26 June 2011

The mental side of running

  You may have noticed I haven't posted much lately.  The biggest reason is simply history, I am not a consistent blogger.  Another reason is that I was in a bit of a mental slump though.
In March and April I was running well, both in terms of speed and pushing to new training distances.  I was feeling good about the Big Horn 50 Mile race I had signed up for.  Doubt started to creep in though in mid-April.  It started with an injury to my right arch, a strain or something, I am not 100% certain.  The injury didn't sideline me but did curtail my fast running as fast running seemed to irritate it most.

  I was still running my planned weekend long runs and was still maintaining weekly mileage volumes which I planned on.  Nonetheless  doubt over Big Horn still managed to creep in.  I am typically very positive when running (the Moab Red Hot excepted), this was new territory for me.  The nature of my doubts had to do with the large "no man's land" nature of the race, the territory between my longest run, 33 miles, and the race distance, originally 52 miles.  This was not going to change during my training as 30 miles was the longest I planned on running, and is typical of a 50 mile training plan.

  Fortunately I know some great runners in the Fort Collins Trail Runners who did a great job talking me off the ledge by sharing their race experiences and advice with me.  Slowly their advice took root and over the two weeks before the race I was gained confidence, or at least was less afraid of the unknown, and I found myself eager to find out what was in store.

  The evening before Big Horn, and the morning of, I was less nervous than I have been for some other races I've done.  As the race started I focused on small chunks of the race, not the big picture.  I didn't think of "no man's land" until I was actually there, and by that point I was feeling good because I hadn't been dwelling on it.  I kept the negative out, something I failed to do at the Red Hot, and I had a very enjoyable race.  I've done a good handful of 30+ mile training runs and races now and I can honestly say none of them were as enjoyable as Big Horn, quite possibly none of them were as easy as Big Horn.

  The physical tools have to come first, the endurance, the training.  But all the physical stuff can be thrown out the window if the mental game isn't in order.  Yogi Berra was right.  The converse is also true, the limit to what we can push ourselves to do is lot further away than many of us realize.  Going into Big Horn I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea of running a 100.  I now see how it's possible.  I'm nowhere near ready, physically nor mentally, but I can now see the path to get there.

  I have been quite pleased with the sense of accomplishment that completing Big Horn has left me with.  It has left a smile on my face for over a week now.  My friend Mary, who also ran her first 50 at Big Horn, summed it up well yesterday when we were out running, she said she was still on a runner's high.  Me too.

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