It’s fairly well known that if you want to do well in ultras then you need to have grit. I won’t buck conventional wisdom, however I do think there’s another trait that is equally important: adaptability. As the races get longer, you need to be more flexible with every strategy and tactic you’ve planned heading into the race. Your easy pace may end up being very hard (in which case you need to find your too easy pace), your Go To nutrition of choice may stop working, or your favorite pair of shoes may suddenly start causing you blisters in all the wrong places. Grit may help you through some rough patches, but being flexible will let you problem solve your way out of an issue that will end your race regardless of how tough you are.
And I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly flexible and adaptable person. Whether it’s new bosses at work, ditching TV entirely, or new hair styles (I didn’t always have this mustache after all); I always believed that I was up for change or whatever life decided to through at me that day. Well, I guess my challenges have been exceptionally tame because my world was recently rocked by something as innocuous as a crashed laptop.
Nine days out from ES100, I dropped my laptop on the floor and it started acting a little funny. The next day it was completely dead. Now for most people this wouldn’t be an issue. You’d just run out to Best Buy, get a new laptop, plug in your external hard drive, and you’re good as new. Unfortunately, I’m not most people and had never gotten around to getting an external hard drive to backup my data. And since I’m the type of person who think clouds are better to look at than store my personal data, I was utterly and completely hosed. All my data was unrecoverable on a busted hard drive. All the music, all the pictures, all my spreadsheets . . . all my spreadsheets?!?!?!
Now I’m starting to panic. The music (can rerip) and pictures (never, ever looked at them) were a loss, however one I could deal with fairly easily. The data on my runs and my ES100 planning files were a different story entirely. The latter was of primary importance since it had all of my logistics planned out: gear list, drop bag contents, aid station details and splits, and all the prep I had done for my ES100 demographics post. I stress about these races enough when fully prepared for them and here I was scrambling to recreate in a couple days what I had spent the better part of a month putting together. Luckily, I had my Old Dominion prep file still available and could use that as a template. I also remembered most of what I was going to need and when I was going to need it based on running the race before. After several days, I had most of my lists back together and was good to go.
My stress levels gradually reduced as I was able to come to terms with my new dataless existence, however it took much longer than I would have thought. It was a bit disconcerting to be knocked sideways by something so completely mundane. I think of myself as a laid back, go with the flow type person, but maybe that’s not me at all. Maybe I’ve been deluding myself all these years and have just been cruising along a blissfully easy existence. Or maybe this was the one minor thing that just ended up being a major thing for me. Ultras have been a great teacher for me of many valuable life skills over the past couple years: dedication, perseverance, appreciation of nature, consistency, and sustainability just to name a few. Guess I still have more to learn, which I’m sure doesn’t surprise those who know me well.
Time to go practice my mental yoga.