet for hours … and hours … and hours …
For the overnight part, I got to see the glorious Pacific Crest Trail in a circle of light from my headlamp for hours and hours … son of a motherless goat! I saw nothing other than the tops of those new MF’ing trail shoes I bought, which are still sitting in my garage untouched for over a month now. Even during the daylight, the weariness from being up all night made it imperative to watch my step so I didn’t, at best, face plant or, at worst, fall off a cliff.
I should add the caveat that watching nature doesn’t mean I want to watch other people answer nature’s call, either, which I saw more of than beautiful mountaintops. Male runners have the ease of that extra appendage to piss right in front of you and then mansplain, for miles, about how we women simply need to learn to pee down our legs while we
hike run. (Yes, that really happened to my friend.) Thanks, dude, I am so glad you are an expert on female urinary anatomy!
Oh yeah, nature or something.
5. I want my feet to live to run another day, preferably with the skin on them.
Yes, I know: we runners often hold up our ugly feet as a badge of honor. But feet after 100 miles? How much skin can one lose off her feet and still call them feet?
I’m good with a couple of blisters. Occasionally a black toenail or two or even one that falls off? Ok, I can do that. But feet that look like they belong on a corpse discovered along the trail you just covered (see what happens when you try to appreciate nature)? That crosses the line.
Go ahead 100-mile runners. Call me pathetic. “Just” a road runner. Boring. Or even SAD! I can take it (and my feet skin) and you can keep your (hideous) belt buckles too.
Have you ever done a 100-miler? Do you want to?