A Conversation with StumpJump Athlete John Wiygul

John training for Chattanooga's Thunder Rock 100
John training for Chattanooga's Thunder Rock 100 Eric Grossman
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John Wiygul can claim something few StumpJump 50K runners can: He’s run the event every year for the last 10 years in a row. (It’s true, he didn’t participate until year five of the event, but considering he was 16 years old when he completed his first StumpJump—which was also his first 50K—this is understandable.)

Here, we sat down with John to discuss why he thinks the StumpJump is such as special event.

How will you spend the day and evening before the race? Do you rest, or try to distract yourself, or just go about business as usual?

I will try to keep off my feet and stay relaxed. Staying hydrated is always on the mind, but I've been trying this whole last week to take in fluids and salt tablets.

What superstitions do you have before a race? Any funny food predilections? Favorite socks or shoes?

I only eat pasta before the race. No salad or very much bread. I'm very stubborn about my diet. I only use my race shoes to race, so I take those out. I try to prepare as much as possible the night before so I can sleep well and just wake up and go.

How will you approach StumpJump since it follows on the Chattanooga IRONMAN? Do you have a strategy for breaking the 50k into sections and running easy and gradually harder? Or maybe you'll just take the whole thing easy (although this doesn't sound like you)?

My strategy for StumpJump is to not go out too fast. Guaranteed I’ll repass half of the people that pass me in the beginning. I'll pick up the pace after the first hour and hang on as long as I can. There are always fun games to play to wear out the tag-a-longs. I'm a serious racer, but I'm having fun out there. I remember one time I wasn’t very nice to my good friend, Alan Outlaw. It was two years ago and I had severely sprained my ankle 3 miles into the last day of the Stage Race in June. I was running behind Alan and he wasn't familiar with the race course on Signal Mountain. Alan yelled back “Which way?” at one of the turns. I heard him, but pretended not to. Alan asked again, "Wiygul?" and still didn’t get a response from me. Once I caught up to him (basically walking) I said, “Oh, left.” I think he muttered something under his breath. I think I was a little to competitive. We ran the rest of the race together and at the end I took off with him catching and then passing me. We're still friends. Maybe I’ll find someone to run with this year too.

In the middle of a hard race when you’re hurting and thinking it's time to quit, how do you keep going?

I've only dropped out of one race in my life out of over 100 events, and I regret it. So most of the time I keep going. Endurance sports are a mental game on top of a physical game, that's why they're so hard. Taking a short break of 5 minutes to let yourself reset (let your heart rate lower and your stomach get in control) can completely change your attitude. You can easily get back into the race once your mood changes.

What is your post race routine? How will you celebrate? How much time will you take off from running/competition?

My post race routine is soda, soda, soda, food, massage, soda, beer, water, nap, food, water, beer, sleep. I took off a full week after the 70.3 Ironman World Championship on August 30, in order to properly recover for IRONMAN Chattanooga. I did do some low intensity hiking and swimming, but kept my heart rate very low. After the Chattanooga IRONMAN, I will rest Monday and Tuesday, do an easy bike ride on Wednesday, and an easy run on Thursday, rest Friday, and hopefully be ready to race StumpJump on Saturday!

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