Suck it Up, Cupcake

Geoff Roes in the final 100 yards of his record-setting 15hr 07min Western States 100 win. Finish line at Western States 100, Auburn, CA. June 26 2010.

Today I'm going to slit the throat of some sacred cows. First out of the box was this on-line hilarity: "When your runs aren't fun anymore", which cited the following:
  • running not fun
  • tired legs
  • discomfort
Oh my. If I'd quit when "running wasn't fun" I'd never get past the 50-yard line. On a downhill course. Meet our constant companion, homeostasis.

Briefly, it means "The ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes." In plain language: never moving off your comfort zone. Common example: people hovering in a Costco parking lot trying to get the spot closest to the door. It usually involves a lot of ass-time. You're going to have to step out in order to move up.

This past weekend I was on a run 20% longer in time, and 100% greater in vertical gain, than I'd been on in months. Was I not having fun? yes. Did I have tired legs? Oh yes. Was I in discomfort? yes.

The main differences with all three was that I knew that these were not the end of the world. I was pounding down electrolytes [old-school Gatorade] and water. This forestalled dehydration, and then dementia. I kept moving [because then my legs wouldn't lock up]. I kept calories coming in, because brains require a steady nutrient drip to keep making good decisions.

When I got back to the car, I broke out a tall beaker, and helped my immediate recovery as follows:

  • 12oz cranberry juice [reasonably organic, non HFCS-tainted]
  • 12oz water
  • 3 scoops soy protein powder

Whisk up, drink fast. I keep the juices etc diluted to 50%, as there's no need to bang yr insulin levels around.

I could feel the recovery start right there. Keep rehydrating afterwards with water as needed through to bedtime.


Part of the conditioning process is going to involve muscle fatigue. You'll have to figure out if you're:

  • too much, too soon physical acceleration.
  • Overstressed and undertrained.
  • Over-raced and under-rested

Are you over-weight and previously sedentary?

If so, you have to s-l-o-w-l-y acclimate your body to the new loads you are placing on it. And that will involve discomfort.

Each sport and activity has its own specificity. You're gonna have to practice at it to get good. Some cross-training is good, but don't count on time away from the discipline to make you fabulous.

Last year I read an unintentially hilarious post about some Cross-Fitters who were talking big about how they were going to blow up a 100-mile race based on their Cross-Fit and 30mpw. They got to 75 miles and dropped, with blisters the size of dollar pancakes.

I don't dispute Cross-Fit's overall strength-building premise. But it was clear that somebody's running training was not equal to the task.

Respect the sport, and respect the distance. I've never cared much for shorter-distance races [ie 5 & 10ks]. It was too much suffering up-front in too little time. The shorter the race, the hotter it gets.


Then, I was recently reading online about "how to break up your long runs". If I'd been driving I would've rubbernecked, and rear-ended the car in front of me. The article was aimed at half-marathon runners, and was fixated on how you couldn't or shouldn't run more than 3 hours. The specters of overuse injuries wafted over the proceedings.

I used to live in that state of fear. Let's take a look at these fears:

Long Runs

Yes, you can, and eventually will, run longer than three hours. And you won't die, provided you take care of yourself. Meaning: you are weather-appropriate, you are well-hydrated, you've conditioned yourself sensibly, and you aren't acting like a dick.

The long run was defined as 2-1/2 hours. You won't be pounding it out at a 90% race pace either.

Also mentioned or implied in the fear of long runs is the prevalence of injury among runners. Once again, refer to the previous list of three.

Injuries do not occur because a god, deity or cartoon-character is angry with you. Injuries are your body's way of telling you that you didn't do something very bright somewhere along the line, or a hidden stress point has been tapped. You then get to fix it, and learn from the experience.

I've known more people than I care to remember who ran while injured. They never let themselves heal properly. This type of behavior is typical of 'wounded persons/injured runners' who desperately need to get a life.


Run nutrition here is liquid-based, or liquid dominant. Back in the day I'd make a "Gator-plex" mutant hybrid of Gatorade and Carboplex. It kept enough calories and electrolytes in me to accomplish what I needed. Now its Gatorade and Clif-Bars, plus some date-expired GU I was comped.

The Great Wall
There is a lot of jabbering about "the Wall" eek-eek-eek!

The Dreaded Wall®™ is when the body runs out of glycogen and then starts hitting your fat reserves. Its not a fun transition, but usually memorable. Adequate nutrition takes care of this problem. Worst-case scenario: keep walking, and improvise.

Once on a training run, I hit so hard it was hilarious. I dragged myself to a hot-dog stand, filled a little paper cup several times with relish, ate that, then got a long drink of water. I stabilized, and continued. I wasn't very fast, but it was passable.

SMELL THE FEAR, Then Draw your own Conclusions

If I was training by the typical "received wisdom" none of what I've done would've happened. Forty years ago the conventional wisdom was that women couldn't run, and that their uteri would prolapse on them. Yes, they'll prolapse if they are in sloppy physical shape.

Don't limit yourself. Find a way to do it smart. And suck up the discomfort.


Candace said…
"Suck it up, Cupcake." Words to live by. Nice post, Larry.
Paige said…
This was hilarious, and totally spot-on! :)
Mr Trail Safety said…
thanks! Plenty more where that came from!

mr trail safety
Sachin Mehta said…
Do you advise running with boxers, ipods?

- cupcake

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