Qualitative Article for Exam
Qualitative Article for Exam KIN 512
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The Sport Psychologist, 2014, 28, 22-35 © 2014 Human Kinetics, Inc.sp.2013-0008 www.TSP-Journal.com APPLIED RESEARCH Exploring Experiences of Running an Ultramarathon Nicholas L. Holt, Homan Lee,Youngoh Kim, and Kyra Klein University of Alberta The overall purpose of this study was to examine individuals’ experiences of running an ultramarathon. Fol- lowingpilotworkdatawerecollectedwithsixpeoplewhoenteredthe2012CanadianDeathRace.Participants wereinterviewedbeforetherace,tookphotographsandmadevideorecordingsduringtherace,wroteasummary of their experience, and attended a focus group after the race.The research team also interviewed participants during the race. Before the race participants had mixed emotions. During the race they experienced numer- ous stressors (i.e., cramping and injuries, gastrointestinal problems, and thoughts about quitting). They used copingstrategiessuchasmakingsmallgoals,engaginginamental/physicalbattle,monitoringpace,nutrition, and hydration, and social support. After the race, nonfinishers experienced dejection or acceptance whereas finishers commented on the race as a major life experience. These findings provide some insights into factors involved in attempting to complete ultramarathons and offer some implications for applied sport psychology. Ultra-endurancesports—suchaslong-distanceroad scavenging lifestyles, and the human body is, therefore, and mountain bike races, open-water swimming, and well-adaptedtolong-distancerunning.Ontheotherhand, Ironman triathlon—were once the realm of a handful Pearson (2006) suggested ultra-endurance athletes push of ‘hardcore’ athletes but have grown in popularity and their bodies to go beyond ordinary limits. Clearly, there becomemassparticipationsports.Weexaminedtheexpe - is scientific interest in factors that influence individuals’ riences of individuals who compete in ultramarathons performances in such demanding contexts. (races longer than the traditional marathon distance of Perhaps not surprisingly, research shows the 42.195 km), often covering distances in excess of 100 completion of ultra-endurance events requires athletes km over trails and mountain paths. Ultramarathon run- to overcome extreme psychological and physiological ningasamassparticipationsporttookholdinthe1980s, challengesrelatingtoenergyintake,hydration,digestion, and its popularity has surged over the past two decades sleep deprivation, intense fatigue, negative cognitions, (Knechtle, 2012). For example, in North America, the and a range of unpleasant emotions, which worsen over annual number of races and race finishers increased the course of a race (Bowen,Adams, & Myburgh, 2005; significantly from 1997 to 2008, with over 2,500 solo Bull, 1992; Knechtle, Enggist, & Jehle, 2005; Lane & finishers of 53 ultramarathons in 2008 (Hoffman, Ong, Wilson, 2011; Smith, Walsh, & Dement, 1998). Several & Wang, 2010). Ultramarathonrunning.com listed 746 of these factors may interact. For example, dehydration races scheduled for 2013–2014. Other indicators of from heat stress or exercise has a negative influence on the growing popularity of the sport include bestselling cognitiveperformance(Cian,Barraud,Melin,&Raphel, autobiographical books from prestigious ultramarathon 2001).Littleisknownabouthowathletescopewiththese runners (e.g.,Ayres, 2012; Jurek, 2012; Karnazes, 2006; issues during races (Micklewright et al., 2009), an issue Roll, 2012) and award-winning documentaries (e.g., the current study addressed. Thompson, 2012). Descriptive studies have provided insights into the The successful completion of ultramarathons demographic profile of ultramarathon runners. A study requires both physical and psychological capabilities of ultramarathoners in North American races showed (Noakes, 2006), but there is relatively little coverage they were generally men (80.2%), married (70.1%), and of psychological aspects of ultramarathon running in had bachelor’s (43.6%) or graduate (37.2%) degrees the literature (Micklewright et al., 2009). In fact, many (Hoffman & Fogard, 2012). Based on a recent review, questionsaboutultramarathonrunningremain.Thereare Knechtle (2012) concluded ultramarathon runners tend even fundamental differences of opinion about the sport tobemaster’sathletes,withbroadexperienceofrunning, from a biological evolutionary perspective. Bramble whotraindifferentlythanmarathoners.Butwhereassome and Lieberman (2004) argued ultramarathons are an distinct demographic and training factors are associated “evolutionary hangover” from humans’ hunting and withultramarathonrunners,studieshavefailedtoclearly demonstratepersonalitytraitsthatpredisposeindividuals to participate in ultramarathons. For example, in a study The authors are with the Faculty of Physical Education and of 54 participants in the Iditasport (foot) ultra-race in Receration, University ofAlberta, Edmonton, Canada. Alaska, compared with a normative sample, participants 22 Ultramarathon Running 23 scored higher on personality traits such as extraversion the impending race. Increased confusion was not associ- and experience seeking (Hughes, Case, Stuempfle, & ated with overall race performance. Linear increases in Evans, 2003). However, no significant differences were perceived exertion were reported as the race progressed, found between athletes and the norm group on traits of andrunnersmodulatedtheirrunningspeed(i.e.,pace)to neuroticism, agreeableness, contentiousness, boredom prevent premature fatigue. Runners were less conserva- susceptibility, or thrill/adventure seeking. Furthermore, tiveaboutmonitoringtheirpaceduringthelatterstagesof no significant within-group differences were found theraceastheircertaintyoffinishingincreased.Similarto among the athletes in relation to age, gender, or race other studies (e.g., Kirkby, 1996; Lane & Wilson, 2011; division. Tharion et al., 1998), increased fatigue and confusion Onelineofresearchfocusedonexperiencesofrun - andreducedvigorwereobservedpost-race.Furthermore, ningultramarathonsinvolvesissuesrelatingtorunners’ failingtomeetperformancegoalsappearedtoexacerbate mood and emotions. For example, Tharion, Strowman, unpleasant post-mood states. The authors concluded and Rauch (1998) examined mood states among 56 that ultramarathon runners’ performance appraisals males who entered 50-mile and 100-mile races in the continually change during a race, and these appraisals U.S. Participants completed the Profile of Mood States appear to influence mood. Given that appraisal is part (POMS; Lorr & McNair, 1982) 12 hr before the start of of the coping process (Lazarus, 1999), these findings the race and within one hour of the end of the race. Par - again indicate that it may be useful to understand more ticipants had the classic iceberg profile of mood states, about how ultramarathoners cope with the performance and running the ultramarathons had a significant effect demands of their sport. on all mood factors (pre- to post-race) with the excep - The cognitive strategies used by marathon runners tion of