Feed the good wolf... and other strategies.
This past week or so has been a bit frustrating on a personal level as my personal training for Leadville 100 mile foot race has been kicking me hard and things have not been going to plan. Part of me feels like I should to be a good paratrooper and suck-it-up. While that is definitely part of the solution, toughness alone will not see anyone through this race.
I chose this goal for a couple of reasons. One being practical - I work in outdoor fitness coach and while coaching and athletics are a different skill set, would you really hire a chef who didn't sample the goods in the kitchen? I find that doing challenges helps me learn more deeply and bring ideas to my team. The other reason is that it scares me, which in turn creates a high level of focus and seems to bring out the best in me.
Running 100 miles over mountainous terrain at an average elevation of 11,000 feet seems - based on personal experience - impossible to me. However, it's not impossible and I watched as my friend cross the line 29 hours after setting off.
Today though, it's not lost on me that in August, my friends and I will toe the line and we'll have 30 hours to complete the course. We'll run through two sunrises, cross six mountain passes, wade some rivers and likely run through a thunderstorm or two.
There are have 120 training days left, the last three training runs have not gone to plan and both resulted in major muscle soreness for several days and while the pain doesn't bother me much, it's the lost training time I can't afford. I coach people for a living, I know better than to over-extend and over-train. It's baffling to me that I made the same error three times in a row. Endurance athletes need to hold a little back in reserve, we get better by nudging things forward, not by being completely toasted at the end of training sessions. We train to get good, not to get exhausted.
I've been reaching into the toolbox this week to get focused on success. Some things include:
1. Feeding the good wolf! A military instructor once told me, "There are two wolves living in your mind; the good wolf and the bad wolf. The bad wolf represents your fears, doubts, weaknesses and negative emotions. The good wolf represents your strength, courage, connectedness and your positive spirit. You can't kill either of them as they are a part of you - but what you feed will grow. So feed the good wolf".
2. Be aware of the four steps to mission-failure: Confident. Cocky. Lazy. Dead.
3. Set micro goals: My goal is to succeed at today's training session. Once I've done that, I'll move forward to the next step. Success happens one step at a time.
4. Visualize powerfully: Each day, I will spend time seeing myself running across mountains and through the valleys. I'll smell the pine, the dust, the scent of the rain, I'll hear the thunder and feel the wind blowing. I imagine vividly what it will feel like to run back into town after running and walking through a hundred miles of the Rocky Mountains.
5. Face the fear: What am I scared of? Bears, cougars, getting lost, breaking a leg, getting hit by lightning, bitten by a snake, dying of exhaustion...? No. That stuff I can mitigate or I have little control over - and I've already accepted the risk. What I'm scared of - is failing. It's rooted in my ego.... So what if I fail? My friends will still love me and my critics will have something to gloat about. It's all good. My job is to run 100 miles in less than 30 hours, all I can ask of myself is to be the best I can be, right now. I can't control the outcome, but I can control my emotions each step of the way.
6. Rule of threes: Check, check - and check again. I made mistakes in pacing and nutrition that are preventable. Going forwards I will pay close attention to details.
7. Gratitude: I've got two arms, two legs, my eyesight and no major illness or injury. I'm part of a team and I have resources. I actually get to try this!
8. Reframe: The bad wolf is telling me I'm having a crisis. The good wolf reminds me that it's just a tricky day.
120 training days left. It's not impossible. I can do this.