Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pushing Your Limits

First, some inspiration. Below is what I recently wrote on Facebook in response to an old college friend who just ran 7 miles in the rain being told he's too old for such antics and needs to be careful with his aging body:
I'm 38 years old and almost 39 and I run 100 miles a week and run races of 100+ miles in the mountains here in Colorado. I once ran 131 miles in 24 hours on a 1-mile paved oval (this was at the USA 24-hour national championship and I did it not only to compete but also to raise money for our local children's hospital). I run anywhere from 7-10 races of marathon to 100-mile distance a year--sometimes more. Sometimes I run 2-3 marathons or ultramarathons in a period of 5-7 weeks. I know people who have run 6-8 races of 100 miles or more in a year...and most of them are north of 40. Playing it safe is boring and uninspiring. I do what many people say is unthinkable and unwise and, yeah, sometimes I go through injury, but believe me when I say I've probed my soul on long runs and know what I'm made of--and I've built a strong mind and body that can withstand many things that would cripple the average person. I applaud any man or woman who, like Dan, is testing their limits...because you never know what your limits are 'til you push yourself beyond the boundaries society has artificially set for us.
Heck yeah!
I can't say enough about how important is to push your limits. Here were some personal limits I once perceived and ultimately crushed:

~2003: At the time about 40 pounds lighter than my all-time high of 220 pounds, I ran 7 miles on a treadmill at the gym, wearing Famous Footwear shoes and cotton from head to toe (I didn't know any better). Anne was there, and I was so ecstatic that I was practically bouncing off the walls afterward. I felt like I'd just accomplished something incredible. And, at the time, I had.

~2004: Not only did I complete my first distance race--a 20-kilometer event in Wheeling, WV--but I also ran my first marathon, finishing Columbus in 3:22. I cannot put into words how intimidating 26.2 miles once was to me. And while I still very much respect the distance, to me the challenge is no longer finishing a marathon; it's doing the 26.2 in a fast time--say, a new PR of 2:50 or better.

~2005: I qualified for the Boston Marathon with a 3:05, a feat I never thought was possible. Since then, I've BQ'd in every marathon I've run (except for the Erie Marathon in 2007, which was a training run). Not long afterward I finished my first ultra--a trail 50K in Cleveland that scared the heck out of me at the time.

~2006: Having been bitten by the ultrarunning bug, I ran my first 50-miler. Again, this was a seemingly unfathomable feat.

~2007: At the time more than 50 pounds lighter than my all-time high, this was the year of breaking through. I did my first 100, finishing 6th overall at the Burning River 100, and in the process transitioned to a high-mileage runner. I really questioned if my body would hold up. Guess what? It has.

~2008: Three major accomplishments: 1) I won my first race--a 50K in the dead of winter in Cleveland, 2) I broke 3 hours in the marathon for the first time, and 3) I nearly won the Mohican 100, finishing 4th overall despite a blown-up knee and stomach.

~2009: Now ripped and in ridiculously good shape (for me, at least), I finally did it--I won the Mohican 100. If you'd told me two years prior that I'd eventually break the tape in a 100, I'd have laughed at you. A few months later, still in really good shape but wracked with stress due to our upcoming move to Colorado, I surpassed 130 miles on a 1-mile oval course in my first 24-hour race. The thought of running for 24 hours on an oval terrified me, but I ultimately loved it!

~2010: I finished the Leadville Trail 100 in under 25 hours, earning the coveted El Plato Grande buckle.

~2011: I once again finished the Leadville 100, this time in 22:35, to earn another El Plato Grande buckle. The year also included a finish at the brutally tough Jemez 50-Mile.

~2012: ?

The above races truly tested my limits. Yes, we all have limits, but 99.9999% of us have never come even remotely close to "the edge." I haven't reached the edge of my limits yet. Goals for the next few years (in order of importance):

  1. Sub-20 hours at the Leadville 100--goal #1
  2. Sub-2:50 in the marathon
  3. 140+ miles in a 24-hour race
  4. Hardrock!
  5. Leadman!!
Injury update: My leg, which was hit with posterior tibial tendonitis in November, is doing pretty well. Last Thursday I started running again, covering about 29 miles that week. This week I should surpass 50 miles, which is pretty modest for me, but it's a start. I'm using an Ace ankle wrap that's providing nice support, icing my leg/ankle after every run and also at night, and continuing with my physical therapy.
Get 'er done!


  1. Great post Wyatt. Sometimes we all need a shot of inspiration in the arm. Thanks!

  2. Thanks, Adam! That means a lot coming from you--a runner I really respect.


  3. I was trying to talk myself out of getting up at 4:30 tomorrow and doing an 8-mile training run. Then I read your post. I'm in the best shape of my life and I'm preparing for my first 26.2 in June.

    Ultra-running fascinates me (not enough to actually become with; I have five kids 9 and under. That's ultra enough)I was hoping you'd be writing more since you'd been running less.

    I enjoy reading your take on things.

    If you ever write a book, I'll buy it.

  4. This is a nice post, i really like it...i remember the first time i ran 60 minutes on a treadmill. It was a revelation - i often try to think of that years later when it's tough. I better go prepare for my run after reading the post though!