How long have you been running? well since I learned how. No, for real. I think it all really started full force for me back in 2006 or 2007. That’s when I first started running on a consistent basis and it hasn’t stopped since then. It has only grown into the monstrosity it is now (aka 20 ish hours a week). I didn’t run my first race until 2008 and it was a half marathon.
Over the years my training has evolved not only because of the increase in distance but also the increase in knowledge, my goals, and my life circumstances. Your training has to change with you or you will not be running for long. You have to change things up to make your body adapt to new stimulus and thereby get stronger, but that’s not the evolution I’m talking about, that one is more like training blocks.
My love for running has never changed and has never decreased. My motivation has at times been questionable but never to the point where I couldn’t get my butt out the door. I’m blessed (or cursed) in that way. Research is an ongoing influence on my training and on my advice to other runners. I am always trying to learn new training strategies and techniques. I listen to other coaches and to the researchers themselves about what has been discovered and it’s applicability to training and to the average runner.
It’s important to change things up and evolve as new information becomes available. It is also important for your training to evolve as your life changes and as your goals change. You may need to add strength training as you get older and/or as your distance increases. You may need to add cross training as you get older or because you are a more injury prone runner. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a runner lets you modify your training and evolve as a runner. You become better, whatever that means to you.
Don’t be afraid to try new training ideas. The worst that can happen is you go back to what you were doing before. Okay you could get injured, but as long as you are introducing a new stimulus slowly and you are getting enough rest this shouldn’t happen.
Be brave go outside your comfort zone. Evolve your running become more.
What have you recently changed about your running?
As the race season really gets swinging, runners begin to ramp up their miles from their base winter miles. Not all runners only maintain a base through winter months. Some continue to build and others continue to race throughout the winter. It depends on the weather and the particular runner. Through the winter or off season, it is good to maintain a base so when race season starts you are ready to begin ramping up to race training without injury and without a lot of work to do.
How many miles should you maintain throughout the winter or off season? it really depends on how much early season work you want to do, how your prior race season went, and what the conditions you will be running in are.
The goal of an off season is to recover and maintain enough that you don’t have to start over. The lower your miles through the off season the more work you will have to do to get ready for race season. The less intensity work you do the more you will have to put in in the preseason. The first priority of the off season is to recover of course.
You don’t want to cause additional injuries during your off season so lowering the intensity and just maintaining a comfortable amount of miles is a good strategy. It can be a time where you switch your focus to strength and balance training as well as you remove the running stress and the amount of time dedicated to putting in miles.
Your base miles should still include some intensity because you don’t want to regress too much but a few bursts of speed for 30 to 60 seconds during a run once a week is enough during this time. If you end your season with an injury, you may want to significantly reduce your miles or cross train for a week or two before implementing your base mile maintenance plan. This is also a great time to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of injury during race season by increasing your strength in your core and lower legs/ankles. If you have a persistent niggle, figure out ways to resolve it or reduce it and strategies you can use during race season.
The weather may be severe enough to reduce your miles as well. Very cold temperatures, closure of trials, and deep snow can make longer runs more challenging if not dangerous. You may have to turn to running on a treadmill or the roads through the winter. The harder surface may lead to a reduction in miles to reduce injury or at a minimum purchasing different shoes.
Where I am located, more mountain lions come down to the lower trails in the winter to find food. This in combination with me running in the early morning alone, pushes me to the roads for a few months. When mountain lion meals are found within a half mile of your house and sightings are all along the trials you run, it’s best to change your behavior because the lions are not changing theirs.
The amount of miles should be something you are comfortable with and doesn’t wear you down. This may be 60% of what you do during race season or it may be 70%. It can and should bounce up and down a bit but never to the high of race training. Doing one week with low miles and the next week with a bit higher miles can add variety and gives you a bit more time to spend with family and friends who get neglected during race season.
My base miles typically consist of two eight mile runs during the week and then 10 to 15 miles both Saturday and Sunday. During race season, my midweek runs go up to 10-12 miles, I add a speed session on Wednesdays and my weekends increase to 15-25 miles both days.
