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Elliptical 100 Mile Run

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Why Would Any Sane Person Run 100 Miles?

Obviously, I can't answer that question. But, I can tell you why I run 100's, although, if you have to ask, you probably won't understand. I loved running marathons, but quickly realized I wasn't getting much faster. Okay, it took 15 years to realize I wasn't getting faster, but I finally qualified for Boston (qualifying standards get easier as one gets older). The simple fact of the matter is that chasing a dream is a lot more fun than realizing it. The fans lining the Boston course were great; however, they can get pretty predatory towards the end. At one point, a guy yelled to me, "Where are you from?" When I told him "Texas", he said," Did you come all the way to Boston just to walk the marathon?" Oh well, it was wonderful to finally cross the finish line and have someone hang that beautiful unicorn medal around my neck. However, after a brief moment of joy, I promptly threw up on it five times. The medal still looks great, just sort of smells funky.

100's just seemed like the logical next step. Ultra running is kind of like joining a cult. We have our own societies, rules and value systems. People laugh about going to the dark side, but ultra running is really just an extension of the passion that lead to running marathons in the first place.

Going Long

As I read magazines and books, I was mystified by those who ran 100-milers through the mountains. I can remember thinking, 'I could no more run 100 miles than I could fly to the moon.' It took me three months just to get my brain around the idea. Then, gradually, the fantasy turned into a mission and I was on my way. It's actually not that hard to do. Train harder, longer and learn to eat and drink on the run, although there's a serious learning curve ingesting 300 calories and 40 ounces of fluid per hour.

Training was pretty straight forward. Make your hard days hard and your easy days easy. Take off time to recover. Run long every couple weeks and do speed work. Speed work for a 100? Yeah, it surprised me too. Tempo runs improve running efficiency and cruise speed. It doesn't matter that runners at my level can't run 24 hours straight. In my best race, The Route 66 Mother Road 100 Mile Endurance Run, I ran only about 85 miles. The race strategy was to walk the ups and run the downs and flats. That worked fine until I wore down and walked everything. One race strategy that helped was 'the tyranny of the watch'. With 30 miles to go, one of my buddies convinced us to run for 5 minutes and walk for one. Then every time we reached an aid station, we would drop a minute off the run and add a minute to the walk. Needless to say, one has to grab hold of something to believe in after 2:30 a.m. to make it to the finish. The barrier to entry in ultra running is high. One has to train very hard to just suck at this sport.

You Got To Have Faith

Life doesn't always turn out like we thought it would. That fact became painfully clear when my wife was crippled by Multiple Sclerosis. I love the ultra running saying, "It never always gets worse." There's time to recover and adjust to circumstances, but one needs faith to move forward. I know one thing for sure: you got to have faith to run 100 miles. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as, 'being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Bad things are going to happen during an ultra; count on it. One doesn't run 100 miles thinking, "Man, I sure hope I don't get sick or have to deal with blisters." It all happens; just like life. My favorite faith passage doesn't come from the Bible, it comes from To The Edge, Kirk Johnson's book about running Badwater: "Getting up from the side of the road at 43 miles had been an act of pure faith--I didn't really know how my crisis would end, but I'd believed an answer could be found. And that faith was, in turn, what had created the answer itself. It was another paradox of the ultramarathon: By moving, you find out how to move. By believing that an untapped source of strength exists, it becomes manifest."

Getting Kicked By a Giraffe

Baby giraffes are cute, but life is hard. I was impressed by an article posted on line by 'deb86.' She noted that when a baby giraffe is born, it falls from its mother's womb, some 6 feet above the ground. It then shrivels up and lies still, too weak to move. The mother giraffe then lovingly lowers her neck to smooch the baby giraffe. And then something incredible happens. She lifts her long leg and kicks the baby giraffe, sending it flying up in the air and tumbling down on the ground. As the baby lies curled up, the mother kicks the baby again. Until the baby giraffe, still trembling and tired, pushes its limbs and for the fist time stands on its feet. Happy to see the baby standing on its own feet, the mother giraffe comes over and gives it yet another kick. The baby giraffe falls one more time, but now quickly recovers and stands up. The important lesson is learned: never mind how hard you fall, always remember to pick yourself up and get back on your feet.

Why does the mother giraffe do this? She knows lions love giraffe meat. Unless the baby giraffe quickly learns to stand and run with the pack- it will have no chance of survival. Life for us is the same. It's hard. Ultra running is a great exercise in getting back up when bad things happen to us; it is a critical life skill.

The Children of Israel Got a Bad Rap

After God did all those miracles, pharaoh finally submitted to Moses' demand to 'let my people go.' Then the children of Israel marched into the desert and almost immediately begin to complain and worship idols. I always felt sorry for them whenever preachers criticized them for being weak. The fact is that if they were stronger and more courageous, they simply would have made it another 50 miles into the wilderness before they hit the wall. But, they were going to hit the wall. They found themselves between Pharaoh's army and the Red Sea, because that's exactly were God wanted them. They ran out of food and water, because God wanted to break them. Life is hard for everyone and God wants us to learn to have faith.

