- Written by Dave Gluhareff
by Leslie St. Louis (Team Strength Runner Athlete)
Most runners have experienced it: that moment mid race, where you just.want.to.stop.
Or find a lounger and have an umbrella drink.
For me, it came mile nine, while traversing the dusty trails at Soldier’s Hollow in Midway Utah during the Spartan Beast, a 12 mile, 24+ obstacle race.
Until that moment, I was feeling pretty good, excellent actually, considering the day before I had caught a one-day stomach bug my six-year-old had passed to me. 24-hours, 30 Pepto Bismolsand half a jar of Tums later my stomach felt normal at the Start Line (antacids are performance enhancers, right?), and I had been hydrating, hydrating, hydrating all week.
This was my third year running this race and in the past the water stations had sufficed, so I had decided to race with nothing other than my normal gummies and gels stuffed strategically along my body.
The race started with a mile going straight UP and all was good! Add some steep downhills, 6 foot walls, concrete pulls and carries, crawls, rope climbs and even 60 penalty burpees… still trucking along.
But this course was living up to its Beast title and had changed a bit from year’s past, with two extra miles, more hills and added obstacles.
After the bucket carry, a concrete hoist and drag and going down and over a set of mud hills, I started wishing there were more water stations. It seemed as though my gummies werehardening, turning into chalk and making me want to gag. I spit one out, leaving a neon blob of orange on the side of the trail.
Seriously?! Another switchback?
Um, this is mile 9, not 10?
When did my feet become bricks?
I felt sick – light headed, stomach bubbly -- and I pondered the pros and cons of stopping.
It lasted only a few minutes before I finally realized what was happening. as if ripping off a Halloween mask, I suddenly recognized: The Bonk! And it was chasing me.
With only a few miles left, I scarfed down nearly all of myremaining gels, choked down a few chomps and took a few extra moments at the water stations to refill.
My feet kept moving and I made my to the spectator area for some more obstacles. The inverted and traverse wall went by in a blur, “Don’t fall and don’t hurl,” I willed my body.
As I jumped off the wall, the battle was starting to subside. A few more switchbacks and while I didn’t feel as though the hills were alive with the sound of music, I knew I would finish, even starting to run faster. Crawling through one of the muckiest, muddiest and sloppy barbed wire crawls I’ve ever experienced, I swished my way up the (very,very) slippery wall and heard my family cheering for me.
The Bonk never did stop its pursuit, but it didn’t prevail either. I happily jumped over the fire finish!
This race was one of my favorites so far this year. I race for many reasons, but one of them is discovering more about myself and overcoming both physical and mental challenges, even when it’s uncomfortable. While I thought I had my nutrition needs dialed in, I also learned more about what my body needs.
Watch out Bonk, I’ll be even harder to catch next time!
Runners World describes the Bonk or "hitting the wall" as, “the dreaded point (and awful feeling similar to what your body would feel like if you ran into a wall) during a race when your muscle glycogen stores become depleted and a feeling of fatigue engulfs you.”
There have been lots of articles about the infamous Bonk, usually with runners hitting this wall during marathon-length or longer events. However, since even five-mile obstacle events can take three hours or more, Obstacle Racers face unique challenges when it comes to avoiding the Bonk. Here’s what I learned along the Utah trails last weekend:
Obstacle Racers Can Avoid The Bonk by…