Friday, April 22, 2011

Terrify Yourself

I recently attended the Rally of Writers conference in Lansing, Michigan, where the keynote speaker was Jef Mallet, a Michigander and writer/artist of the syndicated comic strip Frazz. Turns out Mallet is a triathlete, and used his biking, running and swimming as different metaphors for the writing process, but I was just impressed with his physical accomplishments, like swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco, or swimming the length of the Mackinac Bridge. His main idea was that thinking/acting outside the box is not enough, for writers or runners, and that instead we all should 'terrify' ourselves. That is, to do things that we are terrified of doing, of even thinking ourselves capable.

He's right. I thought back on all the things that really scared me, like going to grad school in New York City, and becoming a bike messenger there. Like becoming a wildland firefighter. Like going to Chile on my own. Like signing up for the Sea Shepherds. Like running my first marathon. Like running barefoot for the first time. Like running a marathon barefoot for the first time! I survived all those things, and they ended up being life-changing events.

After running a few marathons last year, then two 50Ks, I knew my next step would be to run an ultra. Still with this last snow and cold-filled winter here in Michigan, I felt very much out of shape, and have not been sure if I could get myself in shape for something like this. But, in part after re-reading Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall (now out on paperback) and loving the descriptions of ultra-runners, and the races themselves. So with Mallet's voice whispering in my ears, I have decided basta, time to terrify myself: I've signed up for the Burning River 100 mile ultra-marathon, down in Ohio, this July.

Am I terrified? Yes. I am not sure I can even finish. But I am sure going be running my butt off in the meantime. And, giving myself this goal, which is a huge one, has already changed me. For example, I now have to assemble a support crew, meaning I have to ask other people for help, which I am terrible at. In fact, I'm a little terrified of it. But already people have volunteered. I'm not sure on logistics yet, but already, just by taking this step, I feel my life has changed.

Next step: I have two marathons coming up (like, in a week!): the Pinkney Trail Marathon, and the Kalamazoo Marathon, a week apart. Running them so close together will be an exercise in recovery, and running when perhaps not all the way recovered. I will write about both in upcoming posts.

After that, I leave for Barcelona, for a much needed, and deserved, and extended, vacation. Looks like I'll be a running fool while I'm there. And barefoot too. That should freak out the Spanish. I don't even think they like to wear sandals there.

Right now, I would like to ask my blog readers and the BRS community for help: Any and all advice on running an ultra-marathon would be much appreciated, from the actual running and training, to the logistics of how to assemble (and treat well!) a support crew, and what they can do to help me.

link to The Burning River 100 Endurance Run

Anyone care to join me?

(PS-Jef Mallett has a book: Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete)