Even experienced runners make mistakes and have difficult races. You don’t even have to make a mistake to have a difficult race. Endurance running requires you to be out there for long periods of time, and the longer you’re out there, the more potential problems that can crop up.
This past weekend I ran the Squaw Peak 50 miler. It’s a difficult race with 14,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. In addition to the course being difficult, the weather was hot, 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason I mention the temperature is because, in Utah, the temperatures have been in the high sixties to low seventies a few days leading up to the race.
Few of the runners had the chance to train in the heat.
I’ve run in the heat before. I’ve run when it is higher than 95. It’s unpleasant, but doable, if you have the training. Without the training, your body isn’t used to cooling itself at that temperature. I know this. I know heat training is very important. I knew going into this race that I would have to make some adjustments such as taking more electrolytes, staying up on my hydration, wearing sun block, staying in the shade as much as possible, and making sure I was eating. And the most difficult adjustment for me, slowing down.
I did great with staying in the shade and wearing sun block during the race, but…
Even after running for ten years+ I fell behind on my electrolytes and continued to run at a pace my body was not used to running in the heat. The electrolyte depletion caused a domino effect impacting my hydration and eating. Maintaining balanced electrolytes allows your body to absorb the water you are taking in. If you can’t absorb it you become dehydrated, have a sloshy stomach, become nauseous and dizzy, and you can’t eat because your stomach is full of water.
When I began the race, I knew these things and attempted to get ahead on my electrolytes and food. Despite my efforts I fell behind, which slowed me down and caused me to get dizzy and nauseous when climbing.
There are a few things I want you to take away from my experience and hopefully you won’t end up in the same circumstances.
First, electrolytes are so important. Know how much your body needs at different temperatures and make sure you are getting them in before anything else you put into your body.
Second, electrolytes are important.
Third, no one is beyond mistakes and difficult races regardless of how many times you have run that distance, that same race, or under the same circumstances.
Finally, when you do have a difficult race be gentle on yourself and get back out there.