Empowered.

“I can’t.” “I could never.” “I just couldn’t imagine.” How many times a day do you hear these phrases? How many times a day do they come out of your mouth or flow through your mind? Henry Ford used to say that, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

When did we learn that it’s easier and okay to say “I can’t” instead of “I wonder if I could?”

Have you ever wondered if you could run 100 miles? How about 135?

Meet Nicole Matera. She’s a 24-year-old girl from Southern California who has run not one or two, but FOUR 100+ mile events. Run. 100. Miles. Continuously. Did I mention she’s 24? And has a B.S. in Psychology from UCLA and a M.S. in Kinesiology and Sports Psychology? Pretty amazing, right? Here is her story:

Having completed three 100-mile+ runs, she has adopted an attitude of empowerment.

“When you finish these things, you realize your strengths,” Nicole said as she walked me though her grueling 32-hour running experience at Badwater 135 last year. She’s completed over 30 running races since 2008, anywhere from 13.1 to 100-milers. This July she was the youngest participant in “the world’s toughest footrace,” Badwater 135. Of over 2,500 applicants, she was one of the chosen 100 to participate in the race. Applicants must have completed three 100-mile races and are required to write about why they deserve to run this amazing challenge of a race. Naturally, I had quite a few questions about her training and experience running this sort of distance…

How in the world does one train for running 135 miles?
Nicole started doing Cross Fit back in March 2014, which she believes has seriously strengthened her running. She was running 3-10 miles 6 days per week while juggling a nannying job, teaching, and working on her thesis. Her physical therapist and close friend was also accepted to Badwater, so they were able to train together. 4-5 days per week, they would run or “power hike” with intense incline on a treadmill in a heat room for 30min-2 hours to get acclimated to intense heat.

What is on the menu for a runner running 135 miles?
I chuckled a little bit when Nicole told me what she ate on her run.

Main course:

  • 3 slices of pizza
  • A few pop tarts

On the side:

  • Giant Fluid ice blocks
  • Lots of chips and salty snacks

She ended up losing about 9 pounds during the race and waited 2 months to run again. That is quite the suffering to put the human body through, but the experience was all worth it…

What was the actual experience of running like for you?
She never thought about quitting…not once. She would have ran the race with broken arms if she had to. Can you say pain? She considers her Badwater experience to be one of the best of her 100-milers. After one good experience and two not-so-good experiences racing 100-milers, Nicole was very happy with the way Badwater turned out. She finished with a time of 32:50.

What was the hardest part for you?
At Mile 65, she hit a wall and had one of her crew members run with her through a 16-mile section on a dirt trail where her van couldn’t follow her. She considered this a “major bonk.” She would run for 8-10 minutes, then walk for little bit to eat and drink Fluid. Her crew member helped her through and she was able to return to the cement without stopping!

What did you take away from the experience?
Nicole’s biggest takeaway from her experience was the amazing community and family she had become a part of. She described her new family as a group of “humble bad asses,” a supportive and friendly collection of people…who happen to be able to run over 100 miles in one go. She told me a story about a man who had started up a conversation with her afterwards, asking her how her race went. He had been talking to her for about 10 minutes before she asked him how his race went. She quickly learned that he had won the entire race with a time about 9 hours faster than hers. She was completely blown away by his humility and kindness. She said, “I had never met these people, and they were my biggest fans.” Not only did she adopt this close-knit, extremely physically-fit family, she says she learned a lot about herself. Even after so much hurt, pain, and difficult situations, it all came together in the end. Spending 32 hours in her own thoughts brought out her ability to stay calm and problem solve.

Empowerment. The feeling of empowerment and strength plays a huge role in sports and exercise psychology. Feeling physically strong can seriously alter ones attitude on their life.
“If I can run 26.2 miles, this job interview will be cake!”
“If I can complete an Olympic distance triathlon, this presentation will be no problem.”
Take it from Nicole, accomplishing an extreme physical task can make you feel invincible!

What if you could run 100 miles? What couldn’t you do?