Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Vermont 100 Finish

This weekend was my second attempt at Vermont 100, and I'm happy to say I finished.

Solo finisher's cup, local apple cider jelly (from Mom), and buckle, atop the finisher's shorts
Vermont is not a technical race by any stretch (I'm not sure if it even properly counts as a trail race, as most of it is on dirt roads), but it's a punishing course. 17,000 feet of ascent (and descent) is nothing to snivel at, and Vermont is humid. And this year, we had the added benefit of the race occurring on the hottest day of the year. The temperatures were in the upper 90s, with a heat index over 100. And there wasn't much reprieve at night, though the temperature ostensibly dropped 20 degrees.

At the pre-race meeting, race director Amy Rusiecki shared some advice: Don’t be a hero. Be a finisher. It's something I've heard before—we all have—but I found it especially inspirational on this day, in the heat. My dreams of finishing under 24 hours went out the window by midday, and it would have been easy to get discouraged. Or, on the flipside, to try to catch up and burn myself out. Both would have led to another DNF, and I didn't want that.

That said, besides slowing down, I didn't face too many difficulties in this race. It definitely went better than my last attempt at VT. I didn't think about dropping out at all, which is unusual for me. The biggest problem was being wet for 27+ hours, which caused chafing in every unspeakable place, even in my usually-silver-bullet Saxx shorts. Besides this, it stopped me from taking many photos, since my phone and hands were always wet.

For my training this time around, I did the 12-hour at Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn again back in May, where I covered 58 miles on the track. After recovering from that, I did 20 miles and 10 miles almost every Saturday and Sunday. I made sure to work in some hill training (difficult here in Philadelphia), which I did in West Fairmount Park (repeats up and down a 1/2-mile hill) and on the treadmill (hiking for 30 minutes at a time with the incline at the max of 15 degrees). And of course strength training (power lifts) 2–3 times a week, as usual.

Big thanks to my mom, my sister, and her boyfriend Erik for coming to see me a couple times along the route. That was unexpected! It's always heartening to see friendly faces... even if I don't always act like I appreciate it in the moment.

Before the race we visited the King Arthur Flour factory and shop... and afterwards we visited the Ben & Jerry's factory. A great weekend!

Me and a snail at Ben & Jerry's

At King Arthur Flour, pre-race


  • Shamma Mountain Goat sandals
  • Reguard compression tabi socks (I put these on around mile 70, as the dust was causing the straps of the sandals to be abrasive.)
  • Orange Mud endurance pack (Overall I like this pack, though the straps are a bit uncomfortable at times, and it feels heavy and wet on my back after a while.)
  • Orange Mud handheld (I switched to this at mile 88, since I needed less water at that point, and it was such a relief to have the pack off my back!)

Heat strategies:

  • My biggest thing in this race was wrapping a handful of ice in a bandana, and keeping this around my neck. VT has pretty frequent aid stations, so I was able to replenish this every 4 miles or so. It took extra time, but it was necessary. (Though one aid station, Stage Road, was out of ice when I got there!)
  • I wore a desert ("sun runner") cap with curtains on the back and side to create some shade. While this was a bit uncomfortable at times with the humidity—it felt pretty stuffy—it definitely kept me cooler under the sun. It had the added benefit of keeping away the deer flies, which were bothering everyone else. 

New things:

  • When I was tired, I took some peppermint essential oils—the Doterra beadlets are great. They woke me up immediately. I was surprised! Better than coffee. New secret weapon.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Javelina Jundred 2018

I tried my hand at the Javelina Jundred 100 Mile back in 2016, but I DNFd after two loops (about 40 miles) because of the heat. I remember walking the 10 miles from Jackass Junction back to the start/finish area, very slowly, with my heart beating like it would for a tempo run. I was exhausted.

Bourbon at an aid station. I was not so brave, but I love the idea!

After trying a few other hot-hot ultras, I decided that running in the heat wasn't for me. I didn't plan on coming back to Javelina. But this year I needed to do a Western States qualifier ("needed"), and I DNFd at Quebec's Ultra-Trail du Harricana because I was going too slow for the cutoffs. Comparing the remaining qualifying races of 2018 with my personal schedule, it turned out that returning to Javelina was my only hope.

