Friday, November 17, 2017

Super Looper

Because ultras are long (by definition) and the logistics of manning and maintaining wide-spread aid stations and caring for runners over vast areas are nightmarish for race directors, I end up running a lot of loops of courses. This is even more prevalent in timed races - where you aim for as many laps of a set course as possible in the time limit - but it happens even in training, where it's more practical to run around a tract of trails multiple times to make the time/distance you desire than to travel to somewhere large enough to do a single lap, or to arrange transportation for a point-to-point.

Sometimes the trails themselves send you looping back on yourself.

Some people find the prospect of many loops intolerable, and either avoid those races or resort to distractions like music to keep them from turning into a dizzy zombie. After several years now of racing looped courses from 20 kilometers all the way down to 232 metres and many distances in between, I've never actually resorted to any tactics to take my mind off the repetitive nature.

So, how do I keep myself from turning into a drooling moron even when running the same stretch up to 281 times in a row?

Wait, that's actually me every day.

I think it comes down to philosophy, really. For me, it's not truly repetitive because no two laps are actually the same.

"You cannot step twice into the same river for fresh waters are ever flowing upon you."   - Heraclitis

Every moment of each event has its own unique qualities. In some races the light will be the only change from lap to lap; sometimes it will be the weather that lends each loop its particular character, growing more or less overcast, colder or hotter. The sun may rise or darkness may fall. Other times still it will be the trail itself, evolving through the passage of many feet from one surface to another - sometimes it will improve, other times it will worsen dramatically lap by lap. Your foot will seldom fall in the same place twice as your stride changes through fatigue and you try new lines through technical sections.

I have run through this root well countless times, but I have yet to repeat a particular pattern of footfalls.

Even when the course is stubbornly static, you are not necessarily the same person from pass to pass along its length. The strange nature of ultrarunning dictates that sometimes a part of your body will begin to hurt, then the pain will pass. Other soreness will simply grow over time as the pounding takes its toll. You can feel joy, despair, hunger, fullness, camaraderie and loneliness all in the same place with the simple shift of time. Like watching a single spot in a river, your experience of a multi-loop race is both unchanging and yet never the same from moment to moment.

So, rather than let your mind become bogged down with negativity at having to run endless loops of an unchanging venue, why not revel in the chance to experience the course in many different ways throughout the day?

Of course, I do have an extra sweet incentive to enjoy races with multiple laps..

Nothing quite like being able to get smooches during a race.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Go on, have at me!