anger. Specifically, tension, vigor, and fatigue (asopposedtoultramarathoners)havereceivedattention significantly decreased after the race, while depression in the literature. In seminal work, Morgan and Pollock andconfusionincreased.Nosignificantdifferenceswere (1977) proposed elite runners associate to maintain notedbetweentheracefinishersandnonfinishersexcept awareness of physical factors critical to performance, for fatigue. That is, finishers reported greater fatigue whereas nonelite runners disassociate to distract them - than nonfinishers, which the researchers attributed to selves from such sensory feedback. Masters and Lam - the fact that the finishers ran farther and for a longer bert (1989) found associative strategies were related to period of time. In terms of fatigue, other research (with fasterperformancesamongmarathonrunnersandmore participants from a 24-hr ultramarathon in France) likely to be used by runners who reported high levels showedthatittookrunnersabouttwoweekstoreturnto of drive/competition (as opposed to being elite per se). preracelevelsofstressandrecovery(Nicolas,Banizette, Stevinson and Biddle (1998) found, among a sample & Millet, 2011). of 66 nonelite marathon runners, most reported inward Lane andWilson (2011) examined emotions among monitoringofphysicalsensations(i.e.,attentionfocused 34runnersinthe282kmMarathonofBritain,asix-stage inwardly on how body feels, such as breathing, muscle raceheldoversixdays.Participantscompletedmeasures soreness,thirst,orfatigue).However,inwarddistraction oftraitemotionalintelligencebeforetherace.Moodstate (i.e.,attentionfocusedinwardlyonanythingirrelevantto was assessed using the Brunel Mood Scale (BRUMS: thetasksuchasdaydreaming)wasfarmoreprevalentfor Terry, Lane, & Fogarty, 2003)—a shortened version of runnerswho“hitthewall”duringtherace.Overall,these POMS,alongwithmeasuresofhappinessandcalmness. studieshighlighttheimportanceofassociativethinking ParticipantscompletedtheBRUMStwiceperday,onceat and, as Stevinson and Biddle concluded, “distraction breakfast and once at the end of each stage. Participants should be avoided during the race” (p. 234). But, in with high emotional intelligence scores also reported the context of an ultramarathon, it seems unlikely that higherpleasantmoods(e.g.,calmnessandhappiness)and runners can avoid using distraction/dissociative strate - lower unpleasant moods (e.g., anger, confusion, depres- gies given the length of races. Indeed, in a case study sion, fatigue, and tension) than participants with low of a 38-year-old female ultramarathon runner, Kirkby emotional intelligence scores. This study advanced the (1996)collectedrepeatedmeasuresofcognitionsduring literaturebeyondbasicdescriptionsofmoodprofilesbut, a 48-hr race and coded 70.6% of the participant’s com - asLaneandWilsonacknowledged,waslimitedbythefact ments as associative strategies (in which attention was that it did not assess strategies athletes may use during focusedonphysiologicalandotherperformancerelevant a race to regulate mood and emotions. In other words, stimuli to enhance effort level) and 29.4% as dissocia - questions about how athletes cope with the demands of tive strategies (attempts to purposefully distract from running ultramarathons remain. physiological and other performance related stimuli). Micklewright et al. (2009) investigated associations The use of these strategies shifted during the race for between mood changes and perceived exertion among unidentified reasons. eight runners in a 73 km mountain race in South Africa Onestudyspecificallyexaminedcognitiveorienta - using repeated measures of the POMS and the Borg tionsofultramarathonrunners.Acevedo,Dzewaltowski, scale. Participants reported increased confusion before Gill, and Noble (1992) had 112 runners from two of the thestartoftherace,whichmayhavebeenindicativeofan premiere 100-mile ultramarathons in the U.S. (West - anticipatoryaffectivestatebasedontheirthoughtsabout ern States Endurance Run and Leadville Trail Run) 24 Holt et al. complete questionnaires before their races. Constructs Method includingsportorientation,traitsportconfidence,com - mitment to running, and internal/external cognitions Methodological Approach were assessed along with an open-ended item that required participants to list their thoughts while racing. Given that this study focused on experiences of run - Compared with normative scores from other research ning ultramarathons, the methodology of Interpretative with athletes, the ultramarathon runners scored higher Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used because it on confidence, commitment to running, competitive - is designed to examine how individuals make sense of ness, goal orientation and lower on win orientation. life experiences (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). The interpretive philosophical paradigm is most consistent They were also highly committed to time goals, but with IPA (Smith & Osborn, 2003). Adopting this inter- not to place (i.e., race finishing position) goals. Time pretive paradigm, we approached this study with the goals were the strongest predictor of actual finishing internal-idealistontologicalviewthatthereisnosingular times. Contrary to other studies (e.g., Kirkby, 1996; realityandindividualsholdtheirownuniqueviewsbased Stevinson & Biddle, 1998) responses to open-ended on personal cognitions, and a subjectivist-idiographic questions revealed the majority of participants used epistemology (Sparkes, 1992). That is, we assumed that predominatelyexternalthoughtsduringraces,including thoughts related to music, sexual and sport fantasies, we,theresearchers,hadanactiveroleininterpretinghow making friends, imaginary vacations, and the beauty of the participants made sense of their personal and social the course.Acevedo et al. (1992) noted that the written world (Smith & Osborn, 2003). responses to the open-ended questions were important for describing participants’ experiences of ultramara - Procedure thons, which indicated qualitative approaches may be Following Research Ethics Board approval participants useful for collecting data in these competitive settings. wererecruitedviaane-mailsenttothelistserveofalocal However, because the questionnaires were completed runninggroupeightweeksbeforetherace.Theinclusion before the races, these results presumably referred to criterion was to recruit participants who aimed to com- participants’recollectionsofpreviousraces,anditmay plete the August 2012 CDR as a soloist. However, we bepossibletoadvanceourunderstandingofexperiences madeitclearthatparticipantswouldbeincludedinallthe of running ultramarathons by collecting data before, study procedures regardless of whether they completed during, and after specific races. the race. We excluded professional/corporate-backed The number of sport psychology consultants who elite athletes because we wanted to draw our sample currently work with ultramarathon runners is unknown. Giventhegrowingpopularityofthesport,thededication from the individuals who represent the vast majority required to compete, and the fact that participants tend of ultramarathon runners. Potential