Packet pickup on Friday

I was more or less well trained, but I was also extremely stressed out from my new teaching job and fall travel schedule, and I went for it. I arrived in Phoenix on Friday, checked in to the race, and then ate as much as I could and walked as little as possible while hanging out with my friend Jake, and then hoped for the best on Saturday morning. I planned to go out with Wave Two (expecting slower than 24 hours), but at the last second I joined in with the back of the pack of Wave One.

Watching Wave One start. I was going to just watch, but at the last second I joined in.

In the race, I started feeling fatigued earlier than usual, around mile 10. Whenever this happens, I think back to my first 100 mile finish, where I was dead-tired by mile 25 yet still managed to finish. If I could do it then, I could do it again, I thought. I was determined to finish.

I've grown as a runner since 2016, particularly when it comes to heat. This time I came in with a good heat management strategy. I wore arm sleeves, a bandana around my neck, and a microfiber towel over my head, all of which I stuffed with ice at every aid station. I drank as much water as I could, which was aided by the wonderful pack I got this year from Orange Mud (holds 2 liters!). As a result of all this, I never actually felt hot, and I never ran out of water. It was great. The only downside was how heavy all this was—but I couldn't do without it.

My desert running getup

Exceeding my expectations, I was on track to finish in under 24 hours for most of the race. I hit 50 miles in around 11 hours, and I felt as good as I did at mile 10—and things seemed like they'd stay well enough at that pace.

Then around mile 75, something bad happened. I managed to get a sizable blister on the ball of my foot, edging toward my toes. It popped of course, as it bore my whole body weight with every step, but that only made it hurt more. I changed socks, but I think that actually made the pain worse. I'm not sure what caused this, but it may have been the combination of compression socks and sandals that I was wearing. I'm starting to wonder if sandals may not be the best idea for a 100-mile run—at least the whole thing. I'm pretty heavy as far as far as runners go (usually around 190 pounds, plus my gear), and having that weight pounding down, especially when it's rocky, with no padding can add up after a while.

In any case, after mile 80 every step was excruciating. It reminded me of the end of the Pistol Ultra a few years back, where my feet were extremely swollen and I felt like I had a stress fracture in my metatarsals. Each step was the kind of pain that makes you feel like you might pass out. It made me scowl and tear up a bit. I tried to enter into the pain, and it wasn't really all that bad after all. I could deal with it. Again, I was determined to finish.

Alas, with the blister issue and my increasingly tightening muscles, I could run very little of the last loop—maybe only one mile of it in total. As a consequence my time slipped, and I ended up finishing in 25 hours, 38 minutes. Still not so bad!

Such amazing views, which smartphone cameras can't really capture

All in all, I loved this race. The desert was surprisingly beautiful. My friend Sonya said it was because they'd been having a lot of rain recently (and unseasonably), which made everything green again. There were even some flowers. The sunrises and sunset were gorgeous—the deepest marbling of unexpected colors. I heard songs from crickets, birds and coyotes at various points throughout the race, and I loved watching the constellations trek across the sky (in Philadelphia you can see about three stars on a clear night). I also loved Jackie O, who was dancing at the turnaround point all day and all night, giving ice-water sponge hugs and encouragement throughout the race. Yay!

Jackie O at the turnaround. Photo by Aravaipa Running.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hallucination 100 (Hallelujah, I Finished!)

I was starting to think I'd never finish another ultra. I got hurt sometime after last year's Via Marathon—too much, too soon after a hard (crash-and-burn) effort—and my 2016 season fizzled out with a DNF at Javelina Jundred and a slow-but-fun Philadelphia Marathon with Students Run in October and November, respectively.

But my heart lies with 100 mile races now, and not being able to finish Javelina was a real bummer. I had my sights set on Lake Martin 100, but still by mid-December I couldn't run without piercing pain going up my left lower leg. I wrote the race director, and he agreed to let me defer my entry to the 2018 race. (Bless him!) In the meantime, I was signed up for Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 12 Hour in May and I got myself in Vermont 100 in July. Surely I'd be healed by then... 

I wound up stopping at D3 after 8 hours (50k); pain started after two hours of blissful running, and it slowly got worse. I walked a lot so as not to break myself, but I called it quits before too much longer. By the time Vermont 100 came along, I was pretty confidently running 40+ miles a week and my injury was mostly at bay, but I just didn't have enough training under my belt to finish such a hilly course. 

