It’s been one week since I embarked on the Yeti 100 with the stretch goal (it seemed that way at the time) of earning the coveted sub-24 hour buckle. They say there’s no such thing as a perfect 100 miler, but locking down as many controllable factors as I could, tackling the race as something that should mentally be easier than completing a PhD, and surrounding myself with amazing support led to results beyond what I had even imagined. I believe there’s some key takeaways to training and racing (during COVID), and crushing my goal in 22 hours and 44 minutes.
1. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~ Wayne Gretzky
I finished my first Yeti 100 (and first and only other 100) in 2017 in just under 29 hours (30 hour cutoff). I truly believe ANYONE who wants to can finish a 100 if you have mediocre fitness and mental grit. Honestly, finishing a 100 is NOT easy but as long as you keep moving forward you can finish even if you hike the whole time. I never questioned whether I could finish in 2017, but I felt generally pretty crappy the whole time and did question whether I would ever have the fitness to be more competitive and actually manage a sub-24 hour finish. It seemed pretty unattainable at the time but I’ve made it my business to try hard things, so why not? The bug got in my ear and I volunteered at the 2019 race so I would have a guaranteed spot in 2020 to go for it; you never know what you’re capable of until you try something that previously seemed impossible.
2. “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” ~Walt Disney
Once I set the sub-24 hour goal, I knew things would have to be different in 2020 in order to make it happen. The 2 aspects of training I never quite mastered previously were nutrition and strength training. I suspected if I could implement a strong plan including both of these missing elements that it would help get me closer to my fitness goals, including the sub-24 hour finish. I avoided crossfit for so many years but joined OxFit near my home in Grant Park at the beginning of January and immediately jumped into their fitness challenge to jump start the journey. My thought process/experiment was if I could hit the strength training hard and then start increasing my running mileage, including double crossfit/run days, it would train my body to run long on tired muscles. The benefits were several-fold: ability to run faster even on tired legs, improved recovery times, and decreased muscle imbalance. The workouts moved to Zoom for several months during early-COVID and it became a great way to stay strong and motivated. 7 months later, I’m in the best shape of my life, and lost nearly 25 lbs and over 10% body fat. Carrying less weight over long distances definitely adds up.
3. “Oh would some power the giftie gie us, To see ourselves as others see us.” ~Robert Burns
Due to COVID, the Yeti 100 course was changed to make it more accessible to those self-supporting since some crew may not have been able to travel. It also allowed for more frequent aid stops using less physical aid stations, i.e. less volunteers, logistics, etc. However, even though self-supporting at Yeti is more than doable, even during a “normal” race year, there’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with amazing people. A couple months before the race I reached out on FB to see who would be interested in crewing/pacing and ended up with a badass lady gang crew consisting of 3 Atlanta Track Club friends and 1 new friend local to the race course in Damascus who connected with me through mutual friends. Just knowing I had friendly faces to see every 16ish miles, who were able to hook me up with snacks, drinks, motivation, etc. was enough to keep me moving consistently through most of the race. I must have been really excited to see them because I ended up at least an hour ahead of my proposed pace for most of the race lol. Definitely find yourself a crew, both for life and races, who are positive, motivated, and flexible.
4. “It’s when the discomfort strikes that we realize a strong mind is the most powerful weapon of all.” ~Chrissie Wellington
At a certain point in life, in a marathon, in a ultramarathon…whatever…you’re going to feel like shit. This is when the heart and mind start brawling worse than the Real Housewives of Atlanta. In Jesse Itzler’s book, “Living with a SEAL”, we learn about the Navy SEAL 40% rule: When your mind is trying to convince you that your body is down for the count and you’ve lost the fight, you’re actually only 40% done. 40% is A LOT. You can become President with less support than 40% so you can certainly keep moving forward with that.
5. “Every storm runs out of rain.” ~Maya Angelou
For what is now known as the “Weti Yeti” this is an absolute LIE. But what kid doesn’t love to run in the rain…right??
6. “The best way out is always through.” ~Robert Frost
Remember that rain mentioned above? Or what about COVID? Guess what? It’s not going away and it’s out of your control. Worry about what you can control, like your training and nutrition…and wearing a mask. Shut up and run.
7. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you cant walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I was moving consistently on 4:2 intervals like, as my friend says, “a steady Yeti” for 82 miles. Then, I was tired of moving, tired of being nauseous, and just plain tired, so I hiked my damn heart out for 18 miles until that shit was done. I never sat down and I never stopped for more than 5 minutes to use the bathroom and/or force myself to eat potatoes or soup at an aid station. Remember how I said at the beginning that anyone can finish this shit if you KEEP MOVING FORWARD? Yeah, keep doing that. The finish line never gets closer if you stop to worry about shit that’s out of your control.
In case you’re wondering what all the fuss is about…