Sooner or later it’s bound to happen: you’ll have a shitty race day. It could be literal, it could be metaphorical, but one day it will happen and you’ll find yourself questioning your sanity and/or your will to go on. So, when is it appropriate to pull the plug? How do you deal with a day like this? And what are some tips to cope with these problems?
First off, if you have come down with a serious illness or injury, just drop out. Pull the plug. The “Death Before DNF” mentality is something that can get you in seriously trouble. You risk serious complications and set backs with that mindset that extend far beyond the initial blow to your ego from a DNF. Some examples of legitimate reasons to take a DNF are: rhabdomyolysis, the flu, suspected tendon/muscle tears and suspected fractures or breaks, just to name a few. Really, any reason you feel is legitimate, is legitimate. I dropped out of mesquite canyon 50 Miler because I was too irritated listening to my stomach slosh around for 25 miles to keep going. Just keep in mind that once you start dropping out of races for no good reason, it’s easier to gravitate towards a DNF from there on out. Also keep in mind that if you decide to push on with a serious issue, such as I did during a 4 hour New Years run in Ashland with the flu, you may find yourself stuck with a whole plethora of issues that last for quite some time.
Let’s talk about some tips and tricks to help get you through your run if you’re having a bad, but manageable, day. By bad, but manageable, I mean general tiredness, a minor head cold or an upset stomach, you know … that type of shitty day. Though these tips can be applied to many manageable race day problems, today we’re going to focus more specifically on one of the most common problems you’re bound to have at some point: upset stomach.
Drink water – Staying hydrated ensures optimum performance and helps flush your system of toxins. If you’ve been using the restroom frequently (pack it in, pack it out!) or throwing up then chances are you need to double down on your hydration to try and catch up. You probably won’t return to optimal hydration levels until the evening or even the following day, but making an effort to put it back in will make you feel better.
Zantac, Tums and Pepto – I know Hal Koerner carries Zantac for his 100’s, Anton Krupicka was popping tums like candy in his high mileage days and I’ve loved Pepto Bismol since I started dating; I never have a bottle too far away. The point is that there are a lot of over the counter medicines that aid in calming upset stomach. Find one that works for you and either pre-funk with it, or carry some with you during the race in case problems arise.
Make use of aid stations – Aid stations can be a great opportunity to stop and recoup and they often have things that help upset stomachs since it’s such a common occurrence among runners. Road races often have less options, if any, compared to ultras, but on the trails aid stations may have tums, ginger ale or even ginger candies. Make use of everything you can here and don’t worry about taking a few minutes to let it settle. You’ll be thankful later.
Get out of your head – I mentioned mindfulness before in our post about taking a wrong turn and when I asked my wife what her trick was to pushing through her recent and rough 25K she unknowingly described that same practice: “I tried my best to get out of my head. I thought about how the sound of the birds, how the light was hitting the trees, how the raindrops felt on my skin and how refreshing each one was – the way everything felt so clean.” This is a perfect example of how to be mindful and you know what? It works! She started having problems about 30 minutes in and pushed through for 4 hours, declining to drop at the 9 mile turn off.
A pain only women know – When it comes to “that time of the month” I have no idea how it feels, but I genuinely feel for my wife when it happens, especially when it happens during one of her long runs. She says: “They say that exercise helps menstrual cramps, but from my experience, it does not! Just try to relax. If you’re not “racing” try to take slow, deep breathes, slow your pace and enjoy your run. Music also helps when I’m having trouble getting out of my head. Create a playlist before you go out on your run that way you don’t get frustrated shuffling through songs on your iPod.”
Stay Positive – This goes without saying, but positivity radiates. Do your best to smile and think positive thoughts, you will feel better and before you know it, the race will be over.
Every runner will experience this at one time or another and we hope these tips help you! Feel free to share your tips and tricks for coping with an upset stomach and other race day problems, and as always, if we can help you reach your training and racing goals, reach out to me here.