Having birthed three children through long labors the natural, unmedicated way, I have to say that I can see a few resemblances between birthing and running a 100-mile race. For one thing, in both events you are likely to have prolonged suffering, and at some point you want to quit. When you are deep into the heart of either event, it seems to take longer than you ever thought possible, and you feel like it will never end. But the most remarkable resemblance I have found between birthing and running an ultramarathon is what I call post-event amnesia. In both experiences, it is remarkable how quickly the memory of pain and struggle fade once the finish line is crossed. For both birthing and running ultramarathons, I think this selective amnesia is necessary or very few individuals would do either more than once. (Now I know some moms have “easy” births and cannot relate to this, and perhaps some runners have “easy” 100s, although I have never personally met one who claimed that.)
Can you guess where this is going? Yes, you’re right. I signed up for Black Hills 100 . . . again. Even though I remember it was grueling, I know I have forgotten the depth of my suffering at that race last year, or I would not have clicked the button to submit my entry again. I re-read my race report and sort of recall the misery, but somehow the reality of it has faded. And being the perpetual optimist, I think maybe it won’t be so hard this time. I confess that I still felt fear when I clicked the submit button.
I certainly learned from my experience last year. There are things I will do differently this time. Although I have been assured by family members that it is unlikely there will be record-breaking heat two years in a row, I will prepare once again for heat. As I did previously, I will train as much as possible during the hot part of the day, and use my trusty ice bandana during the race. But this year, I will do everything in my power not to become as overheated as last year. Once I had crossed over the line into heat exhaustion (and from my symptoms I believe I did), my digestive system was trashed for over twenty-four hours.
This year if the heat of the day grows intense, I will not try to continue to run after the ice melts in my bandana. I will hike until I reach the next aid station for an ice refill. (I believe that continuing to run at the same effort level in the sweltering heat after there was no ice left in my neck bandana was the most fateful mistake I made last year.) I will also prepare and bring gear in case it is a year for rain and thunderstorms.
During my moments of dreaming, I think maybe if I avoid overheating, I won’t suffer from nausea this time. During my moments of lucidness, I realize it is unlikely I will totally avoid nausea, given my history of struggling with it during every event over 50K distance I have ever run, but I hope to at least keep it to a level that won’t prevent critical fueling. (Not being able to fuel because of nausea is what shot down my chances of being an official finisher last year).
I am working now to dial in my race nutrition plan to a more refined level. I realize that last year my plan was too loose. Especially in the heat, it is a fine line for me between not putting too many carbs in my stomach which causes digestive distress and but still getting in enough fuel to prevent bonk issues. Last year, I also did not realize I needed more fuel options. When my stomach soured on the sweet fuel choices I brought, I had nothing to fall back on. Look for details of my new race nutrition plan in my next post!
My training seemed solid last year, judging by how well I was able to run the last 8 miles after I finally was able to eat. I am following the same training plan I laid out last year. I run four days each week, plus my hiking and strength training (which also includes mobility work and plyometrics). Monday is slide-boarding, a kettle bell workout, and then running hills. Tuesday is a short and easy run with strides, max incline (12-15%) treadmill hiking with a weighted vest, then an evening strength workout. (The weighted vest is a new addition this year, and really boosts the workout.) Wednesday is a total rest day. Thursday is a morning strength workout, followed by a longer run, and Friday is my long run day. My Thursday-Friday mileage is currently at 12 miles/23 miles and will max out at 18 miles/31 miles.
For my complete training plan last year, go here.
The most important thing I learned last year is that I CAN run 100-miles, because I did it! Although I was too slow to be recorded as an official finisher, I DID cover every step of the course (plus a few extra miles when we got lost). Lord willing, this year I will come home with a belt buckle!
What did you learn from running your first 100? What will you do differently next time? (Will there be a next time for you?)
Read my full race report of 2016 Black Hills 100 here.
Once again, I am running this 100-mile event to help raise funds for Owl Hollow Farm! They offer totally free equine therapy for kids and impact so many lives with healing! Please consider making a donation. Each dollar helps!
Read more about Owl Hollow Farm here.