Monday, November 11, 2013

Lessons learned from my first 2 hundreds

Early on into Javelina Jundred 2013
Fresh back from the Javelina Jundred and I am pondering my running goals and races for 2014. Perhaps it may be best to first take a moment to reflect before I move forward.

Completing my first two 100s this year was a significant accomplishment and steep learning curve for me. I had to overcome a series of training injuries as I learned how to run long. At San Diego 100 in June, my first 100, I realized the extreme challenges a 100 presents to runner and crew. A 6th place finish was only possible due to the selfless assistance provided by my crew and volunteer pacers. I'll save the story for a future post. It did help step me towards a successful second 100 at Javelina Jundred in October, and a solid 2nd place finish. 

Here are a few lessons I learned along the way that may be helpful to you.
  1.  Listen to your stomach. No matter what you thought you could eat and when…if it is not working for you try something else. Just be sure the calories keep coming. I had stomach issues at San Diego 100 (SD100) and so continued to try other calorie intake methods through training and at Javelina Jundred (JJ100).  Still at JJ100 I was unsuccessfully trying to digest my diluted recovery mix. The idea of the recovery mix was to simultaneously stay hydrated and take in calories. It began to give me a sloshy and upset stomach. I gave up my experiment and switched to bananas, watermelon, and Gatorade. My stomach slowly recovered and allowed me to keep running.
  2. Never underestimate the heat or the course. Heat is a killer. Just look at the dropout rates for both 100s. An easier course like JJ100 only becomes a faster course which then creates a challenge especially in the heat. Aid station volunteers at SD100 taught me the pleasure of ice under the hat and icy sponge baths.
  3. Learn how to ignore minor pains. By mile 40 at SD100 my legs were blown and my spirit defeated. With great difficulty and much encouragement I plodded forward. By mile 10 at JJ100 I already felt a few pains that had been lingering through training. I began to doubt myself - especially holding a faster pace. I turned my attention instead to running efficiently and uplifting thoughts. By 40 miles they had disappeared and I regained my confidence. My legs still of course became dead but without lagging confidence.
  4. Prep your crew for the low moments. Especially if your Mom is crewing for her first time! They worry less and focus on staying positive. I can't imagine how difficult it was for my wife to see me at my worst during SD100...and provide over 20 hours of encouragement.
  5. Be efficient in all things. Don’t waste time or energy. It adds up quickly over 100 miles. When approaching an aid station focus on what you need and how you will get in and out quickly.
  6. Eat and drink and make final adjustments leaving an aid station, not while standing there. Remember… relentless forward progress always.
  7. Enjoy the scenery. It’s an adventure not a race!
  8. Relish the camaraderie that comes with ultras.  Being new to the sport I am amazed with the selfless nature of those who make these events and finishes possible. My finish at SD100 was largely due thanks to two pacers, who I did not know prior to the race, helping me mentally tread the last 50 miles. 
  9. With the right motivation there is always something left in the tank. I was completely cooked at both 100s, however, with 10 miles to go I found motivation to run a faster pace. Surprise yourself!
  10. Training is the real adventure. The race is only a celebration of your training.  Preparation for my first 100 led me to stretch well beyond my comfort zone with regards to run lengths, terrain covered, and wilderness alone at night. I relished the sunset views from distant mountain peaks, refilling at springs, surprising bears, being blinded by the flash of a night-time wildlife camera, and ultimately defeating what I thought were my limits.
What have been your lessons learned?


  1. Dear Catlow: Since I cannot and do not aspire to do such a thing as run 100 miles, then let me pass on a lesson I have learned from reading your lessons learned. Courage is worn well by a humble man or woman. I'll remember today to be courageous and pace myself in my life race. I'll remember that pain is sometimes just a distraction that besets us when we feel weak, and to bless my journey with good nutrition, keep moving forward, enjoy the scenery, watch for the beauty of sunsets and the perils of unexpected flashes of light, enlist friends to help with my quest, accept assistance from strangers, trust my training, speak kindly to my fears, and when all seems lost use the unspoken courage that I tucked in my pocket when I read your story. It is the constant lesson to carry into the future.