On Saturday I ran my first ever ultra-race, The DeClue Loops 50K. If you don’t know what an ultra is (don’t worry I didn’t either until recently), it’s any distance over a marathon, or 26.2 miles. This race took place at Greensfelder Park on the DeClue Trail, which is an 8.2 mile loop. I had to complete 4 loops of this trail. It was one of the toughest things I have done to date. I ended up 1st female overall! (Full disclosure, I was the only female to run this race.)
People often wonder why I do (Obstacle Course Races) OCRs and these long distance races. It’s because when we challenge ourselves physically, it translates to other areas of our lives. We build proof that we can do hard things. We can handle tougher mental and emotional situations. It also alters our perspective of what we deem as hard. During these races and training you will experience discomfort. You just have to lean in and accept you will be uncomfortable for a while, but you will finish stronger and more resilient than when you started. Also, all of the strength training and running makes me feel strong and boosts my mood. Read on for some of my takeaways from racing.
Never say never. If you asked me five years ago or so if I would ever run an ultra or even a marathon, my answer would have been “NO WAY!” I ran the Go! Half-Marathon (without training) in 2011 and I vividly remember telling myself I would never run anything longer. Fast forward to 2022 and I and just completed a 31+ mile race. The biggest change from 2011 to today was my approach/mindset towards running and actually putting in consistent training. As we grow, what we once thought of as off the table becomes a possibility.
Why not me/you?! I used to see other people accomplishing really amazing physical feats and think how awesome it was, but I never put myself in that same category. I would think those accomplishments are for those already awesome people. However the truth is, I could do those things too. Maybe not at their level, but at my own. With consistent work/training so much is possible. Starting OCRs really ingrained this thought. Now I look at challenges like 50Ks, 100 milers, and Spartan Beasts and ask myself if I WANT to do them, not if I COULD do them. It then becomes a matter of how to get there. When I signed up for this 50K I knew it would be tough, but I also knew I could put consistent time and effort into training for it. If you think something would be awesome to do or accomplish, don’t count yourself out. Figure out the first step to get there and with time you can do it. It may take years, but the time will pass anyway. Why not accomplish something you amazing?!
Be firm in your goal, but flexible in your approach. Getting to the start line of this race was not easy. It had a lot of ups and downs. In the fall of 2020 my right foot started hurting. After going to the doctor, I found out it was plantar fasciitis. I decreased my running and did stretches at home daily. That didn’t help. I went to a podiatrist and had 4 cortisone shots, which were not very helpful and very painful. I went to physical therapy where one of the main modalities was dry needling therapy. I had needles stuck in my foot and calf with electricity run through to help stimulate healing. It hurt. I did my exercises daily. I even slept in a boot for six months. I picked up biking over running. I got orthotics. My foot would feel better then feel worse. It was frustrating. This summer I was finally getting consistent relief. I got one last cortisone shot over the summer and, knock on wood, it did the trick this time. This was such a long process and at times I wondered it would ever go away and if I would be able to run the races I would like to run. With the issue with my foot, I was not able to run the volume that was needed to complete this race, but I could bike. I had to change up my training and adapt to the situation.
Focus on the process. I am a huge fan of focusing on the process over the outcome. Completing this race was no exception. It paid off in training for and running this race. Instead of just focusing on finishing the race and how much I had left to run, I focused on what I needed to do to stay in the race. That meant focusing on drinking water and electrolytes. It meant eating ~ 250 calories every hour. It meant focusing on what I was going to do when I got to an aid station. If I encountered a volunteer, I thanked them. If I came up to someone on the trail, I encouraged them. I checked in with myself to make sure I was keeping my shoulders relaxed, I was running at a manageable pace, and I was running tall. All of this helped me to not think about the miles about and stay present. Whenever you have a large goal ahead, focus on the actions you need to take to get there not how much left you have to go.
Keep a growth mindset. A growth mindset is believing your skills can be improved with effort. (For more info check out Lisa’s book review on Mindset.) If at first you fail or don’t perform up to the standard you want, know that you can get better. Instead of pouting, think about what needs to change and what actions you can take to get better the next time. With any set back and after each race, I think about how I can grow and get better. I don’t just accept that’s as good as I can get. This was especially helpful in OCRs. If I missed an obstacle, I would think about what I needed to do to get better at it next time. With this 50K being my first ultra-race, I know I have a lot of room for improvement and look forward to developing this skill.
Dream big! You are capable of so much more than you could possibly imagine. You just need to put in consistent work. It may take years to get there, but if the goal is that important, it will be worth it.