Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Going mental!

I have thought long and hard about what I want to do this year with ultra running. Where do I want to take myself next and how do I want to get there. Being someone who is constantly busy inside my head, sometimes good and sometimes bad I thought it would be interesting to set some specific goals. I always have goals with races I want to do, how I want to finish but not necessarily how I want to go about it. This year I have 2 goals. Both have more to do with the training aspect than a race. However one of the spills over into a race. It's time to go mental!

If you have spent any time with me it becomes obnoxiously obvious I am a in depth thinker and feeler. I notice everything, hear everything and think about it all. I can drive myself and others crazy! As annoying as that sounds it's a gift. I think this aspect of my personality has served me well, pushing me, forcing me to reckon with ideas and paradigms. Channeling it appropriately is the challenge. Knocking on 43 years old it would seem I should have this all figured out. How to shut off the voices in my head, how to create and foster the voices to help propel me forward not drag me down. I certainly have grown immensely in this area and have learned how to control and maneuver my crazy mind in the right direction but not enough. So many people comment on how determined and relentless I am in my endeavours. I would completely agree with that description however I am super sensitive. My heightened awareness and overactive mind can bog me down at times. Why am I bringing this up and spilling my inner self in such detail? Because it is a critical part of my goals. I am so fortunate to have my family and some close friends who live in the positive. They push themselves to be the best people they can. They hold themselves to high standards and are not wishy washy about who they are, their values and morals. In turn they hold me to a higher standard...just the way I like it. But, just because I have a great support system doesn't mean I am immune to the negative side. It doesn't mean I can just brush thoughts, feeling and judgment off like dust on my shoulder. Self doubt, insecurity and fear of rejection can weigh heavily. This is the part I want to squash. I have made so much progress in this area over the last couple of years but this year I plan to remove it completely when it comes to trail time. I am anxious to test myself here and am certain I have got some good skills to put in play when I feel or hear doubt. When negativity or judgment comes my way I am prepared to work it in my favor!

Goal number one is to race a 50K like I run my hill repeat days. For the last 4 years I have compiled endless amounts of data. The one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is why my hill repeat days are so fast but my 50K times are so slow. I can run a triple hill repeat in the gorge which consists of 26+ miles and 8,000 feet of climbing all on single trace in 4:47 but have not yet run a hilly 50K in under 5:30. The kicker is: following that hill repeat day I can run 7 hours in the gorge with another 8,000+ feet of climbing at a pretty descent clip. So what's my problem? I should be able to push a 50K hard, spend it all and get a better time than I have thus far. Wouldn't it seem possible if I am not running another 8 hours the following day? I think so. Seems easy enough so why haven't I done it? My answer is: pure fear and inexperience. I hate even using the word fear to describe anything. I find it to be a weakness that should be overcome. Not saying it's not valid but simply more of a mindset that is like a cancer and so limiting. What am I afraid of? Blowing up! I don't really know what blowing up feels like. I know what bonking feels like, dehydration, soreness, mental fatigue but not a serious blow up. I don't even know if I could push myself hard enough to have a full blown blow up. I wonder if I know how to push myself that hard. Do I have the guts? My pacers may disagree but I can assure them that anything that appeared to be a blow up was more like a tantrum. :) Now I will qualify this statement in that I am talking about a 50K distance not a 100M distance. In the 100M distance blowing up takes many forms. With the years of ultra running on my legs and in my head I wonder why I won't take myself to that limit. I certainly have pushed hard in training. So, what does that tell me? It tells me I need to let go of my boxed in perception of myself. I know I am a good 100M runner but I am not a horrible 50K runner. Somehow and somewhere I boxed myself in and have decided I am not a good shorter distance runner. I suspect it has to with control. I know how to control my body, fueling and mind for a 100M distance. The slow mountain terrain is a comfortable place for me. The expectations take so many forms there is no failure in that distance. Simply stepping up to the plate is a win. In the 50K distance time is the measure. I have always used that distance as more a social gathering and a training element. This year I will line up to a 50K with the intent to find my edge! I am sweating as I write this. Not because I am typing fast but because I have now committed myself and need to deliver.... for myself!

Goal number two is all about the back to back runs. Generally I do hill repeats then the next day is the long run. The hill repeats are a very defined workout. Whereas the next days long run is not. Well I intend to make that day count more than I ever have. I want to run smarter and more focused on that day. Of course many think I am already to focused well I plan to put measurements in place to ensure I am doing my best job. Why? So I can run even better in the second half of my 100M. I want it to be just another day of pure endorphin bliss when I take that turn at Bighorn this year. I don't want to drag my body out of Footbridge like I did in 2008 and slog the rest of way in. I want strength and power in my body but more importantly in my mind. My mind can find the dark places and pitch a tent. The second day of the back to back is all about the mind. I will focus and tackle the fatigue on those runs. I will uproot my tent and pitch someplace else.

I would say both my goals have very little to do with the physical aspect of my ultra running. Both are so mental. Why do I even care? Because no one will convince me that all we learn and experience in any of these kinds of endeavours doesn't spill out on everything we do. From work, family, raising kids and building relationships of depth. As Alex enters his teenage years and he starts to notice all the angles of life and has to figure out how to handle them mentally I want him to have a good example. Where will he go in his head when he begins to worry about what others think, pleasing, performing and expectations from us and everyone else? Fear and insecurity are intense drivers in so many people and it's limiting. I tell him, "Never make a decision out of fear and insecurity. Always make it from a position of strength". Gain ownership of how you interpret yourself and your ideas. Don't you think his mom should take her own advice? :)

2010 is already shaping up to be a great year.


  1. Don't be afraid to be amazing! I see great things ahead.

  2. WOW - That was awesome. I had to read it 2X.
    You touched on so many things that affects all of us. I've asked this myself, looked at my training performance, and wondered why I don't do better in races! You got me thinking now!

  3. Great post. I can relate to fear of the unknown in terms of blowing up in a race. Looking forward to following your journey!

  4. Wow Ronda, your 2nd paragraph just described me to a T, and here I sit crying. There *is* someone else like me out there! Sometimes I just think if I could get out of my own way mentally, I could do some great things.

    I just did my first 50K last weekend, and while I had a good first experience and did the best I could that day, I also expect more from myself. I am driven to work hard and improve, but I am just so impatient and it's easy to get down on myself.

    Well, I won't go into any more detail here. Just know that your post really resonated with me and made me feel like I'm not so alone. I look forward to meeting you at MacDonald Forest (50K #2!).

  5. It's too bad we haven't gotten a chance to become closer friends while I lived there. There is much more in common between us that comes every time I communicate with you.

    p.s. time to update the race schedule:)

  6. Well said. Surrounding yourself with the positive and removing the other "stuff" that bogs you down in your mind will really help you focus on your goals.

  7. Awesome! Love it!

  8. Thanks again, Ronda, for always inspiring me and motivating me to run "smarter". I am also running BH, but I suck at 100's and haven't had a whole lot of experience doing them. I look at your blog for inspiration and I hope that I can run BH a little smarter than my last 100! I just run and have little focus to my training. I guess it is time for me to FOCUS and PLAN! Thanks!