A while back, my Airrosti doc, Nick, said something that gave me pause. It was during a conversation that went something like this:
Nick: That was pretty stupid to go for a second run when you didn't feel great on your first run of the day.
Julie: Yeah, well, I've learned my lesson now.
Nick: Hmm. You seem to have a pretty short memory for lessons.
Ever since that conversation, I keep thinking about what lessons about ultrarunning I've learned over the years, that I maybe need reminding about. Since March 2013, when I ran my first ultra, I've run 40 ultras, with no DNFs. A few of those races went really poorly, some went pretty good, and a few went great.
You'd think in that time I would have gained enough experience to not make stupid mistakes anymore. Maybe if I spend a little time reflecting, it will help me avoid making the same mistakes in the future. So here goes:
What lessons have I learned from running 40 ultramarathons in 3 years? (in no particular order)
1. Eat often -- trickle in the calories. If you're really feeling low, start eating 1 gel every 20 minutes.
2. Drink to thirst. Drink something with electrolytes, or eat something salty when you crave it.
3. Carry just as much as you need. Ditch unnecessary items; run lighter if possible.
4. Pack an extra headlamp just in case.
5. Start conservatively.
6. As you approach an aid station, think through what you'll do there. Come up with an easy mnemonic device to remember it (e.g., Water, Ice, Sunscreen - WIS), and then do just that. Don't waste time at aid stations.
7. Wear two thin layers of socks to prevent blisters.
8. Preventatively tape and lube any likely chafing areas.
9. Get lots of sleep.
10. Take your resting heart rate every morning before getting out of bed. If it's unusually high, consider taking a rest day.
11. Don't overdo it with new ideas (e.g., Yeah, running barefoot sounds great! I'm going to go run 6 miles barefoot, even though I never usually run barefoot! -- actually happened, 1 week before a race)
12. Take time to reflect on your goals for your race, and how you feel, before the race. (I use a journal.)
13. Music is a great energizer when you're racing through the middle of the night -- but only keep 1 earbud in, for safety.
14. During hot races, put ice everywhere.
15. More isn't always more. (Okay, still working on learning this one.)
16. Strength training and core work is great.
17. Caffeine pills are super helpful during long races.
18. Foam roll every day.
19. Massages can be really helpful, if you go to the right person.
20. Don't eat guacamole right before a hot night race.
21. You can carry a to-go cup of food in your sports bra for on-the-run nutrition.
22. You usually don't need to change shoes in an ultra, even in a 100.
23. Ultras are amazing and wonderful, and we're so blessed to be able to do them, but really, it's a pretty silly activity, running around in circles in the woods. So smile!
24. Being injured is terrible, but there are always ways to cross-train, and everyone's been there. You'll get through it, too. Look to positively-minded injury-role-models, like Emilie Forsberg, for inspiration.
25. Keep your car keys in your drop bag . . . or in a zippered pocket.
26. If things aren't going your way (even if it's just that someone is using you as a pace rabbit and it's annoying), just try to find the good in it, and trust that it will work out for the best in the end.
27. Driving home from a race, pull over and take a nap if you get sleepy.
28. In ultras, the race doesn't begin until the half-way point, at the earliest.
29. If you relax and just have fun, you'll be able to run longer and race harder at the end.
30. Don't drink two cups of black tea before a race.
31. At least 80% of your running should be "easy." 20% should be "hard" -- and races count for this.
32. Maffetone training helps with ensuring your easy runs are easy.
33. When you're running a multi-loop race, you need to be your own sports psychologist in order to not go bat-sh!t crazy.
34. Plan ahead to find a church near the race, with a Mass time that works before or after the race so you don't miss church.
35. Don't eat gas station pizza, ice cream, and chicken salad sandwich all at once after a 100-mile race, no matter how hungry you think you are. (Eat the pizza and ice cream; skip the sandwich.)
36. Rotate your running shoes.
37. Keep sunscreen in your drop bag, and keep reapplying.
38. For a 100k or 100-miler, put a Wisp in your hydration pack so you can brush your teeth in the middle of the night. You'll feel like a new person.
39. Keep a cheat-sheet of the aid stations in your pocket, in a ziploc bag, so you always know how far to the next aid station.
40. You are capable of so much more than you'll ever know.
Great, now if I could just remember to do all those things.