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Category: Thoughts

Slaying the 100 Mile Monster

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.

UltraRunning Character Selection Screen. Sometimes it feels like I’ve taken an arrow to the knee…

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.

100 Miler Monster

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.

The 100 Miler Monster

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.  

100 Miler Monster
What is chasing you during the entire race

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.

Some of the other images I created when making this post

Sleep Hygiene and Recovery for Running

I’ve made a huge effort to get the best sleep possible this season. I tried to eliminate coffee for several weeks but found it produced no change in sleep quality or score. I was still waking up multiple times a night. I had heard the popular 3-2-1 combo that’s been advertised by many and I’ve been using it for a few months, with some slight variations. I think I have found what produces the highest quality sleep for me and hopefully you! Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.

My improvement since Dec was noticeable

Sleep hygiene all starts as soon as you wake up. How active are you throughout the day? How late are you drinking coffee? I’ve made an effort to stop drinking coffee by noon. I’ve also made sure that I am constantly moving. Even with a desk job I use a walking desk or take mini breaks and do some push-ups. You want to be tired when your head hits the pillow. Sleep is critical to training because it’s the only time that our body recovers from hard efforts. 

The ultimate routine to get the best sleep

3 – hours before bed – NO Hard workouts, eating, drinking, or alcohol.

This should be obvious, but you would be surprised how often you might drink too much water, or grab a little snack before bedtime. I noticed that if I ate or drank anything it affected my sleep quality. If you touch alcohol kiss your sleep score goodbye.

2 – hours before bedno screens, intense mental stimulation, or TV.

Blue light from screens affects our sleep because it can interfere with our circadian rhythm, which is our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. The circadian rhythm is influenced by external cues, especially light, which helps to regulate the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

This is going to be tough for a lot of people, but I am in bed and normally asleep by 9:30. I focus more on the workout that’s going to happen the next day with my clothes laid out and ready to go. It will set the tone for the entire day. Reading a book starts to put me to sleep and winds down my mind.

1 – hour before bed – Find a dark room and practice EASY meditation.

The lights should be low, you should use the bathroom in the last hour, and you should try the EASY meditation to clear all the crazy thoughts going through your mind. This prepares the sympathetic nervous system to RELAX so it can stay asleep. I’ve outlined the “EASY” meditation method that takes a max of 20 minutes to practice sitting in a chair.

Bliss More Easy Meditation Practice by Light Watkins

1. Always sit comfortably. Find a sofa, chair, car seat, airplane seat, bus seat, church pew, or anywhere you can sit comfortably with your back supported. Ideally, this should also be a place where you’re not going to be physically disturbed while meditating. 

2. Use an easy-to-see timing device. If you’re using your phone, it’s best to use a digital clock application with an LCD, as opposed to a timer. Make sure you can see it clearly. You may also use a watch as long as you don’t have to squint in order to see the time. 

3. Calculate your finish time beforehand. Meditate no more than twenty minutes. Calculate your finish time at the beginning so you don’t have to do the math during your meditation. 

4. Relax first, then ease into your Settling Sound. After closing your eyes and before starting your Settling Sound, relax your entire body, beginning in your toes, and working your way up toward your head. Then start thinking your Settling Sound passively. 

5. Stay passive with your Settling Sound. From your physically relaxed state, begin thinking “ahhhhhh-huuuummm”very passively. Don’t be surprised if your Settling Sound naturally disappears after you’ve been passively thinking it for a few minutes. Expect your mind to begin roaming through random thoughts, and/ or dreams as your mind begins settling. You may also fall asleep. 

6. Enjoy getting lost. Correct practice involves frequently losing track of your Settling Sound, and even forgetting that you’re meditating for much of the time. Whenever you realize that it happened, celebrate it (as opposed to feeling regret), and begin passively thinking your Settling Sound again. 