So it'd been over a year since I finished a 100 mile, and the Western States lottery was nearing: To keep the lottery tickets I'd built up in previous years, I'd need to finish a qualifying 100-mile race before November. Time was ticking. I decided to do one in September, and settled on Hallucination 100 because it would be reasonably easy to get to and would hopefully be a doable course. It was a 16.66-mile loop course—my favorite format. It also started at 4pm on Friday, which meant I'd encounter nighttime much earlier in the race than normal—probably for the better.

Three of my siblings, a friend of theirs and I drove to Michigan on Friday morning. My sister Selena and I drove separately and got there first, so we set up camp. The others arrived and got situated before their 3–10pm aid station volunteer shift, and I went into my tent for a quick nap before the start. 

Suddenly, it was time to start. It was sunny and our shadows were harsh, and then I was running into the woods with 150 other people. My plan was to take it slow, to try to stay steady through the whole race, and not finish any loop faster than 4 hours (putting me at a 24-hour finish). I walked up all the hills, and I just generally enjoyed myself. Life is good, I remember thinking. I was wearing sandals from the start, but soon I realized that I couldn't make out all the rocks and roots enough to avoid them (chalk it up to my poor eye acuity and everything down there being the same shade of drab). I switched to shoes, which offered more protection at the front but much less on the bottom—a catc-22 if there ever was one. 

I saw my family at their aid station at mile 8—"So you have to go 92 more miles?" my brother said—and then again at mile 24. It's always such a fun "surprise" to see people you know after a long time in the woods. By then it was dark, and I settled in for another loop and a half of darkness. I put on some music. I was surprised how well everything was going. Maybe this would be an easy 100. At the same time, I wondered if everything would stay okay, or if I would have to DNF again. One hundred miles is a really long way to go, after all.

Still feeling good... well, only 8 miles in

Hey, 16+ miles later, and still smiling. I think that's the secret. Though this time it was just because I accidentally filled my water bottle with coffee (and possibly some Mountain Dew, though I think it was water)

My sister Christina helping at the aid station

Things stayed quite good until mile 83, around 2pm. I saw my family again when I stopped by my drop bag tent (positioned conveniently right along the course), and I perhaps inadvisably bragged that I wasn't feeling tired at all. After that, I got really drowsy and a little crabby, but I kept going. I drank coffee and had some caffeinated gel packets, and I started feeling better. I slowed down a lot. The bottoms of my feet screamed, and I thought about changing back to sandals but then remembered how much more it hurt stubbing my toes. Things were getting worse. 

Somehow I persevered. I don't know how. I never do. All you can do at the time is keep going. Focus on the next aid station, the next step. Focus on where you are, don't think in terms of miles. Things are never as bad as they tend to seem. I walked less in the sixth lap than I did in the fifth, and before I knew it I was done. I finished in 26-and-a-half hours, slower than the 24 or 25 I was hoping for, but still a comfortable finish.

What happens to feet who are not prepared to wear shoes...

Teenage siblings camping... 

I had some lasagna, hung out with my siblings a bit more, and then I took a hot shower (!) and changed. It got dark. Selena brought me some Chipotle, and I took a few bites before falling asleep. I finished the rest in the morning. 

Still smiling at mile 67


And now to eat! I had to put on a sweatshirt because I quickly got very very cold.

These things I got for finishing. The bus is because I placed (5th) in my age group!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Vermont 100 - The DNF Streak Continues

Vermont 100 has been on my mind since I first started running ultras. It's one of the nation's oldest hundreds, and in my (long and slow) quest to do a race in every state it was the first one to come to mind for Vermont. I signed up in 2016 but couldn't run because a friend's wedding fell on the same day, so I aimed for 2017 instead.

For all the mythos of Vermont 100 I'd built up in my imagination, I knew nothing about the course, as it turned out. I expected it to be a bit hilly, I guess, and green. I knew it was more or less entirely on dirt roads. Understatements.

