I thought it was important not to miss the opportunity to reflect on an event such as the 100km Brisbane Oxfam 2011. I thought this is good timing for BRSers competing this weekend at the Gold Coast.
From reflection comes insights and learnings.
The Lead up
'Agreeing' to do the Oxfam 100km started with a simple question 'you keen to join a work team to raise money for Oxfam by doing the 100km? ' and a simple answer, 'why not'.
The lead up to the event for our team of 4 was varied.
- 1 member trained and competed in several 1/2 marathons over 3 months
- 1 member navigated the course weekend upon weekend, run/walking getting his bearings
- 1 member increased his run to work distance and dabbled in 1/2 marathons
- I used my China Marathon training adding trails and off-road running
2 members were somewhat 'realistic' about the run, 2 members (including myself) were somewhat blase. I use 'blase' meaning ‘unconcerned’ not the true meaning of Having the sensibilities deadened by excess or frequency of enjoyment :-)
The night before an event is always focus time for me. I lay everything out, double and triple check. Aiming for 65-70g of carbs an hour meant a nice tasty mix of stuff I love to eat when I do long runs: fruit buns, muesli bars, vegemite sandwiches, carob ginger, and zip lock bags of homemade fried rice! Warm gear packed, plenty of blister pads, camel back full and 2 alarms set.... ready to go.
I don’t mean to glaze over the 100km, but probably not worth giving you a step by step rendition, so a happy medium. The event was as tough as I was expecting, however the night running was easier than I remember due to the beautiful full-moon which helped to compliment our headlamps.
We ploughed through only stopping briefly at check points to regroup, refocus, refuel, and head off. We could not have got through without Andrea our fabulous support crew. A warm hug and cuppa at midnight, just the right amount of fussing to make you feel important, a listening ear for a race debrief, and live updates on our race position.
We completed in 20hrs and 2mins, 4 hours quicker than expected. We finished at 4:32am with a very small crowd of Oxfam volunteers cheering us in as we ran across the line hand in hand. We amazingly came 24th out of the 305 teams who participated. A result none of us were ever expecting.
My top 4 insights
4. Make ‘fun’ your number 1 priority
Not once during the event did I stop having fun! For me, I had prepared my body and mind so that it was capable of the run, so if I wasn’t enjoying it, what’s the point. I constantly laughed, we told stories, we chatted to other runners, we took photos, shot films and most of all, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously!! We even stopped for a photo with an Oxfam Volunteer who was hula hooping on the side of the road at 2am, she was having a ball!
3. I say teamwork is one of the most important ingredients
Some say running isn’t a team sport, well not even a sport at all...but for me, running is all about being part of a team. When was the last time you went for a run and truly enjoyed it, reached your goal and potential during the run and felt a sense of satisfaction...when you did it by yourself? Running with a friend, your dog, a group, or in an event is a far more rewarding experience as you get to share the joy of running with others. A team that stays together, achieves together.
2. Spend a minute now to save the pain later
Yep a stitch in time saves nine!!! So true in so many cases. After 41km my ITBs were starting to twinge, so whilst the others rested and refuelled I took advantage of a massage.... that 10mins saved me much pain over the next 59km. One of our members changed his stocks every checkpoint as he knew he was prone to blisters, that 2mins each time saved us and him potential pain during and after the event. We also spent a minute here or there maneuvering over rocks and logs to avoid wet feet during creek crossings, running in wet shoes and socks is bound to result in nasty blisters and potential injury.
NUMBER 1 and most important....
1. The body is capable of anything...with proper preparation & headspace
By far the thing I learnt the most out of this event was the amazing capability of the human body when supported by our mental state. I am by no means saying everybody can go out NOW and run 100km, but everybody can with the right preparation, knowledge, and mental state.
We all prepared physically, we had regular meetings to exchange knowledge and research each of us bought to the event in relation to nutrition, running fatigued, navigation, gear carrying, and hydration. How did we prepare mentally? I can’t comment for the others but for me....
have a strategy for the following:
o HOW to RUN: we developed a team strategy of how the race was to go down – when we would run, when we wouldn’t. Following the strategy meant there were no surprises. We pretty much stuck to it perfectly.
o YOUR BODY: I knew going in that I didn’t need the recommended 65-70g carbs an hour as I know my body very well, I know the point of when to eat just before I feel like I need. This requires really getting in tune with your body and experimenting (during practice, not in the event!). I stuck to my food strategy, so even when we got to the last checkpoint at 90km and we missed our support crew, I knew how to run the last 10km to make the nutrition last.
o HYDRATION: I worked out how much hydration per section based on kms, approx time to run and temperature...therefore, I carried only the water I thought I needed. This meant I wasn't carrying excess weight. Instead of using the event supplied electrolyte drink, I carried my own sports drink. Why: I know how my body responds to it and I know the balance of salt/sugar/carbs suits me perfectly. How did I carry enough??? I took 1 bottle of super concentrate, 1 sip of Gatorade to 2sips of water.
o FATIGUE: yes running straight for 100km through the night is bound to result in fatigue and lapsing into operating on your subconscious brain which can lead to complacency and injury. My strategy for limiting this...have running conversations that make you think. We asked questions like: what is your favourite movie, food, city, job etc..and why? We constantly did mental calculations on anything...so how long is a step? How many of those in 100km etc you get the picture!!!
Your body is an amazing thing that can be moulded to achieve any sporting goal your mind sets it. Remember it is your MIND and MENTAL STATE that does the moulding, not simply your body!! Your brains are wired from pre-historical days to choose conservation of energy, remember this is a choice, you may also choose to let it conserve or choose to make it work!!
Happy Running & Good Luck at the Gold Coast!
Comment From Steve - Team Mate:
Thanks Renae, a great, comprehensive post!..
For those reading, I fall into the 2nd person category mentioned above.. :)(not a runner)
On my own reflection, I am glad I persisted as it was a great feeling of achievement..
My biggest apprehension was being in such elite company and being able to keep up as I have always struggled with running..
However,I felt totally non-pressured, relaxed and at ease.. a credit to the team. The BRS camp one week prior was a great confidence boost.
For me, it was about focussing on my strengths such as the downhill running, crossing the creeks, and tenacity.. :) Preperation for me was not so much about food and hydration but about managing the joints and feet..plenty of strapping on the areas prone to blisters and the glide you provided worked a treat on the shoulders with no chaffing at all during the 100km...
IF I do it again, and it is a big IF, I probably would not carry as much water, as the extra 3.5kg was noticable after the first 20km..As you say, the mental game was so important, especially late in the race with lack of sleep, cold gales, fatigue setting in, hills after hills, jokes getting cornier etc.. The discussions helped to prevent boredom setting in....no topics were out of bounds.. :)
Overall, very glad I did it, thank you for being with us, thanks to Ian for the original idea, and thanks to Pete for keeping up the humour when the going got tough, it was a very fulfilling event I will never forget..Steve...