Peak 100 – Lessons Learned
It’s been just about a week since I returned to Utah after traveling to Vermont to attempt my first 100-miler at the Peak Ultra. The full race report will show up soon at irunfar.com so instead of rewriting what happened. The one sentence recap, I DNF’d at 60 miles at around 18:20 (hours and minutes) into the race with foot issues and inexperience take hold. With that said this was a race of many lessons learned. Here is what I gleamed from my first attempt at 100 miles.
OK, that seems obvious but you do not grasp just how hard 100 miles is until you start to put your body through it. It is not a distance you casually step into, many finish their first attempt at 100 but it is not a distance you just decide to do a month before the race without properly training.
2. Eat and Drink A LOT
Just keep eating and drinking, even when you don’t want to. This was one of the things I did right this race. Coke and Ginger Ale is a drink of choice as I ended each lap and filled up my water bladder. As well a cheeseburger after 20 miles of thinking about it is probably the greatest thing in the world! But in all seriousness, one of the 50-miler competitors had to be taken to the hospital after finishing because she was so dehydrated. As well a little sugar to the system can perk you up when you brain starts to go in a funk.
3. Take Care of Your Feet
The race consisted of many wet, muddy trails. Even with changes of socks every lap or every other lap my feet were wet. I had held off on changing shoes too long and found my feet waterlogged after 60 miles and was forced to stop and let them dry out before continuing on which was the kiss of death. For the rest of the summer I will be walking around barefoot to turn my feet to leather, kidding (sort of). In all seriousness if you have foot issues, plan ahead! If you get blisters put moleskin on BEFORE the blister starts.
4. Never Stop Moving
I first learned this lesson in 2011 during World’s Toughest Mudder where I rested too long between laps. This race I was determined to break as little as possible between laps knowing that if you stopped 10 minutes a lap it would cut an hour and a half off the thirty-four hour time cut-off, also knowing the longer you sit the harder it is to move again. After lap six knowing I needed to stop and dry my feet I knew I had landed in a Catch-22. Once you stop it’s hard to get your brain back in it and continue on.
5. Get a Good Pacer/Crew
I was fortunate enough to pick up a great pacer along the way after I completed 50 miles and luckily we kind of already knew each other. A good pacer and help you when your brain is going (which it probably will) and keep you moving forward. I realized looking back I *might* have gotten another 10 or 20 miles had I had a crew/pacer who made me push through the tough times after my stop at 60. At that point I literally needed someone to put my socks back on me, put my shoes on, and stand me up and push me to continue on, even through my emotions. Yes, there were tears, I cry and cry often when I am fatigued and lack of sleep. But I have learned I *can* push past that state but do not yet have the tools in my belt to do it myself. I believe this comes with experience.
6. Have A Plan but Don’t Over Plan
Have an idea what you want to do before you head into the race, my plan was to get 50 miles before sunset, which I accomplished. But I never had a plan after that, how to get through the downs of the night, how to press through the unknown. When the unknown came I went into reactionary mode. At the same time I use to over plan my nutrition and hydration, write it out, put bins together for each lap, I learned in 2011 that it’s great to have a plan but too detailed your brain can’t stay on it as it turns to mush. So now I follow a basic plan of 20 ounces per hour of fluid/100 calories per hour at the minimum, sometimes I do more but this is the minimum and made my life much easier at Peak following this basic outline.
7. Ride the Waves
The longer the race the more your brain moves around and sometimes knocks into the obscure corners of your concise. Memories of old experiences arise, highs can be high, lows can be very very low. Ride the emotions, but don’t let them control you. As soon as you let you brain and emotions control you the race gets much harder. Instead of fighting the lows, accept them acknowledge them, and then let them pass. When you buy into what they are selling it goes downhill FAST!
8. Humans Are Amazing
No, I am not talking about the YouTube videos of people doing strange stunts in front of a camera. Instead I am talking about all the little things, a racer offering water or a bar to another racer who is in obvious pain. A pat on the back or word of encouragement when all seems to be lost. The positive vibes that exist at long distance races is palpable. What people can do and compassion they express is simply amazing.
9. I Am an Extremist
Not a new thing to realize, but true. People who put there body through ultra distance races and other endeavors think a little differently. We are extremists and find something in these long races. For me when I jump in I jump in 100% some say I am obsessive about things. But spending the majority of the day on the mountain by myself I realized it’s my extreme love of the mountains and Vermont that draws me to Peak not the miles. The miles are secondary, I feel the mountains deep within in and the entire race I felt the connection to the mountain, the earth under my feet, and the air around me.
10. It’s Fun
The first 50 miles of my race, I felt like a kid in a candy shop. As I bounded down the mountain each loop people remarked at how “strong” I looked on the trail. The miles were nothing, the mountain was my playground, with a great group of podcasts by Alan Watts, friends on course, I was completely in my element. The blisters, water logged feet and such that resulted from the race were secondary. My time on the mountain even in it’s worst moments were FUN. I loved it every minute of it, and already can’t wait to go back next year. For some it will seem strange but in the mountains I feel at home, I laughed, I talked to snakes as I passed by them, I took in the experiences as they happened and just plan had fun!