Monday, April 20, 2009
Bull Run Run 50
"Ultrarunning is not always about success, rather, it is really about dealing with problems, breakdowns and overcoming failure both physically and emotionally all the while moving forward on your feet." ---Cougarbait Eyerly
Last week I read that quote on another blog and immediately posted it on mine, under "This I Believe." And after Saturday's Bull Run Run 50, I really do believe it---the part about problems, breakdowns and failure, that is!
Ultrarunning sucked me into its grip because I love challenges, especially the mental game of preparing for an event, facing my demons during the event and then handing them a sucker punch and finishing strong (or at least before the cut-off). Because I train and race for ultras with the goal of "overcoming failure," dropping from a race is out of the question...after all, what's the point in pushing myself to my limits only to quit when it gets too hard?
On Saturday, I started the Bull Run Run 50 with the intention of running near my best time (9:00:30) despite it being the first hot day of the spring. That was my first mistake...given the heat, I should have thrown my pace goals out the window. My second mistake was not preparing my body for the heat with S caps before the start and one each hour---I relied too heavily on one bottle of Nuun for the first 26 miles. I also relied too heavily on the fact that I ran a hard 35-miler in March under similar conditions with no problems--big mistake! At mile 25, I tripped on a root and fell flat on my face, and had to be assisted to my feet because my legs were cramping. At mile 28, the same thing happened but this time my calves cramped every time I went up a hill. I could feel them being pulled and feared some type of injury would take place if I didn't walk...or stop all together. I also sensed that my body was not responding to the fluids, S caps, and nutrition that I was giving it. In essence, I got too far behind with my electrolytes and it was too late to catch up without suffering a heat-related "issue".
Fortunately, I came to this realization about 100 yards from Fountainhead AS, before I went into the Do Loop, the toughest section of the course at mile 32. Knowing what was ahead of me certainly played a huge role, and I was very happy to take a seat back at the AS and take care of myself. I had no desire to keep moving and was able to get a ride back to the start/finish with Sean Andrish and Steve Core. Both of them propped me up with their own DNF stories (thanks, guys) and by the time we got back to Hemlock, I was ready for food, a shower, and to help my VHTRC friends at the finish line.
The rest of the day was a blast! I love helping runners when they arrive at the finish line. Their emotions are raw, and they are suffering. Some are exuberant, others are dejected. All needed special attention on this hot day and a few worried me a bit, but due to fantastic race preparation, the BRR finish line staff had cold ice water, cokes, Popsicles, and cold towels and ice. I got more satisfaction from helping the runners than I would if I had finished.
So what about "Overcoming failure," blah blah blah? Did I cave too soon? Should I have walked a few miles and taken what the day gave me? Nah. It would have been stupid to push my body that far. Admitting defeat took more courage than sticking it out, and I reminded myself of what I always tell my students, "it's how you handle defeat that defines your character." I am proud of myself for taking the trail back to the AS and admitting that I was sucker punched by the day.
What's next? After a break for the next few weeks for lacrosse games and tournaments and helping out at MMT, I will start my ramp up in mileage for Grindstone. This BRR experience will nevertheless be on my mind as I train this summer and I have a new found respect for the heat, and for heat acclimation. A good lesson for the next race and one I won't forget!
Another thing I won't forget...good friends like Laura (photo by Q).
(photo at top of Bull Run and the bluebells by Charlie Miracle, photo of me around mile 27 by Aaron Schwartzbard)
All BRR information, including great photos and results, are here.