Don’t try something new on race day!

UD Ambassador Ethan Veneklasen Shares:

Ummm, duh! Everybody knows that. It’s one of the most oft-repeated maxims in running.

Cascade4 - EthanBut did you ever stop to think about why we all know this useful little nugget? One can only assume that it’s because most of us continue to do stupid things and thus, its repetition is warranted.

As athletes, we like to think that our experience will protect us, that we won’t continue to make the same mistakes time and time again. I, for example, have an ongoing discussion with myself about starting races too fast. Yet I continue to do so…and I continue pay the price.This year at the Cascade Crest 100, my “new thing” was giant stuffed green olives.

 

The day before a 100 mile race, the brain does funny things. Common sense and logic seem to evaporate and our “crazy race brain” can talk us into almost anything. Sometimes it works out (the new running underwear I used, for example…worked great). Usually it does not.

My logic seemed sound enough at the time. My friend Mike Sweeney used to eat capers during 100’s and I know plenty of folks who swear by pickle juice (which is just gross in my opinion). Olives contain plenty of salt and “good” fat, which is important in longer events. They are also yummy and would help counter the sweetness of the 40+ VFuel gels that I would consume throughout the day.

Things Starting to go "downhill" at this point.

Things Starting to go “downhill” at this point.

Fast-forward to the race. Between miles ~20-40, the (almost) golf ball-sized green olives tasted fantastic. I’d pop about 6-8 of them at each aid station and take off down the trail. By the time I hit the Olallie Meadow aid station at my 47, my stomach felt “off” (shocking, I know) and I hit a real low patch as the sun set. It didn’t help that, at the same time, I was reduced to a walk down a steep road strewn with ankle breaker rocks. This just pissed me off because I don’t walk down ANYTHING, much less a damn road.

One of the cool things about Cascade Crest is that you run through a 2.5 mile railroad tunnel (ooooooooh, scary!!!) at around mile 50. At the far end of the tunnel, I picked up my first pacer, my wife Emma. Finally, I had some company!

Despite feeling a little crummy, I was moving pretty well as we headed up the 6 mile climb to the Keechelus Ridge Aid Station (mile 61). I was really sleepy, so I told Emma to just keep me from falling off the road while I closed my eyes for a little nap as I jogged and power-walked (it’s a skill, what can I say?).

Ethan's tummy was not happy When finally we arrived at the aid station, Emma decided (because let’s face it, late in a 100 miler it’s easier to have someone else handle the thinking) that I needed some real food. She handed me a cup of tomato soup and it tasted AMAZING (which is kind of funny since I don’t normally like tomato soup and I was already feeling a bit green around the gills)!!!

Reinvigorated, we headed out of the aid station right ahead of Pacific Northwest running legend (and former Cascade Crest 100 winner), Jamie Gifford. About 50 yards out of the aid station (as if on cue) we both stopped and (in unison) emptied the contents of our stomachs all over the road. At the risk of being too graphic, there at my feet lay the contents of an entire bottle of undigested green olives and pimentos (technically it was on Emma’s foot, for which I remain deeply apologetic).

Ehtan Ultra Racing with Ultimate Direction I felt much better and continued on…as we do. It wasn’t my best race but it wasn’t certainly my worst either. Given that it was my first 100 miler in 10 years, simply finishing felt amazing and I sobbed like a toddler at the finish line.

After the race, the first text message that I received was from my friend (and Ultrarunner Podcast host), Eric Schranz. He didn’t say congratulations, but rather asked me, “So, what did you learn?”

It seems to me that, after 56 (or so) ultras, I should have known better than to try something new and untested on race day. Apparently I did not.

I like to think that we learn something new every time that we step to the line. Sometimes you have to really look and listen to hear the lesson. This time, it came through loud and clear…

Ultra Running Race Finish Line photoBe sure to pick a pacer who won’t divorce you if you puke on her foot!

Share your race day mistakes in the comments below to help forewarn others 😉

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2 thoughts on “Don’t try something new on race day!

  1. Hi Ethan

    Such a funny read and you so right, we all have made these errors. Too many times for me. I don’t have a story but would rather like to pick your brain if I may. I have recently started running and absolutely loving the trails and am finding myself doing longer and longer distances. Currently I am using my motorbike endure hydration pack, but its not designed for this sport so I need to purchase something specific. The next event on my to do list is the Salomon Sky Run here in South Africa which is 100km up the side of a mountain. Although self supported we don’t need to carry too much gear. I am looking at the “SJ Ultra Vest” or the “AK Race Vest” but not sure which will best suit my needs. Your advice here would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards
    Morné

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