7. Stay easy when you realize you’re meditating. Remember, there’s no time limit between realizing your mind has been roaming (or you drifted off to sleep, or had a settled-mind experience) and passively returning to your Settling Sound. 

8. Peek freely and often at the time. You may frequently have the thought “I wonder how long I’ve been meditating.”Each time you have thought about the time, quickly peek at your clock or watch and verify how much time has passed, even if you’re using a soft alarm. It’s better to satisfy your curiosity if you’re thinking about the time. After glancing, you may calculate that you have five or three minutes remaining, or you may see that you’ve accidentally overmeditated. 

9. Wait a bit before opening your eyes. When you’ve reached the end, or accidentally surpassed your finish time, keep your eyes closed and continue sitting for another minute or two. Now that meditation is over, there’s no need to continue thinking your Settling Sound. Just say to yourself, “Meditation’s finished,”and continue sitting for a few minutes. Use this time to make a mental appointment with yourself for your next meditation or to just rest. 

10. Always come out slowly at the end. Peek at the clock, and after you verify that at least two minutes have passed, close your eyes, take a beat, and then open them slowly. You’re done.

Finally!

JUMP IN BED!  You should be tired, and hopefully, you get the best sleep of your life!

Try this routine for 30 days and let me know your results!  It’s made a huge difference in my sleep quality. I wake up refreshed, ready to work out, and feeling great. This is how you avoid injury and get in MORE miles to make you a better runner/ultrarunner. This is no replacement for great sleep and you need to realize what habits or routines you have that might no longer serve you.

AI Prompt – A man wearing a running singlet sleeping peacefully while little tiny robots repair his body while he sleeps.

Fear and Action – Mental Toughness In Ultrarunning

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. One who lives life fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Mark Twain

I was thinking about this quote and had a different spin on it.  Fear and action cannot occupy the same space inside your mind.  The idea is we only have two states our mind and body can occupy at any given moment.  That state is either fear or action.  Before you act, you are in the grip of fear, which normally doesn’t let you act.  The trick is to act before the fear takes hold of you.  Fear makes you believe that 100 things will go wrong before the first step. 

AI image of Fear and Action – Via Bing Image Creator

The power comes after we take that first step.  Every action after the first step melts fear away.  It forces your mind to THINK, “Well, what is my next step going to be?”  You have left the state of fear, and are now in the state of action.  That first step is critical.  Procrastination falls under the classification of fear.  It grips you in thinking no matter what choice you make, it’s wrong.  That’s where we get caught, debating if it’s the RIGHT action.  Action eliminates fear instantly.  You can’t be afraid AND move forward. The fears might be there, but they have a hard time growing roots.  The mind gets focused on making decisions for what needs to be done to keep flight AND move forward!

This brings up the idea of iterative design.  The idea is that we keep improving on every attempt.  “First is the worst” is what I always say.  Iterative design is a design methodology based on prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process.  Version 2.0 of YOU gets released only after version 1.0.  It’s not complete until nothing is left to add or take away depending on how you look at it.  The issue is we have to create that first version.  That first version takes the most effort.  Each improvement on that previous version is substantially easier.

AI image of Fear and Action – Via Bing Image Creator

That’s the beauty of running.  There’s always next year, next run, and hopefully tomorrow.  I design a lot of my life with the ability to create a better version of myself. I have put many of my “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” on my TO DO list to achieve each year and get completed with daily effort. The future comes one day at a time and no task can survive daily attacks.  If you put in the work then the greatest of achievements will become yours, and thus the greatest version of yourself.  

AI image of Fear and Action – Via Bing Image Creator

My new version of Mark Twain’s quote is this:

“The fear of failure follows from the fear of action. One who acts in life is prepared to fail at any time AND become the best version of themself.”

I force myself to act, to become that version of myself I imagine.  Am I afraid as I move forward?  Sometimes, but if you move fast enough fear never sticks.

Finally, I leave you with one more quote to think about.

“My Dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.”

― Falsely yours, Henry Charles Bukowski