Ultrarunning friends, I'm calling you out! I have questions and concerns, perhaps you can help. I recently completed my first 50K and naturally, I'm thinking of going farther. The 50K was a good, albeit humbling experience. Conditions were poor and I struggled. Not only did I struggle with the sloppy trail and plenty of fatigue and pain, but I battled waning motivation and ongoing questions about the value of my efforts. Ultimately I finished in about 6 hours. I never expected it to be easy and it's not like I've gotten comfortable even with the marathon distance yet, but for various reasons I am still attracted to going farther. I will at least attempt a second 50K in July. After that, we'll see...Here's what I can come up with for answers to these questions:
My questions for you are: (1) What motivates you to run 50 miles and beyond? (2) How do you know when your ultrarunning pursuits are bordering on becoming dangerous and no longer fit into the realm of a healthy, sane lifestyle? (3) What have you learned from ultrarunning that is invaluable and could not have been garnered otherwise? (4) What the heck are you trying to prove, if anything, and does your ego need the validation?
#1) Trail Mix was my first ultra as well, and coincidentally I'm looking at doing anther in July too(Afton). What lead me down this path was many of the the friends I made running were ultra runners. I saw the great adventures they were having and wanted to be able to take part in them as well. There is a confidence you gain from being able to do what you once thought was impossible. I want to keep conquering the impossible and once I've done the impossible I'd like to go back and do it again, only better.
#2) It becomes a problem when it consumes your life. I've made adjustments to my life to better accommodate my training. I go to bed early, I don't always eat what I'd like to, but it's the small things I've given up. My closest friend ran the arrowhead 135 this year. He takes his training seriously, but still always has time for his family and what's important in life. When you start sacrificing the important things you've gone to far.
#3) I've learned patience. It can't all come at once. Every run you improve some aspect of your fitness, your strength, endurance, speed or general conditioning. Each time you only gain a little, but over time your abilities grow. Also there is so much more to learn. There's a feeling you get the last few miles of a long race, when you feel like you've given all you have, and you still have further to go. There's more lessons there, I'm just not smart enough to figure them out yet.
#4) I'm not sure it's an ego boost. I was humbled by trail mix. I'd like to eventually prove I'm qualified enough to enter some of the toughest races. Right now I'm just a cream puff, but I'll continue to grow.