Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What are Your Limits? Julie Moss

I am always curious and talking about, limits.  What are ones limits? Both physically and mentally.   Are you the type of person who can pull an all-nighter to finish a homework assignment and then get up and go to school the next morning? Or just say forget it and go to sleep?  I have done way too many all-nighters in my life, including ones on a mountain.  I am a rock climber, ice climber, mountaineer, caver, snowboarder and now a ultra runner.  I don’t know if one 50 mile race really qualifies me as an ultra runner though, but I think so.  I am not an adrenalin junkie and never was . . .
I don’t even like to drive fast; my friends say I drive like their grandmother.  I think that is why I loved rock climbing so much, and climbed for over 20 years.  It was vertical problem solving, clearly a combination of both physical and mental strength.  Ultra running on the other hand is a bit more meditative and physical in a more mental way if that makes sense.  I was talking with Manley the other day and he said that he would rather run an ultra marathon than to truly PR in a 5K race and I agree.  I think the 5K is almost more physically exhausting than then ultra, or at least seams to beat you up more.  *This could be debated.  I am a bit biased; I tore my meniscus last time I went full throttle in a shorter race, the Denver half marathon.  Half way through the race I some how tore my meniscus and still ran a 1:37.   I was out for the season and it was only May.
A friend of mine, Tom, shared with me a great podcast about limits, Radiolab: a journey to the edge of human limits - April 2010. This first half focuses on athletic ability and Julie Moss’ story really struck me. She was a young college student working on her PE (gym teacher) master’s thesis on the Ironman in ‘82. Being a surfer, she told her mom that she had to go to Hawaii to participate in the Ironman to graduate. I think she really just wanted to surf. Either way, she showed up the day of the race with out any real training and really did not know what she was getting into. She must have been somewhat athletic, studying to be a PE teacher and a surfer, so I am assuming she was at least a strong swimmer. Either way, with no training and not knowing how to pace herself, she just went full throttle during the swim and bicycle section.  This unbelievably
WATCH!!! Julie Moss’ 1982 attempt of the Hawaii Ironman.
Julie Moss competing in the 1982 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon
placed her in 2nd and upon entering the marathon, she was 1st by 20 minutes.  Here is the thing, she did not know how to pace herself, and she was dead – physically wasted.  But realizing she was now in first place by 20 minutes, something switch inside her and she kept on moving.  She was driven to finish and win, but she had to run farther that she ever had in her life, 26.2 miles.  She just did not let up.  Where was this coming from?  How could someone physically even finish a race of this caliber with no training?   Listen to her interview and watch her attempt on YouTube, it is just amazing.
Podcast: On this hour of Radiolab: a journey to the edge of human limits.  How far can you push yourself past feelings of exhaustion? We test physical endurance with a bike race that makes the Tour de France look like child’s play . . .


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