December is just about upon us, and there's a Showdown in Marin this weekend. Though I'll be going up to "race", it really won't be a true effort since I've been undertrained this fall. I'm reluctant to go when I'm not prepared to do my best, but I don't care about my ultrasignup.com ranking much, and since I submitted my entry a long idealistic time ago, I'm going to head up and give it a go for a solid 50mi serving of humble pie.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes - Om Nashi Me
I think North Face is a great (albeit strange) opportunity for the best of the best to come together and find out who's the best on a particular day/course/conditions. The tension will be higher than ever before for the top runners, as $10,000 goes a very long way for most ultra runners. However, the prize itself is almost ironic, as the sport encourages a hermit-like lifestyle among many of its top athletes. Many of the best runners of the sport live simple lives that allow them more time to train in frugal living conditions. In races and training, a runner experiences fatigue, hunger, and thirst and learns to go without to achieve their intrinsic goal of running long and hard. Similarly in life, a runner learns what’s really necessary to be done in support of their (naturally intrinsic) pursuit of happiness.
Personally, many of my weeks are spent working hard and scrimping to save enough to train and race as much as I can. 2-3 Day trips to the high country to log high mileage, tents and sleeping bags that forego hotel rooms, entree's chosen by the most (healthy) calories/dollar, long runs completed with an economical amount of water and food, old shoes that are worn through until they fall off my feet, and buying only what I truly need all are parts of the sport for me. The idea of accomplishing a huge goal and being paid ridiculously well for it is like a sundae with sheer tons of icing and sprinkles dumped on top. Not that I am saying anything bad about the various reasons and individual chooses to run really far distances, but part of the reason there aren’t many cash prizes in the sport is that you can’t pay someone to do these things. All you can do is let them dream, plan, train, prepare, and set up some aid stations and marked trails for them to do what they intrinsically want most..
I think the top runners won’t feel very different once the race gets underway. They’re spending the day enjoying their favorite challenge that they’ve been craving through miles and miles of solitary training: a chance to run with the elite and be pushed to perform at their very best. God Bless championship ultras!
Duncan Canyon, WS 2010 Photo: Glen Tachiyama