I’m an occasional ultrathon runner, 61 years old. I’m slow but sure. I’m too big for a real runner. Running gives me time to think about problems at work and with clients. It is exhausting, painful, blissful and exhilarating. When I’m on my 25th mile at 2:00 a.m. running in the moonlight in the mountains of Idaho dressed in warm weather running gear at the beginning of autumn, knowing that if I break a leg or otherwise stop I’ll suffer from hypothermia, I feel glad to be alive in a way that is impossible to describe.
When I was 39 years old I picked up bicycling. I did it at the invitation of my brother Dave, who ran an annual bike tour of the Uintahs. I bought a used road bike and a used mountain bike (a great handbuilt Answer) and put thousands of miles on each one. In my first two months of riding I dropped about twenty pounds.
Having been invited to climb Mt. Rainier at the age of 45, I started cross-training with running. Despite biking over a hundred miles a week, I found I could not run more than two miles without fatigue. I was amazed that biking couldn't give me running mojo.
After my climb I strapped on my tennis shoes and started running more and biking less. I learned that running, like biking, requires reliable equipment. I made silly shoe purchases. I found shoes for $30, was proud of myself, went running in the hills and promptly developed blisters in very hot shoes. The basketball shoes I ran with spit metal out. I knew lots about bikes and nothing about shoes. Now, like most seasoned trail runners, I feel like Imelda Marcos as I have a closet of running shoes, some which are rejects and I wear as casual or workout shoes. I have two go-to road shoe pairs I use all the time and three go-to trail shoes I use all the time, depending upon the condition.
I also learned that running required time on my feet. The tough runs which I started doing in my late 40s which left me muscle-sore and fatigued I can now do with ease — sometimes doubling or tripling the run. But it took me months and years to get to the point where one’s body has the miles to absorb more miles without complaining.
From age 45 to age 47 I was satisfied with six miles a day, three days a week, but I noticed I could not control my weight as I had as a bike rider.
Preparing for my first marathon at age 47, my resting heart rate fell too low (between 20 and 30 bpm) and a pacemaker was installed to keep me conscious – a discouraging problem. As I have become older, my resting heart rate has increased and I've had the thing turned off for about a year.
My first marathon was Death Valley, in December 2004. I ran 4:00, and was terribly disappointed. But, I was able to shave my time to around 3:40 for two much later marathons and qualified for the 2010 Boston Marathon.
A few weeks after my very first marathon, I had my first ultra experience as I ran a 48-mile double-crossing of the Grand Canyon with my brother, Dave. He writes about it here, but don't believe anything he says about me. I have done it a second time with him, but my time didn't improve all that much as I fought nausea most of the way.
I then ran an ultrathon of 50K in Utah, coming in 35th place. I ran a 50 mile ultrathon at the same location in Utah, coming in 21st. My brother's write up is here. I have run several ultras and marathons since, some times placing first in my age group.
In 2010, as mentioned, I ran the 2010 Boston Marathon. Two weeks before, I ran the Great Agoura Hills Half Marathon and came in first in my age class by about four minutes. This was a rather large half marathon and I was quite proud of myself. When I ran Boston two weeks later, I placed about 670th in my age.
I particularly enjoy pacing my brother in the difficult Bear 100, which begins in Logan, Utah. I've done that three times for him.
I don't have many injuries. I have Peyton Manning's disease, which is arthritis in my neck which causes partial paralysis in my right hand and arm. It isn't noticeable until I have to do fine dexterous work or lift something over my head. Some docs say it is running related; some say it isn't. I keep running.
The ultrathon experience is really quite different than a marathon. I am not a physiologist, but it seems to me that the marathon uses different and fewer parts of the muscle and bone structure than a trail ultrathon and can be more painful than an ultrathon, although one cannot run an ultrathon with the preparation typically necessary for a marathon.
I have attempted one 100 race and bailed at 65 miles. I have signed up for several and DNS'd, the most humiliating stat in a race. I'm certainly looking forward to completing one some day.
I live in a great valley north of Los Angeles. Within a few short minutes by run, and not by drive, I have access to trails in either the Santa Susana range or the adjacent San Gabriel range at the western edge of it. I almost never drive to my favorite trail runs. My four favorite runs are: "The Beast," which is a 10 mile round trip to a local peak; Towsley Canyon, a five mile loop I sometimes triple in the Santa Susana Mountains; East Canyon, and up to fourteen mile trip adjacent to Towsley Canyon; and the Mentryville trail to the Odeen Platform. The local high school cross-country clubs use these runs all the time.
Additionally, our little city of Santa Clarita has some great river runs that course through the town for many miles. The trailhead to the system is only 2.5 miles from my house. Nice and flat, perfect for speed workouts. Lots of people running them.
This is an obsolete account; needs updating. (12/7/15.) Here is my ultra experience -- roughly accurate: https://ultrasignup.com/results_participant.aspx?fname=Robert&lname=Crockett