What do you do for base miles and what impacts your decision on how much to do?
I am hopeful that we will be able to return to a more normal race calendar by this fall. Not only because I have races then but because getting at least one part of my life back to pre-covid-19 days would be nice. I’m only registered for two events this year because of the pandemic. I really wanted to run a couple of others earlier in the year but being one of the last on the list for vaccines, it just wasn’t going to happen.
The new CDC guidelines are encouraging for racing especially for those who are fully vaccinated. Being able to run a race without a mask would get me on the vaccine train if I wasn’t already fully onboard. The longer the vaccines are out and research is continued, I hope more people will get vaccinated. The more who are vaccinated, the closer we get to the critical 80% needed for “herd immunity” and once that is reached, everyone can get back to life more normally, including our youngsters who can’t get vaccinated yet.
I’m registered to run two races. Squamish 50/50 in August and Bear 100 in September. I was registered for both races in 2020 but Squamish was cancelled and I wasn’t comfortable running Bear with the Covid numbers for Utah and Idaho.
Squamish 50/50, for those who are not familiar with this event, is a fifty mile run on Saturday followed by a 50k run on Sunday. So just your run of the mill back to back right? I don’t think so. The terrain makes these back to backs very challenging. Plus there are not many who are doing such high volume for back to backs. I will admit that I have done 40/30s as back to backs in the past, before my daughter was born, but I haven’t been able to get those numbers in since then. I regularly run back to back 20/15 and some times 20/18s but that’s about my max at this point. Even with the lower mileage, I will be ready for Squamish.
Bear 100. I love Bear 100. It is my all time favorite race. You never know what you are going to get, well I guess you know you are in for a day-night-day to remember for the rest of your life. It can range between late summer heat to a full on winter storm. Weather in the Utah mountains (Spring and Fall in Utah in general really) is unpredictable and swings wildly every few days.
I have registered for Bear 100 for the past two years and haven’t been able to run it. The first year was because my daughter just wasn’t ready for me to be gone all day, all night, and possibly into the next day. Then Covid. My fingers are crossed that Utah will step up its game in vaccines and continue with social distancing so it is safe for all to come and run the race without having to worry about themselves or their crew/cheering squad being exposed to the virus or one of its variants.
Perceived effort is a scale of 1 to 10 used to determine how much effort you personally are putting into a run. This means you’re not running to meet a specific time goal such as a 8 minute mile or completing 10 miles in 90 minutes. Perceived effort means how much effort you feel you are putting into a particular run. What each point on the scale means is different for every person and for each run.
If you have a hard workout, your perceived effort will reflect that in the next days run because a pace that is easy for you will be more challenging to maintain. This is normal and in fact if it’s now happening you are either exceptional at recovery or you are not pushing yourself hard enough in your hard workouts.
Why do we use perceived effort to measure how difficult a run is or how hard we should be pushing on a particular day? it is more personal and therefore more effective for you as an individual runner. If you are working with a training program you pulled off the internet, it doesn’t account for you as an individual. It is made to work for a range of people. Perceived effort let’s you adjust on the move and from day to day.
If a workout is supposed to be hard, you know what hard feels like on that day and you can push yourself to that level. Hard workouts should be competed at a 7 or 8 on the perceived effort scale. There are few times you want to push all the way to 9 or 10, maybe the last quarter mile of a run or a race. Easy runs should be completed at a 3 or 4. Tempo runs should be done at a 5 or 6, hard but maintainable for 6 to 8 miles.
Running based on perceived effort helps you ensure that your training is going to have the intended impact. If you are always running at a high level, you don’t let your body recover. No recovery means no progress.
Is running by time rather than perceived effort useful? yes, in small doses. It is a good way to see how you are progressing in your training. Mostly running by time should reserved for races.
Over the years my use of and encouragement to other runners about speedwork has evolved. This happens with any runner and coach. If it doesn’t, you don’t get better. You stagnate. I’m sure a lot of my original strategies to up my game and that of others has evolved, perhaps I’ll write a post about it.
