12 Advice Nuggets for Ultra-Newbies & Others
|This could be you. Have a nice day.|
I originally posted this in 1999 or so. It has a long shelf-life and the mouth-feel is still wonderful.
Recently there have been a spate of anguished "drops" from the UltraList regarding content, tone, and suitability of the message, if not the messenger. Inasmuch as the majority of these messages appear to be from relative newcomers to the sport, or the List, some clarifications are necessary.
I want to thank Suzi Shearer and Laurie Staton for their historical reviews of basic Ultra Facts, such as "Grand Slam" info and other epistolary nuggets they kindly shared out amongst all of us. Be glad they paid attention to your requests...they are wonderful people with busy lives of their own.
Also: The List is not a 7-11 One-Stop Info-Dump Carry-Out designed to get Newbies thru "Baby's First Ultra". It is a bulletin board. Most of the posts are superfluous and meaningless. Some are even pretty funny, intentional or not. Like it or not, they will get you a feel of what the sport can be about. You'll get your "mountain money's" worth.
Remember also that this sport is much more a sport of giving than taking. Look who's giving and look who's taking. See what sort of debris trail forms behind either 'modality'. Draw your own conclusions.
Now, I will make this as easy to comprehend as possible.
"Put the kiddies to bed...PG time is over"
--Tupac Shakur speaking on "Sons of the P", by Digital Underground
1] Your first year in ultras is the worst possible standard to judge your competence and capabilities. The next worse year is your second, and so on.
2] This information is not tailored to your preconceived notions.
If this is what you truly want, go to an amusement park.
3] Comfort is proportional to your experience.
4] Your ability to separate wheat from chaff is proportional to your experience.
5] You are solely responsible for your own actions.
This means if you eat yellow snow or acquire dubious coaching advice, it is your problem. Admit you made a mistake and move up the food chain. Leave the offending problem in your wake, and perhaps warn oncoming traffic.
6] Behave like an idiot, and time is always against you.
Ultras are not sports of this race, this season or even this year. This is a sport of meta-cycles, and this means delayed reaction times with consequences not visible for years. Try it, you'll like it.
7] Don't make your problem my problem.
8] Instant feedback does not mean instant wisdom.
Not too long ago, ultra advice had to be acquired in analog 4D time & space. Information was slow, but it still out paced the body's capacity to process that information. Now an entire spectrum of advice and information is available at your fingertips...but the time to process that is still gloriously primitive.
9] Sports Highlights and You.
We live in a sports highlight world, 24/7. You can see a blizzard of sports/entertainment/etc. figures as perpetual highlights. The camera is never there when they are resting/injured/reconsidering their options/pondering medical procedures as a result of over training/over-racing. The camera also does not dwell lovingly on whether or not that person is a complete one-dimensional zero as a result of their fixations.
10] Instant recognition does not constitute Instant Mastery.
When I ran my first ultra [Baldy Peaks 50k, '89...thank you John Davis] I eagerly looked up my name in UltraRunning. I saw it, a full 9pts tall. No fanfares of trumpets, no phones ringing off the hook. Some of you should be so lucky. I got to labor in obscurity for years, and make some spectacular mistakes entirely on my own.
11] Pogey Bait.
Don't know the meaning of this phrase? Now's a good time to look it up. If you are being coached, or are considering being coached by someone who promises ribbons, trinkets and gee-gaws as the sole affirmation of the experience, you might do well to reconsider. What's in it for you...and them?
Is this sport turning into a full-time job? Get out before you burn out. Rust may never sleep, but Neil Young doesn't know shit about the miracles of an extended sabbatical.
Remember one thing, although I am certain that 99% of the readership will forget: Running ultras is ultimately about the "freedom of the hills", the ability to move through the land for 25, 40, 100, 200mi at a pop, and enjoy the experience.