participants were informed they would be included in the study on a first- to be middle-aged, middle-class individuals (Hoffman come first-served basis. & Fogard, 2012; Hoffman et al., 2010) who presumably The sample size was set, a priori, at six. This was havedisposableincometospendonsportsciencesupport, consistentwiththeIPArecommendationthat“fiveorsix we suspect that ultramarathon runners will increasingly as a reasonable sample size… [As] this provides enough seek out the services of sport psychology consultants in cases to examine similarities and differences between the future. In fact, Bull (1992) published a case study participants but not so many that one is in danger of of his applied work with an ultramarathon runner over being overwhelmed by the amount of data generated” two decades ago, demonstrating there has been long- (Smith & Osborn, 2003, pp. 54–55).Within one week of standing interest in the sport in the sport psychology sendingtherecruitmente-mail,wereceivedrepliesfrom community. It is, of course, important for consultants to have an understanding of the demands of their clients’ nine people. Two people were not actually competing in sport, and Acevedo et al. (1992) highlighted the need the CDR but another ultramarathon held earlier in the summer. They agreed to assist us with pilot work. We for more research examining psychological aspects of accepted the next six people who responded. However, ultramarathonrunningtohelppractitioners“individualize one respondent picked up an injury and withdrew four intervention techniques to specific sports” (p. 251). The weeks before the race (before any data had been col- literatureandappliedworkinthisareacouldbeinformed lected). At this point, we invited the remaining person through the use of exploratory approaches that provide who had expressed interest in the study to participate. accounts of individuals’ experiences of participating in ultramarathons, which may aid our understanding of how they cope with extraordinarily challenging physical Participants and psychological circumstances at the limits of human Fiveparticipantsweremale,andonewasfemale.Allwere endurance. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to white,educated,middle-classprofessionalswhoresided examine individuals’ experiences of running ultramara- inCanada.Allhadpreviouslycompletedultramarathons thons. More specifically, we wanted to understand more but had varying levels of experience with the CDR. John was 58 years old, originally from England, competing in about how they experienced running the 2012 Canadian Death Race (CDR). hisfirstsoloCDR.Bryanwas66yearsold,alsooriginally Ultramarathon Running 25 from England, and had previously completed the CDR were conducted in a private office on the university as a soloist seven times. Andrew was 23 years old and campus and lasted approximately 60 min. The main competing in his first solo CDR. Tara was 35 years old purpose of these interviews was to establish a sense of and competing in her first solo CDR. Ted was 56 years rapport with the participants and build a level of trust old and competing in his first solo CDR. Richard was 39 which, we thought, would facilitate their willingness to yearsold,originallyfromNewZealand,competinginhis talk to us during the race itself. Using the IPA approach, secondsoloCDR.Thesearetheparticipants’realnames the interviews started with the most general question because,asexplainedintheconsentmaterials,confiden- possible, and probing questions or prompts were used tiality and anonymity were not provided because of the tofacilitatediscussionofinterestingorimportantissues videodocumentarywecreatedtodisseminatethefindings (Smith&Osborn,2003).Hence,wehadasetofguiding to the public (discussed later).All participants agreed to questions but approached the interviews in a flexible theseconditionsandprovidedwritteninformedconsent. manner. After some basic demographic questions (i.e., age, ethnicity, occupation) and background questions Data Collection (relating to sporting and ultramarathon running history) the general question asked to commence the Pilot Work. One male (aged 59 years) and one interview was “What first comes to mind when I say female (aged 28 years) participated in pilot work to ‘What is your most memorable experience of running help develop the data collection protocols. They were the individuals who replied to our recruitment e-mail in ultramarathons?’” Other guiding questions were: but had not entered the CDR. Both participants had “Reflecting on your training this season, what are some previously entered several ultramarathon mountain of the main challenges you have faced?” “How have runs, including the CDR. They were interviewed one you attempted to manage these challenges?” “Looking ahead to the CDR, what are some of the challenges week before and two weeks following an 148 km you anticipate? How do you plan to manage these ultramarathon held in July 2012 (three weeks before challenges?” At the end of the interview, we clarified the CDR). Participants also took digital cameras with theremainingstudyprotocolandissuedeachparticipant them during the race to record audio/visual footage withasmalldigitalcamera.Interviewsweretranscribed andtestthefeasibilityofourstudyprocedures.Neither by a professional transcribing service, checked against participantfinishedtherace.Datafromtheirinterviews the audio tapes by the researcher, and returned to the were transcribed verbatim and reviewed to establish the appropriateness of the interview guides, refine participants before the race. and/or add questions as needed, and establish suitable During-RacePersonalAudio/VideoRecording. During prompts/strategiesfortheduringracevideointerviews. therace,participantswereaskedtotakephotographsand Theinterviewsalsoprovidedatrainingopportunityfor videowiththedigitalcameras.Theycouldeithercarrythe the interviewer. cameras on the course or give them to members of their Therewereseveralreasonswhywewantedtocollect support crew to take photos/make recordings during the audio/visualfootage.First,itprovidedawayofcollecting transition points/aid stations. This provision was made real-time data during the race, which we thought would because during the pilot work there were concerns about give an insight into participants’ experiences almost the extra space the cameras took in participants’ packs. immediately. Second, visual techniques have become As we had established from our pilot work, participants an increasingly popular means of data collection in werefreetomakerecordingsattheirconvenience(rather qualitative research because they can provide additional than,forexample,onsomeprearrangedschedule),soitis layers of detail and richness that may not be captured by unlikely this had an undue influence on their experience audiodataalone(Pink,2006).Finally,fromtheoutsetof of the race. This decision was also consistent with Hoffman,Lee,Zhao,andTsodikov’s(2007)observation the study, we planned to create a short video documen- tary (reported later), so the personal audio/visual data that, given the considerable challenges of running an recorded by