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COMMIT TO THE FIGHT
Coach Hammond recaps his performance at the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship race.
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Coach Patrick Hammond earned his Masters Degree in Sports and Performance Psychology from the University of the Rockies. He is a USA Track and Field Level 1 certified coach. As a runner in college he competed at Western Kentucky University, where he helped his team win a Division IA Cross Country Sun Belt Conference Championship.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the mental and physical challenges of ultra running. When faced with such challenges it’s important to focus your mind on a simple task, and to take one step at a time. Remind yourself why you chose to run, and commit to the fight. I promise you will be happy you did.
This past weekend I competed in my third 50 miler at the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco, officially commemorating my one year anniversary at this distance. I have come a long way since my first 50 miler and still have an even longer way to go. I have set high goals for myself and I know that in order to reach those goals I have to be committed.
Leading up to the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile I felt good about the progression of my training. Several months before I had reached out to my fellow Educated Running Coach, Stuart Munro, which proved to be a smart move. Yes, even a coach needs a coach. Working with Coach Munro was a great way to keep myself accountable and focused.
As I waited for the start, I calmed my mind and went over my race plan. I knew I wanted to stay relaxed the first 14 miles because that was when I would hit my first major climb of over 1800 feet. For me it was after this climb that the race would start.
Moments later we were off and running into the night with nothing but head lamps to guide the way. As I ran I maintained a controlled pace and focused on my plan. Soon however, my plans went awry. A few miles in I began to suffer from stomach pains, which caused my body to sweat faster and waste energy. As a result I was forced to slow my pace more than I wanted.
Soon after, I faced another obstacle brought on by my own foolish error, which I will not let happen again. As I approached the first set of downhills in the night, I noticed my head lamp was not bright enough. Each step was harsh as I searched for the ground, struggling not to trip. Predictably, I missed a step on a downhill and slid all the way toward the bottom on my back.
Sore and rattled by the fall, I picked myself up and checked for any significant injuries. Luckily there were none, and I pushed on. I decided it would be smarter to walk the downhills until the sun came out. About an hour later the sun finally appeared and I could not have been happier to see it.
Feeling more fatigued than I planned and much further back in the pack than I wanted, I began to panic. I began to question whether I would be able to even finish, let alone run a respectable time. I knew I had to calm myself,so I began to whisper “one step at a time”. This helped me to put things into perspective and realize I had plenty more to race. I also reminded myself that trail running is what I love to do, which helped me enjoy the beautiful scenery around me and forget my worries.
As I approached the top of the 1800+ foot climb at mile 22, the race started to improve. I felt better both mentally and physically, struck a rhythm, and began to cruise. From mile 22 through 40, I fought the rolling hills and technical terrain, both of which I expected to face and had prepared for.
My tank neared empty as I reached the final major climb of 1000 feet at mile 40. I was not surprised to be hurting, but this did not make it any easier. I knew I was going to have to push beyond my limits for the last 10 miles to reach the finish.
I focused on math to ease the hurt. I began to calculate in my head what pace I would need to run to hit a personal record (PR). Soon I realized running a PR was possible if I was willing to fight for it. My confidence grew the moment I decided to commit to the fight.
The last 10 miles I fought with everything I had . At the final checkpoint one of the volunteers yelled “2.8 miles to go!” I looked down at my watch and said to myself, “30 minutes. If you make it to the finish in 30 minutes you will PR.”
Running on pure adrenaline I made it to the finish line in about 18 minutes finishing in 8:47:58, which was good enough for a 11 minute 47 second PR!
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