My next Challenge... Ultra Marathon or Ragnar?

When I sat back last year to think through my goals for 2013, my primary two were to complete the Disney Goofy Challenge in January, and to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs.  The next two were to lose another 40 pounds, and to work on my swimming stamina and efficiency.  Well, I ran the Goofy, and I am close to "joining the Insane Asylum" of The Maniacs (March 3rd is the big day).

I have taken my first Master Swim class and swam 20 laps (much to my own amazement), and I have joined two different 'weight loss challenge' programs to help motivate me to get rid of more of my midsection.   Of course, the key is to maintain this energy and not 'fall off the wagon."   No worries, right? Heh heh....

Well, this morning I read a post of FaceBook that got me thinking about the 'next' running-related challenge.   The Ultra Marathon or maybe the Ragnar Relay Series.   A year ago, I couldn't even put my head around these events.   Heck, I hadn't even completed a Full Marathon distance until the AVON Walk last June, nor run a Full Marathon until last October.

But now, having done that, what's next? My race calendar for 2013 is filled with unique race experiences that look like I'll have "fun" doing (and satisfy my desire to collect awesome bling).   But what of the 'challenge'?  So let's look at these two events.

The Ultra Marathon

For those who are not running crazed like me, the simple definition of an "ultra" marathon is a race whose distance is greater than 26.2 miles.  The most common 'step up' distance to an Ultra is the 50K race (or 31.1 miles).  There are Ultras that go up to 100 Miles and even higher.   While I admire friends who have accomplished these amazing distances (Yolanda Holder and Tony Nguyen just to name two), I never really considered those longer distances a good fit for me.

But today, i learned of an Ultra race that might be right up my alley.  If you have taken a look at my race schedule, it is clear that it is pretty full already.   Adding this race to my schedule would place it about three weeks before my son and I run the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland over the Labor Day Weekend.  That would require a good recovery plan between that Ultra and the Dumbo, but it is possible (especially given that I have already done a similar recovery between the Goofy and the Surf City Marathon).

The Medals from the 2011 Howl Ultra.  Pretty cool looking!

The Medals from the 2011 Howl Ultra.  Pretty cool looking!

The "Howl at the Moon 8hr Ultra" is an ultra held here in IL, about 3.5 hours from my home, where each runner sets their own distance goal.  And then they run as long, and as far, as they want/can in the 8 hours allotted for the race.  There are no DNFs (did not finish) in this race.   If you reach your goal, you get an achievement medal.  If you run 35 miles or more, you get a medal for that.   And you may qualify for Age Group medals as well.   So really, this race is not really a 'race' at all, but a personal challenge to test one's own limits. I really like that idea!

The date for this race comes one day after my 53rd birthday.  So how cool would it be to have the first race of my 53rd year be my very first Ultra Marathon -- to see what this 53-year old can do?   And in completing that challenge, check off another Bucket List item doing something that even fewer people have done in their lifetime.

The Ragnar Relay Series


This event is even more intense.  My sister-in-law Gwendy did this last year.  It is a 200 MILE Relay race between two cities!  You gather a team of 12 runners, with a support crew of two vans, a driver, and some volunteers.   And you follow a course that takes you all over the place, where each runner gets three segments of the course to run.  I believe there are 36 segments (12 runners x 3 segments) with varying distances.

For example, Runner 1 runs the first segment, then exchanges with Runner 2 at a certain point along the route, and so on.   It takes two days (yes, running throughout the night) to complete the course.  They have about 6-8 of these relays organized across the country, each with its unique character, scenery, and terrain.  There is one in Chicago every year.  One of these days, if I am invited by a team, I think I want to attempt this race.

So, what to do!

I have to admit that I am strongly leaning towards pulling the trigger on the "Howl" race.  I like the idea of it, and I appreciate the timing of the race being right after my birthday. This is the 23rd running of this race, so I could just as easily wait until 2014 to do it. What do you think?  I have about a month to make the decision because the race only accepts 300 runners and it will likely sell out quickly once registration opens.   Put a comment on the posting, or on my FB page, or use the Contact link to the left of the article.

As for Ragnar, this is probably not going to happen in 2013.  The Chicago relay just doesn't fit into my schedule this year.   So this might be a challenge best left for 2014. Hmmm, maybe I could do this with Gwendy in California next year, if she is up for it and her team has an opening for a 'not so very fast' team member.

Life should be filled with challenges, some big, some small.  Don't be afraid to face your fears and do something amazing!

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