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December 14, 2008


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You mean Hogsback Harald???? Mikem, i witnessed that same visually striking grizzled look and display as Haralds front end loader moved with purpose and not grace. It,s to be noted that he was churning over post race! carbo,s , a feat only an accomplshed ultra runner could perform. :0 Hoppy



You are not a newbie. You have beaten my ass on far too many occasions to call yourself that. Look in the mirror, you are not that naive sweet faced fellow you seem to think you still are. My last picture of you (Volcano 08) is of a grizzeled old bastid scarfing down a humongous plate of spagetti with a spoon the size of a front end loader...in true ultra runner form. aloha mikem



Yes, I too often wonder where the line is between catastrophic injury and constant aggravated pain. In fact in long races it is the tightrope I walk in getting to the end of the race. The question is always how far and hard to push, how much to endure, and always the desire to avoid nasty injury. But I am not looking outside to gain inspiration or direction. I am dealing in the hard reality of my own pain, and attempting interpret what this means in terms of my race progress. I may run, or jog, or become a member of the Department of Silly Walks. It usually depends on the pain or discomfort I feel and what I judge to be the source of that pain.

But as you have pointed out it is not a clear line. There have been points in my career where I have disregarded pain and moved on when I otherwise would have stopped because I WAS going to finish the race. The essential I think is that in the very long hours of training and running one begins to understand the difference between pain and injury and can better determine the risk of moving close to that horizon.

I think the most essential point I am making here is that the goal is to face oneself in a cooperative way and not an adversarial manner. We live in our bodies, but often are not one with them. Ultra running demands a meditative state of oneness, which is aware without being judgmental. If we try and be what we are not, then trouble is sure to arise. At the same time, we must strive to achieve what we are really capable of, within the context of our own existence. I will never achieve what David Goggins has, nor, I believe, will he ever achieve what I have. At least that is what I see in the goal of Competition. To strive successfully is to do so in union with the reality in which we find ourselves.

So when I write I am not advocating a march into IT band hell. I am just trying to relate where it was I found myself at that particularly extraordinary time after nearly seventy miles when Cat, Emma (?), and I were urging ourselves down that trail. My pain was not new. It was something I had endured as it built up during that race, and it was a condition I had known before. Experience had taught me that it was pain not injury I was dealing with, and I felt I knew its bounds. Was I certain? No. But I believe I had calculated the odds well.

Don’s Badwater experience was much the same. We were checking him every mile and I happened to be the one usually asking the questions about his pain. We both knew what it was he was doing. That is not to say that Don’s pain was any less severe than it appeared, but it was understood. Neither of us believed he was doing anything that would lead to permanent damage. It was not the first time Don had been through such a contracture, and he was familiar with how it played within him.

Again, it was calculated and informed risk taking.

And finally, my writing is meant as entertainment. Nothing like a bit of suffering and enduring to keep the reader interested. That is not to say it wasn’t the truth I wrote, just that it was not the mundane truth.

My lament is that there have been far too many trail companions that have been forced to quit the trails. Most never seem to understand the need for a slow meditative growth in ultra running ability, and they destroy their own aspirations. It’s sad.

Aloha, Mike


This is turning into an interesting thread...

Dan, you raise a very good point. Yes, many of us are probably guilty of repeating the RFM mantra a little too often and regardless of the experience and seniority of the audience. Ditto for tales (tall or not) of suffering and superhuman endurance that perhaps should trigger more shock than admiration. There is definitely a sizable gray area. But it seems to me that there are also extremes at either end of the spectrum that are fairly easy to assess. A colleague of mine at UH ran his first marathon yesterday. His longest run during training measured an epic 6 miles. Duh? He hit the wall pretty hard in Hawaii Kai. That's not the point though - his preparation would have been unreasonable even if he had held up much better and wasn't limping today. There is such a thing as common sense and the obligation to use one's brain as much as one's muscles. However, applying either (or even both) will not necessarily protect anyone from running into trouble, in training or during a race. It is as you said: somebody's decision to quit should be celebrated at least as much as the one to endure and continue. Unfortunately the ability to judge one's own capabilities, physical as well as mental, develops even more slowly than the tendons, ligaments, and bones that Mike pointed us to earlier. Listening to our ultrarunning elders is definitely good advice for all of us newbies - and when in doubt, remember the old adage: "do as they say, not as they do". Because somebody else finished a 100-miler on two broken legs does not mean we have to (try).