Early in my training, way back when I first began, speed work was something I did every week. I went to the track and busted out some 800s, or a ladder, or a pyramid, or 400s. I had a whole list of the sessions I loved to do and the ones I loved to hate. As my distance increased from marathon to 50 to 100 miles, the speed work dropped off and only appeared every once in a while for a few months and then I was done with it.
My justification for not doing speed work was that as an ultradistance runner I didn’t need to be super fast. I needed to be able to maintain a steady pace for a really long ways and to manage any discomfort and other issues that came along the way to maintain that pace. I’ve also used other types of things to increase my leg turn over rather than speed work, such as cycling.
Why? Speedwork is hard. It is easier when you have a running partner or a coach to crack the whip and hold you accountable for your training. It is rather difficult to find a training partner who wants to go out at 5 am, especially in the winter.
If you have hit a plateau in your training or you want to get faster, you need to do speedwork. You don’t need to do it every day. You don’t need to throw up by the end of the session. You do need to work harder than you would during an easy run, a lot harder.
For speed work to really have the desired impact you also have to make your easy runs easy. This can be more challenging than it sounds. Run easy? no problem. Running easy is hard because it really means easy. It means go at the pace your body needs in order for it to be easy on that day. It means being able to hold a conversation, mostly, with someone running next to you. On a perceived effort scale, it should not go over a 3 or 4, 1 being a walking pace. If your fast is a 9 minute mile, your easy may be a 12 or 13 minute mile. If your fast is a 6 minute mile, your easy may be a 8 or 9 minute mile. It will likely change throughout the week and training cycle. As your fast increases, your easy will likely increase as well. All of this is why the perceived effort scale is needed. I’ll probably write a post about that too.
Having the speed work without the easy runs, is going to decrease your chances of increasing your speed. If you are always pushing your body to it’s max, it doesn’t have a chance to recover, rebuild and get stronger (faster).
How often speed work is done, depends on the runner and their goals. If you don’t care if you get faster, just throw in some speed play or fartleks on a couple of your runs during the week. It gives you some variation and also decreases the chance of you getting slower. For those who would like to increase their speed, you will do speed work one time a week and for a few you can get away with twice a week (if you are running six days a week).
If you’re newer to running or are increasing distance at the same time as getting faster, once a week is enough and may be too much. If you are feeling extra tired, reduce it to once every 10 days. If you are an older runner (over 50) and haven’t consistently done speedwork, you may want to start with once every 10 days and then see how it feels. If you are an injury prone runner or have hamstring issues, you will want to start cautious and also at 10 days.
For new runners, please don’t go out and do an hour of speed work. Just like with distance, you need to start small and work your way up. Start with 30 minutes, do a warm up of ten minutes, run 4 or 5 800s with a quarter mile recovery between and then cool down for 10 minutes. Alternate this with a ladder. Warm up for 10 minutes, run a fast quarter mile, recover for a quarter mile, run a fast 800, recover for a quarter mile, run a fast one mile, recover for a quarter mile up to a mile and a half and then cool down for 10 minutes. If you can’t get through the whole ladder, do what you can.
For older runners just starting speed work, the warm up is more critical than for the new runner. You may need longer than the ten minutes to warm up. You likely know your body well enough to feel the switch flip and you can run easier. If you are both older and new to running, get some base miles under your belt before adding in speed work. Just run consistently for two months. Consistently means 3 plus days a week.
For injury prone runners and some older runners, hill work is better than speed work and has basically the same effect. This also means that other runners can use hills to add variation to their speed work repertoire. Running fast is harder on your body and increases the chances of an injury especially a hamstring injury. Hamstrings are fickle and when they get injured, they take their sweet sweet time healing. Hill work means running up a hill and then recovering on the way back down. It doesn’t have to be a super steep grade. It needs to be a challenge for you to get to the top while still running. You can change things up by using different grades, lengths, and number of repeats. Frequency is the same with other speed work, once a week or every ten days. If you feel the tingle of an injury coming on, don’t do the speed/hill work and think about taking 1-3 days off of running.
