Last weekend I was fortunate enough to participate in the first Capes 100 race and complete my first 100 mile race. It was a great event filled with friends, 350 other inspiring runners and some of the most breathtaking scenery in the maritimes.
I want to share some of my observations from the weekend with you.
Don’t dwell on the things you can’t do. Focus on what you can do.
I was injured for the two months leading up to this race. I thought constantly about not lining up at the start. But while all those negative thoughts were swirling in my head because I wasn’t able to run I focused on doing everything in my power to get healthy. There were 2-3 rehab sessions with PT and Chiro every week, 2+ hours of stretching and mobility every day. I had no idea if I was going to be able to get myself to a point where I could run for more than an hour let alone for 100 miles but I kept at it.
Your abilities are not defined by your last training block.
This was something I knew in my heart and had to believe. If you have been running pretty consistently over the course of a few years all of this training build up your body. Your body doesn’t just forget how to run. Sure your fitness declines but you are still able to do it. I was going to test to the max. I had barely been running, not even able to run 25k easy run without sharp quad pain 3 weeks out from the race.
Not very many people drop out of 100 mile races due to lack of fitness.
There is so much more that goes into running 100 miles than just your fitness. Now I am not suggesting that you should try and run one of these without training for it. In my case the training I did for it was in the months and years leading up to it, not the 2 months immediately before the race. Yes I noticed that my fitness was lacking on the climbs. They were way harder than they should have been (I’ve run in this area a lot and I know what those climbs should feel like) but that didn’t matter. I just had to adjust my expectations, slow my pace and keep moving forward. Again Focising on the things that are in my control, fueling, hydration, managing the heat and chafing.
100 miles is a long way to go…. Its best not to think about it.
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the enormity of the task of running 100 miles. There where many points in the day where my headspace went there. For instance coming through 100k at the farm and for an instant being happy that I’ve made it 100k… but then quickly realizing that I had another 1.5 marathons left to cover and probably another 12 hrs of running. I couldn’t even fathom being on my feet for that long again. My feet felt like they had been through a meat grinder and I was feeling pretty nauseous. So I told myself its ok, all I need to do is make it to the next aid station. I used this technique through most of the day actually but as the miles wore on and every task was getting exponentially harder it was really important to break the remainder of the race in to smaller sections and block out the big picture.
It is ok to take a nap.
I’ve been there before and knew this was an option for me if I needed it. As a passed other runners who were struggling coming back to the farm I sincerely tried to remind them they had lots of time. Literally enough time to laydown and sleep for an hour. They power of a quick nap is quite remarkable. At the farm my moral was low, my stomach was upset and my feet were toast. So I put my feet up and closed my eyes for 15-20 mins. Amanda came back told me it was time to get up and go and I did. I felt so much better. I can’t stress this enough. Do not give up in a 100 miler just because you’re are really not feeling well and there is no way you can think you could possible finish in the state you are in. Take the time to sit down or lay down and let your body reset!!
The magic of the sunrise.
If you have ever run through the night then you know what I am talking about here. If you haven’t then store this in your memory bank for a time when you do. Running through the night is hard. My digestive system gets sluggish, I get visits from the sleep monster, moral gets low and the miles seem to take way longer than during the day. You feel like crap. Funny thing though when the sun comes up it’s like you have just woken up from a bad dream. Energy and moral are renewed. In the darkest of hours remember the light is coming and things will get better.
The enemy mind will pull out every trick to try and make you quit…Just keep moving.
This is the reason I talk so much about training your mind. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my enemy mind tried to convince me to drop. There were even a few low points where I had kinda given in bit to it as well. “You have all ready gone way farther than you thought possible today… you can just come back next year to get the buckle”, “You haven’t trained for this, you don’t deserve to be out here, you should quit now”, “Your quad could give out at any minute, better not risk it, play it safe and drop at this aide station”, “You don’t really want to be out here another 80k do you? You are injured, you should just give up” I could probably write over 20 pages of excuses the enemy mind came up with. BUT here is the trick: I just took a deep breath acknowledged the thoughts. I told myself I was ok. I checked in with reality which was that I was still moving and that I actually had no real reasons to drop.
Assess your issues and adapt your plans.
I was on a pretty regimented plan of taking salt pills every hour. This was working great during the day. Leaving the farm though 19hrs into my run I had an unquenchable thirst. I wasn’t dehydrated though the volume of urine leaving my body was actually very high. Not knowing exactly what was going on, but knowing that what I was doing obviously wasn’t working any more I had to conduct an experiment. Let’s see what happens if I stop taking salt pills. 2 hours later there was a minor improvement… not enough that I was convinced that I fixed the problem so I took another pill. Then the intense thirst got much worse…. That was it that was for sure my problem. After that point I didn’t have any more salt pills until well into the next day. If I had continued down the path of mindlessly taking salt pills that very well could have been the end of my race and maybe a trip to the hospital.
The importance of camaraderie and pacers.
I was lucky enough to spend almost the entire race with my friend and athlete that I coach Chalmers. This was a huge mental boost for me and made the miles pass by. We also had the pleasure of sharing many miles with other friends through out the day all of which significantly boosted morale. We would give them names like “The goat”, or “downhill Derek” and share some laughs. This helped keep the mood light and focus less on the pain that we were feeling. I also can’t stress how much help a pacer can be to your race. Hats off to those who go the distance alone but having a fresh positive influence when your at your lowest goes a long way. They keep you from doing stupid things like taking a nap in the extremely comfortable looking moss and keeps you moving faster than you would likely do on your own if you were left to suffer in your own pity party.
Attitude of Gratitude.
Being thankful for just being out there and being able to experience the day goes a long way. When you are suffering, remember that you are fortunate enough to be someone who has cared enough to get yourself to the start line to try. Also remembering and thanking all of the volunteers and race directors who put on this great event. Not only does this help snap you out of any negative headspace you may be in when you see them… these people are out there for you. So yes you should thank them at every chance you get. Yes we all know that not everything was exactly perfect… but I would say it was about as close to perfect as one could ask for. So what if they were out of watermelon or veggie broth, they are they doing there best and honestly if it is something you really needed then you should have packed it yourself. From the bottom of my heart thank you to all that volunteered and organized such an amazing event.