As I sit here, in smokey Calgary, my stomach is slightly churning. I am only a week away from my South Downs 100 mile race in the UK. Race nerves are here and I am trying to manage these by channelling them into a positive approach versus the slow wave of panic that starts to take over with the negative talk.
I know, I am a running coach, and I should know what to do, but I am nervous because I don't want to fail.
Feeding the bad wolf...negative thoughts are controlling me. S7 2017.
I have worked really hard over the last year on my mental attitude and feel I have made some significant progress. My last race at the end of April was great (with the exception of a few gut issues) and I came away feeling tired, a bit beaten up but generally strong from this race.
Being asked "Would you like a beer now?"
I have therefore spent the last four weeks, recovering and working on my strength and mental attitude. Although every now and again, nerves take over and I feel the wave of anxiety slowly sweep over me.
I keep reminding myself that this anxiety is just a feeling and these feelings lead to emotions; emotions affect performance. Sometimes it works but sometimes it doesn't and the feelings win!
So last night, I gave myself a good talking to and re-read some of a great book by Jim Afremow called The Champion's Mind. He has some fabulous strategies to help cope with this type of stress.
One of them is to set up a playlist that gets you inspired. I start off playing Highway to Hell because it reminds me of my Marathon des Sables race. (It was blasted out to us before the start of every day.) Also Thunderstruck by AC/DC seems to get me going, both these songs amuse my family as I am not a heavy metal fan! Another tactic I use is to work on my breathing to help ease the anxiety.
The rolling hills of the South Downs Way.
I also find rationalizing my feelings helps. These are after all just feelings and are not set in stone. I can alter them by controlling the way I think. Working on not feeding the negative but building on the positive. For instance, I have done the training. I can run this far and I love the rolling hills of the South Downs.
Here are some tactics I am working on over the next week to ease my anxiety for my race.
1. Visualizing my performance by seeing my performance, feeling it and then finally enjoying it. I am visualizing running with ease and finding a comfortable pace and effort.
2. My "Why". Points for UTMB 2020. I want this race to help me qualify. I will finish.
My goals are out there for everyone to see
3. Plan. Know my A, B and C race plans.
4. Mantras to keep me positive and write on one arm "Be in the moment." and the other "UTMB 2020".
5. Remind myself about the confidence I felt during my last race. Smile and enjoy myself.
6. Work on the process. Divide the race into sections. Do not think of the entire race but break it down into sections. Work out what I am going to do with no crew and what I need at each check point and Aid Station.
7. Know that I can be comfortable with being uncomfortable
8. Appreciate pain is my friend and it is only temporary.
9. Think of all those that have helped me get to the start line and how they are all wishing me well.
10. Walking into my friend's house having finished and her laughing at me being unable to move because I have just completed 100 miles.
Finally I would like to thank to Leanne for my massage and Melissa for my physio treatment. My family for putting up with all my running and possible moods. My friends who have looked at me strangely as I run distances that they would drive and Drew who has helped me improve my strength for these races.
My training is done. Bring it on.
I can see it, feel it and thoroughly enjoy that final run into the stadium in Eastbourne, UK after completing the South Downs Way and it brings tears to my eyes.
Bring it on. I am ready. I am going to do this.