This was a long one. Please ask questions, if you have any and Happy Running!
Some people and coaches swear by regularly scheduled rest days to keep a runner going without injury. Others say listen to your body and rest when it says rest. Most runners are loathed to take a rest day, or if they do, they want to “make up” for it the next day. What does it mean to take a rest day, reduced running, no running, no activity? Runners, especially ultrarunners, are good at pushing through being tired or a minor injury which is good and it is not good. So what’s a runner to do?
Rest days can be harder to take or convince yourself to take and complete, than a hard workout. Runners don’t want to miss out on a run and they don’t want to fall behind in training. Rest is for the weak, right? wrong. Rest is when the body repairs itself and becomes stronger. It is not only a rest for your body but a rest for your mind.
When we push our body everyday or through multiple challenging workouts during a week, we are breaking down the tissues in our legs and other places. We are causing micro tears and strains. This is good because it forces the body to heal and come back stronger. It pushes are mental limits so we can draw upon that during long events.
Having a regularly scheduled rest day each week or once every ten days, is usually the best approach because then there is no question whether or not you should rest. If the strategy is to rest when your body says to rest, then you are more likely to keep pushing possibly into an injury aka forced rest, which is the last thing a runner wants.
Another time to rest is whenever you feel an injury coming on, or if you are facing major stressors in other areas of your life that are out of the ordinary. Taking 1-3 days when you get that feeling somewhere that something isn’t right and you may have the start of an injury, is better than running through it and running into an injury that could take you out for a week or more. When you have major stress in your life, that is out of the ordinary, that stress reduces your bodies ability to recover between workouts and thus puts you at a high risk of injury.
In addition to the one day a week as a rest day, taking a “rest week” is another good way to keep running and remain injury free. This is especially true if you are building miles or increasing the stress on your body through challenging workouts. A rest week does not mean taking a full week off of running, although it could. Reducing your workout load by about 20 to 25% for a week is a rest week. This means volume and intensity. If you are especially injury prone, it could mean using an alternative workout for the week such as pool running or the elliptical trainer. Even riding a bike would be fine. Rest weeks are ideally taken every three to four weeks.
Taking a rest day once a week and a rest week every 3-4 weeks is not going to put you behind on your training. It may push you to the next level. It won’t impact your speed or endurance in a negative way. Neither will taking three days off when you feel that something is wonky. It can be a mental challenge to take a rest day, and you may feel antsy if this is the case, go for a easy walk (not ten miles) for twenty to thirty minutes.
There are a few milestones during a 100 mile event. I would say every 25 or “marathon” is a significant point in the race. Personally, I like to take a picture of myself at each 25 mile mark in the race and often my watch so I know what time it was when I arrived. These milestones can be very challenging and they can be very motivating. It’s all about your mindset and your fueling. Let’s talk about fueling first. It’s technically the easier one.
Every endurance runner has hit the wall. For anyone who hasn’t, let me explain. The wall is when you get to a point in the race where your body just slows down and you feel like you can’t go no matter how hard you try. Usually, your mind also begins to tell you “this is too hard,” and “you’ve gone far enough,” and “I can’t go anymore.” We want you to run up the wall rather than into it.
What’s going on is that your glycogen stores are depleted. In other words, you need fuel and fast. What makes fueling at these points (yes you can hit the blasted wall more than once in a race) difficult, is your stomach may not want to accept any fuel, especially if you haven’t watched your water and electrolyte intake and you’ve got a weird balance going on.
Typically the first time you hit the wall is about 2- 2.5 hours into an event. That’s about how long it takes to run out of glycogen. For a Marathon, this is usually about 16-20 miles for most people. Depending on your pace, it may not be that far in or it may be farther. It may take longer because of your pace as well. Your body weight also will contribute to how long this takes. Regardless, if you don’t watch your fuel intake you will hit the wall.
