Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ying &Yang? Nah, Just Dirt and Pavement

"Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in your fruit salad" - Unknown

Back about a year ago, one of my posts reflected on my choice of road or trail (read it here) and I touched on a few differences. Having just come back from putting in a couple of pleasant hours on the trail this morning, I thought I would put down a few specific differences between the dirt and the pavement.

In marathons, we eat gels and shot blocks.
In ultras, we eat chicken soup and PB&J sandwiches.

In marathons, we run on pavement and roads with thousands.
In ultras, we run on trails, mostly alone and cross rivers/streams.

In marathons, you could walk up to any starting line on race morning and pretty much have no worries that the course is USATF certified to be 26.2 miles long
In ultras, the distance advertised is most of the time more-or-less a guide. If the advertised distance is within, say 10% of the actual distance, there is no basis for any complaint and there is no extra charge for running the extra distance.

In marathons, we run according to pace & measure training in miles.
In ultras, there is no set pace and training is measured in hours.

In marathons, you carry as little as possible to try to be as light as possible to save energy.
In a 50k, you strap yourself down with 20oz water bottles, energy gels, bars, dried fruit, toilet paper. Basically, you carry a bunch of crap in case you need SOMETHING!

AT Aid stations - In marathons, you slow down, grab a cup of water, crimp the cup so you can drink on the run, and promptly spill half of it on the front of your shirt or up your nose.
In ultras, you lose tons of time in aid stations as you peruse the buffet of anything you could possibly want, as a volunteer fills your 2 water bottles (one with gatorade and one with water).

For marathons, you run 10k's for training runs.
For ultras, you run marathons for training runs.

Marathon shoes are designed for lightness and lack of frills. Just enough cushioning to get you through the 42,000 steps it'll take you from point A to point B. You may be going up or down, but your foot strike always hits a flat surface.
Ultramarathon shoes can be anything from wafer-thin Vibram Five Fingers (ouch!) to my favorite, the "clown shoes" Hokas. You may be going up or down, but your foot strike is always going to be unstable and "banana peels" are always waiting to trip you up.

In marathons, you worry about what the starting temperature is going to be and what the temperature might be a few hours later at the finish.
In ultras, you wonder about the low temperature for today, the high temperature for today, AND in some cases, TOMORROW!!

In a marathon, you will probably hit a down patch with your energy.
In an ultra, you will hit a down patch, an up patch, a down patch, an up patch, and so on till the finish.

In a marathon, the finish line will usually have cheering spectators, your name blasted over a loudspeaker, a medal placed around your neck, finish line photos, and fruit, bars, chips, gatorade, and all sorts of snack-size goodies.
In an ultra, sometimes you have to tell the race director you just finished (because he's been out there for half the day - I mean 12 hours!! - and not very attentive), you might get a finisher award, but there is always bar-b-q, sandwiches and plenty of beer.

In marathons, you expect volunteers at every twist and turn on the roads to point the way so you don't take a wrong turn and lose valuable minutes.
In ultras, you are directed by little colored, fluttering ribbons or tiny construction flags, that if you miss one in your tired, confused, energy-depleted state of mind, could mean hours!

In a marathon, when you finish, you feel like you have accomplished something that will make you proud for the rest of your life.
In an ultra, when you finish, you feel like you have accomplished something that will make you proud for the rest of your life. 

My personal preference these days is the trail, but it probably reflects my forced slowdown physically from bad wheels and my mental slowdown saying "Don't push it, man!". There is gold in both types of races. They both involve right foot...left foot...and repeat till somebody says STOP. I'd love to hear the comments of you that have done both races, and especially if you any more differences to add to the list.

In the meantime, I'll see you both on the roads and on the trails - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world" 

No comments: