Saturday, October 20, 2012

Survivor...and Ultrarunning

[image credit CBS]

This week Dana was sicker than a dog (gastrointestinal distress), but was cleared by the show's medical staff to remain in the game if she wanted to.

She opted to drop out, and thus became a prime topic for my noontime running buds.  I was not there to run with them in person, but contributed my $.02 via email.

We here in the Ultrarunning world know a thing or two about extreme physical and mental challenges, and what it takes to find the resources deep within yourself to go on when dropping would be the easiest thing.

I'm guessing--based upon personal experience--that Dana, approximately 2 hours after leaving the island, was undoubtedly kicking herself for not trying to stay another 12 hours. 

In the Ultra world, where feeling like hell and feeling like you could run forever are frequently very close together in time and space, there's a saying: "It doesn’t always keep getting worse."  That is, when things are objectively bad or even very bad, they don’t always continue downhill; often there's a turnaround coming. 

You don't know, so you just keep on with the relentless forward progress. And maybe, just maybe, you'll be rewarded with the change in fortune.  Maybe it'll come at an aid station where you get the right food or drink that sits good in your belly; maybe a nice downhill where you get your running groove back; perhaps a nice uphill where the long walk serves as a recovery period.

You get the idea.  I was advised once that you should decide in advance what circumstances would be grounds to drop.  Basically it boils down to this: if continuing would not endanger you or your long-term running, then you keep going. 

Your stomach hurts?  Keep going.

Your knee or ankle hurts but there's no obvious sign of trauma, just overuse.  Keep going.

Your mind is baked and going on seems futile.  Keep going.

I don't want to come off as an unsympathetic a**hole, it's just when the stakes are high you raise your game.


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