Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Ultra Mindset by Travis Macy

Today is the official release day of Travis Macy's book, The Ultra Mindset, and I encourage you to check it out (available at Amazon). Travis was kind enough to ask me to write a blurb corresponding to one of the principle's in his book. Some of what I wrote got cut (I am too wordy!) and some got edited to better fit the theme of the book, but here is my original transcript:

As a mom, I think ultrarunning models many of the life skills I hope to teach my two kids - things like determination, perseverance, goal setting, pushing your boundaries, and working hard. I also hope they see the joy and the passion that I have for being active and getting outside. Yes, I run because I love it, but ultimately, I hope my running influences my kids to think big and to pursue their dreams, too. And knowing my kids are proud of me (at least until they hit their teenage years!) feels great.

In 2010, I lost sight of the impact my running has on my kids during the Angeles Crest 100 mile race. The day was hot, I was tired, and my knee started hurting. I got to a point where I didn’t care any more and I dropped. Certainly there are good reasons not to finish a race, but that night when my five year old daughter Megan asked, “Mommy, why did you drop?”, I didn’t have one. The next morning when she looked at me with her big eyes and said, “Mommy, you should have finished the race,” it felt like a dagger to the heart. I vowed to give my best efforts to get to the finish line from then on.

In 2012, I had a chance to truly test my resolve when things spiraled downhill at the Western States Endurance Run. Instead of the normally hot conditions, the competitors battled through thirty miles of freezing rain, sleet and snow, before dropping to lower elevations and milder conditions. Unprepared for such weather, I became hypothermic. The cold triggered my asthma and my frozen hands were unable to work my pocket zippers, leaving me without any food for several hours.

But the real issue came at 2 o'clock in the morning when I got to mile 85. My weight was up seven pounds and the medical team forced me to stop. I sat for two and a half hours, but was unable to urinate enough for my weight to get back down to a point where the medical team would let me continue. As the cutoff time approached, I knew I needed to get going or I would be cut from the race. The medical team was concerned I might be hyponatremic but I knew I had been drinking large volumes of broth to get warm and was fairly confident that I was not in serious danger.  I signed a waiver of liability and left against medical advice, determined to get to the finish. I was stiff and cold from sitting for so long, but I trudged through the remaining miles to get to the finish. My time was more than eight hours slower than the previous year and I finished fourth from the bottom, but I was so glad I finished. I knew it was a great example for my kids. I was able to tell them sometimes things don’t go your way or the path gets difficult, but you can still do your best and not give up.

Though I was proud of that finish, I certainly didn’t want a repeat of that experience for the Western States Endurance Run in 2013. I took that experience and the mistakes I made to motivate me. I trained harder than ever, I became very regimented with my nutrition, and I picked apart every little detail to have a rock solid race plan. All of these elements came together for a magical race and I ended up winning by more than 40 minutes. My daughter Megan (now 8), joined me for the final 250 meters on the track. Sharing that finish with her was one of the proudest and most memorable moments of my life. It was a triumph after adversity, and I hope the memory and the lesson stay with her for a lifetime, too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The "Fool" Proof Formula For Predicting The Western States Winner

Who will take home the cougar this year?
Well, Gorge Waterfalls has come and gone meaning only Lake Sonoma remains before the elite entrants' field at Western States is complete. Which means it is almost time for ultra-fans to start furiously speculating on who is going to be taking home cougars this year.

Historically, fans have favored those with quick marathon times in the pre-race hype. If Runner A is ten minutes faster than Runner B at 26.2 miles, then simple math says Runner A should be nearly 40 minutes ahead of Runner B at the finish of 100 miles. But this is folly! Anyone who has run a 100 miler knows simple math enters the Twilight Zone about two-thirds of the way through the race: a place where simple addition and subtraction can confuse Mensa members, where the distances between aid stations are warped and don't seem to be represented by rational numbers, and where paces are no longer predictable. A place where lightning fast marathoners can get beat by middle-aged plodders (and routinely do!).

Sure runners with impressively fast legs will continue to captivate us, but when it comes to the 100 mile distance, leg speed is not enough. A runner must possess the right combination of leg speed, gastro-intestinal fortitude, and mental strength. But how can you weight these things to figure out which runner will come out on top?? This is where my very scientific formula comes into play. Just assign numbers to each category and add up the score. The highest scoring runner in the field is guaranteed to be hoisting the Robie Cup at this year's Western States award ceremony. (small print: results not guaranteed)

1) Marathon time: Ok, running 100 miles requires a lot more than just leg speed, but there is no denying that being fast is a benefit at any distance. Sub-2:45(M)/3:00(F) = 5 pts; Sub-2:35(M)/2:50(F) = 7 pts; Sub-2:28(M)/2:43(F) = 9 pts. No additional points for being faster than that because if you are, you are probably better trained for the marathon than 100 miles!

2) Ultra Sign Up Score: We all know when it comes to running ultras, your Ultra-Signup score is the be-all, end all representation of your ultra-potential. One point for every percentage over 90.

3) Strava Crowns: If you are the best over lots of little sections than surely you will be great over one big section. And we all know that after your Ultra Sign-up score, Strava crowns are the most meaningful proof that you are a badass. One point for every crown. Not on Strava?? Minus 2 points.

4) GI fortitude: GI woes can derail even the speediest of runners in a 100 miler. How well does your stomach hold up? Minus 3 points for every race that has suffered due to GI issues.

5) Gag reflex: Will you be able to choke down a gel at mile 85 or will you start gagging on that sticky sweet wad of goo. 5 points if you have ever swallowed a live goldfish; 4 points if you can eat organ meats, tripe, or haggis; 2 points if you like sushi.

6) Nutritional product sponsor: If you have a nutritional product sponsor, you obviously have the benefit of the most awesome product on the market. We know this because you tell us every other day on Facebook. 5 points for each nutritional product sponsor.

7) Game strategy - Running 100 miles doesn't require intelligence per se, but it does require a certain mental focus and an ability to strategize. 5 points if you can complete a 'Hard' sudoku, 5 points if you like strategy board games, and 5 points if you can read a scientific paper without falling asleep AND you understand what you just read.

8) Experience: When it comes to 100 milers, experience counts. 1 point for every previous 100 miler. Of course, there are several people who have won Western States as their first 100 miler, but almost all of these people were experienced ultra-runners at the 50 mile and 100km distance. So 1 point for every three 50M or 100km races you have completed (Sorry, running a 50k has NOTHING to do with running 100 miles, so they don't earn you any points here. But hopefully they make your Ultra Signup Score look good.)

9) Toughness: Are you tough enough to stick with it through the rough patches? Minus 3 points for every DNF.

There you have it. A very simple formula that weighs in the need for strong legs, a strong stomach and a strong head for success at Western States and other 100 milers. Just calculate out the Holy Trifecta score for each competitor and you'll be the first to know who is going to win Western States!