I promise you right now that this is not a race report.
But I will share with you some insights about my recent dance with the North Face 100 Ultramarathon. Every race, and subsequent build up, provides lessons and moments that you can go on to use in the future.
To me that’s part of the appeal and why I enjoy endurance sport so much. I am always learning. The more I learn, the more I can apply to what I do with athletes, and also my own racing.
Firstly – and I doubt that this will come as a shock to anyone, the North Face 100 is bloody hard. Yes, any Ultra is tough. And the fierceness of a race is quite relative to the individual. But I can assure you that not one person that crossed that finish line on the weekend (some did so after 20+ hours of racing!) would say it was an easy day.
Far from it.
You cover 4032 metres of elevation during the day and over some very rugged and spectacular terrain.
Which, seems like it is all crammed into the final 25km’s.
To make that vertical even more enjoyable, there is a never ending supply of incredibly steep stairs to get up. Because, your quads aren’t destroyed enough with the lengthy downhills and rolling fire-trails!
So, to summarise: that course is bloody hard.
But that is exactly what I signed up for.
I wanted to test myself in an environment that was very foreign to me. A very challenging course, over a distance I had not yet covered on foot and in a place that I had yet to visit. I wanted it to be all new, and a bit scary. I wanted it to test my mental strength as well as my physical ability.
I figured (correctly) that this environment would bring out the best in me.
That’s why we do what we do right? We are all endurance machines after all. And we thrive when we are truly put to the test and forced to ask some big questions of ourselves. It all come back to getting uncomfortable – that’s where the magic happens.
Now for some, just turning up to their first IM race is pretty uncomfortable. For others it’s getting out and riding the roads. For others, the challenge might just be juggling life with sport.
It doesn’t matter what the challenge is. What counts is how you go about it; your attitude. You get out there and you give it a shot. You will learn some lessons and you will adapt. And you will come out the other side a wiser, stronger person.
Now here are some things that I think you should all know:
Being Fat Adapted is awesome. I am seriously tired of trying to convince people of the simplicity that this brings. It works, I have proven it, Kristian has proven it, many of our athletes have proven it.
I woke up on Saturday morning before the race and had the standard Pete start to the day: 2 x Fat Black coffee’s. Then I went down to the start and began the day. It is as simple as that. There was no setting an alarm to eat at some ridiculous hour. There were no stomach issues. There was ZERO stress about food.
I had planned to race on about 100 calories per hour, but ended up taking on less. And please don’t think it’s about how little you need. It is highly individual, and not something to be measured against others with.I saw a lot of people stressing about food for the day. A lot of panic and confusion.
Being Fat Adapted also means a better recovery. I was able to walk pretty freely after the race, and the next day (just some stiffness). No hobbling around like a broken cowboy. No need for a PA to come and tie my shoes. The freedom of this faster recovery is I can get on with life and not sit around incapable of moving. It also means I can get back to training sooner.
The second thing that you need to know:
Vespa works. I took Vespa’s every few hours and felt great. In fact I stopped taking on my Freedom Fuel, and stuck with the Vespa’s for a while (mainly due to flavour fatigue). I admit, I still don’t completely understand the science of Vespa, but for me the proof is there in an event like that. Minimal need for excessive calories, and when I took on carbs, they worked for me rather then against me.
Another important reflection:
I drank less then 4 litres of fluid for the day. This is including the bone broth I chugged at each checkpoint (genius idea that one!).
I drank to thirst, and managed my sodium and magnesium intake as required.
Again it is mot about skimping on fluid intake, or proving how low I could go. It is simply being intuitive and knowing what the body needs.
I think this is still a big issue for athletes to get their heads around. But simply: more focus on electrolytes and less focus on prescribed drinking.
Now these insights are things that I was already aware of, but to test them outside of long course triathlon was important.
But really, the results are not surprising. The body can go a long way for a long time – it is hardwired to do so. Yes it needs some assistance, but nowhere near as much as we have all been lead to believe in the past.
We are endurance machines. Every one of us. We have the ability to move for many hours, without needing much, and at pace. We all have the ability to take on something like an IM, or an ultra marathon, or any big endurance event and push oursleves to our limits.
More and more I am learning that those ‘limits’ are self imposed.
The only thing holding you back is yourself.
Oh and I owe a great deal of gratitude to a few of my athletes Ben Gillespie and Chris Slade (and partner Fi) for taking time out of their loves to provide support for the day. Thanks guys.