Embrace the Pain

We’ve all been to the darkest part of the pain cave in an ultra. The question is what did you do when you reached it? You don’t have to tell anyone if you crumbled into a pile of rubble or if you curled into a ball and closed your eyes. Honestly, there is no  shame in having taken one of those two approaches, at least the first time you enter the pain cave. After that, you really have to get your head in the game and come up with strategies to embrace the pain and use it to push you through to the other side.

When most people (non ultrarunners) think about the tough part of running, they of pushing your speed up a notch to stay fractions of a second ahead of the runner on your heels. This usually results in vomiting shortly after crossing the finish line or other unpleasantness. In the ultrarunning world, the pain cave is much darker. It’s continuing to move forward as fast as you can while combating hours of nausea, dehydration, blisters, sore muscles, exposure to the elements and possibly a rolled ankle or scrapped up hands and knees. As if that were not enough, you’re exhausted.

How do you prepare yourself for entering the pain cave, walking all the way through it, and reaching the other side? You build your mental endurance. You become familiar with the pain cave by training inside of it. Schedule workouts that are hard and run with people who challenge you to push past what you think are your limits. Here are some runs that you can use to get you into the pain cave:

Back to back long runs. Hill repeats. Carbohydrate depleting runs. Heat runs or cold runs. Intervals.

When you have a few of these under your belt, you can draw on these during races by telling yourself you’ve done hard things before.

Another strategy is to stay mindful of what is actually going on in your body. Some people check out of their body when things get hard. They go to their “special place.” Other runners become more focused on what is going on inside. They observe what is happening and without jumping on the pitty wagon (where we tell ourselves it hurts, it’s hard, or I can’t). These runners simply acknowledge that there is a pain/ache/unpleasant sensation and they watch it.

The damage comes when your thoughts start stacking negative and self defeating thoughts on top of the pain/ache/unpleasantness. Keep things simple in the pain cave. Recognize there is an issue and observe it. This takes practice. That’s why we train hard.

Coming to Terms with a DNF

At some point in an ultrarunner’s career there will be a DNF, Did Not Finish. They happen for many reasons. Regardless of the reason, in the moment, it feels like an absolutely legitimate reason. Then there is the next morning, where you’ve slept and eaten a real meal, at that time, your reason for pulling out of the race may feel like the wrong decision.

It’s hard not to beat yourself up over, what you see as, a less than adequate reason for the DNF. And maybe some self criticism is warranted, doubtful but maybe. The problem is it gets you no where. It doesn’t help you improve. It doesn’t make the DNF go away. It doesn’t make you feel like getting back out there.

I have three DNFs. All three of them were in the same year! The first was at the Speedgoat 50k. My dropping from the race wasn’t voluntary. I missed the cut off by five minutes. The second was at my first 100 miler, Pony Express 100. I went into the race injured. I had rolled my ankle 5 weeks before and then proceeded to run on it for a relay run for 50 miles. I couldn’t let my team down and knew when I chose to do the relay, I was putting my 100 at risk. At mile 75 of the 100, my knee was so painful I could barely walk. I decided it wasn’t worth risking a long time injury. My last DNF was at Buffalo Run 50 miler. I pulled out 12 miles from the finish with mild hypothermia. I had stayed in an aid station waiting for warm broth. During the time I was there my body temperature dropped, since I wasn’t moving. The next morning I went out and finished the last 12 miles.

It sucks to get a DNF. I remember each of these very vividly. I did beat myself up after each and everyone, especially the Buffalo Run 100. After sulking for a week, I decided I was done and I was going to learn from each of these experiences. I went back and asked myself several questions about each.

What when wrong?

What could have prevented the DNF?

What can I do to include these prevention strategies in my training in the future?

Ultimately, I decided two of the three could have been prevented. I realized my training for Speedgoat was not what it should have been to make the cut off times. For Buffalo, I learned to never stay in an aid station for more than what is absolutely necessary. I talk to my crew about this every time. I also learned how to better educate my crew and how to pick crew who will throw me back out into the cold, even if it’s a blizzard.

You can look at a DNF in two different ways and you’ll likely see both in each DNF you have beginning with the Did Not Finish and concluding Did Nothing Fatal.

 

 

 

Running Sucks

There are shirts out there now that say, “Running Sucks.” And there are the 0.0 stickers for cars mocking the 26.2. Everyone has heard, “My sport is your sports punishment.”

Running is hard. And let’s face it, we runners, we like doing hard things. It’s just who we are, but we all reach those points during training or during a race, where we wonder what we are doing out there and why we put ourselves through it over and over.

The best way to deal with these types of setbacks or low points is to be prepared for them. Don’t fool yourself by thinking that you are going to love every second of running. You don’t love every second of anything in your life.

