When my son dashed into the kitchen dressed as the character “Catboy,” it caught me off guard. I still hadn’t had my coffee and wasn’t mentally prepared to engage with a superhero quite yet. Besides, I’m deathly allergic to cats.
I’m not sure what Catboy’s powers are, or even if he’s supposed to have any. But I know for certain that one of them is not to prevent mice from taking up residence inside my treadmill. Deep down, I hope one of his superpowers is the ability to fight off the race week supervillains who are certain to try and foil my running goals. Perhaps he can wage war against the stubborn Sleep Monster, the evil duo of Captain Anxiety & Dr. Doubt and the always annoying Sargent Stale Legs—all of whom will no doubt show their faces in the coming days.
I seem to have battled these villains since I first started running, and no matter what I’ve tried, they always keep coming back. But this race week is going to be different. This week, I’m going to formulate a plan to get rid of these menacing forces for good (just in case Catboy is too busy watching cartoons to help me out).
Here’s the plan of attack:
The Sleep Monster
The Sleep Monster is one of my biggest and toughest rivals. Despite trying every tip and trick in the book (some of which may not be legal in your state yet), I can never seem to defeat it. The problem isn’t so much insomnia due to race nerves or being worried that I may trip and fall off a mountain, rather, it’s because I fear that if I don’t sleep I’ll sabotage the months of training and squander an opportunity to perform at my best. I put so much pressure on myself to get some ZZs, that I often get no sleep at all.
How can I beat it?
Relax. Go to bed at my normal hour and not put so much pressure on myself to sleep. I understand how important rest is before a race, but obsessing about it only makes matters worse. I’ve learned from experience that a poor night’s rest isn’t likely to ruin my performance. In fact, some of my best races have come when I haven’t slept a wink. There’s no reason to stress about it. Perhaps by not worrying so much about sleeping, I’ll actually get some sleep.
Captain Anxiety & Dr. Doubt
These two are the worst. They love to put thoughts in my head like, “I’m not tough enough to finish the course.” Or “I’m not fast enough to achieve my goals,” and “I hope I don’t have a bad race and let my crew down.” These villains constantly remind me of how difficult the race is going to be, and always have me questioning my training. They love to put negative thoughts into my head before a race.
How can I beat them?
Trust my training, focus on a race plan, and remember that I’m extremely fortunate to be able to run ultras.
A friend once told me to look back over my training log the night before a race and take pride in all the work I put in. I do this before every race and it helps. It reminds me that the hard work is done and all there is left to do now is to run hard and have fun.
In addition, I plan to focus on my race strategy and how I plan to execute. It’s daunting to think of an ultramarathon in terms of mileage. Even the shortest ultra-distance is still a long way. It’s important to stay in the moment rather than worry about the outcome.
Finally, I’ll remember that no matter how well or poorly my race goes, it’s not life or death. I’m lucky just to be at the starting line and experience this wonderful sport. It’s a blessing and I know that I won’t always be able to do this. Plus, my friends and family won’t think anything less of me even if I have a bad day.
Sargent Stale Legs
I always feel sluggish at the end of a taper and find myself asking “how in the hell am I going to run fast at the race when today’s easy run feels hard?” Feeling stale before a race is a common occurrence. I haven’t been running as much as I normally do, and it may take a few miles to get back up to speed.
How can I beat him?
An old friend used to always say, “This too shall pass” when referring to any roadblocks that would get in his way. This has become my motto on bad training runs.
In addition to keeping up the intensity this week and adding in a few strides a day or two before the race, I refuse to stress if my legs don’t feel great before the race. I’ll stick to my plan and trust the training I put in. My legs will come around when I need them to.
I also plan to use this same motto during the race when faced with mental or physical challenges I must overcome. Every experienced ultrarunner knows that even during the lowest of lows, if you keep moving forward, “This too shall pass.”
And if that fails, well, perhaps Catboy or some other superheroes will come to my rescue. Reminder: they’re likely disguised as volunteers at aid stations.