I’ve heard through unconfirmed "reports" that Scott Jurek, the #1 100-plus-mile ultra runner in the world, was unsuccessful in setting a new 24-hour American record at Ultracentric, which took place in Texas this past weekend. Considering the fact that Jurek has been wildly successful in just about every ultra running endeavor he's taken on (Western States, Badwater, Hardrock, Spartathlon, etc.), there has to be a good reason behind his dropping out at Ultracentric. After all, Ultracentric has quite the notorious reputation....
(Also, the fact that these reports are unconfirmed is a joke because it shouldn't be hard to find the results of a 24-hour race. Yet, at the time of this writing, the results from Ultracentric have either not been posted on the event Web site or are hidden somewhere on the Internet. How is ultrarunning to move forward as a sport when we do such a poor job of timely reporting?)
The 24-hour American record is 162.4 miles, set by Mark Godale at the 1999 24-hour national championship in Sylvania, Ohio. The event was the now-defunct Olander Park USA 24-Hour Championship (which really needs to come back...). Yiannis Kouros, holder of the 24-hour world record of 180 miles, was there that day and won, with Mark placing second behind the Greek Great One.
I cannot fathom running 162.4 miles, let along 180 miles, in 24 hours. That is 8-plus-minute pace. If that sounds easy, you must not be an ultra runner. Averaging 8-plus-minute pace for 24 hours, with aid station and bathroom stops factored in, along with the agonizing pain of running on a hard surface for that long, is an extraordinary feat.
I think the 24-hour American and world records will stand for a long time not only because of the sheer difficulty of covering those distances in 24 hours, but also because it strikes me that if you’re willing to go for one or both of these records, you also have to be willing to sacrifice your health. You have to understand that you will suffer unimaginably--mentally and physically--and may spend a few nights in the hospital afterward--a price few would be willing to pay. Best case scenario: You'll need multiple IVs when you’re done and can actually go home afterward. Most likely scenario if you set a record: You’re going to the hospital in an ambulance with kidney failure, extreme dehydration and a host of other problems that will leave you barely functional.
This brings to mind something Kouros once said: One of the tragedies of ultra running is that when someone achieves a great feat they are physically and mentally unable to celebrate in the moment due to the after-effects of the event. I've seen footage of Kouros trembling uncontrollably and totally out of it after running for long periods of time.
This week I went slow and took it easy so my right hamstring, which I re-injured pretty badly on Tuesday during a lunchtime run, can begin to heal. When I started the week, I felt great and was flying high after a solid Sunday run. But then on Tuesday I slipped on some wet leaves while on the trail and my right hamstring blew up. I barely made it back to the office. With stretching and ice therapy, the muscle got better as the week progressed and fortunately I didn’t miss any runs. I wound up with a fairly average 72.5 miles for the week.
A regular poster to this blog, Yanfei, along with my trusted 100-mile pacer, Kenny, has suggested that I take 4-6 weeks off to fully recover from my hamstring injury. While I know Yanfei and Kenny are probably correct, I also know that taking time off from running is very difficult for me. I take time off only when I literally cannot run, e.g., after injuring my knee at the Mohican 100. Running helps bring balance and peace to my life. If it’s taken away, I’m out of balance.
That said, I’ve decided that on January 1 I’m going to try to cut back my mileage for 4-6 weeks, incorporating some cross-training such as walking and hopefully swimming, and then will begin my Mohican training in mid-February on what will hopefully be fresh legs ready for 100-plus-mile weeks. At least that’s the plan. Why January 1? I want to keep the mileage up through the holidays to help keep the Thanksgiving and Christmas pounds at bay, and also to make a run at 4,000 miles for the year. We’ll see if I can psychologically handle the reduced mileage for 4-6 weeks.
AM: 8.4 miles at 7:28 pace
I felt very fresh and light on my feet.
PM: 5 miles during lunch in Shaker Park
My hamstring unexpectedly blew up when I slipped on some wet leaves on the trail. One second I felt great; the next second I slipped and my hamstring was burning like it was on fire. For a while there I feared a tear, but then the inflammation got better and I was able to slowly run back to the office…quite dejected.
Total miles for the day: 13.4
AM: 7.3 miles at 8:00 pace
This run was agonizing as my hamstring was extremely painful. Not even two miles into the jaunt I realized that I’d made a mistake and should have taken the day off. But I hung in there and ran the loop.
AM: 8.3 miles easy on the treadmill
It was cold and raining cats and dogs, making for a perfect morning for a treadmill run. Plus, the treadmill was good for my hamstring – no hills to tackle and I could step off any time I wanted without having to worry about getting back home. The muscle pain was moderate but not as bad as the previous day. I felt a few spasms here and there but managed to hold a relaxed pace with no searing pains.
AM: 9.25 miles at 7:35 pace
My hamstring felt much better and I was able to run a semi-challenging loop without much of a problem. Fortunately, the temperature was over 50 degrees, allowing me to warm-up more quickly.
AM: 14.2 miles in South Chagrin Reservation with the Southeast Running Club
Feeling only slight discomfort in my hamstring, I ran 14.2 miles on the flattest parts of the course with Jeff U., Tim C. and John L. Tim and I ran the last 4 miles together.
AM: 16 miles in Solon with the Southeast Running Club
Very cold, snowy and windy. I got to Solon for 3 warm-up miles and ran into a few nasty headwinds. My original plan was 17.5 miles but I headed into the bagel shop after only 16 because I was quite cold. I ran most of the way with Jeff U. and Tim H. Tim had a great idea about Nike sponsoring a marathon for masters runners who have qualified for the event with a sub-3-hour time. But you know what they say about "great ideas?"...they're not great unless someone's willing to pay for them.
PM: 4 miles easy on the treadmill
Total miles for day: 20
Total miles for week: 72.5
Total miles for month: 168.11
Total miles for year: 3,489.37
My goal this week is 70-plus easy miles—no speedwork, no temp running, nothing fast. I’ve learned that hamstring injuries take a long time to heal and even when you think you’re back to 100 percent, you aren’t.
Onward and upward!