Tag Archives: mental toughness

Ultrarunning: not always run through the woods drinking PBR

It’s been a tough few weeks – from a running perspective.  Yes, the year started off with a bang when I ran the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge.  From there, my running went downhill.

And not in a good, I just crested a hill and I’m ready to let gravity help me cruise sorta way.

I’ve been challenged from work on a couple of different weeks – the hours have been creeping up as we near the finish line of a major project.

My wife has work travels coming this week which will interrupt my running (kiddos can’t stay home alone while I run in the morning and it’s the time of year the double stroller is firmly ensconced in the garage, behind all the deck furniture.

Work will continue to hit me with more and more hours through the month of February.

The April race I picked, a reprise of my first Ultra (Kal-Haven Trail Race), has been trumped by work and I had to bail on it.

In short, I’ve been generally bummed out and unmotivated from a running perspective.

Dude – don’t be such a downer!

Why do I share this?  At first I didn’t think I would.  It’s not an exciting / motivating post.  But – Ultrarunning is hard.  And I thought it was worth sharing that aspect of the sport.  Too often you see only the ‘awesomeness’ of the sport.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of awesomeness, but my goal with this blog is to share the experience – the whole experience – of training / working toward my goal of running Western States.  That includes the good and the bad.  It’s easy to tell you how awesome it is to run through the woods and drink PBR.  It’s harder to write about when things are going tough.

What have I learned over the past few weeks?

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Keeping my eye on the prize – 2016 Marquette trail 50 (miler this year) – with last year’s 50k pint glass.

Well – it helps to keep life prioritized.  As I’ve mentioned previously, running isn’t at the top of my list of priorities.  That keeps my running disappointment from becoming general disappointment.

I’ve also learned when you miss a few runs, it’s not the end of the world.  And you shouldn’t try to make up for all of that lost mileage in a single day / week / or even month.  Keep focus on the goal.  For me it’s running my first 50 miler in August and building a strong base to run my first 100 miler next year.  It’s not running 10 miles on last Tuesday.

Finally – run when / what you can.  A short run is, hands down, better than no run.

 

 

 

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Who needs luck? Just go out and enjoy the race.

A few minutes before I left the office yesterday one of my coworkers stopped by to wish me a Merry Christmas and chat about the family.  Since he’s a runner too, the conversation always eventually ends up with us chatting about recent or upcoming races.  He has a long training run this weekend as he then begins to taper for not one – but two marathons next month.  Whoa.

Have fun and enjoy them!

A lot of people do, but I don’t generally tell folks ‘good luck!’ for a race.  Most of us aren’t elite athletes that need a little extra luck to earn a place on the podium anyway.  And really – what is luck?  Per my friend Google, luck is …

  1. success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

As runners, we’re involved in many actions for months leading up to a race – obviously the running, but there’s also the stretching, foam rolling, eating well, proper rest and mental preparation.

Thus, I personally don’t believe in ‘luck’ for a race.

I too have a race in early January – the 50k Yankee Springs Winter Challenge (though … I don’t know whether we will get any winter before the start).

I view it, as I do with all of my races, as the reward for all of my aforementioned actions that lead up to it.  It’s the reward for the early mornings, running through the rain, missed drinks with friends on Friday nights, good runs and bad.  I know I have put in the time training and preparing, I trust that training, and now it’s time to enjoy!

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For me especially, being that I’m a #darkskyrunner, races are even more special.  For one, they’re during the day (or at least most of the race is during the day).  Running through the daylight and seeing the scenery of ultras is awesome and one of the many reasons I run them.  I also run alone during almost all of my training, so being around other people during a race brings an exciting vibe that I don’t normally get.  It’s fun to meet new people and share stories (and a beer) with them.

Who needs luck?  Just go out and enjoy the race.  Have fun.  You earned it!

When it’s ok to ignore the big picture

I find running to be a very ‘big picture’ endeavor.  It involves setting goals that take months and/or years to reach.  I know in the very best scenario, I’m looking at 2018 until I have any chance at Western States – with one lottery ticket.  In all reality, it will be some time much beyond that.

In addition to the goal setting, there’s the thought and planning involved with creating a training plan to get through those months leading up to a big race and shuffling your schedule around on a weekly basis to hit those training plans.

The weeks leading up to race weekends involve planning the travel and logistics of the race.  Do I need to book a hotel?  Am I flying?  How is my old man going to find me on the course at any given time?  Am I carrying hydration for the whole race or do I leave some Tailwind in a drop bag.

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Custom Map I put together for my Dad to find me during my first Ultra

One of the coolest logistical moves I’ve seen is the custom trucker hats I read about over at The 100 Mile Mark.

Honestly the ‘big picture’ is why I love ultrarunning – I’m a planner.  I love to set goals.  And I love to challenge myself.

But … (you knew there was a but coming based on the title, eh?)

There are times when I need to ignore the big picture – specifically when it’s time to actually run.

Looking at the big picture can be very overwhelming at 2:40am when my alarm rings.  I have to get out of bed and run for how many hours??

Prior to my first ultra, my parents wanted to know what time they should be in town to watch.  They live in Cincinnati – some 5 hours away from Kalamazoo.  I said something to the effect of ‘Oh, it’s a long race, you can leave when I start and still make the finish line before I do.’

Then I thought to myself … Oh shit – what did I get myself into?  They’re going to be driving, from CINCINNATI for less time than I’ll be running!! … and I had a small panic attack.

I find while I’m running, it’s always best to live in the moment.  I don’t think about how much further I need to run (I did that once on an 18 miler and bailed after 4 miles, only to go back to bed for a couple hours – it was the beginning of the end of my training for my first 50 miler last year).  I don’t think about how many more days I need to get up before 4am this week.  I don’t think about how many more hours of sleep my wife is getting each week by not running – Ok I have thought about that a few times, and it makes me want to run straight home and jump back into bed.

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Living in the moment during the Marquette trail 50k – 2015

Simply put, when it’s time to actually run, our friends at Nike said it best – Just do it.  That’s when I find it ok to ignore the big picture.  I roll out of bed, gear up, head out the door and enjoy each step in the moment.

Relax, breathe, run.  And watch the stars.

I leave the big picture thinking for a later time – usually when I have a beer with me.

Have you ever been overwhelmed with your big picture running goals?

I don’t always want to run

Here’s a secret that many non-runners don’t understand.  We (At least) I don’t always want to run.  I mean, I do, but I don’t.

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Not all runs generate viral Instgram shots.  They’re not all 45 degrees and sunny.  They’re not all beautiful fall sunsets.

As I stand in the kitchen prepping my Tailwind for tomorrow’s 12 miler, I hear the wind howling outside.  It’s November.  In Michigan.  It’s not really that unusual for this time of year, but this howlin’ session comes with 50mph gusts.  And rain.  There will be no stars.  No Meteors.  Just me and the rain and the wind.

By the way – mixing the Lemon w/caffeinated Raspberry rocks!

Couple that with a rough week that’s prevented me from running the last couple of days (the details don’t really matter at the moment) and prepping some Water Street coffee and sleeping in sounds much better at the moment.

I try to get at least one of my back to back long runs in during the work week.  That gives me at least a Saturday night to enjoy with my wife, where I’m not crawling into bed at 9pm.  And it gives me a morning to sleep in and cozy with her and the kids in the morning, watching Monkey George Curious George.

But that means getting up at 3am tomorrow.  And with 3am will come the November howlin’ wind and some rain.  It will be a mental test in the morning.  Am I complaining?  Eh, not really.  It’s kinda why I love this shit.  But even though I love it, doesn’t mean I always want to do it until it’s done.

And that brings me to another secret – I’ve never woken up early for a run and then regretted it after the fact.

So while there are days I don’t always want to run, I know in the end it’s worth it and I’ll most likely enjoy it in the end.  That’s what I mean by I do, but I don’t.  At this very moment I don’t, but thinking about how I’ll feel post run, I do.

After all, it’s only early if you’re still in bed and ultras don’t run themselves.  Who else is in for an early run tomorrow?

I skipped my run today – and I’m ok with that.

I went to bed last night planning to run 5 miles this morning – my last run prior to the Grand Rapids Marathon this weekend.  But I didn’t.

I woke up, checked my resting pulse rate, glanced at my phone to see if there was anything critical from work and rolled out of bed to weigh myself and chug my morning glass of water.  At this point, I typically head down the steps to gear up and head out the door.  This morning, I turned back toward the bedroom, crawled back into bed, rolled over and went back to sleep.

You’re training to run 100 miles, and you’re good with just going back to bed??

In the past, skipping would really bother me.  At times it would almost ruin my day.  I felt like I cheated myself – let myself down – was a lazy POS – whatever – pick any of the above.

Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t say I was happy about skipping my run.  I’m ok with it.  I accept it.

After I did get out of bed (for real), I recalled an article I have hanging on my wall at work (when I’m not being a husband or a dad or running I do have time to do some work) => 15 Critical Habits of Mentally Strong People.  I won’t regurgitate it here – you can click the blue text if you’d like – but I will call out one point that’s stuck with me: Mentally strong people don’t dwell on their mistakes.  I wouldn’t call missing a 5 miler a mistake, per se, but the idea is the same – what’s done is done.  It’s like a golfer missing a 3 foot putt.  A five miler, or <insert your mileage here> is a ‘gimme.’ At least it should be a ‘gimme,’ but sometimes those easy putts lip out.  You can either let it go or let it eat you up. I’ve been eaten up enough.

Are you writing a self-help blog or a running blog?

While this article was written for the corporate life, much applies to running – specifically ultras.  This sport requires mental toughness.  Testing my mental toughness is one of the things the pushes me to run farther.  I love it.

My point is – some nights your kids scream all night.  Work called.  You buddy helps you move a swing set and Busch man cans are 2 for $3, you have a fridge full of Michigan double IPAs, and you don’t eat anything all day.  Whatever the reason, you need a few extra Zs in the morning.  It’s ok — if, IF it’s not just an excuse and doesn’t turn into a habit.  Mentally strong people don’t dwell on mistakes.  But they also don’t make it a habit.

Also … in his article, Travis Bradberry points out mentally strong people make a point to get enough sleep.  That helped me this morning too 🙂