As an avid trail runner and entrepreneur, I wanted to pass on a few interesting observations from my experiences. I ran a 50-kilometer trail run in the depths of the Texas rough country in early 2010. The race is known as Bandera, A Trail Run of Rugged and Brutal Beauty where everything Cuts, Stings, or Bites. The winner of the 100k race, Nick Clark, wrote an excellent RACE REPORTabout his experience. The stakes of this race were high. There were 2 invitations being offered to Bandera’s top two finishers for the Olympics of ultra-running, the Western States 100 mile run. Nick’s explanation of what it took to win the 62-mile race applies very well to what it takes an entrepreneur and management team to win in growing your business.
First, winning does not preclude you from taking it in the chin during the race. As Nick explains, “As I sit here writing this report after a long day of travel, my feet continue to throb from the thousands of pokes, jabs and stabs they took in the hill country of Texas yesterday.” I only ran the 50k and my feet and pride are still beat down.
Second, there will be times when you need to make a pitstop, to refuel, offload and change tactics. If the competition passes you by, be patient. You will catch back up, but if you go back out too fast, you may crash and burn. In the words of the winner, “I had to stop and unload my early morning coffee, giving up 30-40 seconds on Dan and Chikare. I didn’t bother trying to catch back up, realizing that there was a long, long way to go and the extra effort would be wasteful, so I just sat back and kept on the pace we had been running, getting visuals every now and then to confirm that I wasn’t loosing any more ground.”
Third, when you make a wrong turn, do not forget the ultimate goal (winning the race). Be flexible, patient and Forgive. You might need to change your short-term tactics. “A mile or two down the track, we managed to miss one of the best-marked turns on the whole course … We turned around and headed back the way we had come, thankfully finding the turn sooner rather than later. Dan seemed pretty agitated by the mishap and upped the pace. I let him go, as we still had over 40 miles to race and I just didn’t want to burn energy unnecessarily.” Dan ended up running out of gas and finishing 3rd missing one of the 2 qualifying spots for Western States.
[SIDE NOTE: As I came into the 20 mile aid station beaten up, sore, tired and over-trained from two months of running 5 marathons all too fast, I wanted to quit. Unfortunately, my coach and good friend showed up at the aid station at the exact same time. He looked at me and asked me how I felt. I said, “I feel terrible. I want to F’ing Quit Dammit”. But before I could say it, he told me to get back out on the trail, get out of the aid station and walk it off. The next 2 miles were HELL. Then after catching and stumbling with two other lost souls, my determination and spirit came back (it also might have been the 48 oz. of Coke I chugged 30 minutes prior). The next 10 miles turned out to be my best. I wanted to QUIT, but I am sure glad I didn’t. This has served as a valuable lesson to me moving forward. When you feel your worst, keep going. There is a rule in ultra-running, “It Almost Never Always Gets Worse”. ]
Finally, good ole solid hard work is critical to victory. In the final few miles of the race, Nick just outran the #2. “And so it was, on Lucky Hill, the gnarliest and steepest climb of the whole course that I finally got a sight of Chikare’s blue singlet. He was working very slowly up the hill, which was all the motivation I needed…I got my hands on my knees, hunched forward and broke out a super-hard power hike…By the bottom of the drop I had a solid lead and continued to push on the flats taking a few quick glances over my shoulder with nothing in sight behind… I came through the finish, throwing out a few high fives, in 9:16 for the win, a new course record and a date at The Big Dance in June. Mission well and truly accomplished.”
Nick’s race report is inspiring to me as a runner and as an entrepreneur. There will always be great runners out there trying to beat you. The marketplace is usually filled with rocks, snakes, cactus, and unforgiveness. The difference between winning and falling behind is about preparing a good strategy, sticking to your plan, being adaptable to change short-term tactics when necessary AND having the patience and faith that you will eventually catch up over the long-haul. And with hard work, you will be able to beat your fellow competitors. Nick did out run the entire field to set a new course record. His strategy was excellent. His execution stuck to the plan. And at the right moment, working harder than the competitors pays off.
Please share your race stories and epic battles?
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I’ve thought about this alot, but more in the lessons that the training holds for entrepreneurs. And there are some lessons in triathlon that are fantastic to help get some points across to young entrepeneurs (for instance, the way that there’s a huge crowd and a lot of excitement at the start, transition areas, and the end, but the vast majority of the race, you feel like you’re out there by yourself, grinding it out, hearing the sound of your tires or shoes on the road, and you get to that place where you question what you’re doing – that is probably the best message I get across to new entrepreneurs I work with)
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