Lessons from Mountain Lakes 100
My amazing husband ran his first 100 mile race a couple weeks ago. He not only completed an impossible race — he totally crushed it! He finished 33rd out of 171 competitors with a time of only 23 hours, 18 min, 11 sec. Mind boggling to me. Especially for his first time ever running that distance.
While most of us would never even dream of running 100 miles (myself included), I’ve learned a lot from watching Mark train for and run this unbelievably long race. I think we can each apply these lessons to any goal we may have, large or small, and to life as a whole for that matter. These principles will always be helpful and hold true regardless of the circumstance.
Do what you love
Mark loves to run. He loves to be outside. He thoroughly enjoys competition of all kinds. He likes adventure and doing what others would not even imagine trying. He has always been athletic and his body is cooperative and amenable to the demands he puts on it. So long distance trail running is the perfect sport for him. Even though it’s challenging, he loves it and enjoys the time he spends running. Running is not punishment. It is not a tool for weight loss and for getting into shape, although he is happy with the long-term benefits he sees in his life as a result of exercising regularly.
What do you love to do? What movement feels good in your body? What do you enjoy doing?
Mindset makes all the difference
Mark genuinely believes he can do anything he puts his mind to, and he enjoys the challenge of trying to figure out how to get there. What we might see as impossible, he simply sees as something he hasn’t figured out how to do yet — a true growth mindset.
If you could accomplish anything without limitations, what would you do? Allow yourself to dream big. See yourself as the person who has achieved their dream. How can you fully step into that picture of yourself and believe it is possible? Can you allow yourself to really believe that change and growth are possible?
Preparation is key
Last February, Mark ran a 50K race on Orcas Island, much shorter than the race last month. But this 50K was awful. He had not trained very much over the winter. The course was extremely challenging and the weather was terrible. He finished, but just barely. It was not a fun experience for him (or for those of us supporting him!) He was reminded that mindset and passion are not the only things that matter — you have to be truly prepared!
So this time, he trained consistently over many months. He race at all times of the day and night, at different elevations and varying terrains. He ran in different conditions. Sometimes he race while fasting or sleep-deprived. He prepared his body and his mind for the challenge it would be to run for 24 hours straight without stopping. One day at a time. One run at a time.
Small steps matter! What small steps are you taking every day towards your goals? Small steps creates big changes over time.
Inquiring minds want to know!
Mark learns everything he can about running. He watches documentaries about trail races. He reads books and blogs by runners. Studies nutrition specific to long distance races. Learns about the latest products that can help with chafing, soreness, injury prevention, and more. He wants to know everything the experts know so he can experiment with those techniques in his own running and figure out what works best for him. He isn’t just out there running blindly without any input from others, thinking he can figure it out on his own.
What questions do you have? How can you start to uncover answers? Study what the experts are saying, and then experiment with that information in your life to find out what is true for you.
Get the right tools
Mark & I watched a crazy documentary a while back about a 3100 mile race that is run around one city block in New York City. (Yes, that’s 6200 times around the same city block over the course of 6 to 8 weeks! The runner they profiled in this race wore old shoes with cotton socks and used a bottle of cornstarch to prevent chafing! Amazing! Mark ran only a tiny fraction of the distance run in this race, but he would never dream of running in broken down shoes with cotton socks and cornstarch! (I guess it must work for him though…)
Mark was deliberate in the tools he chose to help him with his task. He found the good trail running shoes that support his feet well on uneven, unpredictable trails. He has the right socks so he minimizes blisters. He has clothes that help keep him dry and comfortable. He uses anti-chafing cream to keep his skin feeling good. He even wore glasses that helped keep mud, debris, and wind out of his eyes while running for so long. He had the right electrolytes, gels, and food to help keep himself fueled throughout the race. He had headlamps, GPS, cameras, and more. He thought through the issues that might arrive and tried to have to necessary gear with him to get him through the race.
What tools do you need to help you accomplish your goal? Set yourself up for success by investing in what you need so you have the greatest likelihood of success.
Small steps, pace yourself — make it doable
Mark’s strategy throughout his training and during the race was to keep his heart rate at 150-160 beats per minute, or his “perceived exertion” at a 4 or 5 out of 10. That means he was never winded or out of breath throughout the entire race! He slowed down and hiked when he needed to, and he picked up the pace and ran when he felt good. He consistently checking in with his body to make sure he never felt like he was pushing himself too hard. He could carry on a conversation with others throughout the entire 100 miles. He was steady and followed his plan.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Break your goal into small, doable chunks and take one small step at a time. Don’t run faster than you have strength - figuratively or literally. But keep moving forward, even when the pace is slow. That steady forward momentum is what will bring success, not short bursts of enthusiasm or speed.
Consistent acts of self-care
During the race, Mark’s nutrition and hydration were carefully planned to give him optimal energy throughout the race. He had researched and experimented with which foods and drinks felt best in his individual body. He stuck with his schedule, even when he didn’t feel like it, knowing that it was going to keep him feeling good throughout the race.
He also took time to stop and take care of his body, even when he saw others moving faster through the aid stations. He changed his socks and shoes frequently and changed all of his clothes before heading into the cold night so he started out dry and warm. He still had some chafing and blisters by the end of the race, but they were greatly minimized because he took the time to take care of his body throughout the race.
What small acts of self-care can you plan into your day? Self-care does not need to be a massage or a day at the spa. It can be slowing down while you eat your dinner, taking a few deep breaths before you walk into your next meeting, or creating time in your schedule to do a few minutes of yoga before bed.
Surround yourself with supportive people
Mark also recognized that setting and achieving goals is more fun when achieved with others. While most of his training runs were solo affairs, he also liked to run with friends. He talked with other runners and got their advice. During the race itself, his sister and his good friend came to be pacers during the second half. Emily ran 16 miles with him a little more than halfway through the race. And Dag ran the last 30 miles with him, all the way through the night. Their presence kept him safe, focused, and in good spirits as he was doing something mentally and physically taxing. He could’ve probably done it all on his own, but it was a much better experience because he shared it with others.
Who do you have on your support team? Who can you call on for help and encouragement as you work towards your goal?
Additionally, Mark recognized that while running is a solo sport, it takes a lot of time and support from other people to make it possible. As his wife, there were a lot of times I had to "pick up the extra” when he was off training. Mark always worked to make his runs as convenient as possible for me, actively looking for ways that I could be supported in the act of supporting him. He was quick and frequent to offer his appreciation to me and to the kids for our support of his training efforts. He involved each of us as much as possible in his efforts. My son became his “crew chief” and helped design a crew notebook so we would know exactly where to be and what we needed to do. He asked my opinion about what food to eat and which clothes to wear. And he constantly said thank you for being willing to support him in his efforts. A few words go a long ways!
How can you show appreciation to those in your life who help you along the path towards accomplishing your goals?
Discomfort can help us grow
Mark is better able to endure and embrace physical and mental discomfort than anyone I know. He can notice that his body is being challenged and keep moving forward. He recognizes that most growth does not come with some degree of discomfort. He is willing sit (or run) with the discomfort in order to experience that growth.
How comfortable are you with discomfort? Are you willing to stretch beyond your comfort zone in order to experience growth? We each have to stretch — not too much and not too little — in order to see results. That combination of stretch and support is the key to transformation.
Perhaps reading about my husband’s adventures, you inspired to train for your first long distance trail race. Or perhaps you have decided he’s a little crazy and a glutton for punishment. Either way, I hope you will take some of the lessons I’ve learned from watching him work through the process of achieving his goal and apply them to your own dreams and watch how they can become a reality in your life!