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, May 7, 2013

The Coming Mental Ordeal Of The Slam

With this Grand Slam of Ultrarunning craziness bouncing around in my head every minute of the day since the Western States lottery, my thoughts had to eventually come down to this: strategy.

I mean, how can one do another grueling 100 mile ultra a mere three weeks after finishing one? How does one get his or her legs to recover fully for those three weeks between races?

An even better question to ask yet is, can one get his or her mind ready for another ordeal after the previous ordeal is fresh on the mind?

By the time the Slammers hit Hope Pass in Leadville (above), they will have already accumulated 240+ grueling miles on their legs over 7 weeks.


These are the questions that I'm going to have to answer truthfully if I want to successfully finish this Slam.

The mental aspect of the Slam really doesn't start at the starting line of Western States 100 in June. At that point, I would probably be excited and raring to go.

No, the mental aspect really starts the moment my first crisis happens during the Western States, how I get through it, and how much of it I remember as I toe the line at the second leg of the Slam, in Vermont three weeks after Western States.

And how much of the misery of the first two races would be on my mind as I toe the line at Leadville four weeks after Vermont. I'm willing to bet that with each successive race in the Slam, the misery will accumulate and build.

That is why I think there is a tremendous failure rate in completing the Slam. Of course, the physical aspect of these long races are evident, but how much of an ordeal can one mentally take with four 100 mile races in ten weeks? I think THIS is the real question that needs to be answered by me and by everyone else attempting the Slam.

I have been doing a great bit of Transcendental Meditation this year, hoping that by generally shifting my thoughts from the pain of it all to being only in "the moment" that hopefully I can find the mental fortitude necessary to finish the Slam. Dwelling on the pain of past races and anticipating the pain of the coming ones is not going to get me through the Slam.

It's as simple as that. When I'm running at mile 60 in Vermont, I do not focus on the struggles that I had in Western States three weeks before, or focus on what might happen at Hope Pass in Leadville four weeks from then.

I will have to stay in the moment and focus only at mile 60 in Vermont.

Of course, it's a simple strategy, but is it simple to implement?

For my sake, I hope that the meditation makes it so. It's going be one long hellish summer, that much I understand. But if I can cut the summer down to one moment at a time, I might actually stand a better chance at completing this thing.

We will start to see in 8 weeks time.

2 comments:

  1. Great stuff Pete. I think about this often as well, although I won't be running 4 back to back 100s. Not only is staying in the moment the best thing, I think it's the way to truly ENJOY these long races. I paced Dan Brendan at the VT 100 (http://runsonbeer.com/2012/09/ultra-marathon-pacing-the-vermont-100/). He's run over 100, 100milers in 10 years, is over 60 and literally had a smile on his face the entire time I was running with him. His secret, staying in the moment. When the going got tough, and we were hiking up a hill in the middle of the night, he looked up at the stars, smiled, and said "it's really great being here right now with you. I feel bad for everyone who's missing this". During long races when i'm hurting the most, I try and put on a huge smile and push through. It sometimes fools my body and I am able to enjoy it for the time being

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  2. Yeah, that's definitely the strategy that I'm looking at here, just simplifying everything to moment by moment. And yes, soaking it all in is definitely a plus! All 4 of these races are in such beautiful locations that I want to be able to appreciate it, even when I'm hurting.

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