participants would add to the video footage ultramarathon, it is necessary for researchers to avoid recorded by the researchers. significant intrusions. Hence, in our study, participants Pre-Race Individual Interview. All six participants couldsimplychoosenottomakerecordings/takephotos, and in fact none of the three finishers used the cameras completed an individual semistructured interview 10 to beyond Leg 3, instead leaving them with their support 14 days before the CDR. This time period was chosen crews. Recordings were used in data analysis (reported because it was sufficiently close to the race that the below). The photographs were not used as data, per se, participants had completed most of their training and buthelpedprovidecontextfortheotherdataprovidedby were tapering and doing their final preparations (and participants and were used in the documentary created therefore were thinking/had thought about specific details of the race). It also provided the research team for knowledge dissemination. with sufficient time to have the interviews transcribed During-Race Video Interviews. Two members of and returned to the participants before the race, and for the research team shot video interviews during the us to initially review the transcripts to ensure we were race. Participants were located at the start line and prepared for data collection during the race. Interviews asked about their expectations, goals, thoughts, and 26 Holt et al. emotions. The researchers were then present at each Data Analysis of the transition points/aid stations and recorded short video interviews with the participants. Again, to be The researchers met at least once a week, beginning consistent with IPA (and based on our pilot work), the duringparticipantrecruitmentandcontinuingthroughout questionsposedweregeneralandexploratory,designed the study, to discuss and debrief about data collection, to obtain information about participants’ experiences, analysis, and the final results. Consistent with IPA, and thoughts, and emotional state during the race. There the philosophical underpinnings of this study (i.e., the understandingthatindividual’spossesstheirownunique was no formal interview guide, but we had some basic views), we commenced with an idiographic analytic prompts, which included asking participants: “What approach, whereby each participant’s data set was ini- are you feeling/thinking right now?” “What are you concerned about?” We also reacted to the participants’ tially assessed individually (Smith & Osborn, 2003). situation (e.g., asking those participants who were This provided individualized perspectives so that later timed out to explain what happened and how they felt). interpretations remained grounded within the partici - Approximately three hours of video interview footage pants’ accounts. Whereas we constantly examined data was recorded, and verbal comments were transcribed as they were collected (e.g., creating the first iteration of and used in the analysis. theparticipant’sindividualexperiencesimmediatelyfol- lowingtherace),themainphaseofdataanalysisandrep- Post-Race Personal Written Essays. One week after resentation/writingwascompletedafterthefocusgroup. the race participants were asked to write a personal Following Smith and Osborn (2003), individual n- ar summaryoftheirraceexperienceande-mailittothelead rativeprofilesofeachparticipant’sracestorywerewritten researcher. Writing personal stories is a data collection technique that has previously been used in qualitative byextractingpertinentinformationfromeachindividual’s research (Elizabeth, 2008) and, in our study, provided pre-race interviews, during-race video interviews, post- race essay, and responses during the focus group. These examples to complement data collected through other individual narratives were intended to capture the key techniques. In addition, we wanted the participants to essential elements of each participant’s race experience. writetheirrecollectionssoonaftertheracetoensuretheir Upon completion of the individual narratives all par - memories were fresh (because the focus group was not ticipants’ data were then reduced to a list of key themes. held until four weeks after the race).The lead researcher Thesethemeswerecreatedbyreviewingeachparticipant’s provided them with an example, but it was emphasized data set and, using line-by-line analysis, identifying key participants should provide their own story about the issues that could be grouped by specific terms/concepts. race. The essays were 2–4 pages (single-spaced), and No predetermined theoretical framework or constructs these data were used in the analysis. weredeductivelyimposedduringthispartoftheanalysis. Post-Race Focus Group Interview. Four weeks after Rather, the applicability of theoretical frameworks and therace,allparticipantsattendedafocusgroupinterview constructs was explored in the last stage of the research thatlastedtwoandahalfhours.Guidelinesforconducting to create the interpretations of data associated with the focus groups were followed (Kitzinger, 1994; Morgan, IPAapproach(Smithetal.,2009).Specifically,duringthe 1997).Oneoftheresearchersmoderatedthefocusgroup laststageofanalysis,werealizedthatsomeofthethemes while another took care of organizational issues (e.g., across the participants’ profiles could be organized very setting up audio recording devices, noting the order of broadly into a framework of stressors and coping. We decided to apply a coping framework to the themes per- speakers,etc.).Participantsweretoldthatthefocusgroup tainingtoparticipants’experienceduringtheracebecause should be a conversation about their experiences during the race. To provide some structure the moderator used it enabled us to advance our interpretation of the data. a questioning route that involved asking participants to share their highlights and low points of the race and Knowledge Dissemination: discusshowtheyovercamethechallengestheyfaced(or The Video Documentary Short failed to overcome these challenges in some cases). The focus group became a free-flowing conversation. The Asanalternatemeansofrepresentinganddisseminating moderator intervened to keep the conservation on track some findings of this study to a wider (nonacademic) and ensure all participants contributed their thoughts audience,wecreatedavideodocumentaryshort—which on particular issues that arose. The focus group was is an established technique in qualitative research (see transcribed by a professional transcribing service. The Prosser,2005).Weusedtheindividualstoriesandthemes written transcript was checked by the researcher who identified through the qualitative data analysis as the moderated the focus group and compared with the audio narrative threads for the documentary (Banks, 2008).As recordings and any inaccuracies were corrected (such as noted above, the first cut of the documentary was shown which participant was speaking).At the end of the focus to the participants during the focus group and their feed- group, participants were shown the first cut of the video backresultedinsomechangestothestructure/flowofthe documentary and given a gift certificate