It’s okay to have days where you think running sucks. It’s okay to have a whole week where you think running sucks. In fact, you can do it for a whole month if you really want to hold onto it that long, although, I don’t recommend it.

The first thing you need to know about these times where running sucks, is they go away, but only if you keep running. When you are out there running on cloud nine, loving every breath and footstep, file those experiences away to pull them out when running sucks.

Knowing why you run is sometimes difficult to put into words, but having an idea or a million reasons why you run and reminding yourself of those reasons can get you moving again.  Having goals that you are striving for can keep you moving when things are hard.

Look over your training, and make sure you have only been increasing your miles by ten percent and that you have been taking a rest week every fourth week by decreasing your miles by twenty to twenty-five percent for the week.

If you are one of those people who train seven days a week, try taking a day off a week for two or three weeks or a day off every other week. I know this is hard and I know the mental games that must be played to make this work, but it could be the fastest way to pull you out of a slump.

Review what is going on in your life. Are their extra stressors or just a constant high level of stress? Stress makes you tired and if it lasts for a while, you lose your motivation to do things you love to do even when they are the things relieving some of the stress.

No matter how much running may suck when you are out there, NOT running suck more.

 

Apps to Keep you Moving

runner-apps

Sometimes running can get boring, at least that’s what I hear, or you lose your motivation. Phone apps are a great way to take care of both situations. Here are a few apps you should check out:

Lesser known motivational/tracking apps

  1. Runner’s world go provides tracking tools, expert knowledge, and motivation. For iphone, it’s free, and has in app purchases.
  2. Runkeeper has training plans created by expert coaches, social networking, motivation awards, audio cues for pace, distance, and time. Iphone and android. Free.
  3. Endomondo tracks a lot of different activities (table tennis included). It gives in run audio pep talks from your friends who also use the app. Free for apple and android.
  4. Couch to 5k great for new runners, provides three 30 minute workouts per week, tracks your time and distance, has a virtual coach to give you verbal cues. $2.99 for apple and android.
  5. Ismoothrun tracks distance and time, but also steps, weather, and the name of the street you started on. You can also migrate workout data between training logs. $4.99 for apple only.
  6. Pacejam is an app that helps with pacing. You set the pace you want to maintain and it adjusts the music speed depending on if you are running too slow or too fast. Free on apple and android.
  7. PaceDJ scans the music on your phone, breaks down all the songs by beats per minute and creates a playlist to match your preferred pace. If you don’t know your pace, the app can measure it as you go and help you choose one. Free on apple and android.

 

Other well-known tracking apps: garmin mobile connect, strava, nike+, and mapmyrun

Fun apps

  1. Runtastic is a story running app. You can download different stories for $1 a piece. Each one is 30-45 minutes long. There are some free stories. It’s free to download, it’s for apple, android, and windows phone.
  2. Charity miles tracks your distance and donates 25 cents per mile to a preselected charity.
  3. Zombies, Run! Gives you missions to run in a zombie apocalypse situation. Your running is vital to your survival. Yyou collect gear and supplies, and you build a base. $4.99 for both apple and android.
  4. For those days or times where you are resting or injured there is Temple run and Subway Surfer.

 

Other interesting apps related to running:

  1. Myfitnesspal tracks calories, breaks down your diet into fat, protein, carbohydrates, sugar and more when you log the food you’ve eaten. You can set weight loss goals or maintenance goals. Free for iphone and android.
  2. Outsider tracks your runs and gives you detailed weather reports. It has a run weather index which tells you how your run will be based on the weather. Free and only on apple.
  3. Localeikki recommends local running routes and gives you details about the surface, traffic volume, and restroom facilities. Free and only on apple.

Use any method to keep yourself running, we all hit ruff spots.

I Run for Me

I run for me

For all long time runners there are multiple reasons behind why they run, health, time to think, play/enjoyment, process emotions, love of the outdoors, to eat junk food, or social aspects just to name a few. It’s good to revisit this from time to time to remind yourself what running means to you and how it has changed your life.

What started you running, may be completely different from the reasons you have continued to run. Your reasons have shifted from external to internal and if they haven’t, running may lose its appeal. At least, until you find another external reason to toss you back into running.

In this post, what I want to consider are internal reasons to run rather than the external ones.

The question here is, why should you run for you? I’m sure some think this is a silly question, but I see a lot of people in many different settings who do things because of the benefit they think it gives to others or to change how others perceive them. Let me give you some examples to clarify.

I run for my children. I want to show them how to be healthy, and I want to be healthy to be able to run and play with them. I run to socialize and hang out with my friends. I run to show the world I’m strong, capable, and can achieve goals. I run to look good to others and find a significant other. I run to deal with a stress caused by others. I run to compete with others.

