• Last modified 4257 days ago (April 5, 2012)


Ultra-marathon is all mental

Staff writer

Kodi Panzer said one of the characteristics of a great runner is a devotion to preparation.

She has already started packing her luggage for the Cedro Peak Ultra Marathon, April 7 in New Mexico.

Stowed away in her bag are 10 “goo-packs” to provide nourishment over the 45-mile run. She also included a few granola bars and a bag of pretzel M&Ms. She said having the chocolate candy might calm emotions and pain at the end of the run.

“You go through every emotion, from happy to sad to mad,” Panzer said.

Included in her stockpile of supplies are 15 cough drops. Panzer said she needs cough drops to run because it helps her breath. In jest, her runner friends have asked how many cough drops a 45-mile race would take. Panzer has rationed 10 to 15 drops, about one every 3 miles, as another register of her progress in the race.

“It’s all mental,” Panzer said. “Physically I know I’m capable of doing it.”

She has taken care of the physical preparation. She said she has run 550 miles since Jan. 1. She went from running an average of 25 to 35 miles a week to 70 miles a week.

The largest physical hurdle was running long distances in back-to-back days. She said she has ran 18 miles on a Saturday and then another 22 on Sunday.

Tapering off her exertion before the race, she ran 10 miles Thursday morning.

“That’s all I have today?” Panzer said in relative disbelief. “There’s a lot of hours I have extra.”

Panzer has never visited New Mexico.

“What better way to see a state?” she asked.

She also has yet to run an ultra-marathon, but she knows about fatigue, pain, and hitting a figurative wall from running marathons. She said she ran four marathons in the span of a year.

She obtained the initial confidence to participate in a ultra marathon from friend Jason Taylor. Taylor, and his wife Anna, live in Albuquerque. He suggested Panzer run the 45-mile race during her visit.

“He’s a great runner,” Panzer said. “If he has confidence in me to run a race, he knows I can do it, I know I am capable.”

Confidence and the mental rigors of the race are more of a concern for Panzer. That’s where the cough drops and M&Ms come in. She has also built in music as an reward system during the run. Panzer said she would start the race in silence and not switch on her tunes until mile six.

She has tried to prepare for conditions. She is packing two sets of running clothes. She will put a change of clothes and shoes at the station located at mile 32. She will then switch to the barefoot-style running shoes she has trained in despite the sharp rocks dotting the trail. She wants to stay as hydrated as possible using a camel pack to battle the altitude. She is planning for a 30-degree morning and 70-degree afternoon.

But she has also been packing her mind with information. She has been reading ultra marathon related quotes for inspiration and advice. She has also asked friends to give her funny stories to think about during the most grueling part so the race.

“You do hit the point where you say, ‘Oh my God, this is awful.’” Panzer said. “You have to pick something to think about.”

As much as she can, Panzer has also trained for the unexpected. On training runs, she often changes routes, noting rationed supplies.

She said she does not know what running an ultra marathon will be like. She has talked with Taylor who has suggested footwear and given advice. However, she does not know how the terrain of the Cibola National Forest trail will affect her. She believe the altitude will not stop but will be a factor in the fatigue.

She does not know how she will pace herself, although she is figuring she will start off too fast. She does not know how the other runners, a field of 69 made up predominantly of men, will run around her. She wants to keep someone in front of her and behind her on the narrow trail, but she has a feeling she may get stuck in the middle of crowds, an unfortunate outcome in previous races.

She said she bounced between different fears. The most recent is getting lost on the trail. There are four aid stations on the course; they are mandatory stopping points. If runners fail to check in, a search party may be sent out to find them.

“I don’t want to make national news,” she said.

When Panzer talks to other runners about the race, they ask about her training. When she talks to other friends, they say they think she is crazy.

The reward for running 45 miles, for Panzer putting herself through these trials, is a T-shirt and a beer mug … and the sense of accomplishment of conquering a seemingly insurmountable distance.

“That’s what your life is built on is accomplishments and goals,” Panzer said. “I exercise everyday anyway. Why not train? Why not get a T-shirt and a race number to show you did it?”

Last modified April 5, 2012