I approached Vermont 100 on a long DNF streak. The last ultras I finished were Zion 100 in April 2016, the 12-hour at Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn in May, and then a small, New Jersey 50k in June. The next month, I DNFed at Big Butts 100k (in Mississippi, due to the heat). Then in September I got a major injury that I think was a stress fracture in my left fibula, and I couldn't run for most of September and October. At the end of October I attempted Javelina Jundred, notwithstanding that I hadn't run since my marathon six weeks prior. I DNFed at mile 40 from what I described as heat exhaustion. It was in the 90s and pure sun, sure, but perhaps part of my problem was not having run sufficiently in training. I took off for a while then (except for running the Philadelphia marathon-and-a-half weekend in November), and didn't run at all in December. Starting in January I eased back into the elliptical, and then in March I started running. My next ultra was the 12-hour at Dawn 2 Dusk 2 Dawn in mid-May, where I had to call it quits after 8 hours (and I stopped running after 2 or so) because my injury was flaring up again.

Finally, starting in June, my running became consistent enough for me to go longer, and by the end of the month I was up to 50-mile weeks and I'd done two 20-mile runs. I had been focusing on building volume, and I only dedicated a very little bit of attention to hill training. I felt a bit undertrained for a 100-mile, but I thought it might be enough for a finish. To my credit, though, I'd been doing weightlifting three times a week and making consistent gains there: my one-rep max for squat is about 208 pounds; for deadlift 370; and for bench press 163.

In the last pre-race email, the race director warned of mud. It's been a wet spring in Vermont, she said. Since I run in sandals, mud is a big worry for me. If there's just a little, it's fine, but if there are long stretches of wet and unavoidable mud, all bets are off. I brought my pair of shoes just in case, but it wasn't until after I'd left all my drop bags at the pre-race meeting that I decided to actually run in them. Consequently, I didn't pack extra socks.

Anyway, I set out wearing shoes and compression socks—when I was packing, I didn't seriously expect to be running in shoes, so I didn't bring any normal socks.

Immediately, it was a lot of fun. The race begins with a long, encouraging downhill. And the fun continued for a while. I was making great time, marching with gusto up the hills and cruising like the Batmobile down.

I first started to get worried around mile 15 when my muscles were tighter and tireder than they ought to have been. But part of ultrarunning is keeping going even when your muscles are tight and tired. For a long time, things didn't get much worse.

Soon the horses were around. One thing I learned just prior to the race was that Vermont 100 is also a horse race, and it was a fun experience running alongside horses. The aid stations were great, with some of them having homemade baked goods along with the usual fare, and the volunteers were helpful, always offering to fill my bottles, etc. The countryside was gorgeous—everything deep green, tall trees, sprawling mountainside farmland.

I heard a lot of interesting conversations. Everything from, "That's not a frog, you idiot, that's a flower," to "I think Billy died last night. I got a call from Margaret and it didn't sound good, she just said there was an emergency. I don't think she wanted to say it in a text, and she couldn't get a call to go through."

The course quickly caught up to me. It was endless hills. Virtually no flat stretches along the entire course. Several climbs that took 15 minutes or more to hike up. And I kept hearing, "It's like this to the very end." As usual I wondered often if I could make it. But I could keep going, so I did.

My muscles got tighter and tireder, and by mile 50 I was in poor shape. I had to walk more, and slower. I sure wish I'd packed some Wintercrest in my mile 47 drop bag. I hoped that if I just kept going, things would loosen up.

Long story short, the next 10 miles were the same, and after mile 60 things got really bad. I could only shuffle along, my quads stabbing with each step, and the hills had me out of breath. I had to stop and take breaks. By mile 62 I was exasperated and my legs were rock solid. I had been thinking about dropping out at that aid station for the past 4 miles, but for some reason I just kept going. Shortly after tha aid station I realized that was a bad idea. I didn't think I could even make it to the next aid station. By this point even going downhill was slow and painful.

The ultrarunning ethos says to keep going until you simply can't take another step. So long as you can take at least one more step, then you should take it. Part of me wondered if I should slog onward through the night, for the next 14 hours, at this pace and in this pain. But some quick math showed me that around midnight I'd no longer be making the cutoffs at the pace I was going (which was, moreover, slowing).

But first I had to make it to somewhere I could drop out. By this time I was a mile and a half from the next aid station and the same distance from the prior. So I sat on a rock to gather the gumption to carry on. That's when a patrol van pulled up and asked if I was okay, and the rest is history.