for $100 to the storiesandarequestforadditionalexamplesfromoneof running store of their choice as a token of appreciation the participants. The revised cut was then screened to a for their involvement in the research. group of approximately 50 people at a mountain retreat/ Ultramarathon Running 27 seminarhostedbytheuniversity.Eachpersonwasasked beingthefirstpointofcontact(viae-mail)fortherecruit- toprovidewrittencommentson(a)theirgeneralreaction ment strategy, e-mailing the participants to request their to the documentary and (b) suggestions for improve - written summaries of the race, and meeting them at the ments. The final version was posted onYouTube (http:// focus group to thank them for their participation. The www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsuckZK78rM). lead researcher engaged in bracketing, which involved writing a journal about his own views of ultramarathon running and the CDR. The journal was completed daily Methodological Rigor from May to August most evenings (with a couple of Four principles can be used to assess the quality of IPA exceptions) and included a log of his own training, research (Smith et al., 2009; Yardley, 2000). The first reflections on the study, articles about running obtained principle is sensitivity to context, which was addressed from various media sources, personal insights, memos through data collection and analysis processes. We aftereachcodingsession,andideasforthedocumentary adoptedabroad,open-endedapproachandrevisitedideas (e.g., music to be used, footage to show, ways to weave throughout the data collection and analysis phases. The the narrative threads together). He did not see any of second principle, commitment and rigor, was embedded the participants during the race. Despite these extensive within the design of the study. We focused on one race efforts, it should be noted that bracketing a researcher’s to ensure participants had experienced the same event, preconceptionsandassumptionsisacyclicalprocessand whichprovidedafocusforthestudy.Datacollectionand canonlybepartiallyachieved(Smithetal.,2009),which analysiswereconcurrent,whichenabledustocheckand is why a team approach was used for the current study. verify interpretations during the research process. Mul- tiple sources of data enabled us to attain a suitable level Results ofdatasaturationregardingeachparticipant’sexperience. Working as a research team provided analytic balance. Context and Overview An audit trail was maintained and reviewed regularly. The use of techniques in this manner incrementally adds The CDR is held on a 125 km course in the Canadian to the methodological rigor of a study (Mayan, 2009). Rocky Mountains around the town of Grande Cache, The third principle, transparency and coherence, was Alberta (see http://www.canadiandeathrace.com/). The reflected by the logical coherence between the method- course includes over 5,100 m of elevation change with ology, philosophical approach, methods, and manner in three mountain summits. It is split into five legs, each which the results are presented (e.g., the initial analysis with a designated cut-off time, and runners must com- ofindividualnarrativeswascoherentandlogicalwiththe plete the entire course within 24 hr. Between each of the internal-idealist ontology). The final principle is impact legs there are transition stations where runners are met and importance of the research. This will be addressed by support crews. We studied the 2012 race, which was in the discussion and the practical implications for sport run in a higher-than-normal ambient temperature (day- psychology practice presented later. time high of 25 °C) and completed by 133 of 369 solo Theexecutionofthisstudywasaidedbythefactthat entrants (36%). Of the participants in this study, three theresearchteamhadexperienceand/orreceivedtraining (John, Bryan, andAndrew) were disqualified for failing in qualitative research and IPA. The lead researcher was tomeetthecut-offtimeattheendofLeg3(after67km). fairly well versed in a range of qualitative approaches, The other participants successfully completed the race, andhaspreviouslypublishedstudiesusingIPA(Nicholls, Ted in a time of 23:44:03, Tara in a time of 23:33:15, Holt,&Polman,2005;Tamminen,Neely,&Holt,2013). and Richard in a time of 23:05:51. We have organized The researcher responsible for data collection had taken theresultsinachronologicalmanner,detailingpertinent qualitative methods courses, read widely on qualitative themes before, during, and after the race. methods,andconducteddatacollectionforseveralother qualitative studies. In addition, he had used IPA for his Pre-Race masters thesis research. Other members of the research team received training on qualitative methods through Mixed Emotions. The participants’ affective states their involvement in the lead researcher’s laboratory were quite varied before the start of their race. When group. Finally, the pilot work also contributed to the we spoke to him at the start line, Andrew was positive training and preparation of the research team. and upbeat. He said, “I actually feel really good” and One further issue that warrants attention—par - when we asked him if he was going to finish, he said ticularly when using IPA—was the fact that the lead “Yeah. 100%.” On the other hand, Tara had a “lot of researcherhasrunseveralultramarathonsandcompleted pre-race anxiety, which is very normal for me. I was the 2012 CDR.Although his experience and knowledge very concerned about the heat forecasted and possible of the sport were valuable in terms of understanding the injuries.”Otherparticipantshadwhatmightbedescribed context and interpreting the data, we were concerned his as mixed emotions when we spoke to them at the start preconceptions could have an overbearing influence on line. Bryan said, “I’m excited now.Yeah.An hour ago I the results. Consequently, it was decided that he have wasn’t… Well, when you wake up you’re kind of tired limited involvement in the data collection other than and it’s a nice warm bed, you think ‘Do I really want 28 Holt et al. to go through this?’” Ted was also quite upbeat and, it My stomach was kind of knotted up and nauseous. seemed, rather philosophical. He told us “I feel great… ThefoodIhadeatenfeltheavyandthecoconutwater Looking forward to it.” When asked if he was trying in my Camelback was not appealing at all. Eating to make a particular time, he said “No. It’s all about was out of the question as I thought for sure I would finishing. Not, no, not so much finishing but the road to vomitifIate…OnegirlIknowfrompreviousraces get there. It’s the path you follow. So it’s been fun. I’m who is tough as hell vomited right in front of me… gonnafinish.I’mconfident.I’vetrained.”Johnsummed That kind of freaked me out a bit. up this notion of mixed emotions nicely when he said, Taraalsofacedsomeproblemsinthisrespectduring “[name of friend] was asking if I felt nervous, but it’s a the latter part of the race. She started the descent of long way, right? I feel nervous, but I don’t, I’m not, I’m Mount Hamel (the highest elevation on the course) at not agitated by it. I’m just respectful of the distance.” 