I recently had an epiphany on the mindset needed going into a daunting race like Fat Dog. The number one goal of any “normal” (read: non-elite) ultrarunner is to focus on ‘just’ finishing, but this statement doesn’t do the mindset justice. It’s about being present, focusing on the body in the here and now. Competition is internal, conditions are external. It doesn’t matter what other runners are doing as it doesn’t have any impact on how quickly I can finish… at least not in the first 100 miles. A little competitive push can drive me home over the last 20 miles (or likely 6 hours at Fat Dog), but unless I want to risk blowing up halfway through the race, I need to be 100% focused on my own being, rather than what place I’m in or who is right behind me, in front of me, etc.
I realized this mindset doesn’t just matter for the race itself, but may be even more important in the day-to-day training as well. My recent ankle incident a few weeks back has shown me that focusing on anything but ankle recovery lends to nothing but distraction, and blurs my ability to self-assess how I am doing physically and – more importantly – mentally.
Chasing some artificial benchmark or preconception of how I ‘should’ perform in any given day of training or racing will at best give me a minor ego boost, and at worst will completely shatter my confidence. To me, that doesn’t really seem worth it. Only after many months of consistent training can I assess where I’m at, how I’m feeling, and where my fitness is at. And even then, it’s about how confident I feel in pushing myself. At any given race, you never know who will show up. Can I come first or fifteenth? How about top one hundred? Depends on who decides to run.
The real question I need to ask is, “How much of myself am I willing to give?”
The more I give during a race, the higher the risk, the greater the reward. In a race like Fat Dog, there’s no doubt I am giving everything plus some, so the reward is undoubtedly great, but it’s a matter of managing the risk with an intimate focus on my physical and mental state throughout the entirety of the race.
As my ankle progresses through it’s rehab period, getting to the start line is pinnacle. Since the injury my focus has been 100% on rehabilitating my ankle and fitting in whatever training works with that in mind. This training load is slowly getting bigger, and I’m right on track for a 5-6 week full recovery, leaving me with 3 weeks of heavy training before tapering into the big dance. Thankfully heavy early season training loads have pulled me through this downtime relatively unscathed. We’ll call it a mid-season rest cycle. Now it’s time for a final big push towards the start line. Let’s see what this body and mind can accomplish.