Training for my first 100-mile ultramarathon

By Dave Buckles

I remember my first 26.2.  I had just bought the latest and greatest and most expensive Nikes on the block, the first Nike 360s ever made, and at just a shade under 150 bucks, they’ve got to help me run this distance.  I was in the Marines, and had been able (thus far) to handle everything that had been thrown in front of me.  I killed a 10 mile race just a few weeks before the start of the marathon, a confidence booster if you will.  My longest training run had been a 13 mile run to Iwo Jima war memorial in Washington, D.C., and I slayed that dragon.  I distinctly remember saying to myself, “how hard could another 13 miles be”?  I inevitably toed the starting line for the 25th anniversary of the Marine Corps Marathon.  I blazed through the first 10 miles in just under 70 minutes… “man, i’m gonna kill this thing”!  I don’t need your stupid aid stations, water’s for sissies. I just kept picking people off left and right.  Mile 15 came and went, but introduced some heavy legs.  Mile 16 was worse. Someone offered me a piece of hard candy and it felt like I was mixing cement in my mouth.  My legs felt like I had Forrest Gump leg braces on, I couldn’t bend my knees without my calves and hamstrings knotting up.  Holy cow, I think I’m dying!  I saw out of my periphery a huge entourage and couldn’t figure out what was happening.  Oh crap, i just got passed by Oprah Winfrey.  I made it to mile 20 out of sheer desire not to humiliate myself in front of all my fellow Marines at work the next day.  Once I got to the finish line in just over 4 hours, I decided that I would never run another marathon.

Now, here I am, 13 years later I find myself training for a race 4 times that distance.  To my credit, I have learned much.   Training for an ultra will undeniably force you to get in touch with who you are, what you’re capable of, and it tests your limits both physically and mentally.  Many of my friends ask me why I am doing this, and I say without fail “Because I can”.  I define hell as “one day meeting the person that I COULD have been”.  Instead of wondering 30 years from now if I could have run 100 miles, I’m going to get that question out of the way and find out right now.  While I still have the ability to explore the potential of the human body and spirit, I am going to take full advantage of it.

I’m doing the Grand Mesa 100 on July 28th-29th.  After the fateful day, whether I finish, don’t finish, win or take last, I shall have the follow-up race report.  The race will be in the Grand Mesa National Park in beautiful Grand Junction, Colorado.  Other than the fact that it’s a grueling 100 mile endurance run, at mile 50 the course descends 4,000ft from 10,000 to 6,000 in 8 miles.  Then, the runners must endure their way back up to 10,000ft. to the plateau in less than 4.5 miles…(that’s Mt. Olympus you Utahns…).  Stay tuned.

As long as I can answer ‘yes’ to the following questions, I know that my training is right where I need it to be.

-Am I injury free?

-Do I still look forward to my weekly mileage, and long runs on the weekend?

-When I have a training run coming up, do I say: “I GET to run”, instead of “I HAVE to run”?

As long as I am having fun out there, I know I am training well.


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