It’s easy to look back at a race and ask “What if…?” but it’s important to reflect on the good AND bad
It was my third year back at the HURT100 and I was eager to prove myself after having a rough time at World’s Toughest Mudder back in November. And as usual, I’d set the stakes pretty high for myself for this ultra. Goal #1 was to win. Goal #2 was to beat the course record. Goal #3 was to at least beat my own PR and Goal #4 was to finish.
100 miles of climbing through slippery jungle roots, rocks and cliff-sides is bad enough but when combined with my goals I’d made a dangerous cocktail of self-expectation.
Long story short, I didn’t win the race, I missed the course record and missed my own PR by just under an hour. I finished though! And ended up 3rd overall and nevertheless I was happy to start the New Year off with a podium finish for this challenging ultra.
However, it’s hard not to look back at my performance this last weekend without a woeful batch of “what if’s?” My experience granted me a lot of success early on in the race, but there were some big errors I made in the second half that I know I could have avoided. I hope this short list of my mistakes and successes at the HURT 100 help you in your next race as it helped me writing them.
- Not wearing a watch No GPS, no stopwatch, no beeping, just me and the course. It was beautiful. The HURT is a 20 mile loop split into three out and back sections. It’s relatively easy after the first loop, to get a feel for the time and distance between aid stations. Wearing a watch would only do two things for me 1) tell me I was going too fast 2) tell me I was going too slow. Neither of which would make me happier about where I presently was in the race. So I chose to go without it and go by “feel” instead. And for the majority of the race, I felt “great” which was about the only thing I really wanted to know.
- Smile! Even if it’s fake I made it a point throughout my race to at least utter a “Hi” and give a smile to each racer I came across on the out and backs. I learned this one at Survival Run Nicaragua last year, and I can attest to the fact that giddy positivism whether real or not can fight off almost any runner’s low. Plus who wants to compete with the happy smiling skipping guy? Not me, I hate that guy! Except when I am that guy…
- “Sing with the trees”-Jason Loutitt HURT 2011 Winner. I chose this year to run without music. I used to rock out for entire ultra races, start to finish. I’d be chugging away plugged into my own little world. I felt the music helped induce runner’s highs and get me in the zone faster. And whenever I’d leave it behind, I felt like the climbs, my pace and even my race came to a monotonous crawl. After reading more about Zen and being present over the last year, tuning out the world around me wasn’t what I wanted to do in this race. Nowadays, when I don’t listen to music, I feel I can listen to myself. I can analyze my pace, my form, my breathing and even control some of my thoughts. And the more of my thoughts that I can keep present and positive, the stronger and more in control of my race I feel. Not to mention the cacophony of jungle birds during sunrise on the first loop was absolutely amazing. So I feel its best, sometimes at least, to “sing with the trees”.2015 HURT100 Course map Source: http://www.hurt100trailrace.com/
- Sped too fast through aid stations. It was mile 47, I was in the lead and Arnstein barreled in the aid station a close one-minute behind me. I was taking my time as usual getting together my Carbo Pro, my pills and double checking my pack for the night ahead. Arnstein turned to me and asked suddenly “you ready to head out?” I felt flustered and rushed. Not wanting to fall from first place, I made the fatal mistake of leaving with him and failed to pack calories and a head-lamp for the next loop. Lesson learned? Take your time in the aid station and get your nutrition right. Even if you’re in first, believe me, you’ve got the time.
- Don’t let the competition get in your head. “You’re so strong!” The other runners shouted out to me as I pounded out the course. Their optimism was poison to my sensitive, inflating and fragile race ego. I was feeling “great” and “strong” just like they’d said, but it was only mile 47 and deep-down I knew the race had yet to even begin. As Arnstein came through the aid station, I felt my confidence sink. I turned around quickly and foolishly trying anything I could to hold onto first place for a while longer. But my desperation would be vain, and I trembled at the sight of third place who was now only five minutes back from me, knowing it wouldn’t be long before he caught me. I did it at Tor des Geants, but wasn’t able to do it all the way here. People, if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s “Race your own race!”
- Don’t fix something that ain’t broke. And the grand-prize winner for the single biggest mistake I made goes to….drum-roll….NUTRITION! Self-sabotaged by yours truly. Long story short, for three loops my liquid nutrition strategy was working great. Fourth loop? I decided “meh I don’t like the taste of liquid calories…let’s try eating solid food at 170bpm+” Good thought right? Not…Don’t trust 60-mile brain. Solid food quickly devolved into stomach cramps into calorie deficits and finally into turned the usual “I hate my life, I hope I fall off this cliff and wild pigs attack me so at least I have a legitimate reason to drop” runner’s lows. Lesson learned? If something is working in a race, don’t touch it, don’t fix it, back up, step away, leave it alone!
HURT 100 this year was a fantastic experience and a swift, humbling reminder that I am still not the “bull of the woods” quite yet. It was great to hold the reins of 1st as long as I did and I’m still pleased with the fact that I held onto 3rd overall given the mistakes I made.
Finally, I’d like to report and thank inov-8 for the fact that I did not slip once throughout the entire race. I wore the inov-8 x-talons 212’s up to mile 80 of the race, then switched into the inov-8 flyroc 310’s for the last twenty miles. All while managing my nutrition and hydration from the inov-8 ultra-hydration vest which has now survived Tor des Geants, Ronda del Cims, World’s Toughest Mudder and HURT 100. If that’s not a testament to a products durability, I don’t know what it is.