It’s a crazy, wonderful, intense, soul stirring moment to sign up for a 240 mile race. In a matter of seconds reality hits you like the ACME anvil hit the coyote in the Road Runner cartoon. Right on the head, squishing you into the ground. Then you painfully crawl out from under it and you actually have to figure out how to do it and un-accordion yourself.
When you enter “how to run a 200 mile race” into Google, the resident expert on everything, You receive about 66,600,000 results. In my case, I had roughly triple that amount of questions rolling around in my anvil crushed head. I started searching and reading. You may have done the same process and ended up at this article from a 58 year young guy who signed up, trained, ran and finished the Moab 240 mile race. Welcome. Nice anvil.
Day 2. Heading towards Bridger Jack aid station somewhere between 87 and 102 miles along the journey.
I’m not an expert. Period. Triple period. I’m just a finisher. I went from one line to another and had a life changing experience over 98 hours 15 minutes and 00 seconds. I believe it was the 10 months prior to those 4 days in October of 2021 that gave me that gift. Did I find some miracle training routine in the google matrix? Did someone become my Yoda and me the boyish, feather haired Luke Skywalker that showed me how to use The Force? Was it a diet? A magical number of miles? A book, a video, a visitation from the running gods?
Nope. I wish it was that dramatic, it would make writing this easy and probably much more entertaining. I happen to read one thing in the google maze that resonated with me and made sense, in the senseless world of running 200 miles. Someone who had gone that distance had decided to do a routine of things everyday that they thought would be helpful in finishing their race. I don’t recall the exact list because I wasn’t interested in following it. I’m not a list follower. What interested me was the idea of what they were doing. I love ideas.
Day 1. Heading down into Jacobs Ladder to the desert floor below somewhere between 17 and 32 miles along the journey.
Everyday they would do a certain number of pushups, pull-ups, body squats and other assorted things. What I remembered clearly was burpees. The idea was about creating consistency, discipline and strength around their running. Nothing to earth shattering in the way of news. Just an opinion, but after running 240 miles I tend to believe consistency, discipline and strength (physical, mental spiritual ) are the concrete foundation of seeing that finish line. Not diminishing running a lot of miles. I did that also. I’m also a spartan racer. I have started and finished 3 ultra beasts. 30 miles. 60 obstacles. Burpees happen to be the penalty for not completing an obstacle. So I had done a lot of burpees in my training for those races. So the burpees jumped out at me. I know they suck. I know they make you stronger. I know they demand discipline. I know they make you mentally tougher. I just didn’t know I would use them to run a 240 mile race in the desert on the day I signed up.
Over 10 months, I did 26,356 burpees. That’s a lot of suck.
This is exactly what I did. I made this up. and no, I don’t hate myself.
Month 1, December 1st, 2020. I starting doing as many burpees as the day of the month. December 1st, I did one burpee. Every journey begins with a step or in this case a burpee. December 2nd, two burpees. You get the picture. 496 burpees for the December.
January 1, the process started again, this time 2x the day of the month. January 1st, two burpees. January 2nd, four burpees. 992 burpees for January.
3x every day in March.
4x April. I think you see the madness. I did my last burpee on September 30th. 300 burpees. Plus one extra one, (the Rob Goodson burpee) for 26,356.
Day 4. Heading to the finish line somewhere between 218 and 240 miles. Soaking wet and in the final stages of awe.
Okay I did a lot of burpees. You might be thinking this right now, because I certainly was the entire time. Why did you do that? How did it help you run 240 miles? Fair, and extremely sane questions. Congratulations, that anvil that hit you has not caused any long term damage.
Why am I doing these stupid burpees?
That question came up quite a bit in the cerebellum chat room. Usually just before the first one each day. Like on January 30th, after running 21.5 miles on snow covered trails I had 60 burpees to do. Why am I doing this? (One burpee) I wasn’t just doing burpees I was training myself to deal with the why am I doing this question. (15 burpees) Every burpees was a response. (30 burpees) I was getting master class lessons in commitment to an idea (60 burpees) The stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lower into a squat position and place your hands on the floor, kick your legs back into a plank position, jump your legs forward to return to a squat position, jump to the standing position where hard earned answers to why am I doing burpees? The destination is the journey or in this case the burpee was the answer,
I did them in 100 degree heat. I did them in -20 cold in the snow. I did them in workouts. I did them after workouts. I did them after long runs and after I did 10,000 feet of elevation in a training session. There were no excuses and no asterisks. The burpees were as unforgiving as the 240 mile loop was going to be or maybe worse.
Side note: I also learned very quickly that burpees by the nature of the movement and the functional mobility where highly effective after long runs in stretching and relieving tightness throughout the body. They sucked but I actually felt better after doing them. I cant believe I just wrote that, but it’s true.
Night 2. Shay mountain at 120 miles. After a 4,228 ft climb, fighting sleep deprivation, hypothermia and hunger I had answers.
We ask a lot of why questions as athletes and as humans. Especially when shit gets hard. Why am I doing this? Why am I here? Why am I putting myself through this? In my time in the desert I never once asked why? I had 26,356 answers. I had trained that question out of myself. I honestly asked it so many times while I was doing those bucking furpees. And I got through it every time. I worked through it one burpee at a time. I would not wish what I did on anyone and I’m not sure I could ever do it again. My mindset was so hard that I honestly had the most joyous experience out there. I can honestly say 75 percent of that race was just joy. But I gave 10 months of suffering for those 4 days of life changing bliss. Everything has a price.
Day 4. At the 201 mile aid station. Eating a combo of lentil soup and hamburgers. Hiding behind a car to keep the wind from cooling my soup or me. In a state of bliss and looking underly ridiculous whilst doing it.
Which gets me back to the anvil. This is called the full circle ending. This isn’t just about running, but when is running ever just about running? We can get crushed by the weight of a lot of things on our journey here. Signing up for a extreme race is voluntary but there are things we don’t sign up for. Saying goodbye to our parents. Someone we love dealing with mental health issues or addiction. Losing a job. Losing a relationship. Losing our way. These all have start lines and sometimes the finish line is never ever in sight. And we ask questions. Why is this happening to me? How am I going to get through this? What did I do to deserve this? We don’t always have answers.
I’m not saying burpees are the answer but I’m also not saying they aren’t.
Maybe the answers or how to deal with not having them are somewhere in the hardship itself. Sometimes the things we do to get ready and through a tough race, are the very things that can help us get through the tough things in life without an anvil crushed head. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One minute or one burpee at a time.
Just an opinion, but after 58 years on this journey, I tend to believe consistency, discipline and strength (physical, mental spiritual) are the concrete foundation of a joyous existence, not just a race. There are no hacks. It demands hard work. Cue the anvil.
If you ended up here because you are training for a 200 miler, I wish you happy training and an amazing adventure. I hope I offered you something to think about that is different from the 66,600,000 other answers available to you. If you ended up here and you are struggling with life, I hope you find peace and joy. I also hope I offered you something to think about.
Day 4. The end
Nope, no 200 mile this year, or ever, probably. But in the midst of some topsy-turvy years and an injury that I now believe was exacerbated by grief. Working hard on rehabbing it and getting stronger, with a few good trail races (no more than 50k, but I don’t race much at all so multiple races in on year is a little stressful) planned, and just this week feeling I’ve moved up a level in my fitness and endurance. I read this and say, “Hm, what if I tried one burpee today, then two tomorrow…”
Love your blog. Keep running!
—57 in ‘23 and still crushing the trails!
Thank you 🙏 for reading and your kind words. I hope you stay injury free and keep expanding your what is possible-Ness
Much respect 🙏