Wednesday, October 19, 2011

100 Mile Gorilla


I know it is supposed to be the 1000 lb gorilla. In my case though the thousand pound gorilla on my back is a 100 mile one thousand pound gorilla.

It haunts me. I realize that I might be the only one that thinks having completed a 100 miler is expected of me, yet that is what I expect of myself. I have completed 37 ultras to date and I feel one of them should be a 100 mile finish. Unfortunately not one of them is a 100 mile finish.

I guess I personally view the 100 mile distance as the ultra runners' marathon. When you are a non ultra distance runner the question you get is "Have you run a marathon?" or "How many marathons have you done?" Though I don't expect other ultra runners to have completed a 100 miler, I do expect it of myself. I hate that whenever someone asks me that question my best reply is "No, but I have attempted 3."

3 attempts, no completions. If you know me then you know how bad that irks me. 1- I am a stats guy and I hate having negative stats. 2- I was brought up to finish what I start and those 3 hundred milers are forever unfinished. Let's look at my three unfinished 100 milers:

2008 Burning River
Burning River was my very first 100 mile attempt. It started out on road and I made the classic mistake of going out too fast. Burning River tends to live up to its name in that it is hot and the heat kills my performance. I had a horrible time on the trail terrain in the night as this was only my 2nd race where I ran in the night on trails. I fell behind the cut offs and by the time I made it to Covered Bridge the best pace I could manage was my old man walk. My day ended at 81.6 miles.

2009 Oil Creek
My race started poorly as I made 2 wrong turns within the first in the first few miles. Instead of turning left coming up off the bike trail several others ahead of and behind me turned right. Most of us didn't figure out where we should go until the 50 milers came through and set us straight. Later after leaving Petroleum Center I got caught up with a group of 50 Milers as they went off on their longest add on loop and I didn't realize my mistake until after I was halfway through the loop. I then made the mistake of running harder than I should have in an effort to make up lost time. Once again the heat on this warm day also got to me. I also had a tough time at night again as well, where I added to my difficulties by not accounting for how much the temperature drops up on the ridges after the sun sets and not dressing warm enough for the night. My day ended at the fire of the Miller Farm aid station on loop 2 at 53 miles officially, but 61 miles unofficially with my wrong turns.

2010 Rocky Raccoon
I had poor training going into Rocky. Part of that had to do with the time of the year and part of it had to do with having moved to Texas in the start of January. Most of the training I did get in was in colder weather than the 70s we had on race day. I was not ready for 70 degrees in February. I found out early on I was not having a good day. The course is a 20 mile loop that is shaped like a hair pin in places so you end with parts that are like an out and back letting you see a lot of the other runners. I didn't care for this since when I am having a bad day I do not want to see anyone else except aid station volunteers. My race ended after 2 loops at 40 miles.

I learned some lessons from my hundred miles attempts and other ultras I have run. 1- I need to start out slow knowing that doing so will benefit me later when I need it. 2- I need to fuel better through the lows. Sometimes when we hit a mental or physical low in the race it is low blood sugar. I know now that when I get to feeling cruddy in an ultra I need to get some food in me, especially something to bring my blood sugar up. I do know that the best way to manage lows is to fuel early and often the whole time to prevent crashes from coming on. 3- You can't make up for lost time. If you make a wrong turn stick with your pace. 4- Put clothes in drop bags or with crew members to dress for temperature changes like when the sun goes down.

5- The biggest lesson I have learned with the one hundred miler(but it can apply to any race) is that we have to believe 100% that we will finish the race(thank you, Rhonda). I had that going for me in my first 100 mile attempt, but I have to admit I had doubts heading into the 2nd and 3rd attempt. If we have any doubts they all too often become a self fulfilling prophecy.

The date is set for the next October at the Oil Creek 100s. I enter training fully confident and fully expecting to finish. This 100 mile thousand pound gorilla is heavy, but I am a workhorse with God as my strength and together We will carry this thousand pound gorilla to the finish line of the Oil Creek 100s next October.

Run Like a Horse,

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