The best way to avoid the wall, is to practice hitting it. Yep, run straight into a wall, over and over again. No it’s not very fun, but it will teach you at what point your body hits the wall and when to fuel to avoid it. You can hit the wall at any point in a race and you can hit it repeatedly. If you find yourself sinking into a mental or energy low, the first thing you should try, and fast, is to put some quick acting fuel into your body, along with some water. Easy to digest and heavy on the sugar.
Now we are diving into the mindset portion.
Usually the first 25 mile point is very exciting. You’re a quarter of the way through. You frequently train to this distance making your mind and body prepared and confident in reaching this point. If you get here and this is not you, see below on fueling. For the rest, let’s just blow past 25 miles.
Fifty miles in, this is a big one, especially for runners new to the distance. Again it can be very exciting to reach this point. You probably don’t train to this distance, although, we all hope you have done a fifty mile event and know a little bit about getting to this point. There is not always an aid station right at 50 miles but there is one close to it. This point can be difficult because you are staring down the same amount of distance to go. If you’ve had a challenging time getting to 50, your mind begins to spiral with “I’m only half way,” and “It will take even longer to finish this next half” and “My body already feels terrible,” and “My stomach is just not in this race.”
Well my friends, this can be a do or die moment. Your crew is vital at this point. Any RD should put a strong aid station at this point with volunteers (preferably other ultrarunners) with loads of experience at this aid station. You need to prepare your crew for this one. Make sure they know, there are no excuses and to get you in and out as quickly as possible. You’re best strategy is don’t linger, move. Don’t give yourself time to think about it. As you’re running into this check point start making a list in your head about what you need (No a nap or a break does not go on the list). Anticipate what your needs will be in your pre race planning and give the list to your crew. Have one of your crew members prepared to deal with your negative thoughts. You should know them pretty well through your training.
If you are on your own, and thinking about stopping. First, don’t just get to the next aid station and think about it again (unless you have a severe injury). Ask if anyone there is an ultrarunner and see what they think about you stopping. In your prerace planning, make sure you have a quick ziplock bag you can just grab and go. Prepare your drop bag at the aid station before this one to take care of other needs you may have by 50 miles such as a headlamp, warm cloths, new socks or shoes. If you can anticipate and address these slower needs at the aid station before, you will get out of the one closest to 50 miles faster. Put a little note for yourself in your drop bag with your mantra or other motivating saying on it. Perhaps it specifically addresses your negative thinking. You can also have a family member write you a short letter to read.
Bottom line, get your A$$ out of the aid station.
Mile 75 usually is not as bad as mile 50. Why? because you can see the finish line. You know how far you have to go. You know what it feels like and how long it will likely take. If you feel like you want to quit at this point, see above all the strategies for dealing with mile 50 (you can use these at any aid station where you think you may struggle). The big difference between mile 50 and mile 75, is it is dark by 75. You have been going for a long time. You are tired. Night time lows are worse than day time lows because it’s easier to come up with excuses to stop. “I’m tired,” and “I can’t see very well,” and “it’s cold,” and “I’m tired,” (yes I know that one is on there twice).
Here is the thing to remember when working through any low moment in the race. It does not last. Things come back up. It’s the way this distance works. It is the wonderful thing about this race distance. It is the big life metaphor of this race distance. You go up, you come down, you go up, you come down, just like the mountains you are likely climbing over.
Something amazing happens between 5 and 7 am (depending on where you are on the planet and the time of year). The sun rises. Yep, it happens every day. It will happen on the day of your event. I can promise you that it will happen. I can’t guarantee anything else during a race, besides this one thing. Everything changes when the sun comes up. If you are struggling through the night as a middle of the pack runner or a back of the pack runner, remember this… The sun always rises and with the sun, hope, belief, and renewed determination.
I want to take some time to acknowledge the struggle so many people are experiencing right now. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and runners have not been spared. So many individuals and families are struggling to meet their basic needs. Those who suffer from mental health issues have seen an increase in their symptoms and those who don’t are finding themselves struggling with anxiety and depression, some for the first time in their lives.
