Learn from your mistakes, moron!

COUNTDOWN: Ultramarathon Day Minus 9

What is the worst mistake you’ve ever made in a race?

I’ve made lots of them. Most fall under the heading of starting out too fast or dressing inappropriately. Here are a few examples:

* I once ran a trail race wearing cotton crew socks. After the first creek crossing, I had two soggy, heavy bunches of cotton on my ankles. Ever since that day, I’ve worn synthetic ankle socks. New motto: cotton is evil.

* At my first half-marathon, I gulped down two large cups of Gatorade at the first water stop. I had never trained with Gatorade. I immediately got a huge stomach cramp and had to walk for a mile.

* At a hilly 15K, I sprinted the first half (mostly downhill) at a 5K pace, and had nothing left for the second half (mostly uphill).

* I ran a half-marathon in November wearing a heavy fleece top. After the first half-mile, I was so overheated I had to step off the course, pull off my fleece, unpin my number and repin it to my shirt, and throw my fleece in a tree. That cost me more than a minute.

* My one and only DNF came during a hot, humid half-marathon in Erie, Pa. I started out way too fast, felt my energy draining away in the heat, and dropped at mile five. I turned around and began walking back to the start/finish area. I felt better after about two minutes, and could have finished the race, but I had already ripped my number to pieces in disgust.

* I once ran a marathon with a cough and a fever. I should have known better. It was a hot, miserable day. I hit the wall at 14 miles and walked the remainder of the course.

Why am I recounting all this now?  Because it’s been a few months since I have raced, and I know that if I don’t remind myself of my stupid, stupid mistakes, I will make them all over again at my 50K.

So listen up, Trail Boy:

1) Do not start out fast. It’s going to be a long day in the woods, probably six or seven hours. Walk the uphills. Trot the flats and downhills. If you have anything left in the last few miles, up the speed. But this is a race for finishing. It not a race for DNF-ing.

2) Look closely at the weather and dress appropriately.

3) Drink and eat often. Do not run out of gas. Fuel up before the race. During the race, do not eat anything weird that just happens to be at an aid station. Go for the familiar stuff: Clif bars, hard candy, bananas, trail mix.

4) Do not run if you are sick. There will be another race, another day.

5) Have fun. Do not stress out. It is only a race.


I sure hope this cool, cloudy weather continues for another week or two. I ran six miles around my neighborhood this morning before work in 60-something temps, with cool breezes. It felt wonderful.

I had been planning to run the trail loop at Town Run Park, but it rained overnight, and I knew the park gate would be locked and the dirt trails would be a muddy mess. So I stayed on roads. With the perfect running weather, I didn’t mind. My time was 55:09.


Yep, as I thought, the layoffs are happening at work today. So far, about a dozen people in the newsroom and bureaus (editors, reporters, photographers, clerks) have been sacked. My editor asked me early today to write a short story about the layoffs. “Does that mean I’ll survive?” I asked him. “I’m pretty sure of it,” he said.

I’ll update later, either way.

UPDATE: The paper laid off 37 people, including 17 in the newsroom. Remarkably, no reporters got the ax, including Trail Boy. I live to write another day.


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