My mind was spinning during the days leading up to the Western States Endurance Run. Did I train hard enough? Should I have done more hill work? Damn, I forgot to submit that expense report. What was that odd sensation in my quad muscle? Wasn’t that budget due tomorrow? ... But then everything that was extraneous started to fade before the event itself.... As daunting as it would be to run for twenty to thirty hours straight, at least I knew what was expected of me. There would be a starting line, and 100 miles from that a finish line. All I needed to do was run from here to there. No ambiguity about it. -- Karnazes, Dean (2006). Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night RunnerI have once again been a mental wreck this week. I'd like to pretend that this week is different than any other taper week before a goal race. But I think I'd be lying. The stakes are somewhat bigger because of the length of time the race lasts, but it really isn't different. I am just nervous and insecure. Have I trained hard enough? Can my ego handle missing my goals? Can I handle the risk that come with training nearly nine months for this moment?
After talking with friends and race veterans, I have worked through it. There were two keys to my overcoming this latest mental funk. The first was the realization that I am my insecurities are taking away from the joy of what I am about to attempt and the celebration of the journey that it took to get here. I earned this opportunity. I worked hard for it. It is supposed to be fun. In the movie Miracle, Herb Brooks comments that his proudest moment is seeing the young men stand as one, "young men willing to sacrifice so much of themselves all for an unknown." And that parallels my proudest moment in all of this, knowing how much everyone has sacrificed for me to have this opportunity. I am not defined by the outcome of the race. The work that I have put into the preparation and the people that have stood by my through it will define what I take out of it.
The other key to overcoming my mental funk was an email exchange with Wyatt Hornsby regarding pacing and race day strategy. In his replies to my inquiries, Wyatt dropped two great nuggets for me. The first was a discussion about how "Leadville rewards patience" and his first 100 mile (not LT100) race was his most memorable because he was "humble and started conservatively" and "soaked up the experience". He wound up having a great race and finishing 6th overall, so that strategy paid dividends for him! And he went on to say later that the race doesn't start until mile 60 and that if I am fresh -- relatively of course -- that I can start to pick off struggling runners and that I will draw confidence and energy from that. Brilliant! My best races are always the races when I finish strong, drawing energy from knowing that I am still kicking butt while others are struggling. It is motivating to know that you've raced right and that your training is paying off in the late miles. And, I was honestly a little worried about how I was going to deal with the pain and fatigue in the late miles. Now I have a strategy that I can follow without worrying too much about "the clock". I'll go slow, take care of myself and save myself for the last 40 miles. Easy, right?