I think these are fine reasons to get you started, but you need to dig deeper if you intend to keep running. These are not sustainable sources of motivation because, eventually, they lose their ability to propel you forward. Life changes and priorities change. In other words they are situational.

Don’t get me wrong, doing things for others is a good thing. I’m not advocating selfishness here. Running for yourself benefits everyone in your life. Some of the above reasons can be turned inside out, becoming reasons to run for you, but I think they are still surface reasons. Running for yourself means competing with who you were yesterday. It means growth. It means valuing yourself just because you are you and nothing more. It means running because YOU deserve the benefits of running.

I run to discover myself and to be as alive as I can possibly be. I run to be free to be myself without judgement. I run because I deserve to be happy, stress free, healthy, strong, beautiful, grounded, creative, and fearless.

 

Discouraged

discouraged

I have to apologize for not posting any blogs last week. I couldn’t find the motivation to write about running when I can’t run due to the stress fracture in my right foot. It’s been five weeks since I have been for an actual run. Over the last nine years of running, I’ve never taken more than one week off to rest after a race or to rest a minor injury. I am running in the swimming pool and on the anti-gravity treadmill, which lifts a portion of your body weight off your feet.

Last week my mind was empty of possible topics for blog posts. In fact, I have been trying not to focus on running or the lack thereof in my life currently. I continue to spend the same amount of time doing aerobic exercise as I was running, but now I’m doing it all at the gym… on machines.

So how do you cope with being injured and unable to participate in your sport for an extended amount of time? First off, you remember what your goals are long term not just the next week or month or even the next year.

My long-term goal is to run until I can’t draw breath. I remind myself of this when I’m at the gym for four hours on Saturday and another three on Sunday. If this doesn’t get me past my pitty party, I try to remember how it feels to cross the finish line of a one hundred mile race.

Another way to stay motivated is to focus on your short-term goals. My short-term goal is Buffalo 100, which is in eleven weeks. I’m determined to run the race, even if it means I’m coming right out of the gym to do it. Because I am going to run Buffalo, I want my fracture to be as healed as possible, so I don’t refracture it by going out to run too soon.

Having a secondary sport you use as cross training or just another sport you enjoy in addition to your running is an excellent way to keep active and stay off the discouragement train.

A supportive family and friends who can keep you laughing and active will also help.

Keep your heads up, the sun always rises, you just have to hold on long enough.

Lacking Motivation?

why run

Motivating other is difficult if not impossible really. If they don’t find the reason to do something within themselves no amount of motivation an outside source provides them will last. There are a thousand reasons why people run, and each runner has their individual reason.

But the bottom line is, you have to find your own reason.

It doesn’t matter what your reason is, so long as it keeps you putting one foot in front of the other. As we reach goals, motivation can change too. Changing motivation shows you that you are making progress.

If you can’t find something, ask other runners why they run.

We all have times when our motivation is low or nonexistent. Some of us push through those times knowing it will come back. Others give up and don’t run for a long time losing all the fitness they worked so hard to obtain.

Motivation can drop for just as many reasons as it can exist such as stress, over training, injury, lack of progress, and lack of a goal, just to name a few.

All of these issues can be fixed. If you’re stressed and have a lot on your plate, cut back your running but don’t stop. Running helps reduce stress and clears your head. You can have some of your most creative ideas while running, which could potentially resolve some of the things causing you to be stressed in the first place.

Over training can lead to loss of motivation because you’re just tired. Learn to listen to your body, take a few days or a week off and get then back out there. Make sure you’re following a good training program that gives you rest days and a rest week. If you need more than two rest days, than take one. Most training programs are pretty adjustable.

Injury is probably the most difficult. You have to wait for it to heal, which can take time. Find alternatives such as running in the pool, cycling, swimming, elliptical, yoga, or paddle boarding. Just stay active so when you do come back (and you will) it won’t be such a jolt to your system.

Lack of progress requires re-evaluating your goals or at least the way you measure progress. If you always do the same runs and the same miles every week, you’re going to level off in the progress department. You have to change it up make it more challenging. You can also measure progress in a lot of ways: do you feel better during the day, do you sleep better, are you losing weight or gaining muscle mass, are you breathing better when running or walking, are you able to go farther, are you even slightly faster?

Some people don’t need a goal. They feel good when they run, so they run. Others need that carrot out there dangling in front of them swinging in the breeze as we bounce along the road. I find that having one big goal and lots of little steps or mini goals is the best way to keep carrot people motivated. If their goal is a marathon, having some 5ks, 10ks, and a half marathon not only boosts their confidence it also keeps them training.

So how do you get your motivation back? You go for a run. And then another. And then another