Monday, February 18, 2008

Looking for inspiration

Well, just as the stuff in my chest cleared up and I had, once again, re-imagined my stalled training plan, some new bug decided to attack. This one apparently preferred my head and sinuses to my chest or throat allowing me to believe, for a brief period, that I could just "run through it." Thursday I succeeded; Friday I finished feeling weak and shaky. I knew any plans for a weekend long run were off the table. So instead of running the bulk of the long weekend was spent down at our place on the central coast doing pretty much nothing, but resting which is a lot like just vegging out while pretending it had a purpose. OK, I did run Sunday night, but only a bit over 6 miles and I'm resting again today.

So, with no long run and a weekly total of just over 30 miles, I am just over a month out from the toughest race I have ever planned to undertake and looking for inspiration.


There are few more inspirational athletes, or people for that matter, than 70's tennis star Arthur Ashe. So, with a few key quotes from this great American, I will examine my current situation.

"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation."

As far as the preparation I had originally laid out for the Coyote Two Moons 100-miler, I am pretty far off. I did manage to complete one 50K race last month so there is still some base fitness there. However, my plans for consistent 60-70 mile weeks and long runs integrating serious hill training have not exactly taken flight. In fact, it has been three full weeks since I completed my last real long run. In light of this, what is the best course of action? Do I simply accept that I am not prepared and unlikely to be anywhere nearly as prepared as I had planned to be come race day? Should I consider dropping the race altogether? Moving to a slower start group? Simply embrace the very real possibility of heading into my first DNF? Can I somehow acquire the necessary self-confidence in absence of proper preparation? Or, is there maybe some other type of preparation that might be even more crucial than simply logging the miles before the race?

As ultrarunners we often hear (and even more often repeat) the mantra that finishing these long races is mostly mental. Preparing oneself psychologically is at least as important, if not more important, than the requisite physical training. So, we say. Is this saying more than mere platitude? Certainly it doesn't mean that one should enter a 100-mile event pigheadedly with no endurance training. In fact, what would it even mean to claim one's mind is strong enough for the task if it has not yet been tested in pushing one's body through a series of tough events. On the other hand, I've often remarked about at how quickly endurance fitness can be regained after time off. Both last year and this I was able to do the Fremont Fatass 50K on very little training. Furthermore, I am convinced that when training for long events there are a few key runs that really matter and the rest is mostly filler. Mind you, if one is aiming for specific performance measures then other types of training may be critical, but in terms of just doing the distance what matters above all else is getting in those few runs where the mind and body work together to convince you that, "yes" you can accomplish your goal.

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."

In a sense, my 50K earlier this year may be the only real training I've done so far for the upcoming 100. However, I might also include the barefoot hike/run in Purisima as it really solidified my ability to maintain a consistent pace that was not a run. Finally, I still have a few more weekends to get those other key runs in. I have decided that feeling 100% is more important than all of my mid-week running and so I am aiming this week at only getting well enough to hit some major hills this weekend. I may be out of shape, I will be slow, but I am going to attempt to close in on 30 miles of steep hills. My focus will be quite simply to do what ever I can to complete the distance. I will focus on the mental aspect. Early on I will imagine that I am at the beginning of my race and going very easy to conserve for an all day (and night) effort. If things get tough late in the run then I will imagine that I am finishing the final 30 miles and .

If I can finish that then all my focus will turn to the following week. I'll plan some recovery runs during the week and then attempt something close to 50 miles at Skyline Ridge the following weekend. I will be running a bit over 9 miles to the start of the 50K race. I will then by taking it VERY easy in the race itself before heading back a final 9 miles to my car. My goal is to do the distance feeling good and finish with plenty of fuel left in the tank. I believe that a 50 miler 3 weeks out from a 100 is a good last long run and I am also convinced that if I can finish it feeling good that I will be prepared for the longer distance. These two runs will serve as the check of "where I am" in terms of preparedness for the race. I will wait until then to make any sort of final assessment or decisions. Just like during the race, my mental attitude is one of, "just keep going a little further and see where things are."

"You've got to get to the stage in life where going for it is more important than winning or losing."

One of my favorite parts of the longest and toughest ultras I have done is when I reach the stage where I let go of all my race goals. There comes a point in every event where finish times or place or even the internal measure of how I ran the race no longer matters. Simply moving forward and continuing onward become the only goals. Certainly all the mental games and tricks come into play at this stage, but also there is something deeply liberating about dispensing with one's self expectations. So what if I have to walk the rest of the race, can I finish? Someone else passing me? Good, I will no longer feel that pressure from behind. It is at these times when I am truly running my own race. I'm out there and I'm "going for it" on my own terms. It is really the reason I have an attraction to these long distance events in the first place. With this in mind, I look forward to race day. I look forward to seeing what I can do and how prepared I will be.

I think I've found my inspiration.


olga said...

Steve, you've got 3 solid weeks of long runs before C2M. Do your part. If you feel less than prepped, move to a slower start group. But go for it. You never know how the day turns out if you everything right. If you walk the hills, eat and drink well, breathe easy and smile lots! Mental comes out when you let go of goals - I ususally set new goals then:)

angie's pink fuzzy said...

oh bummer about being sick. it seems much worse this season than seasons past.

and yay for finding inspiration!

meredith said...

OK, I must chime in as I have been watching this misery of illness unfold. Here is my recipe for feeling better, and although it has only successfully worked once (pre-Mt.Masochist) I hope it can help you:

-Sweet potatoes as often as possible (loaded with vit. c, potassium, beta carotine)
-shots of Goji Juice (tastes terrible but put it in a shot glass and let it slide down)
-Shots of Wheatgrass (cures it all)
-extra Vit. C (I forced myself to drink Emergen C, even though I can't stand the taste)

I wish you all the best in good health and inspiration and will see you at C2M!

Eudemus said...

Olga, I've made a bit of a recovery this weekend even though I didn't get one single long run in, I did lots of hills over 3 days. I am going to do a 50-miler next weekend and then decide if I need to drop back a group at C2M.

Eudemus said...

Hey Angie. It has certainly been a bad year for cold/flu as everyone I know has been sick (probably why I couldn't avoid it). I think I have it licked now, though and the running is going well.

Eudemus said...

Meridith, I am feeling much better after last week and got in lots of runs this past weekend. I have been hitting the vitamin C pretty heavy and have had some wheat grass. I probably need to up my zinc and I'll look into the Goji juice. I think there's a juice place here that has it. Thanks for the advice and I'll see you at C2M. When you come flying by me in the 100K, can you tap me on the shoulder and make sure I a awake?