10:00 p.m. but “had to pee every 15 min and felt like I During-Race Stressors had little control of my bladder…” She then gave us an exampleofhowoneproblemcouldeasilyleadtoanother. Cramping and Injuries. Cramping and injuries were Ataparticularmoment,sherealizedshe“hadtopeevery issues faced by all the participants, but these were most badly [very] suddenly” and as she went into the bush to problematic for Bryan, John, and Andrew, ultimately relieveherselfshe“veeredoffthetrail,trippedinarutand rolledmyankle.”Hence,thesegastrointestinalproblems leadingtotheirdisqualificationattheendofLeg3.They shouldnotbeviewedpurelyinisolation.Richard’snausea eachassociatedcrampingwiththeirinabilitytocopewith created nutritional problems and uncertainty, and Tara’s theambienttemperature.Johnwasparticularlydistressed problems directly caused an injury. In these ways the about suffering from cramp relatively early in the race. stressor of gastrointestinal problems exacerbated other As he started Leg 2, he recalled “everything seemed to go wrong all at once… my legs were cramping within 3 concerns, particularly as the race progressed. km…Iwasstruggling.”DuringLeg2,Johnwasshooting ThoughtsAbout Quitting. Participantshadtodealwith a video clip and fell backward “as both legs seized up.” thoughts about quitting. John became preoccupied with AshecametowardtheendofLeg2,herecordedanother these thoughts during Leg 3. He said, “I am not a quitter, video clip and said: “I don’t know what happened but but I knew I was in tough.” Indeed, as he had told us in [I’m] cramping all the time. I tried to run there just his pre-race interview: along the street and… and there’s nothing there.”At this You never want to quit.You wanna be pulled off the point, John was groaning with pain and wincing, and his race. You push yourself to the limit. And you say mental anguish was reflected by him questioning what was happening to him. He said “How can that, how can I “I’mnotquitting”…Iguessthat’sintheultrarunner have a cramp on the inside of my thigh and up my back? mentality...Ifyoumakethecut-offtimeyou’regoing Someone’s gotta explain that to me.” on, no matter what you’re feeling like unless you Although he also experienced cramping due to the collapse or fall down. heat, the specific problem that endedAndrew’s race was knee pain. He said: John’s comments reflect a type of view that seemed to be quite prevalent—it was acceptable to be timed out I got scared coming down Leg 2 [a long, steep ofarace(ortocollapse)butsimplyoptingtoquittherace descent]. When my knees started really hurting… was viewed with disdain.As the race progressed thoughts Youknowthatwasdefinitelygonnaimpactmyrace. aboutquittingappearedtobecomeastressorintheirown And that was really frustrating… If I went slow, it right.Forinstance,Richardwasconsumedwiththoughts about quitting during the large climb at the beginning of hurt just as bad, or more than if I was going fast. So Leg 4. He wrote “Going up the first part of Hamel was I went pretty fast down the mountain. very difficult… I had no energy… I was moving very It got to the point where “My knees, I don’t know, slowly and felt my [hiking] poles were really the only I just couldn’t handle Leg 2 and then it’s too hard to run thing stopping me from sitting down.” He remembered Leg 3, so yeah, I think it was definitely the knees. And “some other soloists had quit and were descending back then I’m, ah the heat also slowed me down but that was. down which was tough to see, and I nearly quit myself I don’t know. If it wasn’t for my knees, I think I would andjoinedthem.”HemanagedtofinishLeg4,andwhen have definitely [finished].” we spoke to him, he was clearly extremely fatigued and his speech was slurred (most likely as a consequence of Gastrointestinal Problems. Covering such long dehydration). He gathered his thoughts and said: distances requires racers to consume a great deal of food and drink. It was not uncommon for participants to Well, I don’t know why I’d give up, but the, the experience gastrointestinal problems. Of the finishers, thoughtwasdefinitelyinmymindtostophere.Alot. other than some early cramping, these problems tended Yeah. So I had a certain time in mind for finishing tobecomemorepronouncedduringthemiddleandlatter and I had to let go of that, which is fine. I’ve done stages of the race. For example, about half-way through that. I was really tired, and it was really hard going Leg 3, Richard remembered: up Mount Hamel. I had no energy, it was, I couldn’t Ultramarathon Running 29 drink any water, I was dehydrated, and I felt really races during her prerace interview, Tara said, “so many shitty and wanted to give up. Really wanted to give parts of your body [are] shutting down. And so you’re up. But I didn’t. I told myself that it wasn’t gonna pushing with your mind, or your mind wants to shut happen. Just, just gut it out to the end. And that’s down,[so]youpushwithyourbody.”Richardprovideda what I’m gonna do. very cogent example of this mental/physical battle when itcametohisthoughtsaboutquitting.Ittookhim8.5hrs Richard’s comment reflects how stressors did not to complete the 36 km of Leg 4 and, reflecting on this occur in isolation, but rather in some kind of accumula- tive manner. His fatigue and gastrointestinal concerns part of the race, he wrote “at this point I realized it was certainly seemed to contribute to a spiral of negative going to be a mental battle, my body was telling me to self-talkandthoughtsaboutquitting.Butweunderstood stop.” He elaborated during the focus group: thoughts about quitting to be a stressor rather than the Youknowyou,yourbody’stellingyoutostop,your consequence of fatigue and gastrointestinal concerns. mind’s telling you to stop, you know? I’m like “I That is, because quitting was not part of the ultra-runner already did this before… What am I trying to prove mentality, these thoughts about quitting appeared to be a by doing this again? This is ridiculous.”You’ve got stressor because they were a threat to participants’ goals all this stuff going on inside your head.And I don’t and beliefs about themselves as ultramarathon runners. know why but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop In a way, submitting to these thoughts about quitting and turn around. I couldn’t do it. Like I wanted to meant a runner failed to meet the mental challenge of [quit],youknow,atsomelevel.ButIjust,Icouldn’t. the race, which seemed to be a different type of demand I didn’t stop or anything like and, and say “OK I’m than cramping, injuries, and gastrointestinal problems. gonnagodown[toaidstation].”Ijust,Ijustcouldn’t, I couldn’t quit. During-Race Coping Strategies Monitoring Pace,Nutrition,and Hydration. Finishers monitoredtheirpacecarefully(whereasthenonfinishers Small Goals. One of the ways in which participants kept going (whether they finished or not) was to think just slowed down). For example, Tara became worried about the race in small sections. Often participants about meeting the Leg 3 cut-off time because she had would think of the race in terms of each specific leg of some cramping in her quadriceps. She