“AHH, F@&K BEN! JEEZ! I’M TRYING TO EAT! I’M EATING!”
It was somewhere around mile 75 or so of the 2018 Run Rabbit Run 100 around Steamboat Springs, CO. My dear, long-time friend Ben Dicke was pacing me through to the finish, and he was continually urging me to eat more. I “thought” I was eating enough (I wasn’t) and I finally blew up at him in response to his cajoling to keep shoving food in my face.
Gently, he replied, ”When you eat, you’re happy and it’s all good. When you don’t, you get mad at me.”
He was right (dammit) and I knew it. We rolled into an aid station and I ate a bunch and suddenly, I was, indeed, happier and I sheepishly apologized for my outburst. All was forgiven, I continued to eat more, and with his pacing and encouragement, I finished that race incredibly well…knocking several minutes of my 2015 finish on a harder course, in tougher conditions. It was absolutely amazing.
And it primarily came down to food…or, as we say in ultra-running, fueling. Ben kept me fueling and we kept rolling.
For ultra-marathons, there is nothing more important than consistent fueling (and hydration…but for the purposes of this blurb, I’m essentially combining these two things together).
Let me say it again…there is nothing more important to your success in ultra-running than consistent fueling. Nothing.
If you fuel well, you do well. You finish races, and you finish them well.
If you don’t fuel well, you feel terrible, negative thoughts and emotions creep in, and the likelihood of a DNF (Did Not Finish) skyrockets.
So, what does it look like to bring this experience from the ultra-marathon world into our shared COVID-19 crisis? What does it mean to fuel well through this season?
I’d like to offer two thoughts…one literal and one figurative.
First, LITERAL FUELING
In a time of self-quarantine and social distancing, there’s going to be a strong pull to eat too much, to eat poorly, and to eat on a bad schedule. I’d just caution us all to be careful with our food and drink during this time. One of the main things I’ve learned about fueling from ultras is how directly it impacts our thoughts and emotions.
Please do not underestimate how directly your thoughts and feelings are connected to what you’re eating and drinking.
And back to what I shared in part one, this is absolutely a way we can control the controllable. When you’re stocking up on food (NOT HOARDING!!) be sure to get good, balanced, nutrient rich food.
If we eat and drink well, this season will be much more tolerable.
Second, FIGURATIVE FUELING
Beyond the literal fueling of our physical beings with food and drink, our spiritual and emotional lives are fueled by the information we take in, and by what we consume with the rest of our senses.
And it strikes me that this figurative form of fueling might be the most important aspect of how we navigate the coming weeks.
How well we fuel determines how well we get to the finish line.
I know we’re all hungry for news and information about what’s going on. But, I am convinced that there is a real danger in the fact that we have a 24 hour news cycle that is clamoring for our attention…for our clicks, for our eyeballs, for our attention. And too much of this news can drive us to anxiety, stress, and despair.
I don’t know that I have a ton of answers on how best to navigate this, but I do have a lot of questions I’m asking myself…
How can I be careful of where I get my information?
How can I keep from “over fueling” on news and info?
Perhaps I should step away from my devices and read a book, or some scriptures, or some poetry? Maybe I should play my guitar and sing more?
Is there deeply meaningful media, other than current news, that can inspire me?
A quote from Herb Elliot, an Australian middle distance runner who at one time held the world record in the mile, is applicable here, I think:
“Poetry, music, forests, oceans, solitude—they were what developed enormous spiritual strength. I came to realize that spirit, as much or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before a race.”
Elliot knew that internal fortitude was just as important as physical conditioning for enduring well. And I think we want to endure well, too.
What develops “enormous spiritual strength” for you? How can you dig into that more during this season?
What is good, and true, and beautiful, and hopeful, and how can you get more of that into your heart, and mind, and soul?
I’m convinced that if we fuel ourselves well, both literally and figuratively, we just might come through this time a bit stronger and wiser.
Coming up, I have some thoughts to share on the importance of having a good crew.
Much Love and Grace and Peace,