The lock downs have made it difficult, if not impossible for runners to train on a consistent basis. My advices to runners is be forgiving towards yourself for any missed runs/workouts. Think of the down time as recovery time. Try not to stress too much over the loss of fitness because it comes back with consistency and time.
Come back at a pace that is comfortable for you and won’t result in injury. Start slow and then increase mileage based on how your body is adjusting. Don’t try to make up for the lost training. Keep taking rest days as you normally would.
Where I live they are starting to hold races. I’m not participating in these early races as I haven’t been vaccinated and I have a young child who cannot be vaccinated until probably next year some time. Many runners are comfortable starting to re-engage in races and I think race directors are trying to balance keeping their races/businesses afloat and health for the participants.
It is my hope that by the end of summer or early fall we will be able to get back to racing in a way that resembles pre-covid-19 races. I think that many race directors will continue with some of the precautions that have been put in place particularly the hand sanitizer. Thinking back on the dirty sweaty hand dunked into the bowls of chips and candy on the aid station table, kinda makes me a little nauseous.
It is hard to see that Covid-19 has brought anything good to our lives, but I encourage you to do so as we move forward. The implementation of video conferencing in some many areas has allowed “face to face” contact with family members and co-workers that would not otherwise have had contact. I have participated in weddings virtually and families have been present for adoption hearings in court.
We have had to get creative to maintain our running. Runners who have always had partners, have had to set out on their own. Runners who run outdoors on trails and roads have had to rely on treadmills or laps around their homes/garages.
Running virtual races is not as fun without the community of runners motivating and supporting you through those lows and celebrate with you through the highs. They have provided us with some purpose and some motivation to keep us lacing up through this. I appreciate all the race directors who scrambled to put things together and got really creative with encouraging and motivating runners.
Covid has been extremely difficult on many people and will likely take others years to recover from. The ultrarunning/trail running community is so supportive of one another that I know we will get back to running in the woods with one another soon.
I want to talk gloves before the winter is completely over, at least where I live. I realize that it is always winter somewhere. My hands get cold when I run. Not just a little cold but painful red, you should really go inside and make a serious effort to warm up those babies, cold.
I have tried many gloves. I have tried multiple gloves. I have tried combining gloves and mittens. I’ve tried multiple mittens. I’ve tried different materials and thicknesses. I have used handwarmers. I have used multiple handwarmers. My hands just continue to get cold. In fact, my right hand gets much colder than my left. Now, my hands tend to get cold a lot anyway but it has become pretty ridiculous. They are typically okay on a two hour run, but on my long runs they get cold.
Taking pity on me and probably sick of watching me buy more and more gloves, my husband bought a pair of SHAALEK heated gloves with rechargeable batteries for Christmas. I had looked at these types of gloves before and had decided they were probably too heavy and that I didn’t really want to run with 5lbs on my hands.
I love these things!
Are they heavy? yeah and a bit bulky and a bit weighty but once I’m moving along the trail with toasty warm fingers, I don’t notice at all. They have five heat settings (I’ve gone up to three). They are warmer than my other gloves and combinations (not including handwarmers) without being turned on at all. I’ve warn them for up to eight hours (back to back long runs) and haven’t had they die on me.
They say they are touchscreen capable but I haven’t found that to be true for me. If I had larger hands and there wasn’t space at the end of the fingers then I think they would be. They have the texture for the touchscreen which has worked in other gloves I have tried with touchscreen capabilities.
This company has socks and vests if anyone is interested. It’s all available on the website we all have a serious love/hate relationship with, Amazon.
anyone know why one of my hands gets colder than the other?
