If ever I give advice to a person who wishes to improve their running or is just getting started the first thing is consistency. You have to be consistent in order to build a base, get stronger, become faster, and adapt to your training.
If you are not consistent, your body just doesn’t adjust and get stronger. Consistent doesn’t mean doing the same thing week in and week out. consistency means you are running on a regular basis multiple times a week. It’s getting out there when you don’t have the motivation to tie your shoes.
Running between four and six days a week is ideal for most runners. This gives you a rest day each week which reduces your chances of injury and gives your body total day to recover and rebuild. Tie those two words together, recover and rebuild, it makes taking a rest day much easier.
If you are constantly jumping around doing a run whenever you feel like it or going from running six days one week to two days the next, this isn’t going to help you reach goals. Sure you’ll be able to run a 5k without having to walk a bunch, but if you want to improve your time at a 5k or you want to run farther than a 5k, you must be consistent.
What happens if you’re not consistent? you get injured. You have to take time off to heal. Then you have to start over. That’s hard. It makes you not want to run anymore. Starting over Sucks.
If you don’t get injured, you are not going to improve. The older you get, the more true this becomes. Getting faster means you have to push yourself on a consistent basis, usually once or twice a week. You run speed drills and hill repeats. To go longer, you increase your miles in increments until you are able to run the distance you want.
Day by day, week by week, and month by month you get faster and your endurance, muscular and aerobic, improves. You are able to reach your goals and challenge yourself to new goals, a new distance or a faster time.
You’re going to have hard days. You’re going to have days you don’t want to get out and put in your miles. Is it okay to take an extra rest day when you’re tired and another aspect of your life has you stressed or overwhelmed? sure, just don’t make that a consistent practice.
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.