You can tell I was pretty bummed out several days ago when I
Life looks a little better after a few more days to gain
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,
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
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
MAKING SOME CHANGES
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
1. DETECTING A PATTERN
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
A peaceful view of Chestnut Creek
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);
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
2. RESEARCH ON ELECTROLYES
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
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.
3. WHAT RACES TO ENTER
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
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)
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil