I've had two mediocre race performances in my past two ultras. Evergreen Lake 32 Miler in September went well for about 22 miles, then I crashed and burned. Farmdale 30 Miler this past weekend went well for 25 miles, then I bonked. Both races ended with me slogging to the finish. It wasn't pretty. I could barely move up hills. Downhills weren't much better. Clearly, I needed more energy. Maybe I was dehydrated too. So, next time, I can try to consume more calories and keep pumping the fluids. Fortunately, or not, that "next time" is coming up in less than 4 weeks--McNotAgain 30 Miler on November 9.
After Farmdale, I thought about what went wrong. I talked to friends. Some people say I'm running too fast during the first section of races, burning too many carbs (instead of fat), and thus bonking. That may be true. Others say I have changed my training to be faster paced and aimed more for speed than endurance. Could be. My 'coach' down the street thinks I need to get back to easy Maffetone-style heart rate training...and racing. Wear a HR monitor and keep things under control. Maybe he's right. It's probably a combination of too few calories, moderate dehydration, and too high of a heart rate during the beginning 2/3 of the race. I need to be disciplined and run at an easy pace, take in food, drink when thirsty, and stay cool and collected.
All of this makes sense...but there's something missing. Races are not meant to be run by heart rate. They are meant to be run BY HEART. Races are won or lost by the heart and soul of the runner. You need to push hard, approach your limits, suffer, and push forward. Races are run by heart (maybe guts), not by heart rate. In my last two races, I gave up too early. Sure I was dead tired. I lacked energy. At times, you cannot defeat physiology. I was likely carb depleted. Still, I should have sucked it up, forced calories and fluids, and made steady progress. It's very easy for your mind to trick your body into giving up. There are always reasons to slow down or stop. Your HEART needs to keep you moving forward. Relentless forward progress is the ultra mantra. It takes determination to keep going...but it takes extra motivation, it takes heart and soul, to do MORE than a crawl. When things break bad, your HEART has the ability to overcome and make things right.
In my next race, I plan on running the first 20 miles with my head, the last 10 miles with my HEART. I won't give up. Of course, "the will to win means nothing without the will to prepare" (thanks Juma for that quote). I need to re-dedicate myself to real ultra training. Done.
HEART, not heart beats.
Hope you crush your next race! Run with heart. With soul. With grit and determination. With guts.