Just recently I ran a 50 Mile ultramarathon! I am used to pushing myself a little over the edge, but this was the first time I went WAY beyond my comfort zone in any race I have done in the past. This TOPS all the 6 Ironman’s I have raced including qualifying for the Hawaii Ironman which about 2-3 percent accomplish worldwide.
This entire experience made me realize how powerful our MINDSET is and how we are in CONTROL of our RESULTS.
When I first signed up for the Stone Cat Ale 50 Mile ultramarathon, I really did not think too much about it at the time. I figured I had plenty of time to train for a very long race such as this and I was accustomed to long distances races.
But I got in a biking accident recently (the first week of September) which resulted in surgery and 4 pins to help fuse the bone of my finger. As a result, I was not able to run for almost a month and still have not been back on my bike since I still don’t have much range of motion or gripping capability.
Needless to say, my training took a back seat. My typical training days averaged 7 mile runs per day. I did just one “long” run of 12 miles on a Saturday, hardly enough to prepare for a 50 MILE RACE!! (Under normal situation, at least two 35 mi runs would have been more appropriate). Biking is a huge part of my training routine which helps to keep me fit. So having, not ridden in 3 months has really compromised my level of fitness.
A little About The Race…
The race was a USAT certified 50 Mile Trail Run in Ipswich, Massachusetts on the border of NH/MA. It consisted of 4 loops each 12 ½ miles. The terrain had some short hills (some steep) and had lots of roots and rocks hidden underneath all the Needle sticks. It was a beautiful course on half single track and half fire road trails.
Before the race started, all the runners placed their personal drop bag on grass off to the side of the actual start. At any point after each loop, we had the option to grab anything from our personal bags that we packed the night before. In my case, I packed lots of changes of clothes to keep dry especially extra socks and running shoes in case it was really muddy and wet out there!
The course had three aid stations (food/ water) at miles 4, 7, and 12.5 per loop (we ran the loop 4 times). The support team and race volunteers were exceptional!! Each station was stocked with water, Gatorade, and a whole gamut of delicious homemade foods! They had chicken soup, Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches, potatoes, salt, chips, pretzels, homemade gingerbread oatmeal, and chocolate chip cookies, fruit, fudge, coke, even bacon…. In my experience with Ironman races, I do not eat any solid foods, and gain all my fuel and nutrition from my sports drink solution (ample with calories) and gels.
These ultra guys are really on to something! I took advantage of peanut butter and Jelly quarter sandwiches, potatoes, and water/Gatorade—REAL FOOD to help sustain my Energy. The Salt dish to dip the potato hit the spot! It was a long day and I needed calories!
Race Morning… A Surreal Moment
I woke up a 4 AM and it felt very surreal. I was entering the unknown… I had never pushed my body to these limits and did not know what to expect or how my body would handle the physical stress on MINIMAL training. But, in the back of my mind I also felt a sense of confidence that I could do this. I was relying on my left over stamina after having trained for the Ironman for so many years. With ultramarathons, I have learned that a KEY strategy for success is to combine walking with running and I figured, I can always walk more and still finish.
I had some breakfast (oatmeal and flax seeds) and drove 6 miles to the race start. It was still dark and cold and I kept thinking “how in the world am I going to run 50 miles!” I had no idea what I was capable of that day. I just thought it would be an amazing accomplishment.
We arrived, parked, and registered. By this time, I was getting more nervous. I just kept visualizing the outcome of the finish helping to make it become more of a reality!
The Actual Race….
At 6:15 AM, the race gun fires off and we begin our 50 Mile race, and a journey into the unknown! I felt really good from the start and thought I may actually do this! The course was through the trails and had rolling hills with some steep parts. The strategy was to conserve energy wherever possible and walk up the hills. My fiancé and I ran the whole race together and supported each other!
Loops 1 and 2 (1-25 miles)
We completed the first loop (12.5 miles), felt good, and continued on (passing through the start) to the second loop which was the second half of the marathon portion. We followed the plan and walked up the steep hills. But, for the most part, we ran the entire first half of the 50 mile race—I was feeling really excited… but started to feel uncertainty about running another 25 miles!
