The adventure racing craze is sweeping the nation and a myriad of new races are being organized from coast to coast. Increases in participation have been linked to the natural cross-over for cyclists,runners and water-sport aficionados, but I believe the true allure of this demanding activity lies within the individual who is forced to realize his or her limits and push through them -- all while contributing to a team.
This team dynamic offers endurance athletes used to the solitude of triathlon or marathon the chance to work together as cohesive unit compensating for individual strengths and weaknesses. This creates an opportunity for individuals to emerge as leaders within certain areas of the race and responsibilities are delegated accordingly. Often, teams designate a captain and a navigator who've proven they can perform those tasks despite challenges such as sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion. Capitalizing on these strengths keeps a team organized and on track during the onset of fatigue.
I asked my friend Barrie Adsett, navigator for San Diego-based Team Equinox, what he considers to be the key to adventure racing. He explained, "In adventure racing, reading a map and knowing how to navigate are maybe more important than being a strong or fast athlete. No matter how fast you go, if you go the wrong way you are just further away from where you are meant to be, that much quicker."
Team captain Steve Moore commented, "Equinox has proven many times that brains beats pure brawn." Adsett added, "In the hare-and-tortoise fashion, going an optimal route is better than zipping everywhere but getting nowhere." Kristine Gillis, the sole female member of the co-ed team, recommends practicing with orienteering clubs and regional adventure racing groups.
Saturday morning is supposed to be a 20-mile training run according to my over the counter training regiment for the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. Instead, I will up the ante and attempt my first ultramarathon. My decision to run the Lake Hodges50K has been inspired in part by the many endurance athletes that I learn about everyday here at Active.com. My other source of motivation comes from my lack of experience at such high mileage. In fact, leading up to this point, I have never logged a run greater than 18 miles. The decision to go even farther is not made in haste; it is based on careful research into ultra events. I've formulated a game plan that will take me to the finish line without risking my health for the race in June.
First and foremost, I have already run the entire race course in sections. I can visualize my approach while maintaining a psychological edge when the going gets tough. Secondly, my goal to cross the finish line within an eight-hour limit requires a pace that is faster than 15 minutes per mile. This is easily achieved by utilizing the keystone of this plan; the 5-to-1 ratio. After each five minute interval of running, I will walk for one minute and repeat this method for the five or more hours that it takes to cross the finish line, all the while conserving energy for later in the race by avoiding running up steep hills.
This race will also serve as a test of my in-race nutrition. I will finally be able to experience the stress on my gastrointestinal system (GI), while ingesting water and endurance fuel for a prolonged period of time. I'll have a water bottle strapped to each hand. The first bottle will contain plain water which I will refill at the seven aid stations throughout the race. The second water bottle will be a highly concentrated blend of two endurance formulas containing a 7-to-1 carbohydrate-to-soy protein ratio. This fuel also contains all the necessary electrolytes and calories, allowing me to travel without any other fuel. At the 16.2-mile aid station, friends will bring my drop bag containing fresh running socks, shirt, hat, sunscreen, Aleve and more endurance fuel for the remaining 15 miles of the course.
My nine weeks of conditioning, experience on the race course, in-race nutrition plan, support crew and will to succeed should be all I need to achieve my goal of finishing the ultramarathon. I hope to better understand how my body will react during the stress of prolonged activity and high mileage. I will then apply this knowledge and make the necessary adjustments to both my training regimen and my in-race nutrition to handle the intensity of a faster pace during the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in nine weeks. Check back on Monday for a recap of this event and find out how it all plays out.