by TJ Hooks
What does it take as a teenager to not only race UltraMarathons, but consistently place high?
My name is T.J. Hooks, I’m sixteen years old, and I run Ultras.
If that were true than I’d be completely qualified to write this. Unfortunately the truth is closer to…
My name is T.J Hooks, I’m sixteen years old, and I’ve run three 50Ks. Actually, with one being Karl’s baby, SpeedGoat, this would be more accurate…
My name is T.J. Hooks, I was fifteen years old, and I ran fifteen miles, speed hiked five, and then crawled up five just to find out that I’d only gone twenty-five miles, and there’s still a brutally steep four mile climb that didn’t exist according to the last aid station volunteer who may, or may have not been, laughing at my surprise and despair as I dragged myself up the mountain for what must have been the sixth time by my last count, or was it seven…?
My point is that I’ll need some help with this; and also that when the race is SpeedGoat, thirty two miles is pretty, really, painfully far.
Thankfully, I know some incredible people who may be able to explain what it is that makes us so different from the average teenage XC runner…
This guy ran his first 100K in 10:05 (Waldo), earning him 5th place overall, then a month later he ran the Pine to Palm 100M in 19:55:57 with a 3rd place finish, without even complaining about the Stein Butte climb. Oh, and he’s 17 years old.
1. When running long, determination is key. There are lots of times when there is suffering and continuing on is questioned, but the strength to push through this is something that is in all long distance runners.
2. Something else that helps me run long is the appreciation of the wilderness. When I am suffering (like at Pine to Palm) I find myself accepting the beauty and difficulty of the terrain instead of working against it. Being able enjoy the course and its views but still being able to push through pain is what helps me the most when it comes to running long.
3. For the last attribute, I am not sure what to say. I guess just keeping a positive outlook. A positive outlook is important because once negative thoughts start to come, the idea of quitting becomes more and more appealing to a tired mind. In short, the three main attributes are determination , loving the wilderness, and a positive outlook.
I met Austin at SpeedGoat earlier this year. He raced in both Pike’s Peak Ascent (3:00:41) and SpeedGoat (6:45:16). I’m afraid that I don’t know that much about him, except for the obvious fact that he loves to run fast in very steep races.
Austin’s 17 years old.
Here’s his thoughts.
1. Love for the mountains.
2. Resilience; not giving up when things get hard.
3. The desire to do a harder race or farther distance.
A quote I thought of is: “You are the best at whatever you do if you love doing it.”
Now it’s my turn.
1. Acceptance of discomfort.
Runners know of more types of pain and discomfort than Eskimos have words for snow,
or about five different kinds. (Sorry, but the thousand or so names for snow thing is just a myth. (As if you didn’t know that.)
For instance, trying to decide whether to go for a run in Portland…in winter…on a very cold and overcast day…in the middle of a very cold and overcast week, or there’s a coffee shop a block away…
Go for the run. That’s acceptance of discomfort.
2. Keep the fun in running, or use it as an escape. If you consistently dread running everyday, then there may be a problem with overtraining or perhaps another issue. Trail running is a beautiful sport in solitude and company, every run can be an adventure, a challenge, or a period to relax and allow your mind to drift. 3. Rest, relax, take breaks. Every run isn’t supposed to be the hardest workout ever. Six hours or less of sleep, plus twelve hours of work, study and Quidditch practice*
(or spending time with the family, for those who have a life.) per day is a lot of stress all by itself.
A few more small thoughts…
4. Foster a sick addiction to pain.
Ok, let me rephrase that. Learn to enjoy the pain from a climb, or the soreness that comes on the last few miles of a long run. This makes more and more sense as running slowly destroys your brain cells.
5. Learn from someone much more experienced than you.
In my case this is now Karl, who has plenty of said experience running and winning ultras. A mentor or coach is very helpful if you’re new to the sport, even if they for some reason like to run around with inflated foam mattresses stuck to their feet.
(Hopefully he’s too busy to read this.)
6. And it takes GUs, lots of GUs.
These points are a basic example of how we differ, and what the heck keeps us going for hours. Looking over it, I noticed how similar in mindset we are to the old runners like Killian Jornet and Ryan Gelfey, and the really old guys. (Anyone over thirty.)
*The author, and those interviewed do not participate in Quidditch, I think.
This article is not in any way affiliated with GUEnergyLabs, the international Quidditch association, and MattressSandalsInc.