I know it seems still a bit too early to start talking about fear and being scared with Halloween still over a month away; but when it comes to race preparation, fear can be your secret weapon. I’m not talking about the type of fear that nearly paralyzes you and has you huddling in the corner sucking your thumb while that little boy from The Shining repeats “redrum” a million times an inch away from your ear… No, that’s just plain spooky. I’m talking about the sort of fear, that gives you pause. A fear that has you question if what you’re trying to accomplish is really a possibility. The type of fear that both excites you and keeps you up at night, simultaneously.
Make an Outrageous Goal…Well Sort of
Now, this is the critical part of the plan. Can you choose a goal that seems almost impossible, but at the same time makes your heart race just by the idea of you actually reaching it? Now this could be finishing a 100K or 100-mile ultra when the longest you’ve ever run before is a half-marathon. Maybe you want to do a century ride, but right now 25 miles seems like you’re riding forever. This could be trying to get that Ironman Kona spot you’ve always longed for at a qualifying event, when you know you’ll have to drop at least an hour from your current time to even have a chance. This could be winning an event outright (or your age group) in a very prestigious road race. Or this could be completing and running the entire course in your first 5K or 10K when at this very moment you can’t even walk to the end of your driveway without being out of breath. Whatever the goal is make sure it’s possible, but barely so.
You Will Need Time To Train
This is where people lose their way. They don’t give themselves enough time to train for these lofty goals and then get discouraged. If you’re like me, I hate racing when I’m not where I want to be training wise. I have been racing for so many years that I know, based on my training, what sort of shape I’m in. I’m in that place right now, actually. I had planned on running a race in early November, but I don’t think I’ll be in the shape I want to be in by then, so I’ve changed my goal race to one 6-weeks later in mid-December. Why? Because even though my goal for the mid-December race is still pretty lofty, and does scare the beejeepers out of me, I think I have enough time to have a shot at what I’m trying to accomplish.
You may need months, even years, to reach this goal you have proposed in your head, so don’t add anymore stress to this already semi-insane idea by short-changing yourself by not giving enough time for your race preparation.
Find A Coach
If you have chosen the right goal – the one that gives you some chills – then I would seek out an endurance coach. Find one that suits your needs and will really listen to what the goal you are attempting to achieve. Ask the coach if what you’re trying to accomplish is attainable. You may get some push back, but don’t automatically shut down because of the answer you are given. Push right back and see what the coach thinks is attainable, if you work hard and give yourself enough time. Remember, goals are fluid. I have had clients in the past where I thought based on what they had previously accomplished could hit x-time, but after a month or so of training moved their goal time to faster than our original prediction because they were killing it in practice!
Can You Really Commit?
If this goal truly has you questioning your sanity, then you need to understand that changes will need to occur. Can you get more sleep? Will your partner or spouse support you in this process? Are you willing to eat better? Socialize less for a period of time? Because it’s not just the work you need to do out there on the roads, in the gym or pool that will lead to your success, it’s also the support you can get from friends and family and the changes you will need to make in your everyday life.
You Need to Have Workout Sessions that Show You’re Not Crazy
At some point of this lengthy race preparation process you need to have workout sessions that have you saying to yourself: Maybe I’m not crazy! It could be finishing a 60-mile bike ride for the first time without feeling like you’re going to die as you get ready for your century ride. It could be hitting those splits you know you need to be able to do if you’re ever going to make it to Kona. Or it could be running 3-miles without stopping for the first time ever, as you get ready for a 10K race. Believe me, even when you do hit those distances or marks, it still will be hard as hell; but take some pride that you’re body and mind are responding to the training and you are starting to see the magnitude of this wild goal you have set forth for yourself shrinking ever so slightly.
Now, it’s race day – showtime! You feel ready and fitter than you ever have before! It’s almost intoxicating. But you still know that the goal you have chosen is one not for the faint of heart. You know it’s in your wheel-house (and that’s an accomplishment in itself) and now you have to go out there and do it. You may kill it and champagne will rain from the skies and your body will feel weightless from your unbridled joy. Or, you may not make it. You may have to stop at mile 80 of the 100-mile ultra due to dehydration. You may have missed that Kona spot by a mere 3-minutes. You may have taken 2nd in that prestigious road race instead of taking the victory. And although you will feel extremely disappointed because you have never worked so hard for anything in your entire life, and you had gone over in your mind’s eye hundreds of times how you would look and feel as you reached this momentous achievement, you should not be swallowed whole by this sense of “defeat”. Because you have not lost. Yes, you may have not gotten that goal you wanted, but I will bet before you began this endurance journey that you never thought that you would – or could – go this far, this fast or have the tenacity to put yourself out there like you have…
Congratulations, I say!