monitored her the course. For example, when he was struggling with pace very carefully, going just fast enough to finish Leg cramp, John said, “I forced myself to get going. I didn’t 3 only 15 min before the cut-off, while reserving some think about time, just to go one section [leg] at a time.” energy for the latter stages of the race. Similarly, Ted In fact, even during Leg 3 (after which he was timed judged his overall race perfectly (finishing just 15 min out), he kept with the strategy of breaking the race into before the 24-hr cut off). He was very aware of his pace, smaller chunks rather than the race as a whole, reporting especially during the latter stages, commenting, “There was certainly some concern about making the cut-off inhisfinalvideoentry“I’mtryingtodo21kmin2hours and 20 minutes. It’s a tall order, but you know what? on Leg 4 and Leg 5 because I was cutting it pretty fine.” I’m gonna keep going and keep trying, right to the end.” Although there are very few distance markers on the Richard broke the race down into even smaller, more course (one at half-way, another at 120 km), Ted knew manageable,goals.HetargetedasignificantpointonLeg he had to complete the last 15 km in two hours because 4 (the ascent of Mount Hamel) and said, “I kinda had in hehadbeenmonitoringtime/distanceonhisGPSdevice. my head that if I got to the top of Hamel, you know, I’d In the focus group he said he remembered thinking “I’m finish. Like I just had to make it there, and then I’d be not gonna do that in two hours” and made a conscious fine.” So, for Richard, ascending Hamel was the goal he effort to pick up his pace by staying with another runner. focused on achieving—especially when he was suffering We grouped the concept of monitoring pace as a coping strategy along with the concepts of nutrition and the most—rather than completing the race, per se.There were other occasions when participants might break the hydration because they appeared to work in conjunction race down into even smaller goals, such as running for rather than separately. For example, if participants could 10 min or to a point in the distance, such as particular not eat, they would focus on drinking and perhaps slow geographical feature. their pace, or if they lacked energy, they would increase their food intake (gastrointestinal concerns permitting). Mental/Physical Battle. We coded a recurring theme For example, Richard had struggled with gastrointesti- that described some ways in which participants tried to nal problems and lacked energy on the climb of Hamel. cope with their race experience as a constant mental and Althoughhecouldnoteat,hefocusedon“beinghydrated physical battle. This did not seem to be in response to a [I]wastakingsmallsipsofwaterevery10minuteshoping particularstressor,butrathertheaccumulatedchallenges I could start to feel better.” participants faced. For example, Ted mentioned during his prerace interview that “I believe that it’s a small Social Support. Different types of social support percentageofitisphysicalbutagreatdealofitis,ah,the seemed to play a role in helping participants cope with mental aspect, psychological aspect of just meeting the the demands of the race. Spectators are only allowed at challenge.”Similarly,discussingherexperiencesofother theaidstationsontheCDRcourse,andthevastmajority 30 Holt et al. of these spectators are involved in the race in some way, I wish I’d, I don’t know, just pushed it a bit harder I whether as volunteers, support crews, or friends/family. guess.Like11minutes[pastthecut-offtime].Idon’t The support crew could provide tangible support. Bryan know.[Interviewer:“Soclose,soclose”].Yeah,that’s explainedthatatatransitionstation“Everything’spacked whatmakesitalltheworse.Idon’tknow.I’venever up. They [crew] give me my jacket and said ‘You go.’ been cut off of the cut-off time. I feel like it’s worse Now that’s what you need from a support group.You see than just quitting because of injuries or something. youneedthat…thatdiscipline,thosedirect,thoseorders Arrgh. I don’t know. It’s really frustrating. you need sometime, somebody to tell you what to do.” Ontheotherhand,Bryanexpressedasenseofaccep - The crew could also provide emotional support. In her tance that he had failed to finish. He said: pre-race interview, Tara discussed the importance of her support crew, telling us “The support system is basically Even though I didn’t make the cut-off at the end of giving me confidence and helping me get through.” Leg 3, [Leg 1] and [Leg 2] actually went probably Indeed, she drew inspiration from her crew during the better than the other races I’ve done, other Death race. For example, after walking 10 km down a forestry road at 3:30 a.m. because her ankle injury had restricted Races I’ve done. There wasn’t really any particular her ability to run, Tara was “greeted by my friends and lowpoint,itwasjustanacceptancethatwhenI,when myboyfriendwhocamefromEdmontontosurpriseme” my back ceased up…But when my back ceased up and I realized I couldn’t run, it was just, just accep- and this provided her a great deal of encouragement. tance that that’s the way it was. Similarly,referringtoemotionalsupportfromhissupport crew,Richardsaid“formetohavemywifethereand,and During the focus group Bryan reiterated that he was this year we’re taking the kids up as well.Yeah. I mean able to “accept his fate,” which he put down to the fact that’s what’s important to me, you know, just to have my that he had previously completed the race on several wifethereisenoughbecauseshecan,youknow,giveme occasions. some encouragement.” Participants drew upon the support of fellow racers Major Life Experience. The words of two of the at times. For example, on Leg 4, Tara said she “enjoyed finishersgaveusthesensethatcompletingthisracewasa chatting with different people” and “I met up with a guy majorlifeexperience.Forexample,despitetheproblems during the descent and completed Ambler Loop [a 5km he encountered, Richard did indeed (as he told us at the Leg4/5transition)“gutitouttotheend.”Whenwespoke traverse] with him.” As we mentioned previously, Ted to him just after the finish, he said: realized the need to increase his pace during the final stagesandhe“used”socialsupporttohelpwiththistask. Seriously, I’m really really happy that I stuck with Hesaid“thisgalthatI’dhookedup,sheandIjuststarted it. And it was really hard there and now I’m here runningandkeptrunningandthenallofasuddenthere’s and it’s done, so I taught myself a lesson I guess, [the]120km[marker],wegot5kmleft.So,Imean,that’s just gotta stick with it and tough it out until you’re justgivingyouaboost.”AstheseexamplesfromTaraand done. That’s what it comes down to. Ted reflect, there was a sense of camaraderie with other runners. Richard gave a particularly interesting view of Here,Richardteachinghimselfalessonappearedto camaraderie that may be rather unique to the final stages beimportant.Tedclearlyemphasizedthesenseofaccom - of a 125 km race when he said, “There were two other plishment he experienced.At the finish line, he said: soloistsIcouldseeinfrontofmewhenwecameoutonto I’m glad it’s over. That was tough. That was one of theroad,Iwantedtopassthembeforethefinishandcould the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Just the, havebutdecidednottoasIthoughtitwouldberudeofme considering the effort we had all endured.” Hence, there you know to be on your feet and going, going, going seemed to be a sense of camaraderie—between runners andthentofinishatthelastmoment,wellwithafew and their support crews/friends/families and among the minuteslefttospare.Makesyouwonder,“DidItake runners themselves—that provided important sources of too long at my transition area?” You know, maybe social support. I shouldn’t have changed my socks the last time. [Interviewer: “What was going through your head as you crossed the finish line?”]