A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Impossible? I Don't Want to Hear That Word!!!

I need to address certain issues that I've seen when talking to people about my training. It's been bothering me for some time, so I need to get this out.
 
My first 3 week Build Phase included long runs of 20 miles, 26 miles, and 32 miles during the last 3 weeks. It's been a good ramp-up for me and I'm glad my training has been going smoothly for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning.

But the remarks I've gotten from people this past week, although complimentary, have included a word that has driven me crazy for a good number of years now. And it's about time I address this word and its true meaning directly.
 
Please don't think that what I'm doing is "impossible". I really don't want to hear this word uttered from other people. I've heard it way too many times this past week, and it's been frustrating me. When I hear a word like "impossible", it means they have already given up and have resigned themselves to being satisfied with less.


Believe me, I know most people see training runs of 30+ miles as "impossible for them to do". Nothing can be farther from the truth. Their training might not require them to do 30+ miles of running, especially if they are focused on shorter distance races, but if, somehow, they needed to get 30 miles of running done in a pinch, they WILL find a way to do it. With the right focus, everyone can do it.

What I do is never any secret. I jokingly call these runs "anti-tempo" runs for a reason, they are very, very slow. With the exception of the 20 mile run I did, both the 26 and the 32 mile run I did were done very slowly. Anyone who regularly runs a 9-10 minute miles as their comfortable pace will find a 12 minute mile very easy to them. Multiply that by 30 miles, and I can definitely bet the farm that all of those people will make it to the end of the run, even with a little energy left to get up and do a run tomorrow.

It's really not rocket science at all. And this is the main reason why we ultrarunners run slow...so that we can run long! The foremost on all ultrarunners' minds in a long race is the preservation of his/her body over that entire distance. And that is what these long runs are about. Taking careful steps on the downhills, and walking the uphills is normal on these runs because these methods preserve the body over the long haul.

I just want to say to everyone out there that ANYONE CAN DO THIS, if they put their mind to it.

One of the comments I got this weekend was that "you are a machine". Now this comment I like! Why, because I can tell them right back that they are machines too. Of all the machines humans have ever built, they have never built one that surpasses that of the human body. You have to acknowledge that the human body is the most extraordinary machine that has ever been created. If you treat it right and give it proper maintenance, the body has the extraordinary ability to repair itself. When stressed, the body automatically adapts and responds to that stress so that it can handle that stress.

You are human machines too. That means you are capable of doing far beyond what you think you are capable of. All you have to do is THINK that you can, and, with proper training and focus, you will do.

So please. What I do is no secret. What I do is not "impossible." What I do is not "superhuman". What I do IS HUMAN! Instead of looking up to me, look to me as someone who is still trying to break his perceived boundaries. We are equal. The only thing that is different between you and me is that I have started to realize that I'm the one responsible for setting limits on myself and that I'm trying my darndest to break them. If you start to realize this, I'm sure you'll act the same way also.

Once a person realizes that he's in a prison, he or she will do whatever it takes to get out. Even a prison of his or her own making.

As a coach, this is what I train people for. To make people realize that they can do what they previously thought they couldn't do. To expand their realm of possibilities, to make them realize that they too are capable of extraordinary things. To get themselves out of their own prison.

And I still run these ultras to prove two points:

1) To prove to myself that I am still quite capable of doing more than I've already done. Even after all these years, I'm still in the process of trying to expand my own boundaries. My choice in going to the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning this year is that example. I must admit that a side of me is still convinced that doing four 100 mile ultras is "impossible" for me to do. But I'm willing to prove that side of me wrong.

2) To set an example for other people to start waking up and realize that they are capable of extraordinary things too, if they put their minds to it. The bottom line is that you can indeed set a lofty goal for yourself and work to achieve it. Even if you initially feel that this goal is "impossible" to attain. That is the message I always try to convey to people, that nothing is "impossible".

So please, don't say that nasty word in front of me. I might just give you a bit of a slap just to snap you out of that defeatist attitude you are showing me.



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