Mind Games… Vermont 50 Style

Well, it’s 2 days to go until the 2012 edition of the Vermont 50 kicks off on Sunday, September 30, at the crack of dawn.  This is an event that I have loved from the moment I set foot on the course for my very first ultra, the 50k here in 2008.  

Celebrating our 50k finish! VT 50, 2008

As the years have gone on, the VT 50 has become a very special event for me, and something I look forward to year after year.  This year is no exception… weather be damned!  You can’t really consider yourself a trail runner and racer if you’re scared of a little mud 🙂 

This has been a pretty trying year for me, running-wise.  Last year’s VT 50 was marred by some serious hip pain that escorted me limping into the finish line… but, I finished.  This was followed up by some lame training over the winter, and a knee sprain that put me out for all of the spring and most of the summer.  All of this, while a huge pain, (literally… bad pun intended) was a real blessing in disguise.  While I lost some ground on training, it pushed me to finally seek out some advice on my training. 

Enter Dr. Kurt Strecker and Coach Al Lyman at Pursuit Athletic Performance.  I called them, a sad, broken, pathetic excuse for a runner.  (ok, that is a little dramatic.  but I was pissed.  And my knee hurt.  And I knew I need HELP!)  I went through a gait analysis (see my previous post for more details about this process), and have been steadily progressing my strength training and working HARD since then under the watchful eye and expert guidance of Coach Al.  And, while I haven’t been running the mileage I had been at this point in the past, I’m feeling better than ever.  I feel strong, stable, and ready to kick some muddy Vermont ASS! (using my newly found glutes and core, using perfect kicking form, of course).  

Smiling through the pain… and rain.  VT 50 2009

While I’m feeling great and ready to test out all of my hard work, the uncertainty of the past year has certainly crept into my mental preparations.  While I KNOW I will show up ready to rock, and give my absolute best out on the trails, the little “what if I’m not ready”…. “what if the pain comes back?”….. “what if I haven’t been running enough”….”blah, blah, etc, etc” sneak into my head from time to time.  All sports have a huge mental aspect involved in preparation and competition… if you think you’re running 50 miles based on physical preparation alone, you’re nuts.  Sneaky little negativities will work their way into your race prep, and especially during the most painful aspects of the race.  When you’re tired, muddy, hungry, and facing another huge hill, your legs and brain want to stop.  To keep on going and (for me, one day… soon) be competitive in this type of activity, you need to learn to fight your own brain. Lately, I’ve been picturing the negative thoughts as little moles a la the “whack a mole” game…. when they pop up, I whack-a-mole them down with my little mental hammer.  Get back in your holes, ya little bastards.  There’s no room here for you.  

With that being said, I try hard to keep the negativity few and far between.  Trail running is something i do for fun…. and I intend to keep it that way!  While I want to continue to work hard, progress, and give some “real” competition a go, I will also never lose sight of the fact that this is my hobby, my release, and my fun time.  I know it is possible to work hard, to suffer, to be in pain (the good kind, not the “my knee/hip/whatever is about to fall off or give out”) and still be having the time of your life.  Running is weird like that.  It can suck horribly, you can be exhausted and done with it, but you are still loving every minute of it and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. 

Heading toward the finish line of my first 50 mile, 2010

And having a little fun along the way!

Above photos courtesy of skipix, Vermont 50 website gallery, http://www.vermont50.com
 

So, my bags are packed, my water bottle has been glued to my side, and I’ve been running sections of dirt road and trails through Vermont in my head for days.  Am I sure of how this is going to go?  Not a chance.  Am I sure that I will show up mentally ready to go on Sunday morning?  You better believe it.  I’ve had the best supports helping me to get this far, and I’ve got a posse of crazy trail running friends to enjoy this with come race day.  Let’s do this!!!!

VT 50 2012 finish line photo…. pending 🙂

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