People talkin' about us, they got nothin' else to do.
When it all comes down, we will still come through.
In the long run. Ooh, I want to tell you, it's a long run." The Long Run-The Eagles
After doing a warm up swim in Tempe Lake a couple of days before Ironman Arizona, I was talking to an seasoned Ironman woman. One of the bits that I throw into triathlon conversations is how doing marathons opened the door to doing sprint tris, which opened the door to doing half ironmans, which opened the door to doing the full Ironman. I ended this bit by asking, "I don't know what the Ironman opens the door to doing?" Its meant to be a rhetorical question. As in, "Can you believe how I got myself into this mess?" But the woman had an immediate response. "The Ironman opens the door to doing ultras."
When I got back home, I ran across my ultra running friend Mandy. During some long runs, she gave me some of her running history which included several Ironman events before she started doing some ultra marathons. Now, if you've ever read up on or viewed any of the videos of the various ultra marathon events in existence, you know there are some pretty crazy sounding events. There are several hundred mile trail runs (Western States, Vermont, Leadville), multi-day races (Marathon des Sables: a six-day, 156 mile event), and outrageously long and hard continuous events (Badwater: a 135 mile course run mostly in Death Valley in July!; the Spartahlon: a 153 mile race between Athens and Sparta). I read books and articles about these events, and watched videos of some of them. I follow them as an interested spectator only. Whenever I forwarded a DVD of one of these events to a running buddy, I always get a follow up call asking, "You're not planning on doing this event, are you?" My answer was and still is "No, I just find it interesting to follow these events and know that there are athletes that can do them." Like my friend Mandy. She's done the Marathon des Sables and intends to do Badwater one day. I've offered to help crew, but that's as far as I go.
There are a couple of shorter ultra events that I've had my eye on for years. One of my running buddies, Demetri, has an uncle in South Africa who runs the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town (35 miles) and the Comrades Marathon run between Pietermaritzburg and Durbin (56 miles) each year. Two Oceans is reputed to be the most beautiful course in the world. Comrades is the oldest of the ultra marathons and one I've looked at as one I'd like to do one of these years. The other ultra I've always thought about is the JFK 50 mile run. JFK is run the weekend before Thanksgiving each year. JFK starts in Boonsboro, MD, follows the Appalachian Trial for about 15 miles and then follows the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal to Dam #4 on the Potomac River, and finally follows roads to Williamsport, MD.
As I'm getting congratulatory e-mails from triathlon and running buddies for doing IMAZ, my friends Bob and Melissa inform me they are doing Comrades this coming May. That really caught my attention. I met Bob and Melissa while doing the Dublin Marathon three years ago. They are a really nice couple from Ohio that do both marathons and triathlons, including several Ironman events. It was in listening to their stories that got my wife Salome, my training buddy John and me to start into the whole tri scene. Now, here they were announcing they were doing another of my dream events. However, being no fool, I know I should try another ultra before tackling Comrades which is known to be a tough event. Perhaps I should try an ultra that doesn't have such a tough reputation. Like my other ultra dream event: JFK.
Which brings me yet another couple I met doing the Dublin Marathon. Keith and Sheila from Michigan. Readers of my prior blog may recall Keith & Sheila from my Miami Marathon race report from last year (Be sure to read the comments for "The Ballad of Keith & Sheila"). Keith ran the JFK 50 Mile Run several times a few years back. When I raised the prospect of doing JFK next November, I received back an enthusiastic reply of "Yes, yes, yes!" I hope he still feels that way as the year goes on.
Getting back to Mandy, during one of our runs together, I brought up the idea of doing JFK this year and Comrades in 2011. She expressed interest in doing Comrades. Thus, if JFK goes well, Comrades may well be in store for 2011. Hopefully Bob & Melissa have a good experience and provide an intriguing race report on this year's race. As Comrades is run the opposite direction every other year (its the harder downhill run this year), perhaps they'll consider doing it a second time next year (the uphill run).
As you can see from my 2010 race schedule, I'll keep involved in the triathlon scene, but its time to give the short ultra a try before I get too much older. I hold no one to these proposals, but if anyone else is interested in working towards either JFK this November or Comrades in May, 2011, let me know. I figure that if I can spend 14 hours doing an Ironman, I can survive a shorter ultra. So, how about it? Anyone else interested in walking through that next door?