Dropping out doesn't feel good. The student in me frets over the grand "waste" of money—if I paid for the registration, car rental, hotel and supplies and spent all this time coming up here, shouldn't I finish? Who have I let down? My friends and family, all the people on Facebook... myself? There's always the question: Mightn't it have gotten better? Couldn't I have finished? I'm not sure. It doesn't seem all that productive to think about that right now, because all it does is show that I already forgot how bad things really were out there at that time.

I'm also worried that I have preserved my long DNF streak. That is not encouraging. Will I ever finish another 100 miler?

For now, I'm going to resume training and do another one this fall. I'd like to keep myself in the Western States lottery (though that will be a whole nother horror if I get selected), so I signed up for Hallucination 100 in September. By then I will have time to bring up my mileage sufficiently. One good outcome from VT100 is that I think I can pronounce myself no longer injured, if I could make it 60 miles with no sign of a flare-up.

I did have a few successes at VT100, which are worth mentioning: It was hot and humid, but that didn't bother me. I think Philly acclimated me well, and I had a solid strategy of using ice (eating it, filling bandanas with it) to stay cool. I also didn't have any chafing, even though my Orange Mud quiver usually chafes my underarms (don't ask me why I was wearing it...). I never ran out of water (partly because the aid stations were quite plentiful!). I didn't have any stomach issues (more-than-usual bathroom breaks notwithstanding). And the shoes didn't bother me at all.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The world of ultrarunning

I have a new essay on running and the experience of flow out in Sinkhole, an online culture magazine. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Little moments in ultrarunning

I'm a PhD student in information science, and some of my research deals with the information behavior of ultrarunners—what information we use and how we use it as part of our running. Sometimes it's a matter of solving a problem (for instance, an injury), sometimes it's about improving our performance or enjoyment, sometimes it's about planning out seasons or finding new races, and sometimes it's just about entertainment. Everything we do involves information of one kind of another.

I conducted some research at a 100 mile race last year, and one of the questions I asked the runners in a pre-race survey was: Tell me about a recent time in training or a race when a specific piece of information came in handy. What I got was a smattering of little moments in ultrarunning. As one participant observed, "Little tips are usually HUGE. Like having a small towel at drop points."

In that spirit, I present here a list of times where runners used information on the run. It gives a nice, kaleidoscopic view into what's involved in running an ultra. Give it a read or a skim, and you might even discover a "little tip" for yourself.
  • I read a blog where a guy ran a 100 mile, and he used Ensure. I tried it and it works great!
  • In training, experimenting with nutrition used information about fructose and glucose absorbsion pathways
  • Pre-running the course or part of the course, practice with the gear I will use and make tweaks
  • Dealing with fueling issues based on symptoms that I addressed quickly and moved beyond
  • Music is helpful when I'm tired or bored
  • Take care of blisters immediately—check! 
  • Tailwind can replace GU and save you in the heat—that has worked for the most part
  • The personal stories I have heard actually help me through many moments. It's going to be hard.
  • I recently was pacing my husband during his 100 miler. It had rained all day and the trail conditions were muddy and washed out, meaning really horrible footing. I recalled an article I read about driving from our hips so I just focused on propelling through the mud using my glutes and hip flexors rather than small muscles in my lower leg. It really seemed to help by just switching my focus on where the effort was coming from.
  • Not taking sports drink at aid stations (stomach problems).
  • I bought Pop Tarts instead of honey stinger waffles.  They're basically the same thing, but a fraction of the price and they work great!
  • Changed hydration system to a vest instead of a belt.
  • As I've started doing longer training runs, information about nutrition (especially calories per hour) has come in handy, especially that coming from online interviews with other ultra runners.
  • Eat often and intake something sweet and something salty at each aid station. Even when I'm not hungry, every ultra I run I will eat sweet/salty combo at every aid station, and I that keeps me eating and my electrolyte balance in check.
  • Listening to your body during a training plan and knowing when to dial back to avoid burnout or injury. Training plans are great, but not tailored to your lifestyle, so modification is necessary, and often.
  • Adding layers for the night leg of my last 100, based on the weather forecast.
  • I train mostly by heart rate so it's handy to know what it feels like when I'm in certain HR zones and whether or not to push hills, push downhills, etc. During a race, constant weather evaluation, coupled with body signals and time of day, is always good for determining clothing changes to ward off potential disasters, like hypothermia or heat stroke.
  • My training plan came in handy because it helped me make sure I was getting the miles I needed and staying on track.
  • Usually I find some inspiring ultrarunner's story and use it as motivation!
  • My first hundred miler, I sensed that I was chafed and experiencing hot spots around the 25th mile. I adjusted my pace accordingly until I had gotten to the next aid station at mile 30 to thoroughly assess. I found I had blistered up quite intensely, so I modified my strategy with the goal of completing the race hours after my targeted time of sub-24 hours. Understanding the true severity of my challenge and the risk I faced of not completing the remaining 70 miles on blisters with limited resources in the race was very useful.
  • Distance to next aid station so I knew how much water and nutrition I need to carry with me.
  • I carefully count calories to make sure I do not go over what my stomach has tolerated in the past.
  • Lost on a training run, had to refer to map and align with altimeter on watch and GPS track back location to get my bearings.
  • I almost never use bug spray, but everyone else was putting it on before a run last weekend, and I had some "hippie" (ie non-chemical, plant based, organic) spray in my bag. I'm glad I used it because I got a few bites, but there were clouds of mosquitoes.
  • You can throw up midrace to reset the stomach and continue on in the race.
  • During Three Days of Syllamo I was very aware of looking for course markers since I had read in several race reports that previous runners had said it was easy to get lost.
  • Self assessment, minor cramping, how to address, selectrolytes, water and slow down some.  
  • In my last 50k I know how long each section should take to know if I'm on pace for a PR.
  • Getting drenched & becoming hyperthermic.  I realized I needed better rain gear
  • Knowing the course helped me be able to plan my race.
  • I plan to use an article on heat training from UltraRunning Magazine for a 100 mile event I am doing in July.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What can we learn from running?

