(A preview of what went on in my head during the July 13th 5 Peaks Race at Albion Hills)
I knew early on in the race (about 2 or 3km in) that this was going to hurt physically due to the challenging course and the blistering heat. Furthermore, the fact that my legs were still recovering from last weekend’s tough duathlon race and several hard training workouts didn’t make things any better.
Various thoughts quickly went thru my mind. “Hmm…I could switch to the shorter distance race and just do 1 of the 2 loops of the course; or I could even just stop altogether—after all, I have been doing lots of races and my body might benefit from this”. It was at that point that I knew that my biggest competitor of the race would be my MIND.
I started paying attention to what was going on in my mind. Man, my legs feel like crap; Oh dear-this is not a good sign that I’m already hurting; Boy, it sure is hot today. I realized that I was starting to go down that spiral of negativity that would only worsen as the race progressed. So I decided to use this race as an opportunity to turn a negative situation into a positive experience. More specifically, I knew that this race would be a good time to practice my mental game. (Those of you that know me well will agree that my physical abilities outshine my mental game!) And with my big goal race coming up (Worlds’ Duathlon August 10th), I figured that now was an excellent time to try out a variety of strategies that might help me push through a challenging race.
The first thing I did was struck a deal with my body–I wouldn’t ask it to do anything more than what it was capable of or hasn’t already done in training. In turn, I would also respect its tiredness and adjust the pace accordingly. With that agreement out in the open (and giving myself permission to slow down the pace), I could then focus on giving myself multiple pep talks along the way. I started thinking about the mantras my coach Suzanne told me “I love this. I am good at this. I can do this. I want to do this”. I also thought about the tips I gave at my trail running clinics, including to just “relax and smile”. I also started to think about my strengths as a runner and using them to my advantage: Keep the pace steady going up the hill, then surge at the top; Use the next rolling section to recharge, etc... I also thought about the other runners at the race-including familiar faces of friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and those that I had met recently thru the trail running clinics. Knowing that they, too, were out battling the heat and running the course also gave me strength. I also thought of my kids and my husband waiting for me at the finish line, and how I wanted them to be happy seeing me finish, rather than questioning why I stopped early. And last but not least, I also thought about that splash pad and how good it would feel after the race (I’m wasn’t the only one thinking this, as demonstrated by a handful of fellow racers in the pool afterwards!)
The result? Did my mind succeed in taking the lead when my body was ready to call it quits? It certainly did! I finished the race feeling “relatively” strong (the nice downhill section at the end of the race certainly helped!) and was the first woman crossing the line (with only 5 (albeit strong and fast) men in front of me). More importantly, however, I gained more confidence knowing that I can rely on my mental game when my body wants to take the backseat. Now, all that is left is to give my achy body some tender loving care.