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"The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will, and I am.
Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they
should have or would have done, or what they can't do."
- Denis Waitley

You can tell I was pretty bummed out several days ago when I wrote my last entry. Life looks a little better after a few more days to gain perspective.

I'm talking about my race performance at the recent New River Trail 50K, not the world-I-can't-control. It's weird that I was more optimistic about the dismal state of the economy a few days ago than I was about my own ability to run from Point A to Point B. I certainly have more control over the running, and now I'm more optimistic about it, too.

View of the New River from the bridge at Fries (pronounced "Freeze") Junction

One of the things that made my brain snap around the way it should be sitting in my cranium was reading through a bunch of quotes on the internet about winning and losing. (You know how I love quotes.) My motivation was trying to find the author's name of the quote at the top of the last entry. I still haven't found that, but I found something much more important: the proper perspective for an optimist like me. And that's the great quote I used above about winners and losers.


Boy, did that hit home. I realized I'd been acting like a loser the past several days: coulda, woulda, shoulda.

No, no, no! I need to think a lot more about what I should be doing to improve for my next races than to wallow in self-pity about how sorry a runner I am now and what went wrong in the last race -- although a self-analysis is helpful as long as I use what I've learned from my mistakes to make those improvements.


I did follow up on the things I mentioned in the last entry and have come to a few conclusions. Again, some of this might be too detailed and/or boringly scientific for some readers, so just breeze on down to another topic and enjoy some more photos from our training run on the New River Trail September 17.

One of several bridges across Chestnut Creek between Cliffview and Fries Junction


I've been trying to figure out patterns of when the leg cramping occurs so I can better understand how to prevent it.

Except for the two times I had to ration water for a couple miles at the New River Trail 50K, I felt like I was drinking enough during the race. Not urinating for over seven hours should have been a redder flag to me, but it happens so often that I just blow it off mentally as "normal." It isn't. I have to remember during every race that I must drink until I start to urinate regularly and until it's clear.

Sign warning equestrians to dismount and walk their horses across the bridge

A light bulb went off when I was running this morning (my groin is better, thank you!). I realized I'm probably dehydrated *most* of the time.  I don't drink enough fluids every day, not just in races. I'm getting worse about it, too. That surely contributes to my dehydration in long training runs and races. I wonder if our "fluid indicators" deteriorate as we get older like some of our other sensors (taste, sight, hearing, etc.)? I'm going to work at drinking more water during the day.

Although I've had some leg cramping off and on since I began running ultras sixteen years ago, it has occurred more frequently in long training runs and races the last two years -- more in races, when I'm pushing harder, than in training. I don't ever remember having cramps when I was running/hiking the AT for months on end three years ago, and I got into a lot of heat in the mid-Atlantic states that summer. I don't remember cramping during any of my long days on the Colorado Trail, either. On both those journey runs I sometimes had similar "deadlines" as in a race (usually trying to beat the sunset) so I'm not convinced that the stress of a harder pace alone is the cause.

"The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better."  - Barbara Pletcher

Oddly enough, I think all the information that was broadcast in ultra running circles the past couple years about the life-threatening dangers of hyponatremia (basically, too much water in proportion to electrolytes in the body) made me so concerned that I reacted just the opposite -- not drinking enough fluids in races. Not urinating for seven hours (and more) is so obvious a sign of dehydration that I must pay more attention to it and drink more from the get-go, even when it's chilly like the start of the NRT 50K. The first cramping I had was in my left hamstring only 90 minutes into the race, when it was still in the 40s and 50s F. Apparently I was already behind on the drinking/electrolyte curve.

A peaceful view of Chestnut Creek

To summarize, I've determined these are the three most common characteristics when my leg cramps occur:

  • late winter or early spring days before I've had a chance to acclimate properly to heat;
  • warm to hot days after I've acclimated but I'm not taking in enough fluids and/or electrolytes (the level of humidity doesn't seem to matter); and/or
  • really pushing the pace for an extended period of time (although as mentioned above, at NRT the first hamstring cramp occurred only 90 minutes into the race).

My solution will be to drink more fluids and take in more electrolytes in situations like those when my system is more stressed -- and start drinking more fluids every day.


I've done more research this week on electrolytes in general and potassium in particular. The information reminds me that endurance athletes need more than the normal amount of various nutrients, including potassium. I'm not sure I'm getting enough in the multi-vitamin I take and in my diet, although it's full of moderate- and high-potassium foods. I may need to supplement further with this mineral.

Remains of the Chestnut Yard turntable, where train engines were
rotated on platforms from one direction to the other

I've been corresponding with Chris O'Loughlin, RN, who gave me the potassium pills at ATY last year. He's been very helpful. I will talk further with him and with race MD Andy Lovy during the first two days of the race this year (I run the third day). Both are extremely generous with their time and expertise helping participants maximize their potential in the race -- and afterwards. I trust their advice.

I've decided to start using Succeed!Caps again to see if they help prevent the leg cramping. I'll have both S!Caps and Endurolytes available during long training runs and races so I can switch from one to the other if necessary. Jim usually does well with either product. Both have sodium and potassium but the proportions are different. Endurolytes also contain calcium, magnesium, manganese, and Vitamin B-6.


Although my thoughts about which races to enter in the future haven't changed much since Tuesday, my attitude about race selection has improved!

I want to continue to challenge myself and not settle for mediocrity but I also have to be realistic about my physical abilities. At this point in my life I am stronger mentally and psychologically than physically. Yes, I can work harder, run farther, and lift more weights than most women my age (60 in five months), but my arthritis is getting worse and I'm just about out of cartilage in my knees. I've already had to modify the terrain and distances I run in the last year. My running days are numbered unless scientists come up with better solutions to these problems that will allow me to keep running until I'm no longer interested. I haven't totally given up the dream to still be running in my 90s, but I have to be realistic about the odds of that happening.

Idyllic spot for a picnic along the New River near Fries Junction

Right now, I am glad for every step I can take. As long as I can adequately train for ultras, I will continue to run ones that are fun, enough of a challenge to satisfy the competitor in me, and have terrain that is appropriate for my deteriorating knees. That means flat to undulating fixed-time races and races with reasonable cut-offs for a now-slower runner like me.

After all, I'm not 35 any more.

I'll expound in another entry on more thoughts I've had recently about running and aging. Meanwhile, I'll close with another "winners and losers" quote that I like:

The Ten Commandments of Sport

1. Thou shalt not quit. 2. Thou shalt not alibi. 3. Thou shalt not gloat over winning. 4. Thou shalt not be a rotten loser. 5. Thou shalt not take unfair advantage. 6. Thou shalt not ask odds thou art unwilling to give. 7. Thou shalt always be ready to give thine opponent the shade. 8. Thou shalt not under estimate an opponent, nor over estimate thyself. 9. Remember the game is the thing, and he who thinketh otherwise is no true sportsman. 10. Honor the game thou playest, for he who playeth the game straight and hard, wins even when he loses."  - Unknown

Feeling more like a winner now,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater (in spirit)

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© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil