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The Threes

On the Tuesday after I ran Pine to Pine, I skipped our regularly scheduled run (because just walking was still kind of a challenge) but showed up for the social part of the evening. As soon as we sat down on, my friend Joe looked at me and demanded a rundown of the race.

“Alright, Emily. I want the recap. And not some bullshit 5 minute version, the full 20 minute play-by-play.”

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Joe also brought an appropriately named beer to celebrate all 23,400’ of Pine to Palm.

I looked back at him and didn’t say anything for a few minutes. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk about the race. It was just that I hadn’t actually had a chance to process it. From the moment I crossed the finish line to the moment Joe made his request, I had yet to be alone and able to reflect on the 100 miles of running.

“I can’t,” I kind of stammered, trying to explain why I couldn’t talk for a measly 20 minutes about a run that had taken me 84.5 times that long.

Joe, unfazed, just changed strategies. And started firing questions at me faster than I inhaled cheese quesadillas at Mile 67.

And I answered all of them. For way longer than 20 minutes. Until he was ready to end with one of his personal favorites, which is something he borrowed from ultra legend Ann Trason. Which means it must be good. If Ann Trason and her fourteen Western States trophies told me that the best 100 miler recovery involved running 100 miles on my hands while drinking Sprite the day after the race, I’d probably try to do it.

“We’re going to the threes,” he said. “Three things you think you did well and three things you know you need to work on for your next one.”

finish from joe

Because I’m all about giving praise where it’s deserved and balancing it out with constructive feedback that can help you progress, I dug this. And wanted to share what I told the Tuesday night crew with all of you.

Let’s start with the good:

1. I ran every step of that course the absolute best I could with the knowledge and experience I had going into my first 100 miler.

There’s no section of that course where I regret how I tackled it. I tried my hardest from start to finish. I ran when I wanted to stop, walk (and roll). And I pushed through the worst pain and a whole new kind of tired to stay mentally tough and keep “running” even in the final miles. There may be plenty of room for improvement with me and 100 milers, especially with the stuff that will come with experience. But as far as effort goes, I’m really, really proud of how I did with this one.

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2. I handled my lows well. Both mental and physical.

Pulling myself out of a bonk, sticking a gu down my shoe to make the pain go away (credit: Jason), smiling when I wanted to cry. I think I solved problems well and maintained a positive attitude (minus the occasional f-bomb or audible whimper) for the entirety of the race.

3. Got comfortable outside of my comfort zone.

Which started back in May when I signed up for this race and continued through training when I tackled challenging terrain, ran alone in places that terrified me, and got, not just ready, but out-of-my-mind excited for the hardest run of my life.

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From the start of the race, I told the course (maybe even out loud at various times) “go ahead. Hit me with your best shot. Got a rattlesnake? Scary trails in the dark of night? Stupid steep slopes? Fuck it. Throw it at me, I’m ready.”

Accepting that I would encounter challenging, difficult, scary ass shit and staying calm and confident about it got me to both that start and finish line.

And now, the room for improvement section:

1. Pace execution.

When I came into the first aid station, someone told me I was in third or fourth place for women. I had no business being there that early in the race. And wasn’t trying to be. But I had no idea what I was doing when I started the and probably ran more than I should have during the opening climb. By the time I reached the finish, I was tired and slowed down a lot. Part of that was courtesy of the 80+ miles of mountain running. But a strong case could be made for slightly aggressive early miles sharing some of the blame. Because every race is an opportunity to learn how to race these things better, I’m not all that stressed about how this one went down. My goal was to finish and I did that. And making a few mistakes on the way to Ashland is just positioning me to be a little smarter about my next one. Which will involve some goals other than just finishing.

Pine2Palm 2014

Photo credit: Michael Lebowitz

2. The feet.

It was fun to go back and read my Ironman Q&A where I naively informed all of you that “I NEVER get blisters.” And I have to confess that my attitude toward feet management has been pretty relaxed in the past. I don’t put a ton of thought into what socks I wear and I do nothing to treat hot spots in the middle of a race, other than maybe throwing some body glide around my ankles. Which has always worked for me. Even when I have developed a blister midrace (which, sorry Ironman Em, you DO get blisters), it’s always been something I can run through pretty easily.

But then I ran 100 miles. And realized how bad blisters can be. And let me tell you, they can be BAD. Like, make-a-grown-woman-cry BAD.

So I need to work on that. Find socks that work better and probably stop to do things about blistering toes and feet if they start to annoy me mid-race.

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Picture of shoes on a blog. Have you seen this before? YOU’RE WELCOME for not showing you what my feet actually looked like on the other side of the finish line.

3. The calories.

Eating/drinking was surprisingly not a total disaster for me. I lasted a good 10-12 hours before I had an ounce of nausea, which was definitely some kind of PR. But toward the end I got a little less interested in food, and had it not been for Jason telling me to “EAT. EAT. EAT. DAMNIT.” I would have consumed way fewer calories than I did, which was still probably on the low end of what I needed. While not perfect, this race certainly brought me several steps closer to figuring out my shit with nutrition/hydration.

Bonus only-kind-of-kidding answer: pick a different course.

I am SO glad Pine to Palm was my first one. It was perfect. I loved the race, I loved the volunteers, I loved the runners, I loved the trails and the views and EVERYTHING. Seriously, Pine to Palm was fantastic. But I want to race one that plays to my strengths a little bit better so I can actually kind of race it. So next time, I’ll do that.

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ICYMI: I actually wrote a relatively timely race recap!

And, I put out a call for questions in case there are any dirty details about training for/running 100 miles that I haven’t overshared yet. Feel free to add to the list!

18 Responses to The Threes

  1. Bonus – at least you didn’t get lost this time? (unless you totally got lost again and decided not to tell us, because that would probably have been the worst.)

  2. Great job! Honest reflection is always important after a big event. Using the first crack at a new distance should always be a learning experience. I’m picking a different month for my next 50k (no more August heat). That was one of my biggest learning moments.

  3. Great, thoughtful post. Thanks for putting your thoughts out honestly like this.

    And thank you for the timely recap! Another thing you did well :-)

  4. So now are you going to do the Vermont 100?

  5. i also totally neglect the feet management.

  6. May I suggest you try toe socks? I don’t run as long as you do, but I did used to get blisters on my toes before I started wearing Injinji (smartwool also makes a toesock version, but I haven’t tried it). No more blisters! (Now, I don’t know what they’d do for blisters on the heels or bottom of the foot, but for toe blisters they’re the best).

  7. I’d way rather see a picture of our fucked up feet than your shoes! We need to know what we are in for, if we magically become ultras instead of sruggling through fun runs. lol

  8. so much respect for that distance and how well you handled it. you definitely put the training in. i can only imagine that pacing yourself would be my hardest challenge too. CONGRATS again- you should be basking in your 100 miler golry for some time now…

  9. My fav is no 1: no regrets.

  10. I think this is a really good way to reflect back on a race in order to make improvements for the next one. Really taking the time to look at what went wrong and why is both humbling and productive.

  11. […] as her first the same weekend as RRR, read her recap here, she rocked!]. She recently posted about the three things she did well and the three things she needs to work on for her next 100 miler. Since I’ve already talked your ear off with nearly ever imaginable […]

  12. I’m a big fan of Darn Tough socks. They’re pretty much all I run in these days. If you manage to wear a pair out, send ’em in and they mail you a replacement pair. Bonus: made in VT!

  13. Awesome notes on your race. So fun to follow your journey to your first 100.

  14. I think after any race (especially goal races) looking at the good and the bad is the best way to move forward. I could see myself being bad about calories- I have never been one to consume a lot of calories while running. Granted I haven’t run an ultra much less a 100 miler. But even in marathons I know that I could take in more fluids and calories.

  15. That’s actually an awesome way to reflect. I think the first one is the best though – you can’t get much better than just being 100% proud of how you handled the day. Also, I have trouble with the calories too. It’s sad, it’s the ONLY time I need to be told to eat, but I throw a little tantrum when I have to eat a gel while running. Sad.

  16. Great Job!!! Please come to Raleigh and run the Umstead 100.. I guarantee you a fabulous crew and pacers!!

  17. […] I went back and read the version I drafted after Pine to Palm last year, it was fun to see that it worked for me. I repeated and built upon the thing things I felt I did […]

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