EXPLORING ENDURANCE: LESSONS FROM A 100 MILER

I recently tackled my first 100 mile trail run at an event called the KARKLOOF 100 . The KK 100 takes place in the picturesque KZN midlands, following dirt roads and single tracks through dairy farms and forest.

My decision was based on the following:

1) Whilst I was not adequately prepared fitness wise, I figured if don’t stretch myself I wont discover whats in me. My aim was simply to finish and to do so without damaging myself in any way that would compromise my ability to run long term.

2) I wanted to test and apply The Middle insights to an endurance event such as this. The insights come from a round the world cycle tour. This event would provide the perfect opportunity to work through them both in preparation and execution. I am going to release a full post on the middle insights and how they played out during the day.

3) I wanted to explore endurance. I define endurance as the ability to keep going, without giving way, as we journey meaningfully toward our goals.

4) Whilst I am still taking stock of the significance of running 100 miles as I rest up this week, a few key insights have landed and are already informing how I look at all areas of life where I am on a journey.

START  

I hesitated when I had filled in the entry form. Was this a mistake? There was a good chance I would not finish. Having completed the run now, I wont hesitate again to enter events which will stretch me and take me out of my comfort zone. We have to start. If we don’t stretch ourselves we will never discover whats inside of us, and will miss out on learning experiences and the growth that comes from taking ourselves beyond our limits, whatever they may be.

STORY

Before I entered I got clear on the story. I reflected on WHY I wanted to do this (articulated in the bullet points above), WHAT I wanted to achieve (which in this case was to finish the 100 miler) and wether this was in line with my VALUES which it certainly was. When we are connected to our story it makes decisions like this easier. When we are on the journey our story is leveraged during good times and during tough times. I constantly felt connected to what I was doing because it was a part of my story. This has to play out in all areas of life.

NUTRITION

I changed my nutrition plan 4 weeks prior to the event to include a Keto diet, followed by using Keto products on the day which I bought from Keto Nutrition. Justin and Ken from Keto Nutrition were super helpful in helping me set up nutrition plan, along with a good friend of mine Tom Basson. Whilst I made the decision specifically for my running endurance, I was blown away by the positive impact on my mental health during a normal working day, as well as the lack of low energy slumps that would typically appear around mid afternoon. I had to make some adjustments on race day as I felt like I had shocked my body with the new products I had introduced. I also had a few tough periods where I wasn’t taking in enough food. These are all learnings and one has to bear in mind it was 34degrees for a good portion of the run.  Mentally, I was positive throughout the day and physically, I was able to sustain the challenge.  I have come away from the past 4 weeks utterly convinced that nutrition plays a vital role in our overall ability to endure and enjoy every day, no matter what we are doing.

PLANNING

I entered the event with four running plans. (Plan A / B / C / D). Plan A was an ambitious sub 24hr run. Plan B was ideal with a sub 27hr run. Plan C was a sub 30hr run and Plan D would see me crawling over the finish line to make cut off! All of these plans were based on pace, an estimated finish time, broken down into estimated times I would be arriving at basecamp during the day for fuelling stops and small rests. I was then able to watch my pace and review the time of arrival at basecamps so as to adjust the plan accordingly. I started on Plan A and by early afternoon I had adjusted to Plan B, which is where I was able to stay for the remainder of the race.  I no longer want to tackle any project or significant area of my life without a series of plans which are measurable and adjustable based on those measurements.

TRIBE

This was crucial. My wife (Toni) and my neighbour and friend, Justin Elson joined me as my support crew. They were clear on the four running plans and knew my fuelling requirements when I rolled in. I was able to hand them my pack and rest while they did the replenishments. Joining them was Justin’s wife Sherrie and good friends of ours Matt and Andrea Warriner. Then of course my beautiful girls. Shaun Reid from Trail Shed spent time with me up front given his experience running these events. I even reached out to Travis Macy and he graciously offered me some time to chat through the what I was about to do. Matt even organised me an encouraging note from Nathan Fa’avae. En route, I ended up running with another competitor, Steve Lownie. He and I spent a portion of the run together, pulling each other along.

Our tribe support our ability to endure and take on the journey required to reach our goals.

THE BOUNCE BACK:

This is something Travis Macy made me aware of. At some point you will drop into a dark place. I got there between 50 – 60km. But our bodies have the uncanny ability to bounce back. I simply kept going, slowed down and tried to shift up what I was eating. I even found a dam to jump into to cool down (the temperature was hitting 34degrees at this point). I didn’t worry about pace or plan, but simply about momentum. Then the bounce back happened.

We tend to want to give up when we are at those points, or we end up so demoralised that we slip further back than we need to. No matter how tough, we all have the ability to bounce back.


The honest truth is I am hooked now. I want to do more 100 milers. There is something about the nature of this event, the exploration of endurance, what an event like this teaches you, the benefit of time out on the trails, the need to dig deep, the people you meet, the need for a crew and the deep satisfaction that comes from crossing the finish line!

See you out there?

Trav

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