I love analogies. They’re kinda my thing. This realization came to me the past few weeks as I am tapering for my hardest 100 miler yet, Cascade Crest Endurance Run, in three short days. I have all this time and energy suddenly I am not using for running, and sitting around led to analogies.
So the latest one I have thought a lot about is how your body during an endurance run is exactly like a car. If during a race, you drive your body like you would drive a car for a super long endurance race, things make a lot more sense. The problem is, in daily life, we don’t think about our bodies as machines since sitting behind a computer does not require it. But going running all day and all night moves us back to our more natural state, where our bodies were designed as machines. I am not saying thinking in this mentality will make your problems disappear, but it might help to better identify issues as they arise, plus it’skinda just a tad funny.
The most obvious of this analogy is keeping your top three fluids topped off. What did your Dad always teach you in high school about your first car? Always check your oil, coolant, and of course your fuel. These three things are the most common issues in a breakdown of a car. Fuel is self explanatory and the most important. If you don’t eat, you won’t have fuel to burn to keep you moving. Your body has some gas reserves, but they are harder to use and don’t last forever. Coolant is your water. It’s what keeps your body cool as your engine heats up from running. Next, your oil, is your electrolytes. While next exactly fuel, they are very critical to lubricating your system and keeping things running smoothly.
It’s good to understand what type of vehicle you are too. Just like different vehicles are made for different terrain, so are trail runners. Take Max King, for example, a full fledge race car. He is fast, maneuverable, takes a highly refined fuel source (all he eats is gels) and capable of pushing his engine to really high RPMs for “short” periods of time. Myself however, I would call a 4×4 Jeep. I can do roads, but really is not what I was meant for. I shine in off road and off trail segments, being able to go slower but efficiently over the gnarliest of terrains. And I am definitely a gas guzzling diesel engine, as I load up my gullet with anything and everything I can find. Kilian Jornet, on the other hand, is some weird crazy combination of all sorts of cars that drive and go fast on everything. I don’t know what he is.
There are a variety of issues that can occur on your car too during a long roadtrip besides your fluids. The rubber on your tires could wear, leading to torn up wheels (blisters on feet), parts breaking from overuse (any sort of leg/foot problem), radiator boil over (puking, whether from overheating or GI tract issues), improper wear and tear of parts rubbing against each other (chafage), or falling asleep at the wheel (falling asleep while running). You could have some bad exhaust issues (smelly farts) that are not a nice thing to make other cars around you deal with, and are also indicative of some large exhaust issues to come (pulling over behind a tree). And of course, there is the mental factor that sometimes you just don’t want to be driving anymore on an all day roadtrip. It gets boring! At these times music can help.
Lastly, it is wise to think of your body as a car to prevent injuries. No matter how you look at it, a race car’s usable life is severely depleted if you are racing with it every very often. A race means super high RPMs and extreme wear and tear not just on the engine but on all moving parts. While one is probably able to do 5k races every weekend, ultras are a different story. Now I don’t mean you cannot DO an ultra every weekend, but there’s a difference between DOING and ultra and RACING an ultra. I have stayed mostly injury free I believe in a large part due to the fact I hardly ever race. Most of my miles, even during a 100 miler, are just nice and easy highway miles, where I am cruising at a comfortable RPM. Cars like this can last for years and years, even with extremely high miles, where a race car might only last a short number of years even though it does not have many miles on it.
Now get out and go drive your car! And treat it with some nice high octane fuel afterwards (beer).