Like most (all?) ultrarunners, I find the sport tremendously rewarding.

There's so much that ultrarunning bestows upon its practitioners. There's fitness and weight management. There's the rush of setting a PR. There's the excitement of seeing a new part of the world.

But ultrarunning also offers other rewards that we may not always appreciate. They're simple, subtle, quiet.

I'll always remember one of the first meetings with my supervisor when I began my PhD program. She told me that doing a PhD takes a lot of time, and that I need to protect my time and be careful of how I spend my time and...—she spent an awful long time dancing around the suggestion that I should run less and work more. There's no time to run for two hours a day when research needs researching!

Perhaps needless to say (after all, when do ultrarunners listen to doctors, medical or otherwise, who tell them to stop running?), I didn't stop running. I didn't temper my mileage. And now that I've finished two years of my PhD program, running all the way through, I'm confident enough to say that the proof is in the pudding. And I'd say that I've been successful in my program not despite my running, but because of it.

I recently wrote a paper, now out in the Journal of Information Science, about how ultrarunners build understanding. I was trying to learn about the process of building understanding, and I was looking for how ultrarunners came to understand ultrarunning. But in this work I discovered that ultrarunners, in understanding ultrarunning better, also came to understand themselves better. Indeed, philosophers such as Martin Heidegger have long suggested that all understanding is essentially self-understanding. Long story short, I discerned three factors that go into the building of understanding in ultrarunning.

  1. Time. Understanding requires time, and ultrarunners aren't afraid to take the time it takes.
  2. Struggle. Understanding doesn't come easily, and ultrarunners aren't afraid to struggle and endure.
  3. Perspective. Understanding requires the seeking and reconciliation of multiple perspectives of a thing, and ultrarunners do that, too: In preparing for a race, for example, we'll look for race reports, course descriptions, maps, videos, photos, Strava data and more—all different perspectives of the same thing. 
Looking back, I see how these three factors have contributed to my own understanding of ultrarunning. And this has helped me appreciate a new reward I've reaped from my running experience: practice in understanding. For as so many people have said before, the lessons you learn on the trail can be applied elsewhere. In ultrarunning, taking time, undergoing struggle, and reconciling multiple perspectives have tangible, concrete results—and so we take those skills with us as we walk through life. As an ultrarunner, I don't cower at the blank page. I don't worry about writing my dissertation. I don't get overwhelmed that easily. It's not because I'm some sort of godly specimen—it's because I've practiced. And without ultrarunning, I wouldn't have gotten that practice.

Apparently it's prime time for realizations like this: NYT recently reported on a study that suggests endurance running stimulates a pathway that improves learning and memory, and Time published a manifesto on why exercising is the keystone of a successful career.