Are 100 milers the new prozac?
This is not my race report. That will follow. This is purely a reflection on my mental health four days after running 100 miles.
Initially, I had been very afraid of running 100 miles. Although I consider myself an ultra runner, this is one distance I was not sure I ever wanted to or should approach.
Bipolar episodes can be triggered by anything less than six hours sleep. Running 100 miles for a mid pack runner like myself, will generally involve running all day and all night and at least some of the next day. That’s an entire night of no sleep, no rest. I was scared. However, as I progressed in my running, I thought to hell with it, let’s give it a go.
The smart move would have been to run close to home and to have family and friends ready to support me in case it all went pear shaped. But I guess I had a bone to pick with bipolar. So many past experiences that should have been exciting and exhilirating had been dulled by bipolar. I wanted to experience everything. I wanted to find my Zion.
As I entered the Zion National Park the day before race day, I felt overflowed and electrically charged with emotion. A deep intensity of feeling that I now know never to take for granted. It was bliss and I soaked it in. I was already winning, not the race, but life.
The first day of racing went so fast and so smooth I felt a little concerned I was suffering hypermania. Should I be feeling this good? I was remembering to eat and my speech was at a controlled speed so I figured I was good. As night fell, I waited for things to get bad. I had great company and whilst I felt absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude for my crew and pacers, these emotions were all ‘normal’ so far as ultra running goes.
As I departed my pacer and headed down one of the sharpest descents of the race alone (around 2am), I once again anticipated the worst. Yes there were definitely a few f bombs thrown around during this section. The last few hours of daylight also brought some brilliant hallucinations but once again, all ‘normal’ in terms of ultra running.
The lowest time came the following day, with around 10 miles left to finish the race. In truth, this was really my only downer. Physically I was a wreck. My hip had ceased up and I was growing frustrated by my slow pace. As the sun increased its heat I realised that I had forgotten my hat in changing from my night time gear back to my day time gear. Mother Nature was beating down on me.
I started to complain to Erin, my pacer.
This is shit.
This is fucked.
I am sooooo over this.
Yep this is shit.
This is fucked.
It’s sooooo hot.
Sooooo over it.
It sounded funny when she said it. Eventually I realised how ridiculous I was sounding, just in time for the final aid station to come in to view. From this point, I knew I only had six miles to cover to the finish line. I was moving the pace of a snail but the end was near and my spirits soared again. That was really as low as it got and it was over as quickly as ripping off a bandaid (maybe not for poor Erin who had to put up with my complaining but in perspective – the low were a teeny tiny fraction of the highs).
As I crossed the finish line, I felt a surge of emotions: relief, pride, strength, happiness and excitement.
In the days that have followed I have nourised my body and soul with good organic food, sleep and I have kept moving – light walks and even a hike in the Colorado Mountains.
I haven’t experienced the huge downer I normally do post any race.
This has really gotten me thinking, what makes the 100 miler so different to any other race or distance? Was it just this particular race? Was it all the love an support I got from my crew and pacers out on course (thank you Erin, Dan, Julie and Adam), the strength and love my partner Liam was sending me in spirit (thank you Dearest) and the huge amount of support and love from all my family and friends that made this race so good?
I have always had a pretty good support network and while I never ever take that for granted, all the love in the world hasn’t stopped me from crashing and burning before.
So is there something more to this? Is there something special about running long?
The truth is, yes this race was hard, but it wasn’t that hard. All the horrible moments I anticipated just didn’t eventuate. I honestly had a really fun time running 100 miles and since the race, I haven’t felt an ounce of the post race blues. I know there may still be a downer around the bend but the fact that four days have passed since my last race and I haven’t wanted to die yet is a new thing for me.
Could it simply be that running long is good for the soul? I mean really good? Are 100 milers the new prozac?