If you like this blog, you might also enjoy my book……
On January 25th, 2015 I “competed” (quotes explained later) in the Mountain Mist 50k in Huntsville, Alabama. If you have read my first book, you might remember that this was the site of my first ever ultra marathon back in late January, 2009.
To say things have changed in the past 6 years would be an understatement. Let me break it down in categories for you……
Training / Preparation
2009: For this first race I designed a 12 week training program and had it tweaked and adjusted by a professional endurance sports coach. This coach also worked with me every week to make sure I was staying on plan and not under or over-training. I did multiple back to back long runs, averaged around 500 minutes (approx 40 trail miles) of training per week for months on end. I did more than one hard run over 4 hours, including one 5 hour run 3 weeks before. I did a very organized and perfect taper for 3 weeks before the race. My nutrition was spot on, including cutting out simple carbs, alcohol and all anti-inflammatory meds for weeks before the race. I was unbelievably focused and nervous the whole week leading up to the race.
2015: I signed up for this race specifically because Troy B and I DNF’ed it last year and we both wanted redemption. I had absolutely no organized training plan and, obviously, I was my own coach. Total training in the month leading up to the race was about 15-20 miles per week, mostly from just one long run per week. No back to back long efforts, no really tough efforts at all. Obviously no taper cause none was needed. Nutrition was actually similar, but not because of the race — it just happened that I was doing my yearly “sugar detox” in the month before the race. The night before the race we had pizza and beer for our pre-race meal!
Pre-Race Friday/Saturday morning.
2009: I traveled to the race early Friday, by myself, and didn’t know anyone at the race expo. I stayed at the expo for hours, eating the pre race meal, listening to the speaker they had, checking out all the clothing for sale, etc. I stayed in a hotel and prepped my stuff for hours to make sure it was right. I think I packed about 50 gels and enough food to fill 2 aid stations at a 100 miler! I had two water bottles, both filled with sugar-laden sports drinks. I wore way, way too much clothing. Again, I was super nervous and keyed up the whole night before, got very little sleep and ate a HUGE meal the morning of.
2015: Traveled late Friday with a good friend, both of us couldn’t have been more relaxed or had more fun on the way over. I knew a ton of people doing the race and was still in and out of the expo in under 10 minutes. Took me about 3 minutes to prep my stuff for the next day. Packed one water bottle (with only water) and a few gels, nothing else. Wore shorts and a couple of shirts to strip off. I was so laid back — I was asleep within 10 minutes of closing my eyes and slept 7 hours straight, up feeling relaxed and refreshed. Ate one Clif bar and peanut butter the morning of.
2009: Got to race way too early (did this again in 2015) and was, again, SO nervous! I knew no one at the start, just put my music on and said a quick prayer. Started out way too slow (bottle neck at back of the pack didn’t help). Started eating gels and food 20 minutes into the race, ate everything I could at every aid station. Had stomach issues throughout the whole race. Felt pretty good up until mile 17 and then thought the hills were absolutely brutal. Went through incredible emotional ups and downs throughout the race. Pushed myself as hard as I could the whole time. Did math obsessively every 10 minutes to see if I could break 7 hours. Thought I was going to die on the last climb and the last 1.9 miles felt like they took me about an hour!
Finished in 6:39 and was basically mid pack. Obsessed over my overall and age group results for weeks.
2015: Got to race too early again, but sat and joked the whole time with good friend (“OCD David” – another change, I not only have a bunch of new friends in the sport, I am also giving all of them nicknames), took pictures, totally relaxed. Knew a TON of people at the start and joked and had fun with all of them, no music this time and my prayer time is now organized and during the race so I was looking forward to that. Had absolutely NO plan for pacing, hydrating or eating — just going by feel. Started out way too fast. Decided 30 minutes in, instead of having a gel like I normally do, to see how long I could go on just water without eating anything — just on a whim! Was super happy, relaxed and in the moment for the whole race. Had absolutely NO down moments! Felt great the whole time, decided (on a whim again) instead of doing my whole rosary when I got alone to do one decade each 10k of the run — and dedicate each decade to a different person or group of people! Thought the hills were “fun” and challenging, but not really that tough at all. Never really pushed myself, just stayed within myself and had an absolutely amazing time. Actually had many, many moments that I didn’t want the race to be over! Didn’t even know when the race started on my watch, never set a stopwatch. The last climb was great and the last 1.9 miles were beautiful, just a bit tough and fun!
Finished in 7:09 and was basically mid pack. Looked at my result for 2 minutes just to see if I was in the top 1/2 of starters (I was). No idea nor do I care where I fell in my age group.
2009: So sore I could hardly walk for days. Feet covered with blisters and sore. Unbelievably tired and hungry. Took Monday off work cause I couldn’t move.
2015: Slightly sore the day after. Feet totally fine. A little tired on Tuesday, worked a full day Monday totally fine. Still pretty hungry!
So, 6 years after the start of my ultra-running career and I am starting to figure this stuff out. The less I stress and worry, the better it is. The less I eat the better my stomach feels. The less water I drink the better I feel and the less I cramp (to a point). The more I rely on God and the less I rely on myself the better it is. The more I stay in the moment and not worry about the next mile, or how far I have to go, or the upcoming climb…..the better it is! The more friends I make, the more this sport becomes about fellowship instead of performance and, you guessed it, the better it is.
Sort of like life, wouldn’t you agree?