A Behind-The-Scenes Look At My Most Challenge Race To Date
It's quite challenging for me to clearly articulate what transpired last weekend, so let me start from the top.
For my 30th birthday in May, instead of partying, I chose to run the Cactus Man Triathlon (2:45:22), the same race my mom ran which led to her pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Just two weeks later, still on a race high, I chose to run the Big Bear Spartan Beast (5:26:16), and two weeks after that I ran my first Marathon in San Diego (3:29:20).
Seeing this spree, my childhood friend Justin invited me to be part of his '23 Misogi, the Brazos Bend Ultramarathon... a 100 mile race through Brazos Bend National Park outside of Houston, Texas. I'm not sure I fully comprehended his ask at the time, but I had a training plan in my inbox the next morning. A few weeks later I was running 5x per week.
Let me add, I was never a runner in the past. When I played junior hockey we had a 2.2 mile fitness test and I used to run a quarter of a mile, hide in the bushes, and jump back out in the pack on the way back... God forbid I actually ran the full 2.2 miles, I would have surely puked.
Fast forward a decade, I'm training for an ultra and six weeks into training I did something to my ankle. On a 28 mile trail run from Will Rodgers State Beach to 'The Valley' and back something was tweaked and it required I take three weeks off of running and to see multiple physical therapists to treat the mysterious injury. This was a blessing, as it introduced me to a new way of strength training that has improved my joint stability and overall athleticism.
Returning from injury, I started with a 20 mile week and added 20% week over week. This got me up to a 54 mile week before I was required to being tapering. The longest I had run leading up to race day was just 28 miles. The best part is, I was traveling in Europe the month leading up to the race, and this introduced me to a new love, 'runsplorin' - seeing a city in a way I wouldn't have otherwise.
I felt strong, mind clear, and energy in check the week leading up to the race... then I was thrown a curveball.
On November 28th, four days before the race, and just 12 hours before my flight from London to Texas, they cancelled the race. It was 12:30am in London and I hopped on a Zoom with my three buddies who had planned to run with me and we unanimously decided we were going to do it anyway - 24 hours later I touched down in Texas.
What I didn't know while boarding my flight was Pierce Showe and Steve Weatherford were planning on running the race, and they don't respond well to 'no' either. In the 12-hours it took me to fly across the pond, they had scouted, setup, found sponsors, and launched their own unsanctioned race. Just like that, Run Your Race 2023 was born.
Best part of all, we went from running through a beautiful national park...
... to running 100, 1 mile loops, on concrete, around Elevate Life Church in Frisco, Texas.
Other than the sponsors, there are no aid stations for an unsanctioned race. This mean we were required to make our own - and the bed of Justin's Raptor worked just fine.
*Big shoutout to all of the volunteers who had our back and helped keep spirits high during the race.
On the morning of the race I woke up around 5am to take a hot shower and prep my bag.
By 6:45am we were greeted by a few hundred people in the church parking lot.
At roughly 7:15am we were off to the races.
Run Your Race meant you could pick any mileage, from 1 - 100 miles... and boy did it make it challenging to see people enjoying the portable sauna and ice baths while we still had 50+ miles to go. Race energy is unlike anything else, and not only did the 'choose your mileage' attract more runners, but the church hosts 400+ 'Mighty Men' for a mens group every Saturday morning. Fortunately they were all there in the morning to send us off.
Shortly before the race began, Former Navy SEAL Garrett Unclebach led us in what can only be described as a primal war cry. After 3 rounds, he yelled 'send it', and we were off to the races.
What transpired over the next 24 hours was nothing short of a spiritual journey to a deep, dark, grueling place.
I've fallen in love with running over the last year or two and the start felt like another casual day pounding the pavement. I completed the first 25 miles in just over four hours, felt strong, and had my nutrition / hydration dialed.
It's amazing to experience how a strong athletic performance can positively shape a powerful mindset, and it's also equally fascinating to witness where your mind goes when shit hits the fan and pain begins to creep in.
At mile 28, teetering on the longest I've ever run in my life, both of my feet felt like they had exploded. It was some of the most attempted spirit-crushing and mentally draining pain I've felt in my life... but I was on a mission to come in sub 24 hours and needed to keep moving.
Miles 28 - 40 took me so deep into the pain cave that I genuinely considered throwing in the towel multiple times. Instead of failing myself, I chose to keep 'moving and grooving,' something I repeated to myself for hours.
The second 25 mile batch took around 6 hours, 2 hours longer than the first 25... and at 6:12pm, I was over the hump.
A switch flipped inside of me around the 40 mile mark. Something I'm not sure I can articulate, yet it reminds me of Carmy's AA monologue in The Bear, "Fuck you, watch this". The sun may have already set and the night shift was upon us, but once I illuminated my existence in the pain cave it no longer held any power over me.
Miles 40 - 70 went quick and I felt strong. It was new territory, and every step sent me father than I had gone before.
Pro Tip: Run for 6 mins, walk for 4. Stay in Zone 2. Your HR will thank you.
Once I hit mile 70 the mind games, and I believe hallucinations began.
My exact thoughts were that I was only 5 miles away from 75. Once I hit 75 it hit me that I still had a marathon left. This was challenging for me to comprehend but I kept moving and grooving. Then came 80 and I started to do a countdown from 20. Somewhere over the next 10 miles I decided to do a lap in reverse to change up the monotony, but this totally sent me mentally. Turns out the monotony had me in a trance-like state and going in the other direction pulled me from my deep meditation.
