Interlude: Brief Backstory…
In the fall of 2012, I signed up for my first ultra. The Bear Chase 50 Miler in Lakewood, Colorado.
With several marathons under my belt, I thought a 50 miler was a logical move.
How hard could it be?
I remember fondly, standing at the starting line like a noob. Scoffing to myself at the Salomon hydration packs, Ultimate Direction handhelds, and HOKA shoes.
Compared to the environment of a marathon, this was borderline ridiculous.
It was all too laid back.
Beat the socks off these “so-called” runners.
For the first 20 miles, I clocked low-7’s. My pace was breakneck. I carried no water or gels. Huffing and puffing. I passed through aid stations. Grabbing nothing but small swigs of water.
I wasn’t going to be out there for too long. Why bother?
Little did I know…
Like detonating a stick of TNT, my “wheels” came off…
It started as a dull throb in my abdomen. Then a tension in my traps. My feet started cramping. It felt like I was traveling through a tunnel with a vice squeezing my temples.
“This pain is normal! Only the strongest survive.”, I told myself.
The reality was that it was mile 20. If I was going to finish, something had to give.
I tried to hold on. Despite my effort, my pace dropped to 14 min./mi. “So-called” runners began to pass me at an alarming rate. But it was no use. I was deep in the pain cave.
With my tail between my legs, I dropped from the lead to the middle of the pack.
“You went out to fast. ”You burned up your anaerobic fuel (sugar) too quickly. When that happens you bonk. Try slowing down. Build an aerobic base.”
I traced it back to the starting line. The lightbulb went off. My pre-race mentality was me v.s. them.
Rather than embrace the challenge of my first ultra. I pitted myself against the other “so-called” runners. This fueled my mindset. Motivated me to run at a breakneck speed. A pace that I was unable to maintain.
Rather than listening to my body, I was using pain as a signal. My judgment was my demise. I was a victim of no pain no gain…
Don’t let this happen to you. Here’s how you solve this!
- My flawed mindset of “me vs them” muddled my body’s response to slow down.
- Instead of fueling at aid stations, I blew by. Only taking small sips of water.
- I viewed walking as a weakness.
- My friend’s advice made sense. My breakneck speed depleted my anaerobic fuel too quickly. When it was tapped out, I bonked.
- Anaerobic fuel has a lifespan of 3 minutes of all-out effort. Once it’s gone, you can’t will it back.