Trevor Fuchs: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Trevor Fuchs’ life changed about a decade ago when he started running everyday, replacing his daily habit of drinking a six-pack of beer, smoking a pack of cigarettes, and eating a bag of chips. Once he shifted into the life of an ultrarunner, he became close friends with the podium, reaching a spot in nearly every race he ran. But Trevor’s racing and efforts aren’t always easy. 

 

In 2018 he started experiencing a strange and yet-to-be-diagnosed condition that causes breathing trouble during races. At first, Trevor says it feels like an allergic reaction where his vocal cords close, causing a shortness of breath. Not being able to breathe in the middle of a 100-mile race induces panic, compounding the effects of struggling to breathe. While he’s working with doctors to treat the issue, Trevor is still racing, but he’s had to drop out of a few events, sometimes painfully close to the end. “It’s like this sort of nightmare negative feedback loop where I get anxious and the anxiety makes it worse,” Trevor said. “It just gets worse until I can’t run anymore.”

Trevor considers his worst race failure to be his attempt at the Hurt 100 of 2018, an ultramarathon race through rainforest on Oahu, Hawaii. Trevor described the race as, “the gnarliest, most technical race in the world.” Unlike Ben and Corinna, Trevor’s failure consisted of a whole slew of things that went wrong, both physically and mentally.


The race took place on January 13, the same day Hawaii experienced a false missile alert. Trevor was in the front of the pack with two other runners when they got the message. It came through as an emergency alert on the cell phone of a guy in his pack. The message read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” At the time, they were between aid stations with nothing but jungle around them and nowhere to take shelter, so they kept running. It took 38 minutes for the second alert to be issued, indicating the missile threat was false, but the runners didn’t get the second notice until they reached another aid station, an hour and a half after the initial (false) threat.

With a shaken mental state, Trevor’s electrolytes went haywire in the Hawaiian humidity, causing intense cramping between miles 15 and 80, amounting to 14 hours of pain. “My wife was there and I saw her every 10 miles or so. She would tell me we didn’t fly all the way out to Hawaii for me to drop at mile 15.” So Trevor pushed through the pain and finished in fifth place.

 

“That was the worst and best race of my life. The best because I knew as soon as I crossed the finish line that we were coming back the next year because I had so much more to give. It was the worst because I was not happy with my performance at all.” Trevor went back in 2019, having mostly fixed his electrolyte issue and finished in second place. In 2020, he won the race with a finishing time of 22:04:00.

Stay up on your electrolyte intake

Photo: Tim Behuniak

For Trevor, pushing through pain involves telling himself he can make it to the next aid station. After that aid station, he can make it to the next one. When things get really grim, he finds happiness in a cola and some pickle juice. Not at the same time.

 

But not every run or training session feels great, and Trevor says that’s actually a good thing. Because getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is part of Trevor’s strategy for success. 

 

“Bad days play into my sport because at the end of the day a crappy 10-mile run feels a lot like what the last 10 miles of a 100-mile race feels like,” Trevor said. “If your legs just aren’t there and you’re tired or you’re hungry – that’s what it feels like most of the time during a 100-mile race.”

Lauren Allain

Lauren Allain

Lauren is a journalist and adventure seeker based in Seattle, Washington. You can find her bouldering, running, and exploring tidepools at the beach.

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