At 3am, having been awake for almost 24 hours, I had 15 miles to go and the real race began.
I was a mix of sleep deprived, dehydrated, and in a massive caloric deficit... but there was a fire burning in me that was unlike anything I'd felt before. It was as if a part of me that had been laying dormant woke up for the first time. I told myself I would rest when it was over, but not before then. I was on a mission to hit my sub 24 hour goal.
At 90 miles in I had roughly 2.5 hours left until that mark. It was time to get to work.
I devised a plan that I would leave the race at mile 97 to run back to Justin's house so that once I hit 100 miles I could immediately shower and crawl into bed. I told my friends, and after a few more laps Branden saw me at the aid station and asked if I was leaving, I said yes.
I didn't check the mileage on my watch.
I set off down the street at 5am in 38° weather... armed with nothing more than water, a frozen banana, and hummus.
I arrived at Justin's house and checked my watch... I was only at 97 miles.
I dropped my bag in his driveway, checked the time (54 minutes left), and set off to circumnavigate his neighborhood until I hit 100 or collapsed trying. I ran 3 consecutive 12 minute miles and at 6:53am on Sunday, December 3rd, 2023 I successfully finished the Run Your Race 100 with a time of 23:45:55... beating my goal time of 15 minutes.
The wave of emotion that came over me after completing that race was something I'll not soon forget. I did this race because I didn't know what existed between miles 28 - 100... and I was curious, yet never doubted myself.
I remember telling a friend of mine a few months ago about the race and their exact words were, "You're the only person I know that could do that... and if you say you're going to do something this absurd, I don't doubt you will."
I try not to seek external validation, but this solidified I'm still becoming the man I set out to be a few short years ago.
The biggest blessing, and unintentional outcome, had nothing to do with the race at all.
It has to do with the person that I had to become to be able to complete the race, let alone sub 24.
Now that you understand the backstory, here are 4 things I learned during my first Ultra.. and some pro tips, too!
1: Pain Exposes Everything
Miles 28 - 40 and 90+ when everything hurt my mind began to play games with me. It aimed to convince me that seeking comfort through cessation would leads to pleasure... but that choice always leads to regret.
If you choose to rest when the job is done, and not before, you gain the indescribable benefit of being a champion.
Pro Tip - When you enter the cave, break up the mission into digestible pieces. I.e. 10 seconds at a time.
2: You Are Not Your Mind
When the going gets tough, your mind will try everything in its power to get you to stop, to convince you you're worthless, etc... yet if you're the one who gets to decide, then you are not your mind - merely the observer of it.
Remember, you are in control and have much more to give. When my mind says stop, I'm only 40% of the way there.
Pro Tip - When your mind says something you don't agree with speak to it aloud.
You may be perceived as crazy, but it's the ones that are who change the world around them.
3: Perception Is Not Potential
Three years ago, before I did extensive personal development work as a Platinum Partner, what I believed to be my 100% was more like 40%. Before this race, what I believed to be my 100% was more like 70%... and just like that we're no longer playing the game of perceived potential but living up to actual potential.
Your perception creates your reality, and if you constantly perceive the 'impossible' to be possible - it will be.
Pro Tip - You become your thoughts... and yes, you are in control of what you choose to believe.
4: Farther Together
I love to do things lone wolf style... but with this comes it's own challenges. While I was running my own race and chose to do the vast majority of it in solitude (no music, no podcasts, nothing... just my thoughts), it would have been 10x more challenging if I didn't have the support from my crew (even the ones I didn't know).
Find a tribe who is crazy enough to not just support your ideas, but one that will challenge you to always think bigger.
Pro Tip - When aligned tribes come together, it's not a game of addition... it's a game of exponential multiplication.
Pro Pro Tip - Remember to lube your body.
I don't know what you're going through right now, and quite frankly, nobody cares... but what I do know is that either you choose your hard, or hard will choose you. You're more capable than you will ever be able to comprehend, and if you commit to being the best you, I guarantee you'll find a depth to your spirit that you never knew existed.
To become the person you want to be, you must do what that person does... before you're ready. Start today.
Quote On My Mind:
"Interested people watch obsessed people change the world all the time."
It's one thing to be interested... it's another to be obsessed.
If you want to harness 100% of your potential, you must be the latter.
QUOTE ON MY MIND 2:
"The future you is depending on the current you to keep the promises you made to yourself yesterday."
It's easy to trade what you can have now for what you want.
It's much harder to choose to live for who you want to be.
Quote ON MY MIND 3:
"Pain is the path back to yourself.
You need pressure to remind you who you are.
It shows everything. Every weakness. Every excuse. Every lie.
It puts you naked on stage, in front of all the lives you could have lived.
All the things you could have done... and it gives you a rare chance to transcend into someone new.
Because when there's nothing to hide, and nothing more to give, you are free for the first time."
In CASE YOU MISSED IT
In last weeks edition, I wrote about the beliefs I found to be sabotaging my success:
- Patience is inaction.
- You must fit in to be respected.
- Busyness is a hedge against triviality.
- If it's difficult to obtain, it must be valuable.
I've discovered time and again that growth is a game of subtraction.
Take stock of what you believe, often, and make sure what you know is justified so.
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