This wasn’t my first BFX rodeo anymore, so it was time to adjust my strategy for this race accordingly.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” as Mike Tyson said. Now, what’s stopping us from planning for getting punched in the face?
Identify controllable factors in your performance and in your races and optimize every. little. detail. If you’re not at least a little bit obsessed with that process, then you’re wasting time.
All those workouts and hours of training and carefully planned meals, only to save some time out on the course. Do you really want to lose them because you forgot to pre-mix your electrolyte powder?
Past performance & Future success
I knew from BFX LA how my body reacts to nonstop obstacle racing for 6+ hours:
- Lower body muscle fatigue sets in after about 8 miles: Hip flexors, calves, quads
- Heart rate remains pretty stable which indicates that the level of effort is well under control
- Cramping may occur if muscles don’t get fueled properly
- Cramping may also occur if obstacles are approached in the same manner every time all the time
Long runs are the only way to improve the fatigue setting in so early and that’s a weakness of mine that I’m aware of. Nothing I could do about that for now other than adjust training.
The cramping however gave me two action items:
1) Develop a proper fueling strategy
2) Consciously approach obstacles differently after the first lap
Shoes: Bringing a knife to a gun fight
As I mentioned in an earlier article, my weapon of choice for distances beyond 5mi is the Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra Soft Ground.
Unfortunately, the miles during BFX LA had resulted in so much tearing of the shoe’s upper material, that they basically didn’t offer any protection anymore. I threw them away after that race.
After realizing that there is a new version of this exact shoe to be released on Feb 14th, I excitedly ordered a pair… but then delivery got pushed back by two weeks. I then ordered a similar shoe (Salomon S-Lab Speed, the successor to the Salomon S-Lab Fellcross), but UPS messed up delivery twice and returned the shoe.
Here I was, Thursday Night, without shoes for running a marathon-distance OCR…
Enter the Salomon S-Lab X-Series: I got this road/trail hybrid shoe to run trails which have significant road mileage in them (like some non-OCR trail races). With an 8mm drop, these shoes aren’t as flat as the others I’m using, but they are a lot better than the Salomon SpeedCross in terms of weight, drop, and water drainage.
Have you read the review or did you run the SF course? Then you know this was mud mud mud on and off the trail. Running the course four times with a non-trail running shoe was definitely bringing a knife to a gun fight.
I did slide around a lot for the first two laps when the ground was soft and spongy. As the temperatures were rising and the hundreds of people were passing over the terrain, it improved significantly. However, every wall required special attention because I almost face planted at least five times by sliding off with my feet.
I maintain a students mindset since my experience with endurance running is still pretty minimal. Proper fueling however is obviously one of the most critical areas.
Instead of throwing my food items in a pile and stuffing my face during the transitions between laps at the BFX tent, I used a different approach this time. My goal was to consume 300 calories per hour.
This time around I gave Tailwind Nutrition a try. While the Cellucor Alpha Amino has worked very well for me in the past, Tailwind has a significant advantage: You can drink you calories, salt tablets, it’s all in one powder.
This means less work for me to grab and eat/drink different items and less work for the stomach. The Unflavored variant of Tailwind mixes clear and just has a very mild taste to it. Having previous cramps in mind, I still decided to keep Alpha Aminos around for an extra kick… also, it simply tastes good.
Never underestimate the power of enjoying the simple things!
Race mode Fabian operates on only half a brain, at best. This is why I try to make everything as easy as possible for the dude: His job is running, not thinking.
As you can see in the image below, not only did I mix my hydration before the race, but I also prepared it into one bottle to grab per lap.
Additionally, every food item was marked: 0 for before the race, 1 for the first transition after completing the first lap, and so on.
I never spent more than 10-15 seconds at the BFX tent, everything was designed to be self-explanatory.
Grabbing one bottle and one food item per transition worked very well… there was just one little issue.
Getting punched in the face
Remember my goal to consume 300 calories per hour?
Every bottle of Tail had two scoops in 16oz of water which comes out to 200 calories. Every food item has about 125 calories, so I would have consumed 325cal per hour.
The extra 1.75mi distance, 1500ft of elevation gain, mud, all of these factors brought my average lap time to 1:30hrs. This means, I needed to consume 450 calories per lap. To achieve this, I had to supplement my neatly labeled food items with extra food which I always bring along. Contingency planning is a crucial skill for endurance events and fortunately I’ve done enough of those to learn it. I stuck to the plan but did take one additional food item out on the course with me which I consumed about an hour into the lap.
Just because things don’t go according to plan doesn’t mean you have to fall apart when circumstances change.
Improvise, Adapt and Overcome!
- Further improve running endurance while maintaining speed
- Find sustainable long-distance pace
- Confidence in skill can compensate for insufficient gear
- Contingency planning is never optional
- The 7 Ps hold true
I’m very happy to take away a win from this race, where the terrain definitely was the most challenging obstacle!
Aprox. 28 miles distance, 6.800ft elevation gain, 6:52:21 to finish.