Looking back, it was the stupidest move I could have made that day. Especially since I was about to run the longest race of my life.
Stepping foot into the Landsford Canal 24-Hour Race I had big plans for what I wanted to accomplish. For the last few weeks, I had been raising money for To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit that helps teenagers who are having thoughts about suicide.
I had been training, preparing and even investing in powders and shakes to help me run faster on the day of the event.
I remember calling the sales rep from Hammer Nutrition:
“I need to buy some stuff from you that will help me run faster.”
“So what should I buy?”
“Well, what are you running?”
“I’m running 120 miles.”
“Awesome. Have you ever done that before?”
“No. But it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard….”
“What’s the longest you’ve run in the past?”
“A half marathon.”
“……..[epic pause]………… and you’re now going to run 120 miles?”
“Yep. And I have friends who tell me that you have some powders, shakes, and pills That will help me on the day of the event.”
If that seems crazy to you, can you imagine what the sales rep on the other end of the phone must have been thinking? He was, however, smart enough to shut up and take my money.
He sent me some powder you mix with water that has calories in it that you can sip while you’re running. It’s easier to consume than hard food, but still thick and gooey –and horrible tasting.
I also got two bottles of salt tablets. By consuming salt when you are in the middle of heavy exercise, you increase your ability to stay below your own personal red line.
With my powders, shakes, and pills in hand, I was all set for the Lansford Canal 24-Hour Race.
And yet, I absolutely wasn’t ready at all.
My crew set about mixing the powders with water and handing me a fresh bottle every time I made the four-mile loop through the woods. At first, drinking the goo was manageable. It tasted like drywall putty but seemed like a necessary consequence of attempting an event like this.
My first loop I did in a little over 30 minutes. My second one was close behind that. Loops three and four were a little bit slower — but still faster than anyone else there.
In the first 5 hours, I ran about 40 miles. If you watch the documentary that my team shot, you can see me flopping on the ground feeling horrible and getting stretched out by friends who suddenly saw a crack in my impenetrable confidence.
As the day grew warmer and the taste of my Hammer Nutrition shakes began to taste even more horrible, I decided to engage what seemed like a genius move at the time.
Forget about drinking those shakes. I was just going to keep running anyways.
“I got this… I got this.” I told my team. “Just let me run.”
And that’s what they did.
40 miles turn into 45. And then 50. Running turned into jogging. And then walking. I was determined to get to 120 miles. Nothing could stop me.
I was more than 10 hours into running when I began to experience a horrible pain at the bottom of my stomach. It felt like lightning bolts were jumping in and out of my kidneys. I stopped on the side of a trail to pee, thinking maybe that would solve the problem.
I was horrified when what came out was the consistency of maple syrup and the color of blood. I was in pain watching it. In pain doing it.
All the alarm bells in my head went off. I was in trouble. I knew it in that instant.
Something was wrong. This was bad.
When I made it back to where my crew was, I shared with him when had just happened and the pain that I was experiencing. They told me to take a moment and lie down.
With my feet raised on the edge of a cooler, my crew went off to speak with the medical team who was there at the event. When they came back one of the veteran runners came with them with a thermos in his hand.
“Drink this,” he said.
Inside it was a warm liquid. It tasted like soup, but it was just liquid. No noodles or vegetables. I would learn later that it was bone broth. I drank it and then got back up and ran another loop. And then another one. And then another one.
And then, at the 14-hour mark, I was completely unable to continue. My muscles were in spasms. My lips were so dehydrated that I could barely close my mouth. I was in horrible pain. The headache growing behind my eyes felt like a jackhammer crushing against my skull.
On the video, you’ll hear me signing off. 14 hours. 71 miles.
A bit less then 50 fewer miles I needed to accomplish my big goal of running 120 miles that day.
My body was broken. My spirits were crushed. I felt like a loser. I wasn’t able to achieve what I set out to accomplish.
Here’s the crazy thing — I had everything I could ever need to accomplish my goal within the grasp of my fingers — but I was so focused on only consuming my powders, shakes, and pills that I ignored all the food available to me.
There were gummy bears by the handfuls, potato chips of almost every type, hamburgers and hot dogs, pizza, brownies, skittles, grilled cheese sandwiches, pickles, pretzels, and dozens of other bits of food I could have consumed to give me the strength to achieve my goal.
Instead, I decided that I knew better.
I closed my mind to the option that there was a possibility for success beyond something I could think of. I was so determined to do it my way that I stopped paying attention to the resources and help that were all around me.
There were seasoned ultramarathon runners that I could have stopped and asked for help. There was Gatorade in 5-gallon containers that I could have consumed by the couple. There was water another nutritious, and cold, beverages to drink.
I turned it all down, thinking that I knew better — which was a recipe for my eventual disaster. As you can expect, I was suffering from a pretty extreme case of dehydration.
As you might expect — 48 hours later, I was fine. My legs were still a little bit rubbery and my ego had a bit of a dent in it, but I was fully recovered and ready for combat.
You might think that I would learn a lesson like that pretty quickly.
But I didn’t, and I don’t always now.
Here’s the hard truth that you may not want to hear — the help you need is already all around you. The insights, ideas, and help you need to achieve success are within your arms reach. Right now.
But you’ll never find them if you weren’t willing to challenge your preconceived notions about what you know.
Instead, you’ll burn out and blow up before you finish your race. And not because you don’t have a strong heart or fast legs. But because you aren’t willing to let go of what you think you know to receive the help of those who do know — are willing to help you.
So let’s dig into that for a minute:
- What books are you reading right now?
- What’s your circle of mentors and advisors look like?
- When was the last time you spent money to level up your head game?
If you’re too busy to do any of these things or claim that you’re too broke to invest in them, you can be absolutely sure that you’re on a path to burnout and self-destruction.
All I had to do was reach out and grab a few potato chips every few miles. That, and throw back a cup of Gatorade or two.
What’s that chip for you? What’s that cup of Gatorade?
Take a minute, and get serious about your success. You don’t have to do it all on your own. And it’s always easier when you get some help.
So take a minute after reading this to pause. Shut your eyes and count to ten.
And then, talk to yourself about where you are and where you want to be.
What thoughts and feelings are you allowing to blind you to the help that is already within your fingertips?