I recently read Marshall Ulrich's memoir, Running On Empty. For those of you not in the know, Ulrich is an ultra-endurance runner. He has done some SICK things... like crossing the Badlands four times in a row--RUNNING--and circumnavigating Death Valley while RUNNING--and climbing all seven of THE summits in fewer than three years duration. But the sickest thing he did was to run across the USA, in just 52 days, at 57 years old. He averaged 400 miles a week. That's like running 2 marathons and a 10k EVERY DAY... for almost 2 months straight. And he didn't do it when he was some young buck.
Think about it.
Now that is sick.
Of course, in my opinion, it's sick in an awesome way. Whether you have any interest in endurance running or not, I highly recommend you read this book.
In his book Ulrich lists out his 10 commandants for endurance running.
I think they are perfect. Perhaps difficult to abide by... but perfect.
I have written a few down here... but I feel like I shouldn't list all of them because wouldn't that violate copyright? Hmmmm.
Here are a few of my favorites. I plan to call on them during my IM next week.
Here they are:
- Focus on the present and set intermediate goals.
- Suffering is okay.
- Transcend the physical.
- Accept your fate.
- Have confidence that you will succeed.
I know you have heard variations of these pieces of wisdom before. But have you actually called on any of them during an endurance race? More often I, at least, start to feel sick, or overwhelmed, and then I allow myself to drop into what I call *race despair*. This is NOT to say I don't finish... or even finish well. But I think most often I do not call on commandments such as these and end up wallowing in my world of hurt instead.
For me, the first one is huge. I have the biggest problem when I come off the bike, and realize, within a mile or two, that I have 24+ miles to go. This is the WORST thing you can think when you have just biked 112 miles and you are... not very fresh. So far I have not had great success exorcising this thought --which attacks me every time with a strength I didn't realize was possible. The BEST thing to do in this case, however, is to turn off the brain and just run to the next aid station. And do that 24 more times. I will attempt to do this. If I can, it will be my first time!
Suffering is okay.
I know this... but in IM I think I have trouble KNOWING this. If I suffer (in what I consider) too early in the race, I start to worry about the suffering. My thought process goes something like... OMG--it's 10 minutes into the swim and I'm tired! or worse, when I'm 70 miles into the bike. I will think... Oh Dear God-- I hurt--and I have 40 more miles and a marathon! I'm screwed! Better is to think... suffering is okay. Expect it. You will feel it at different points all day--sometimes when you least expect it and sometimes in a really deep way. Deal.
Transcending the physical is something I have yet to achieve, but I am hopeful that I someday will. I am capable of continuing to put one foot in front of the other for quite a long period of time, but I note my pain every. single. step. I imagine transcending the physical to be like floating inside the pain and continuing to move as opposed to fighting with the pain--or worse--lamenting it.
Accept your fate. This goes along with suffering is okay, I think. The thing is, it's going to be hard until it's not hard anymore. So just let it be. If you are experiencing a killer headwind going up through the gorge at mile 95...Well, accept it. If you are barfing... well you are barfing. Accept it. Continue on and accept it. You will keep going until you are able to stop--which is not until you finish. So just accept that.
Have confidence that you will succeed. I'm not too awesome at this... but I just read a GREAT post on it by the all-knowing Liz.
Here it is:
I have a few to add to this... but they aren't so wise as they are practical.
Here are a few of my personal commandments:
1. When you think, drink.
This does not mean to go get hammered. This means that when riding or running, if you think you should drink--like the thought crosses your mind--then take a sip. It's kind of like a college drinking game... only ... in an Ironamn and with EFS.
2. Nausea means slow down.
If you feel like you are going to barf, it's LIKELY because you a. are going too hard and 2. you are not eating, drinking or both. and 3. you are short on electrolytes.
So, the answer to nausea is to ACCEPT YOUR FATE and slow down. Then eat and drink. Then take a salt tab. Don't speed up again--or at all. If you do, then you will spend the whole race puking. Trust me.
3. If you keep running, the race will end sooner.
This is kind of obvious and stupid, but at mile 18, trust me, you fight this logic.
4. If you want to chase that girl--do it when you hit mile 20. NOT NOW.
I have thought this repeatedly in my IMs so far. So far I have hit mile 20 and been able to actually take myself upon the adage once... and that is because I obeyed number 2. (unlike other IMs...)
5. Much like the case with child birthing plans, your plan will not work come race day. Or at least it won't work the whole day. It might work for a few hours. Accept your fate. (thanks Ulrich!) and adapt. Your plan should be to have a really good plan--and then to adapt it when that great plan fails.
I will do my fifth Ironman in a little over a week.
I plan to follow these commandments.
(even though the plan to do so will need to be adapted....for sure) ;)
and I accept that fate.
Bring on numero cinco!