If you caught Episode 45 of the Trail Society podcast, you know we talked about how to practically (and emotionally) deal with getting sick during training blocks and near big races. Ironically, the very next day I woke up with a sore throat and all the early indications of an upper respiratory tract infection. A string of expletives jumbled around my mind. I lay awake panicking, doing the math. Six days away from flying to Madeira, and less than two weeks until we clamor to the start line for my season opener at MIUT. Oh life is funny sometimes. While one part of my mind was grappling with the fear and loss of my last couple of self-proclaimed ‘important’ workouts the other part (the practical part) knew that if I leaned into rest, hydration, and a little patience I’d be okay.
Would I? Am I at t-minus 3 days until the starting gun? Illness near a big race heightens all those fun and completely normal pre-race nerves. The kind of nerves that make you question if you’re ready to tackle the upcoming challenge, question if you did enough or too much or if the day will come together at all… Taper tantrums and existential dread – the perfect combination.
Enter, the pep talk that I need right now and maybe one that you need too.
There’s this moment that hits darn near all of us as race day approaches. For me it’s always about two-weeks out from race day when I begin to second guess everything I’ve done or not done in the build up to the event. I pick apart my training, looking for all the flaws in the plan. Exhale. Remember that your training can not be summarized by one particular long run or one key workout, but rather your preparedness is a summation of all the training (and resting) you’ve done to get to this point. Trust me, you’ve done plenty. It does all stack up.
Do not cram for the exam
In those moments of panic, where I find myself fixated on this idea that I haven’t done enough, where am I able to convince myself and then ‘unconvince’ myself that I should definitely find a way to do ‘just one more’ long run. Cramming for the exam. Many of us have experienced a forced taper due to illness, work, family, my honeymoon in 2022 – only to be shocked by how well we perform on the day. Listen to that! It turns out, it takes a whole lot of near bedrest to detrain, and more importantly the last two weeks are about getting to the start line feeling good not building fitness.
Keep the door open
Uncertainty is normal. Maybe you haven’t raced in a while, maybe you’ve never run this far, maybe you had hiccups and hurdles in training, maybe you are battling that inkling of doubt that grows when fed – keep the door open. Keep the door open to possibilities, to the legs feeling good, to the easy miles, to the iron stomach, to the second winds. Keeping the door open means seeing what happens rather than bracing for failure.
Remember you like this
Running, particularly ultrarunning, is a funny sport. We go in knowing full well that things are going to get hard, and yet we take off from the start line with a smile. Then many miles later as the ease leaves our legs it’s easy to question how we got ourselves into this mess (again). Remember that you do in fact, like this. Sabrina Little once told me, “Never make a life decision on an uphill,” and that goes for deciding to ‘quit the sport’ again for the sixteenth time today. Thank a volunteer, cheer for a fellow runner, laugh about how silly this all is – and soon that slight smile becomes a sensation once again. You like this.
When I got on the start line of MIUT a year ago I was filled with doubt. It was my first ultra endurance event in over a year after a hard injury recovery cycle and for the first time since entering the sport I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Crossing the finish line that day was a very different kind of win. Being scared is normal, facing doubt is normal, having nerves is normal, after all you care. Now a year later I’m back on Madeira for MIUT, and while I’m once again stepping up to a start line filled with trepidation and uncertainty I’m also confident that I can leave the door open for goods things to happen.
And oh yeah, it turns out I like this.