By: Tim Krauss, Co-founder of Mammoth Creameries
I’ve wanted to run the 100-miler for the last 15 years. It was the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley all those years ago that first got me interested in endurance sports in general. Years later, I finally got to take a stab at the Rocky Raccoon 100-miler in Huntsville, Texas.
Signing up for the race was a spur of the moment decision. I was talking to my friend Martha S. (a veteran ultra-runner) and told her I was thinking about competing in a 24-hour race that ran around a one-mile track. My goal was to hit 100 miles. I don’t clearly remember her response to that idea, but it was something along the lines of, “that’s stupid and boring, don’t be such a pussy!” She then went on to tell me about the Rocky Raccoon 100.
At the time, I was in decent shape, running four to five days a week, but I was concerned because the farthest I had ever run was 30 miles. Usually, people don’t go from 30 to 100 miles, and those that do often fail. I rang my coach, Matt Daniels, to ask his opinion. Matt thought it was doable, but advised caution, explaining that it would be hard as hell and that I’d need to step up my mental game. This didn’t mean much to me at first – I knew this was going to be hard… but I didn’t fully understand the mental and physical toll it was going to take on me.
Looking back, I realize that running the distance wasn’t my biggest concern; it was managing my nutrition and type 1 diabetes while training. My family and I had been living a very low-carb lifestyle for two and a half years, and I was not sure how I’d be able to maintain my diet during huge training blocks. I was less worried about the energy I got from my food and more concerned about the preparation that goes into that lifestyle.
To prepare for a huge race, nutrition is of utmost importance. Fueling my body with whole, healthy foods that were easily digestible for my body was key. I continued to eat low-carb meals, filling up on meats, grass-fed butter, nuts and seeds, and other low-carb snacks that suited my dietary needs.
The 12-week training block went well – I only rolled two ankles, which is pretty solid for me. The longest training run I did was 25 miles, and I figured that would be somewhat of an indicator of how my blood sugar would respond.
The race started like any other, uneasy laughter in the starting chute and very high tension. Despite the nerves, I felt pretty good at that point and was ready to crush the beast. The course was four 25-mile loops. Loop one went very well, and I was 70 minutes ahead of schedule, feeling strong and confident.
During the race, I spaced out my food, gaining calories from different nutritional sources like bacon, bone broth, nut butter, and very low glycemic gels.
It wasn’t until mile 63 when things started to get tougher. Ultra-running is funny in that way. One second you’re okay, and the next second you’re struggling. You just have to learn to roll with the punches.
The remaining 37 miles were kind of a blur. Running through the night on no sleep was a challenge on its own. I muscled my way to mile 89, the last turn around before heading HOME. As I was leaving that aid station, my body was shutting down. Pain was radiating through my body in a way that I have never felt before. It felt like all of the bones in my feet and legs were broken. My mind was flooded with a thousand excuses to quit — it was disgusting. For a while, I was telling myself it was a lack of discipline and commitment to the goal that made me hurt so bad, maybe, and I wish I could tell you that I got this overwhelming sense of motivation during those last 11 miles that drove me across that line… But that is just not the case. I felt every ounce of pain during those 11 miles, and my body tried its best to shut down after every single step I took.
I remember crossing the finish line and sitting down and feeling like time stopped. All of a sudden, it all made sense, the why, the how, just everything.
In the end, I think it was my commitment to do whatever it takes to crush the race that got me across the finish line. Thinking about it now, I think I am one of those people that can find true joy on the other side of suffering.