January 14, 2004

Ultra marathon man.: [Dean] Karnazes is an ultrarunner. He belongs to a niche of long-distance runners who consider 26.2 miles -- the length of a marathon -- a mere warm-up. Their races, called ultramarathons, are generally between 30 and 150 miles long, often on steep hiking trails, lasting into the night, with no breaks for sleep. Just to complete them requires almost superhuman endurance. And even among ultrarunners, Karnazes is considered something of a machine. Warning: Long article with many amazing stories. May inspire you to do 30-mile runs as warm-ups.

posted by worldcup2002 to extreme at 12:10 PM - 15 comments

NPR ran a fascinating story on the Badwater Ultra Marathon a while back. The length isn't the only killer at Badwater. It starts in Death Valley (280 ft. below sea level) and goes to Whitney Portals on Mt. Whitney (8360 ft. above sea level). The killer? They run it in mid July. Lots of the crazy ultramarathoners run all the way up Whitney, and then back. Sometimes repeating the trip more than once. Women and older athletes seem to excel from what I've read. Presumably because they're more in tune with their bodies, and are better prepared for the mental hijinks required to trick their bodies into running that far.

posted by togdon at 12:28 PM on January 14, 2004

I'm sitting at my desk right now, eating a bagel with a huge shmear of cream cheese, and talking myself out of going to the gym for my 90 minute workout. Thanks WC for making me feel like a lazy-ass choad. (But great post)

posted by vito90 at 12:52 PM on January 14, 2004

This is the part that almost makes me want to run (and like it):

A runner's biochemistry changes in dramatic ways as he runs longer and longer distances. The body is forced to consume fuel and oxygen much more efficiently. A well-trained endurance runner has much stronger heart muscles and a heart rate about 43 percent lower than a sedentary person's. A runner's cardiac output -- the volume of blood pushed through his circulatory system -- jumps by 75 percent, delivering more oxygen to his muscles. Due to an expansion of cellular energy producers called mitochondria, the amount of oxygen absorbed into his tissues rises by up to 50 percent. Distance runners also shed a larger proportion of body fat, making them more able to pound their feet against the pavement for long periods without damaging their joints. As an ultrarunner continues to train, he develops more capillaries, bringing still more oxygen to his muscles. His level of metabolic enzymes -- proteins that break down carbohydrates and fats -- more than doubles. And his body builds up more tolerance to lactic acid, an exercise byproduct that causes muscle soreness. That means he can run faster and harder without experiencing muscle cramps.
This guy decided, on the night of his 30th birthday, that he should change his life by running 30 miles, and has been pushing the envelope since. At 41, he looks and feels better than most people in their 20s, maybe even most of today's flabby teens. Damn. I think I'm going to take off running at lunch and not come back.

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:07 PM on January 14, 2004

WC, the run (if you come straight down 101) is about 45 miles to my place. I'm going to Zawodny's blogger dinner tonight but I ought to be home by the time you arrive. Just to give you a goal, and a place to collapse. As for myself, there are six words that spring to mind: You have got to be kidding. Insert an expletive before kidding if you like.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:23 PM on January 14, 2004

Awesome. This reminds me of the marathon monks.

posted by jasonspaceman at 01:23 PM on January 14, 2004

bill, thanks for yet another generous, belly-filling offer. In the condition I'm in, even if I start now, I might not make it to your house until the weekend. And I'm not counting the stop in the ER, either.

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:45 PM on January 14, 2004

3,100 times around a track in Queens, anyone?

posted by staggernation at 01:46 PM on January 14, 2004

I'm tired just reading the FPP about the article.

posted by grum@work at 02:16 PM on January 14, 2004

Marathon runners urinate on themselves. There. I said it.

posted by lilnemo at 04:19 PM on January 14, 2004

Apropos of lilnemo's comment, another excerpt:

"You see these guys, at the end of a race like Western States, they're just a wreck. They've peed on themselves," Karnazes says. "I never pushed myself to that point. I'd rather retain some dignity.
This from a guy who runs races that are 5-6 times longer than marathons and go over rougher terrain. Is he for real?

posted by worldcup2002 at 04:39 PM on January 14, 2004

Feel better, lilnemo? I thought cyclists were bad... I was told in my first few races to get away from anyone on the edge of the pack rolling up their shorts.

posted by dusted at 05:24 PM on January 14, 2004

much better. Thanks dusted.

posted by lilnemo at 06:04 PM on January 14, 2004

Is he for real? A marathon man with a bionic bladder? I think not.

posted by lilnemo at 06:10 PM on January 14, 2004

Sheesh. I was just patting myself on the back for my two a day today. No such pride. Pass the tesguino.

posted by forksclovetofu at 08:04 PM on January 14, 2004

Seems like a lot of effort for a buzz. ;)

posted by scully at 09:43 AM on January 15, 2004

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