This idea came from a question. What is your number #1 priority for 2024?
Gain XP! What is XP? In video games, XP is experience. XP is how to level up your video game avatar or character. As a kid, I played games like Golden Ax, Gauntlet, and Hero’s Quest where you picked a character at the start. There were 4 characters to choose from. A warrior, wizard, archer, or valkyrie. If you are reading this you might have selected the same character as I did, a trail runner. Maybe you slowly became this character over time, either way, your actions brought you here.
Certain adventures or quests are available once you have gained enough XP. There are many quests that you can choose from year after year as you level up. This year I plan to slay the 100 Miler monster. It’s not my first time slaying it, but each year the monster comes back, slightly stronger, with different abilities and methods of attack. The difference is I have gained intelligence, strength, speed, agility, and more skills than the year before.
What quest could you take in 2024 that would give you more XP? With games that level up your character, you can’t keep picking the same quests you’ve done previously. They will pay little to no XP, or gold as a reward. We have to take on bigger quests than before. We have to break out of the habits and routines we do year after year.
Part of what made these games great was taking on the quests TOGETHER. It was a shared experience with friends. Those make for not only the most rewarding challenges but also the most memorable. I have made lifelong friends during my trail adventures. Gaining XP by yourself is one thing, but sharing it with others is where the real magic comes in. That’s the formula for great games, experiences, and a great life. So for this year, I am setting my sights on XP, and hopefully bringing the “trail running” character I’ve selected to his highest level before he fights the end boss.
How do you defeat the 100 miler monster? It’s almost like the race knows your weaknesses and will use them against you! The trick is you have fought mini-versions of the boss in your training. These side quests were done during your training to become a warrior. You were fighting mini-boss battles that consisted of quests in the cold, rocky, wet, trails around your village you grew up. They were shorter quests, but similar to the end boss.
The 100-miler boss is extremely powerful. He can even turn your own body against you! You have tested the elixirs and potions you have created consisting of Tailwind and GUs. Once you get to the 100 miler boss fight, which normally comes around mile 70-80, you know his tricks. You know what he’ll throw at you. He might have a surprise attack you haven’t seen but you will defeat him.
You are going to war with at first the mini-bosses and then finally the 100-miler monster at the end. Who will win? Did you level up enough? Do you have enough XP to defeat the monster? If you have taken on all the side quests, and put in the time, you can slay that beast. Victory will be yours, for you are a warrior, and this epic quest along with all that glory waits at the finish line.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy “A Runner’s final race”. It’s a post where I try to imagine what happens to a runner the second they pass away. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed it please consider sharing the story.
I started with an empty backpack and one bottle in my vest for my water strategy and also wore arm sleeves for ice when it got hot. Temps were moderate that day. I kept the water bladder empty until the heat kicked in around 10:30, and then I filled it. I would empty it again once it cooled down around 8:30 – 9:00 PM and switched to a waist belt with just one bottle. As the sun went down and the heat and humidity decreased, my fluid demands also decreased.
Using THIS strategy for my mental state worked incredibly well. I came across an article posted by a Reddit user in this thread that advised staying in the moment, and I kept reminding myself of that. I consistently found enjoyment throughout the race. After passing mud hole gap #17, I started pushing really hard with the pace, believing I still had a chance. Even when I went off course and fell behind the clock, I didn’t give up. I managed my expectations, initially aiming for 24 hours, and I persevered until Elizabeth’s furnace.
It was at that point that I finally reached the last stage of acceptance, realizing that 24 hours was impossible and it was time to switch goals.
I had sandwich bags filled with food in each aid station bag that I would grab. These bags contained granola, double-nutter butter, and a bar. This allowed me to have more food than I needed, which I would consume slowly as I walked, rather than stuffing my face at the aid stations. It was convenient because I could load my pockets and go.
Meeting the “Lost Boys” was a nice addition to the race. We shared a lot of miles together, especially with Greg Smith, who had recently got married. He technically wasn’t a “Lost Boy” as he never went off course and I only found this out near the end. They pushed me along and when they surged I kept pushing to keep up. I was really sad/broken once I heard they wanted to drop. Rob and Brian both jointly dropped out at mile 56, Edinburg Gap.
What went wrong:
The first aid station at mile 7.18 should have offered more than just electrolytes. I used a tailwind from my pack to fill up on water.
Inconsistency with course markings led to my downfall in this event. I should have familiarized myself with the course and known where the big climbs were. The race staff mentioned that the orange tape could be on either the left or right side. I missed a turn to the right after aid station 3 (Boyer-In) because I wasn’t aware of the course details. It’s important to know the course and ask for directions at the aid stations. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide any information to the four of us as we left, but I could have asked! They also used “2 pieces of tape” to signify a turn vs 1. I think they should just stick to using arrows like the rest of the world, which were not always there like in the case of my mishap. I did see some of the later turns used an arrow vs “2 pieces of tape”. Mind you I wasn’t the only one that went off course, the entire pre-race meeting was filled with stories of people going off course. Doesn’t that tell you something? I think I was with at least 10 others that went off course once we doubled back to the climb on the trail.
My shoes were good until around miles 60-70, but then I started developing blisters between my toes from rubbing. Injini socks address this issue, but they take a lot of time to put on. Initially, I led the race with those socks, but when I switched to a bigger shoe and “Darn Tough” socks, I noticed more movement in the foot box of the shoe. Perhaps I didn’t tie them tightly enough? I might go back to using Injinis because the blister problem only started when I changed socks.
At the mountaintop aid station, you couldn’t take more than one water bottle. They should come up with a method to supply more water there. I wasn’t the only one who complained about this limitation.