As promised, here is my report on the DIY 100 I ran in September 2020. I actually ran two virtual 100s, one in September and one in October. Both virtual races through Destination Trail which is run by Candace Burt an amazing ultrarunner herself. I will talk about the October one in a later post. Setting up your own 100 mile distance is quiet the challenge. In addition to the normal stuff you have to organize for a 100, you also need to come up with a route and where the aid stations will be situated. Aid stations mean considering where your crew can access you, what time you expect to be there, they need to bring everything for you not just the extras beyond what the aid stations have available.
The route that I chose for my first attempt was a 50 mile loop and about 25 miles of it followed the old Wasatch 100 route that goes over Chin Scrapper. I hate going over Chin Scrapper by the way. It is about a 150-200 foot scramble up very steep loose rock to a ridgeline. Now I have never run the Wasatch 100 but because I live in the area and have paced at the race, I felt pretty confident about the route even though I had not run the entire loop before. I had run about 75% of it. I knew there were fresh springs at at least two points along the 17ish mile section where I would not have crew support. I didn’t think I would need the springs with the cooler temperatures but they were there and I knew how to find them. This route would be about 20700 feet of ascent total over the whole 100 miles
I started out at 5am the morning of the race. The start consisted of me saying good by to my husband and heading up my driveway. The hope was to finish under 30 hours. My crew consisted of my husband and two friends. Due to the pandemic, I had no pacer. My aid stations were set at mile 11.5, 27.5, 40, 45 and then 50. I made it over Chin Scrapper and found my way over to Francis Peak just fine. From there, I followed Skyline drive to it’s end. It got hot near the end of the first loop and the dirt road is packed HARD and was bruttal on my feet during the 13ish mile decent. After that there was what I would call mostly flat 12ish miles. Yes that means that 90% of the 10k+ feet of climbing was contained in about 25miles of the loop. I didn’t want it to be an easy return to 100s after all.
I finished the first loop about an hour and a half ahead of schedule and felt good. My feet were still killing me and it was getting dark. I loaded my pack up and headed out for the second loop. As the darkness deepened and temperatures dropped, I got stuck in my own head and started rerouting myself so I didn’t have to go over Chin Scrapper, alone, in the dark, when I was usually at my most tired during a 100. I began texting my husband telling him I was concerned about going over Chin Scrapper and was thinking of doubling back after meeting him and going up another canyon where I would meet back up with the original route (where my crew was meeting me). He agreed that if I wasn’t comfortable going over it that I should change the route. From there my mind spiraled down and I started focusing on how my feet were hurting and how I was only half way and how long it would take to finish, how I missed my two year old daughter, would she be okay going to night night without mom for the first time. I fell into the Pain Cave and lost the way out.
When I arrived at mile 62 to meet my husband, he had our daughter with him. I told him I wasn’t sure I was going back out. He wasn’t sure what to do with that. We started dating when I was well established in my 100 miles and finishing was never questioned in a race. He had never seen me stuck in the Pain Cave. I sat there thinking about my options and decided I would stop for the night and go back out and finish 38 miles in a couple of days (when it fit in our schedule for me to do it). I knew I would regret this decision.
The next morning I felt fine. My feet didn’t hurt or anything. As promised, I was very disappointed in my decision to stop and determined to finish the 100 miles in one go. I registered for another 100 miler and planned to run it the next month. I did go out and finish the 38 miles. I had my husband drop me off where he had picked me up and I climbed my way back up to Chin Scrapper and made my way over.
The midway aid station is the most dangerous for many ultrarunners. It is the hardest one to get out of. I had forgotten this fact. I had dealt with this situation during my first few 100s. It is the thought of how far and how long you have come and knowing you have just as far and probably longer, time wise, to go. On a loop route, you know exactly what you are in for so that adds to the pit you fall into. I’m glad I had to relearn this and many other things about myself on this race. It was good to be sent back to the starting line although frustrating too.
The takeaways from this are that even experienced ultrarunners DNF (did not finish or did nothing fatal) and they have challenging times during a race. Second is you will regret not finishing the 100 so make sure you are stopping because you need to rather than stopping because you want too. Third, prepare your crew to deal with you in your dark moments no matter how many races you have completed without getting to the darkest places.