I woke up feeling good this morning. Nothing was hurting, my left leg that had bothered me a little before the Thames Path run was fine, and I had slept well. I didn’t head out for a run as I’m only 5 days out from the 100km de la Somme and I’m tapering but I did try a little visualization sitting in the lounge room and trying to get my head in the right space.

The mental preparation, according to what I’ve read, is key for the longer ultra distances. As 100K is the longest I’ve set out to run, it’s certainly something I’m focusing on in these last few days before I toe the start line.

Physically, I think I am as good as I can be. The 75K I ran a couple of weeks ago was fine and I know that if someone had asked me to run another 25K I could have managed it. I would have been hurting, but I would have managed it. This means that the distance, in terms of what it is going to do to my body, is not the greatest concern for me. I think I can complete the 100K without getting too hurt and I think I’ll bounce back even stronger for the Saintelyon in a couple of months time.

But the mental side? That’s something I need to spend a couple of days locking down. The extra 25K might only be a half marathon or so more distance than what I did a few weeks ago, but it is another couple of hours where the voices can break in and tell me that I’m hurting, that I can quit when I want, and that the pain would go away if only I dropped out.

There’s a nice quote I first heard in the film 100: Head, Heart and Feet but that has been floating around in ultrarunning circles forever that I really like on this point: the most difficult distance to master is the six inches in your head.

If I can keep the confidence and motivation going for the whole day, I’ll be fine. The legs will come through, the nutrition and hydration will get managed, and I’ll make the finish line. If I don’t manage the mental stuff, it’ll be tough or maybe even impossible to finish.

It’s that simple.

So this week is all about managing the mental side of things. I’ve started thinking through my gear, getting things together that I’ll need and charging up the various devices I’ll use on the day even if I know I really don’t need to (the headlamp holds a 12 hour charge, I have used about three hours but I charged it again all the same).

I’ve checked and re-checked the aid station list from the race and noted the ones that are the furthest apart (the first one, the one around the marathon distance, two in the final 25K are a little over 5km from the previous one but even this is still close).

This morning I’ve been visualizing some of the key points:

  • the start: start slow, no faster than 5:30 pace, forget the leaders as I won’t see them again until they are heading back after the turnaround
  • end of first 10K loop: control the pace, be in a rhythm, look for supporters if they are waking up in time
  • mid-race loop: look for the turning points, listen to the volunteers, prioritize not getting off-trail
  • turnaround: take stock of how I feel at the turnaround, assess physical and mental capacity
  • final 10K: let it go, I’ve got this now

Of all of these, the start is going to be the most important, I think. There are more than 300 ultrarunners on the line and some of them will be flying and aiming for around 7 hours on course. This means they’ll be breaking into a 4:00 pace or something similar which I could definitely run…for about 10K. I have to avoid getting sucked into that pace and even into the 5:00 pace that is comfortable for training but uncomfortable after three or four hours. I think that after the first aid station it’ll be sorted but those first few kilometers are going to be important to avoid blowing up a few hours later.

It’s all about knowing what I can do, what I should do, and mastering those six inches inside my head.

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