Loops 3 and 4 (26-50 miles)
After the second loop, I quickly changed into dry clothes and did it all over again….I continued on to mile 26, third loop. At this point, I noticed my hand was super SWOLLEN– like a baseball; I still have not recovered yet from my biking accident and have months of therapy ahead of me to get back the full range of Motion.
NOW it was really becoming a mental challenge. Between miles 26-28, I experienced a really TOUGH mental patch. I continued on, but VERY UNSURE about finishing or how my hand or body would respond. All kinds of thoughts were going through my mind and I contemplated stopping with the marathon distance behind me. In fact, I came so close turning around.
It was very difficult to imagine at that point repeating another 25 miles. I had truly stepped beyond my comfort zone (even more than when racing Ironmans). I needed to make a decision. Either I stop now (and still be happy I did a marathon) or COMMIT to finishing the 50 and not look back! Right then, I consciously shifted my mindset from uncertainty to absolute certainty that I would finish no matter how challenging it could become. I was going to stay the course. As soon as I committed in my mind that I was going to finish the full 50 mile ultra, I experienced a whole new wave of energy. At the very worst, I would just walk if I had to…. But as it turned out, we ran most of the loops 3 and 4 (26-50 mi).
The race turned out to be a blast— we ran through forests, marshes, and even a soccer field. We followed our strategy and ran the “runable” parts and walked wherever there were steep hills to conserve our energy. Jon and I had of fun running together. He seemed to have endless energy that day which also helped!
Mindset is so powerful…
The moment I committed after the first 25 Mi and could visualize the outcome, I had a new surge of energy and will power to finish. I truly believe in this case it was Mind over Matter. I had only done one 12 mile run in preparation for this mostly due to my hand injury.
By the time we got to the 4th loop, I was tired, but kept moving! I would just pick up my legs and motor through the woods. Of course, I felt soreness developing in my quads and I knew I would be extremely sore and pay for it afterwards!
At mile 37 with just 12 more miles to go, it was to be a fait accomplis!
By the time we reached our 45th mile, it was getting dark so we took out our flashlights. I wanted to run the last 5 miles, but it was still too dark to see clearly and there were lots of roots and rocks underneath all the needle sticks. I did not want to risk twisting an ankle at the point—or worse falling on my still healing hand. So the last and final stretch was a real brisk walk to the finish with lots of anticipated excitement about our near finish and the really cool jacket that was the prize for finishers!
Finally after racing from sunrise to sunset, we came down the last stretch and crossed over the finished line! It was an awesome feeling! I finished my first 50 mile ultramarathon!
The Power of Your Mindset
This is a really perfect example of how incredibly powerful the influence of our minds has over our ability to accomplish our goals. After the first 25 miles, I encountered mental crossroads. I was either going to stop at 25 or commit going the full distance. I made the choice to complete the race to the end. It was the power of positive mindset that served as the guiding force amid the physical challenge.
If you have a goal you want to achieve, it can be very empowering to know that the outcome is within your control. Your thoughts and positive mindset is a major influence in predicting your results. Therefore, by training your mind with the RIGHT mindset is the biggest component to achieving YOUR goals.
Small Successes Is Key To Reaching The Larger Goal
A helpful approach to tackling the long distance race was to NOT think about it as a 50 Mile race, but rather 4 shorter 12.5 mile races. This made the race mentally so much more manageable! After finishing each loop, I experienced progress and success. The little chunks of success were a huge incentive to finish the race. I think this is a valuable lesson.
In life, we all need to experience minor successes to keep propelling us forward and to take us on our path to reaching new heights and setting new goals beyond our limitations.
My Takeaway…and how you can learn from my adventure
This race turned out to be more than just an incredible enduring physical Challenge; it was also a huge personal growth experience in many ways. This adventure reinforced the power of Mindset and incredible Reward for pushing beyond comfort zone.
Our thoughts truly impact our mindsets and influence our results. This is very EMPOWERING! YOU are in charge so choose your thoughts wisely and determine your own long term success.
I would love to hear your experiences! Please comment below and share with the community:
1) HOW Your Mindset has impacted your goals and accomplishments AND/OR
2) What have you done recently that stretched you beyond your comfort zone and how did you grow from this experience?
We can all grow by learning from your personal insights. Once you have commented, click the green “retweet” button and share with all your twitter followers.
I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by my blog today and look forward to sharing more insights and value.
To Your Success,