Running is Easier Than Crewing

Another reason to run 100s is because it's a lot easier than crewing for someone else. It's great to come into an aid station and have everybody ask you what you want and lie to you about how good you're looking. Believe me, it's much harder to rush to a 3:00 a.m. aid station in the middle of nowhere and then wait in the cold for your runner to drag in. If you don't' know CREW stands for 'Cranky Runner, Endless Waiting.' Runners have an amazing ability to be complete jerks when they are exhausted, at least that what my wife tells me.

You Get a Belt Buckle

When David Letterman asked Pam Reed on the Late Show what she got for being the first woman to win the Badwater 135-mile run, she replied, "A buckle." He immediately responded, "Well, sign me up!" It's true. We run 100s to get buckles. I can't explain it. It's just so much fun to get a buckle, and it's a lot better than a t-shirt. Our culture discourages one from wearing marathon medals around town, but an ultra buckle looks nice. By the way, there is an unwritten rule that says, one should wear the buckle every day after the race until you quit walking funny. Besides, buckles are a good way to introduce your latest 100 into conversations.

Multiple Sclerosis Fund Raiser

After our daughter was born, my wife, Sherry, went for a run on a country road near our house in Mississippi. An old farmer pulled along side her in his pick-up truck and yelled out "Little lady, you sure are running slow!" Over the past 12 years, Multiple Sclerosis has slowed her down even more. It was sad to see her lose her physical abilities. First she limped, and then used a cane, followed by a walker and finally a power wheelchair. She tried drug after new drug, but kept getting weaker.

Once, we hired a personal trainer, but after a couple months, the buff tri-guy told her he didn't want to work with her anymore because she wasn't getting any better. She lived in a perverse pendulum swing of getting a little better and a little worse, but the trend line always pointed down. She once found herself home alone, unable to lift herself off the toilet seat. After 20 minutes of trying, crying and yelling, she said a prayer, "God, if you are strong enough to raise Lazarus from the dead, you're strong enough to get my butt off this toilet seat." She then regained her composure and transferred to the wheelchair.

Sherry is handicapped, but doesn't see herself that way. After a dozen years, she still uses a temporary, blue hang-tag, because she refuses to order a permanent license plate.

For the past three years, she's been fighting back. She works out 10 hours a week- a schedule that rivals many of my triathlon and trail running friends. After considerable trial and error, we developed a gym routine for her arms, legs and core muscles. She finishes by strapping her feet into boots and peddling 3.2 miles on a hand-cycle. She needs help getting on and off machines and if we're not careful, help getting off the floor. Every week she does personal training, water aerobics (which requires a winch to get her into the pool), horseback riding (which requires a winch to get her on the horse), and physical and occupational therapy. She also invented 'toilet aerobics.' Every morning before she gets dressed, she hangs on to the grab bar and does squats, followed by isometric exercises with an elastic band and a plastic ball. She concludes by doing bicep curls with a heavy hammer. Like other athletes, Sherry enjoys buying Nike workout clothes; however, she's mostly concerned with finding pants that are long enough to cover her leg braces. She buys protein powder online and is tickled to receive weight-lifting catalogs from Hammer Nutrition. Actually, being handicapped sometimes helps. I was helping her on a machine once, when a staff member approached and told me I couldn't work out in jeans. I told the guy that I wasn't working out; I was with her. He then looked down at Sherry in her wheelchair and saw she was also wearing jeans. After an awkward pause said okay and walked away. She doesn't work out to get better. She's not going to have 30-minute abs or big guns for arms. She works out to maintain. She works out so she can teach, cook supper, and enjoy life. She works out because, if she doesn't use it, she'll lose it.

Why run 100 miles on an elliptical machine?

I'm running 100 miles on an elliptical machine, because I have advanced osteoarthritis in my back and feet and can't run roads or trails anymore. My orthopedic doctor tells me it's important to workout and stay muscled-up. The elliptical is a way to avoid the impact from running and still log the miles. I generally do 10-mile training runs five times per week at an intensity level of 15 to build leg strength. The runs are broken down to 5-mile intervals so my feet don't go numb, with my pulse reaching 160. It helps to vary the incline between 6 and 10. Lower settings stress calf muscles, while a higher setting works the quads and glutes (no arms). Once a month, I reduce the intensity level to 10, which allows me to maintain a heart rate around 125 and go long. It seems like one could reduce the intensity much further, but there's a sweet spot on the machine. The strategy is similar to riding a bike. Low cadence builds strength, but one should ride at as high a cadence as possible, without bouncing.

When and where?

The elliptical run will commence at the 24 Hour Fitness center in Lewisville, TX, on Friday, January 14, 2011, at 5:00 p.m. (Address: 724 West Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75067; Phone: 1-(972) 436-4600.) Hopefully, it will take between 20 and 22 hours. We would appreciate a financial contribution to the MS Society so they can continue research and find a cure for MS.

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