I recently drove from Danville, Virginia to Arvada, Colorado…with my cat. It was arduous to say the least. As I was driving through the absolute boredom that is Kansas (sorry Kansasonians) I began to reframe the experience from “this sucks” to “use this to solidify your ultra endurance mindset”.
Ultramarathons, like driving for hours and hours, are mind-numbing and butt-numbing events that only a few people are crazy enough to go through (especially with a cat). They also are remarkably similiar.
Survival Method: Split Journey into Small Goals
Get to the next aid station…get to the next major city. In two more miles you can drink a ginger ale…in 150 more miles you can stop at a gas station.
You get the point. This is the only way to survive such a feat.
You will eventually do battle with mental exhaustion
The miles go on and on and on in both instances. Staring at the interstate or the trail starts to numb your mind. You MUST find ways to entertain yourself. Here are some suggestions:
Talk to someone. This could be other runners in an ultra or just phoning a friend while you drive.
Rock out to some music
Appreciate the beautiful scenery (impossible in Kansas…once again I am sorry)
Make up stupid songs
Talk to your cat (probably doesn’t work in a race)
Muscles you didn’t even know you had WILL get sore
At the finish line of any ultra, as I’m sitting enjoying a well-earned beer and pizza, I am always curious to see which muscles ache. There are the obvious, of course, quads, glutes, calves…but then to your shock and awe you feel the burn in some unnameable muscles. Woah…I didn’t even know that part of me existed.
Same thing happened during the drive. I can’t believe that sitting can cause such crazy muscle pain..but DAMN. Maybe I’m just not used to it, but I could barely move while trying to stretch my sore self at a gas station.
Places to Refuel are filled with Junk Food
Speaking of gas stations…they are REMARKABLY similar to aid stations. You appear in the distance beaten, broken, covered in sweat. You slowly limp towards it, until you realize other people can see you and then you straighten up and try your best to walk normal as if saying I’m all good, no problems here.
You are now faced with the mecca of food choices: candy, chips, any type of beverages you can imagine (including booze). You spot the bizarre option in the corner…Jalepeno Hotdogs? Pickle juice? Cake frosting? What the heck? Let’s roll the dice! You think grabbing the outlandish food.
Within the next 15 minutes you are saying Hallelujah for the well-timed rest stop, port o potty, or hidden bush.
They have the potential to cause injury weeks later
Obviously, Ultrarunning can cause major issues if you push yourself too hard in the weeks following an event, but I recently found out that long distance driving also has this potential.
While moving I: Loaded up all of our furniture, hang cleaned a love seat into the back of a truck, and heaved heavy boxes of medical books into the moving truck. Seriously if you want a killer workout, just lift up medical books…those things are as heavy as I imagine cannonballs to be. Then I drove and immediately carried all that stuff up a flight of stairs. No issue. Felt a little sore but otherwise fine.
Then, a week later, I do some stupid ab exercise that I never do and all of a sudden I throw out my back! What the heck??? I emailed one of my smartest friends, Jake Reed PhD, and this is what he said:
Your injury is most likely related to your hip flexors. When they are kept short a really long time (driving) and then you do high volume AB work, low back problems will arise.
Lesson of Today: Have smart friends. …wish I would have talked to him directly after the drive! A few days of focused stretching and the pain is gone.