Train your race mind

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Because anything can happen

Ultra races are an emotional cocktail of excitement and nerves. And the fact that the outcome is not guaranteed, is what turns these races into epic adventures.

If there was a trail running motto to race by, it could be

“I am prepared. I am ready to adapt and overcome.”

Because when racing on trails anything can happen, and often does.

I find it helpful when you’re on your long run, to reflect on the following thoughts to help train your mental resilience and practice getting in your race mind. So when you find yourself in that dark place during a race, you have 3 specific thoughts to help you re-focus and find another gear mentally.

You can always be worse off

When a storm hit Ouray 100, I had just arrived at an aid station. A volunteer said the storm was due to blow through within the hour, so I headed back out in full waterproofs. Soon soaked through, because even the best waterproofs can’t cope with relentless rain, the storm got worse. One hour became three hours, then five hours, and the thunder, lightning and rain didn’t let up.

I am not great in the cold, and even though I was shivering, temperatures didn’t plummet. That night, my “worse off” answer was:

“It can be colder, a LOT colder.”

This warmed me up, as I repeated it over and over.

All too soon, it will be over

This thought is great at re-focusing during a racing. At TOR130 the descents are rocky and steep, and with 20K to go, my battered toes wanted it to be over. With 1200m of ascent and descent to go, rather than focusing on the finish, I focused on the next step, and then the next. Whether it took me 3 hours or 5 hours, I knew, eventually, it would come to an end. And that all too soon, this race would be in the past.

When we finish a race, there is almost a sense of loss. We invest so much energy and time in our training, if we are not truly present during a race, we miss out on all the wonderful things such an experience can teach us.

Giving up is more painful than anything else you could have gone through

A DNF can leave us feeling lost and dejected, raising more questions than answers. It can create internal battles about our decision. Of course, if we are injured it is important to listen to our body, to stop and act, when racing and in training.

Trail running is about the long game, the journey, the adventure. If your race doesn’t go to plan, remember there is no such thing as a bad race. A bad race can become our best race, because no matter what happens, we can always learn and grow from the experience. A finish is a finish.

Be prepared

Our mission as trail runners and endurance athletes is to be prepared. Dealing with blisters, overcoming a bad stomach or responding to serious leg cramps, are all part of our sport. We can always adapt. We need to be mentally and physically ready to do this.

Why not start training your race mind on your next long run? Who knows, it may just make the difference during your next race.

Thank you for reading.


Blog photo: Howie Stern – Running / adventure photographer and friend