. I did it. Post-Race RejectionVersusAcceptance. Perhapsnotsurprisingly Discussion thenonfinishers’thoughtsandemotionsdifferedtothose ofthefinishers.Butitwasquitestrikingthat,ofthethree The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine nonfinishers, two (John and Andrew) expressed a sense individuals’ experiences of running an ultramarathon. of dejection. For example, when we video interviewed Using a series of qualitative data collection techniques, Andrew seconds after he was disqualified for missing we were able to capture their stories of running the 2012 the Leg 3 cut-off and he said he was “pissed” and felt CDR.InaccordancewithIPAmethodology(Smithetal., “crappy.” When we asked him to explain what he was 2009) we did not impose theory or constructs onto this thinking a little more, he said: study a priori. However, there were some connections Ultramarathon Running 31 to previous research that enabled further elaboration individualisenthusiasticabouttheforthcomingstruggle), upon and interpret the descriptive findings and consider or benefit (where there is a possibility for gain). In our implications for research and practice. research,someofthemostnotableappraisalsofstressors We coded participants’ prerace state as the theme werecrampingandinjury,gastrointestinalproblems,and of mixed emotions in that there were both individual thoughts about quitting. These were all either appraisals differences as well as individuals reporting competing of harm/loss (e.g., an injury having already occurred) or emotions. In Micklewright et al.’s (2009) study, ultra- threat (e.g., gastrointestinal concerns posing a threat to marathonrunnersreportedelevatedconfusionbeforethe the completion of the race). startofarace(andourcodingofmixedemotionsmaybe Previous studies have identified stressors ultra - similar to confusion), but there were large deviations in marathon runners experience include issues relating to their scores, which the authors put down to differences energy intake, hydration, digestion, sleep deprivation, incognitiveappraisalsoftheraceandrunners’readiness. intense fatigue, negative cognitions, and unpleasant Hence, it may not be unusual for ultramarathon runners emotions (Bowen et al., 2005; Bull, 1992; Knechtle et to experience some confusing affective states before al., 2005; Lane &Wilson, 2011; Smith et al., 1998).The a race. Furthermore, Micklewright et al. suggested stressors identified in our study generally corroborated ultramarathon runners tend to make overly optimistic these previous findings and add to the literature by performance predictions and, because failing to meet depicting some of the ways in which people actually theseexpectationsexacerbatesunpleasantpost-racemood experiencedtheseissuesandhowtheystruggledthrough states, sport psychology consultants should take care in them.As we demonstrated, stressors tended to accumu- using athletes’ (overly optimistic) goals as a basis for lateratherthanbeexperiencedinisolation.Forinstance, interventions. Building on this, an applied implication issues related to cramping and gastrointestinal problems arising from our study is the importance of educating maygohand-in-hand,particularlygiventhehighambient ultramarathon runners to be aware of, and prepared for, temperature on race day. Along with injuries, cramping thepossibilitytheymayexperiencesomepre-raceconfu- and gastrointestinal symptoms limited the performance sionandcompetingemotions;butultramarathonrunners of participants in our study. Similarly, in their analysis should also know that such states do appear to have sig- of the 500 entrants in two 161 km ultramarathons in the nificant performance effects other than those related to U.S., Hoffman and Fogard (2012) found nausea and/ unpleasant post-race mood states/emotions, particularly or vomiting were the main reason runners dropped out if the outcome is unfavorable (cf. Lane &Wilson, 2011; of races. As Hoffman and Fogard discussed, while gas- Tharion et al., 1998). trointestinal problems can be an annoyance in shorter Lane and Wilson (2011) suggested it is possible races, they become important limiting factors in ultra- enduranceathletesacceptfeelingsoffatigueasanecessary marathons because fluid and nutrition are essential for partofpursuingchallenginggoals,butifathletesinterpret these longer events. Some runners may unintentionally fatigue as being indicative of their inability to cope and inducegastrointestinalproblemsbyconsumingfluidand must slow down or stop this will lead to frustration and nutrition at a rate that exceeds gastric emptying. Their anger due to a failure to attain performance goals. This conclusions, along with the current findings, highlight interpretation certainly applied to John andAndrew, who the need for ultramarathon runners to cope by carefully both expressed dejection with being timed out. Notably monitoringcrampingandgastrointestinalissues—which theywerebothenteringtheCDRraceforthefirsttime.On alsoappearedtobeaddressedthroughsomeofthecoping theotherhand,BryandisplayedanacceptanceofhisDNF strategies discussed below. more readily, put down to the fact he had completed the Hanton,Neil,andMellalieu(2008)arguedthatsome raceonsevenpreviousoccasions.Hence,priorexperience researchersusingtheLazarus(1999)approachhavemis- may help ultramarathon runners deal with the negative takenlycodedcertainfactorsasstressorswheninfactthey psychological consequences of not finishing. are the consequences of stressors rather than the initial We organized the during race themes broadly demands (e.g., from this perspective, coding negative around a framework of coping. Coping can be defined thoughts as a stressor would be inappropriate because as a constantly changing cognitive, behavioral, and negative thoughts may be predicated on some other affective process individuals use to manage stressors demand).Inthecurrentstudy,itispossiblethatthoughts that are appraised as taxing or exceeding their resources about quitting could be viewed as a cognitive response/ (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). A stressor can be defined outcome to stressors such as fatigue and gastrointestinal asaneventorsituationtheindividualappraisesastaxing concerns. However, we coded thoughts about quitting or exceeding his or her resources. More specifically, pri- as a stressor because, as the race progressed toward the m
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