|When it's ugly. It's ugly.|
Not me! You yell. I do it all right! I'm never gonna bonk! Sit down. Law of averages says you're going to bonk at least once in your life. After ten years, I have managed to do it TWICE in the same season. On a stinkin' 5 miler, back in March, no less. That'll humble you pretty fast. So what to do? Well, here's what I came up with.
Think about breathing
When you panic you hyperventilate which robs your body of oxygen, which will make you hit the wall pretty hard. A slow song came on my playlist while I was racing Saturday, and instead of moving on to the next, I just used it as a way to settle down a little. It was 'Stuck in a Moment' by U2 if you're curious. Singing helps me settle my breathing too. But I'm sure you're not in to looking nutso bananas, so just inhaling for 3 or 4 counts and exhaling for the same should settle you down. It'll slow that hamster in your brain down telling you to panic, and get your legs some oxygen rich blood.
Walk n' Water
You think if you stop at a hydration station it's going to KILL your time, right? Well if you're trying to eek a PR, yes. But if you're headed to the 'Cave of Doom', you've already kissed your PR bye, anyway, so now you're just trying to not DNF and finish as strong as you can. So what I did was chill at the aid stations I truly needed. Sipped my drink and gave myself a 30 second break. It felt like 5 minutes, and I almost started panicking again, but in reality, it really is only 30 seconds at the very most. Get good and replenished and plan the next leg of the journey.
Bag the time and have fun
Once the 10k split came up and it was like, 58 minutes, I was like...well I can try to get this time back and probably need my spleen removed, with horrible memories of the experience, or just decide that the last 4 miles or so are going to be fun. Believe it or not...the negative splits happened right at that point again. Not that it took very much to have a negative split during that race...I was practically crawling on my hands and knees, but whatever momentum you can find, build on it.
As always, if you are DEEP in the cave, you gotta stop and get help. Ain't no one got time for literally dying in the middle of a race. But usually it's just a mental thing, and if you can just be patient with yourself for what seems like forever, but is really only a few minutes, it can mean the difference between finishing and not.