The unmanned aid station was out of the water, and the food there had flies on it.
What I would do differently:
During the race, I found myself running right behind my friend Mike Warren at the start. He eventually buckled but stayed on course. I had to make a decision: do I want to run his race or focus on my own? My initial plan was to start off super slow, so I held back and took the early miles easy. However, this caused me to miss my turn. In situations like this, I have a quote that I say to myself: “It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.” So, this is what my race was meant to be, even if it didn’t align with my expectations. Our ability as humans to think ahead, make predictions, and imagine the future sets us apart from other species. But more often than not, things don’t go according to our plans of how we envisioned the future. When reality clashes with our expectations, it can be devastating for some individuals because they struggle to see a happy future in the new reality. However, regardless of the outcome, I was okay with simply participating in the race. I focused on staying in the present moment with each mile. I didn’t let my mind wander to the future or the finish line, nor did I dwell on past mistakes. I stayed focused on the mile I was currently in because there was nothing more I could do.
Throughout the entire race, I ran my own race without specific goals or objectives, except to keep moving fast enough to finish. I never experienced fear, depression, or unhappiness; I was simply grateful to be doing what I love.
During the race, I was running alongside two individuals who eventually dropped out. When I reached mile 56, I found them standing with the aid station captain. I grabbed some food and coke, intending to continue with them, but they announced their decision to drop out. One of them said, “I don’t have anything to prove.” These events aren’t about proving anything; they are about pushing past the perceived limits our minds create. It’s about embarking on something that we might fail at and surpassing our own perceived boundaries. The “pain cave” is a common experience for everyone at a certain point in the race, and it is meant to be challenging.
In racing, it is often advised to have an A, B, and C goal. The question is, when do you decide to give up on the A goal and shift to the B or C goals? I became fixated on my A goal for too long; I should have focused on just running sub 28 sooner. I didn’t stop fighting until mile 80. When I reached Elizabeth Furnace, and the trail became rockier, I knew it was dumb to keep up this effort. At the start of the race, my focus wasn’t on earning a buckle or achieving a 24-hour goal; it was more about savoring the moment (which I captured in the video) and enjoying the trip with my father, which I did. While the “lucky number 7” for hundreds wasn’t particularly lucky, I always feel fortunate to be able to participate in these races, and my mental state of happiness in racing never seems to waver. I like the new mental strategy I took to this race and I think it worked. Thank you Reddit user BigFootBoogie!
I was prepared for whatever challenges the day presented. I anticipated things going wrong and maintained a positive mental state. I never give up hope, and my focus wasn’t solely on achieving a buckle. Easy for the person to say who has 6 of them 😂. I aimed to stay fully present in each mile. This technique proved effective as it allowed me to redirect my attention to my breath, and my surroundings, and shift my focus away from the pain. It was only when I couldn’t break focus on reaching the finish line that the pain became overwhelming and I really started to notice it.
I enjoyed making this video, which is my longest to date. I really liked this camera setup and I can’t wait to use it at Leadville!
These are 7 of the things that start going through my mind the week before an event. You are trying to align your mind with what your body is about to do. Mental prep is vital to success, so self-talk leading up to a race is critical.
1) You get what you get and you don’t get upset.
Training is done, there’s nothing more to do. You will wish you had more time. I rarely get to the starting line feeling 100%, more like 75-90%. You rarely perform the perfect taper or get great sleep the week of the event. Everyone has a life outside of running, unless you’re a pro, that will put additional demands on you. If you can get to the starting line be grateful.
2) Today Will Not Be Perfect
The event will not be perfect. Know that things will go sideways and I hope they do! Odds are I will fall, run out of water, get injured, and be extremely tired. The list goes on and on, expectations should be low then I will be pleasantly surprised if it goes well. Prepare your mind for adversity!
3) Keep Your Mind Busy
Take some photos, talk to strangers, or plan your aid station meal. From the book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” keeping busy eliminates suffering and pain. We are single-track-minded, and we really only do one thing at a time. Keeping your brain busy with something helps distract from the pain. It can’t focus on a task AND pain, so make sure you get busy with some tasks to distract from the pain.
4) Insecurities Come and Go
Get ready for the highest highs and lowest lows. The event will have times you feel like you are on top of the world, then wish someone would put you out of your misery. It will bounce between these two extremes, realize they pass just like a fast-moving storm, and you just need to acknowledge it and keep moving!
5) Fix Minor Issues Early
Be sensitive to irritation. If something is annoying you in the slightest way, stop and take care of it. Tell your crew to get whatever you need to fix it, ice or lube if there’s a hot spot. You can’t put things off. Small problems balloon into major issues the longer the event. Your mind will keep nagging you if you don’t, until is screaming to stop.
6) Always Be Eating (A-B-E).
Constantly fuel your body and brain. Unlike training, it’s something I remind myself in a race. Set a timer for every 30 minutes and keep eating or drinking your calories. You should also change what you are eating as to not get sick of it. The stomach is slow to digest and you are going to be doing this for a long time. ALWAYS BE EATING! You think this is simple to do, but it is not. The brain gets lazy with remembering when to eat, and the stomach stops craving food.
Our brains are so dumb that if you smile it will ease suffering. If you can find joy or fun in what you are trying to accomplish it will make it easier. Happiness is contagious, be a source of fun and joy to those around you. I carry a picture of my family to remember why I am doing this and what is most important.
That’s it. These 7 tricks help me get through my events. Just enjoy it because it’s over before you know it. If you have any mental tricks I would love to hear them in the comments below!