Runners are different. We’ve got unique coping mechanisms which help us hurdle through our training. I’ve got friends who won’t slow down until their watch reads “.00” after the last mile. Some run religiously seven days a week, while others train on flat surfaces to avoid slower times on Strava. But we all have to be prepared to deal with the physical challenges of ultrarunning, which means reducing those mental barriers that might be causing us stress while deteriorating the quality of our training.
Math can be your worst enemy. Running 70-90 miles each week might be daunting for most of us. Broken down, that’s 30-40 miles on the weekend and 40-50 miles during the week. If you’re used to maxing out at 60 miles, another 10-30 miles per week is likely going to add anxiety. So try this. Reduce your total mileage and eliminate that mental hurdle of trying to reach a specific number. By taking just a little of the pressure off and running for quality instead of quantity, you’ll make running more fun and a whole lot less stressful. And if you find that your life won’t accommodate a robust training plan, take it down another notch. The reduced tension will likely make up for the lower mileage.
And then there’s the gear. I’ll never forget my first GPS watch – I felt defeated every time I looked at my wrist, “I am too slow.” Total deal-breaker. So much so, that I gave it up and went right back to my trusty stopwatch. I always look forward to releasing my worries while running, and the GPS watch was doing the exact opposite. It wasn’t until a few years later that I trusted myself to not get caught up with looking at my pace, and finally got a new watch to track my distance. Technology can be a useful tool in ultrarunning, especially during extended long runs. Nothing replicates the motivation of looking down and seeing you’ve reached mile 24 of your 25-mile run. But while the numbers may give you a boost, make sure to recognize when they are discouraging you. If all else fails, ditch the watch and go by feel.
We can’t help but have a love-hate relationship with sweet Father Time. We blame him for the running we didn’t do, and praise him for a night of dreamy sleep. But what we can’t do is allow ourselves to be convinced there’s not enough time in the day. A run doesn’t always have to last for three hours. Maintain a healthy perspective of what will keep you on the trails when things get tough, as the excuses start to drift into your head about not having enough time to train. There will be low points, and preparing to deal with them is part of the gig.
If training is stressing you out, take a step back and decide what’s realistic. Re-evaluate what you can accomplish in 24 hours by factoring in rest and recovery. And then remember that a positive mental outlook will get you far, even when you’re under-trained. While it’s easy to worry that we haven’t done enough physical training to run 50+ miles, you’re the only one who gets to decide when to stop.