If you follow this blog you’ll remember we ran Chris Russell’s list of Cactus Rose 100 race tips a couple of months ago. Chris is a seasoned trail runner, racer, crew chief, and pacer with experience at the 100K and 100 mile distances.
The final tip was never posted, for no particular reason. With the Bandera 100K just around the corner and Many Rockhoppers running Rocky Raccoon 100 in February, Now is a good time to post Chris’ final tip on not DNFing. These tips were written for Cactus Rose 100 but can apply to all Ultras. Thanks Chris!
Final Tip – Avoid the DNF!!!
Cactus Rose (especially the 100) is a tough race. During the first 4 years of the 100, 215 people have started the race and 110 have finished for a finishing rate of 51%. This is a very low finishing rate for a course that is flat by mountain standards, has generous time cutoffs, and has enjoyed good weather. The finishing rate for the 50 is much better. 129 people have started the race and 115 people have finished for a finishing rate of 89 percent. Personally, I am batting 2 for 3 (66 percent) for the 100. But I thought I would share some suggestions on how to avoid the dreaded DNF.
Determine that barring injury/safety you will finish – Mentally don’t let the thought of DNF even enter into your thinking (unless you are injured, hypothermic etc). DNF is not an option.
Stick with your plan – Just about all the Rockhoppers have run the course multiple times. You should have a good idea on where you will run/hike etc. Stick with your own plan and don’t get caught up into what someone else is doing. It can drain your energy and mess with you mentally. Also stick with your plan on nutrition/hydration.
Be aware of the key drop points on the course – Wasatch historically has a lot of drops happen at Brightoon at mile 75. For Cactus 100 most drops happen at end of loop 2 or loop 3. End of loop 2 is hard because the 50 milers are finishing up and celebrating and you still have 50 miles to go. End of loop 3 is hard because everything hurts, you are tired and another round with the rocks is not appealing. For the 50 milers it seems most drops happen between miles 25-35. Resolve ahead of time that you will get past these key drop points.
Don’t try something new – I read a race report by a guy who did Bandera 100k last year. He had a great first loop and decided to drink a Red Bull at the beginning of the 2d loop. One problem, he never drinks Red Bulls. He had a very bad reaction to the Red Bull and had to drop. So unless it is an emergency and you are desperate don’t try something new on race day.
Realize you will have low points – You will have low points but generally they won’t last. The year I paced Brian at Wasatch we were playing leapfrog with this guy and every time we passed him one would swear he couldn’t take another step. Then a few minutes later he would be roaring past us. Eventually he went on to a very good time. Low points are generally temporary. I always like to think of previous hard physical challenges I have overcome and remember that if I made it through those I can make it through this.
Diagnose what is causing the low point – Scott Jurek said that when he is having a low point he tries to figure out what is causing it—lack of calories, dehydration, very sleepy and deal with root cause. This past year at Wasatch Brian was really low on calories and struggling. He spent 15 min eating at an aid station and felt much better. Some runners have been known to close their eyes for a few minutes and that recharges them.
Beware the chair – This is a reference to coming into an aid station, sitting down and getting way too comfortable. Before you know it all desire to continue has stopped.
Don’t make a rash DNF decision – Don’t go into an aid station and immediately decide to drop. I have known a few runners who have already decided they were going to drop when they got to the aid station and then later regretted it. This is when it may be a good idea to take your time at the aid station. Address whatever issues you are having, change clothes and chances are you will be feeling better in a few minutes.
Tell Olga you want to DNF – She will question your manhood or womanhood and will talk you out of it. Guaranteed.
Think about the buckle – My first Cactus every time I was having a low point I would think about how sweet it was going to be to finish and have Joe hand me that buckle. That probably kept me going more than anything else.
It’s going to be fun!