On the day of my 62nd birthday, US Navy Admiral (Four-Star General) William H. McRaven, Ninth Commander of the US Special Operations Command and a US Navy Seal, delivered a Commencement Speech to almost 8,000 graduating students of the University of Texas at Austin on May 17, 2014. He is an alumnus of the said University and a product of the school’s ROTC Program.
The following is the complete text of his Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of 2014. http://www.utexas.edu/news/2014/05/16/admiral-mcraven-commencement-speech/
Having been a product of military training and some special operations training with the Philippine Army, I fully appreciate what the Admiral had gone through in his US Navy Seal’s Training.
However, for the benefit of my readers, I would like to relate the ten (10) lessons that the good Admiral had learned from his US Navy Seal training to the sports that I dearly loved at the moment and that I would like to be shared and experienced by other runners, which is Ultra Trail Running.
1. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, start off by “making your bed”. Start with the “basics” of trail running. Go to the nearest mountain ranges or hilly parts in your place or community and find a trail when you can walk, jog, or run. Try to observe how your body would react to the uphills, downhills, flatter portions of the trail, rocky portions, muddy parts, uneven level of the trail, and the presence of obstacles along your path. Start training for the shorter distance, say 5K of pure trails until you can easily progress to longer distances. In trail races, it is better to start with the shorter distance events and slowly progressing to longer events in matter of months or years, and not of weeks. If you are totally new in trail running, I suggest you have to put in a lot of time running on the trails, like one year, before you are ambitious enough to finish a trail marathon distance (42K). As one has to progress to longer distances, one has to be aware of one’s hydration and nutrition strategy in order to keep ones energy and strength to finish the race. Make sure that you invest on your trail running needs like shoes and hydration system. Ask for some advise from the “experts and masters” of ultra trail running through their blogs or personal meetings/conversations with them. These trail runners are very much willing to share such information to you.
2. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, find someone to “help you paddle”. It is better to train in trail running with somebody who has the same interest with you. It is either a friend or a group of avid/passionate trail runners. If you are new in a mountain, try to locate the Barangay Hall or the Barangay Captain and tell him about your purpose in going to the mountain or community. You can ask for the services of a Trail Guide within the Barangay who knows the “ins and outs” of the trail systems within the mountain. The services of a Trail Guide is invaluable as it will give you exact and accurate information about water sources and other salient information about the locality/mountain trail system in the area. If you are very serious in trail running and you have the goal to excel in this kind of sports, you can get an exclusive Coach for you who will guide you in your training. Get a Coach who is reliable and friendly. Aside from your Coach, start developing friendly relationships with your future Pacer/s and Support Crew if you intend to join 50-miler or 100K and above trail ultras.
3. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. Not because you have the physical strength, well-built body, healthy and fool-proof training, you can have the assurance to finish an ultra trail race event. There are things and factors to consider like the reliability and effectiveness of your running equipment; the prevailing weather; accidents along the course; nutrition; injuries and problems with ones feet and hydration strategy. Most of the faster and consistent podium finishers in ultra trail races are smaller (in height and body composition) people. Just look around you in the Starting Line of Ultra Trail Events, most likely, the smaller guys are the ones who dash froward as if the race is a 5K or 10K road race. These guys are usually the persons who have the tenacity to endure pain and fatigue.
4. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. I call these hardened ultra trail runners as “Dugyots” (Dirty Runners) and they don’t care if their shoes are wet and muddy. They don’t care if they slip and fall on their butts or fall on their faces if they slip along the trails. They don’t care of their unprotected legs are scratched by sharp blades of grasses or tripped by thorny branches of bushes along the trail. They don’t care if their shirts and shorts or compression tights are ripped off by some accidents along the trail. What is more disturbing to these runners when they don’t really care if they are bitten by leeches in the jungle and just allow the blood to flow out of the bites of these leeches. I know of some runners who pee on their running shorts or tights while running and they don’t really care what and how they smell after the race. In trail running, the dirtier you look as you cross the finish line, the better for your picture!
5. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, don’t be afraid of the circuses. “Circuses” are translated to “DNFs” in ultra trail races. Even the elite runners have their DNFs. So, why would you be afraid to experience your first DNF? Even if you are properly prepared and trained to a certain ultra trail event, “shit happens”. There are things and factors that one don’t have a control or manage to have these things from happening. If you think that your body could no longer tolerate the pain or any incurring “issue” within your body system and it would jeopardize you for finishing the race, you have to decide immediately for you to DNF the race. There is no shame in a DNF and don’t be affected by what the other runners and friends would say in contrary to your decision. It is your body that you have to preserve and you and only you who would have the responsibility to take care of your body, not by other runners or your running friends. Just remember to use the DNF as your “weapon” in your future races.
6. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, sometime you have to slide down the obstacle head first. There are times that you have to take the “risk” in ultra trail race that you have trained for. It is either on your Race Strategy or on the skills that you have acquired and learned in your training for you to have an edge over your competitors. You know what your body is capable of when something or a challenge is in front of you, it could be a steep uphill climb, or a steep descending part of the course or a very technical trail where one has to be careful in every step, it could be a river/stream crossing, or some kind of rock climbing, or the need to rappel up or down to a mountain peak. However, don’t take the “risk” of joining and expecting to finish an ultra trail event if you don’t have the training/preparation, you’ll be wasting your money and time on this event. Do not take the “risk” also of introducing some thing “new” during the race, most especially on your equipment, nutrition, and apparel.
7. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, don’t back down from the sharks. What is best in Ultra Running is the attitude of the runners. Runners would help one another in times when one is in need of food, water, or medical attention. But if everything is ideal and equal among runners, each one of the runners are competing with each other! Whether you like or not, you have “friends” or personalities whom you want to beat, pass, or finish faster than them. In your mind, these are your “sharks” in your races—they are your friends but at the same time your competitors! This is true also in Race Directing/Race Organizing. There are “sharks” going around you but if they become offensive to you, you must give them the “worst and hardest shock” of their lives!
8. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, you must be your very best in the darkest moment. As they say, ultras are exercise of problem solving and adjustments. Pain, Fatigue, Loss of Appetite, and Dehydration are the most common “issues” to ones body in Ultra Running. But the worst “issue” is Hard-headedness! Each of these “issues” has solution and if you apply such solution, you will be at your Best once you comeback to the race. A brief rest or sleep (if you have enough “buffer” time) is the best solution to these “issues”.
9. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. As they say, it is the “brain” that takes over when the body is already weak. The fight to finish the race is within the confines of the space between your two ears. This is where your “running mantra” would come in and you should express loudly for you to hear it. Some would use their iPods and MP3s/headphones to hear music; some would “pep talk” themselves with phrases or mantra which are repeated endlessly; some would count their steps; some would pray loudly; some would sing loudly which would make them on a happy mood; or some would think of their inspiration. Hope and Think Positively!
10. If you want to join and finish a trail ultra, don’t ever, ever ring the bell. There is ONLY ONE BELL in my Ultra Races and I, being the Race Director, is the one holding it and the ONLY ONE that is authorized to ring it. At the Starting Line, when it rings, it tells you “Good Luck & Have Fun”. And once I see you approaching the Finish Line, I have to ring the bell that tells you, “Good Job and Congratulations”!
Good Luck and See You In Your Next Ultra Trail Race!
Bald Runner @ Mt Susongdalaga (Playground Charlie)