My mental game fell apart 32 miles into my 100.
The Pumpkin Holler 100, in Tahlequah, OK, is billed as “relatively flat.” This is true if you compare it to other 100 mile ultramarathons in, say, the Rocky Mountains.
I was hot. I was on pavement. (I’m a trail runner. I prefer dirt.) The hills were oppressive. Then, a local resident used her car in road rage against some runners ahead of me, forcing one into the ditch then swerving around another before stopping and backing up and hitting him. (He wasn’t hurt badly. And he kept going.)
And my mental game was dripping away like the sweat I was losing.
I lost my focus.
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t thinking about quitting. Not even close.
I was moving forward. And I was well ahead of time for the goal I’d set. But from mile 32 to mile 37, my mental game was in the toilet.
From the outside, I looked fine. If you’d asked me, I’d have told you I was fine. So it took me about 5 miles before I saw the danger I was in.
My mind was on autopilot. My body was on autopilot. My thoughts were going like a herd of cats.
Because of my scattered thoughts, I slowed down, and my economy of motion was in a deficit. Now, you know that the government is the only thing that keeps going with an continuous deficit. I was headed for trouble. . . because my mindset had slipped.
Running with focus and flow.
My ultramarathon mindset training doesn’t prevent me from having low points and mental struggles. I don’t just dial in to a zen state and flow blissfully through the miles.
The mental game for running an ultramarathon takes work. Your attention and your focus will wander. In fact, I expect my attention to wander when I’m running.
What works for me is to be in FOCUS and flow for 30 – 60 seconds every 5 minutes or so.
Flow states tend to be fleeting. But my ultramarathon mindset practice gives me the tools to create a “running flow state” at will.
Getting my sh#T together.
I started training my mindset long before I thought about running an ultramarathon.
I’ve narrowed down my niche on this blog to talk about ultramarathon mindset. But my past blog posts were all about how to transform your life. It just so happens that the practice I developed to help me focus on what I want for my life works great for running ultramarathons.
Yes, my mental game was in the toilet. But getting my sh#T together wasn’t difficult. You see, I’ve conditioned my mindset through regular practice. You can say that I train for this.
Just like I train to run, conditioning the muscles in my body to work together to do what I want them to. My attention is a muscle. And I’ve trained my thoughts to follow my attention. That “herd of cats” running wild — my unfocused thoughts — fell in line once my attention gave notice to get this sh#T together!
Winning the mental long-game.
Running an ultramarathon is all about managing your energy. For most runners, this means eating what they need and pacing themselves.
I think the best ultramarthon runners have learned how to manage their attention and focus as well. Because focused attention means focused energy. When my mental game went in the toilet, my energy was going with it.
I’m not an elite ultramarathon runner. I fact, I’m just getting started. And I’m a back-of-the-pack runner . . . for now. But I can feel the difference in energy flow through my body when I FOCUS my attention.
My first 100 mile race.
I’m glad for the lessons I learned in the Pumpkin Holler 100. I learned I don’t want any more gravel or pavement 100 milers. I’ll be running a 100 mile race or two next year. I have a date for redemption with The Hawk 100 in September, 2020. I want to be running on dirt, jumping over rocks and tree roots.
I’m already back at my FOCUS exercises, training my mindset to be ready for when my body is back up to full strength. (I’ve found that my mindset work aids and speeds my recovery as well.)
My sights are set on some bigger goals ahead. I’m going to keep moving forward, past what my mind thinks are my limits!