Dan Eldredge


You are right on point with your "many people do not seem to understand" the simple anatomical facts and I appreciate your passing those on to me relatively early on in my introduction to the H.U.R.T. crowd. As a novice to the sport of ultrarunning I am not blind, though, to the larger messages the best of the sport pass down. From the mantra of "relentless forward motion" to the iconic images of Don carrying a large boulder in one hand so that he could run semi-vertical many hours into Badwater, to our hero Paul getting hospitalized after running 100 miles on trails and then attempting 160 on hard roads, to David Goggins saying in an inspirational video "when you think you are done, you are only 40 percent into what your body is capable of doing" to your descriptions of your own epic battles in previous posts, the message of "keep going" could not be more clear. You yourself have encouraged, in my opinion, pushing it in the face of looming injuries. An example is a quote from one of your posts: "Cat and I spent hours together as my IT band turned into twisted steel, and she battled the first timer’s nightmares. She never gave up. Often pulled me along, and always seemed to just be ready to go on and on. Just amazing. Steff was bothered by a right ankle problem that turned ugly. Joel had it wrapped when I saw it, but it was a massive red bruise around her entire ankle and a testament to her will to finish. Again such courage is hard to find, even in our group of achievers. " I can see how "young punks" may confuse pragmatism with "will to finish" and "courage" and knowing one from the other seems to me to be the key to a long running life. It appears to me that the human anatomy cannot distinguish between a race and training and that courage during a race (meaning in this sense running through severe pain or an injury) can result just as easily in a career ending injury as pushing too hard in training. My impression is that it's a whole lot more complicated than simple anatomy. Experienced veterans like Don know their bodies very well and are able to figure out what is causing permanent damange and what is not. Paul has obviously learned more things about his body and mind from surviving cancer and many ultramarathons than most of us ever will so he knows when to throw in the towel, no matter how difficult that decision is. You know when it is OK to ask an IT band transformed into twisted steel to keep going and Steff may have known when a massive red bruise surrounding her ankle was not going to result in a permanent injury if she kept going. You have obviously given advice to folks based on your experience that they have ignored to their detriment. Shame on them. I hope that you continue your educational efforts in order to help people distinguish between courage and stupidy. Perhaps a futile task, but keep mentoring the young punks and us older newbies. If we learn lessons the easy way and not the hard way, maybe in future ultras and training for them we'll know the difference between when our mind is holding us back for no good reason (time to dig even deeper) and when our bodies are holding us back for good reason (time to go have a beer). The anatomy is simple. Whether it's a mind or body issue is the hard part!



Bob Mc.

Excellent writing Mike. Sounds like a lot of truth to my non-medical mind.

On another topic, I am trying to resolve the DOUBLE COMMENT Posting with the blog hosting company. Yes, it is annoying!!

Devon Webb

I don't mind outing myself because I think I just had De'javu. Mike and I had this same disussion when we were toting the 20+ gallons of water up to Peacock prior to my last ultra. Should'vs, Wouldv's, and Couldv's. I SHOULD have listened to you on the mountain Mike. I WOULD still be out there enjoying the goshdarn scenery. I just wish I COULD have gone SLOWER and not been a young punk. Thanks for putting it into perspective. I really have NO EXCUSE. You are truly a really good friend and one hell of an ultrarunner. Thanks and Jah Bless.
Devon Webb


By Quill and parchment - And the award goes to Mikum for his outstanding piece of candle literature on trail philosophy, B.S and biomechanics. Excellent work Sir!,most enjoyable read- keep it up!!. Hoppy-(who once took english literature in England yet had a hard time spelling the word].



Very well said....agreeing from my own experiences.



Now _that_, Mike, was one for the ages, for the HURT Words-of-Wisdom Hall of Fame.

Thank you.

Harald (who's not an ultrarunner but wouldn't mind becoming one, eventually)

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