Written by Butch Britton & Mike Harris
As Butch approaches the Oil Creek 100 miler, he reflects on his training up to this point, and let’s us in on his inner-dialogue.
In 2 weeks I will be running the Oil Creek 100 miler. I am presently going through the fear of, Did I train enough? Last week’s 32.5 miles at 15min/mile pace felt relatively easy. This week’s 18 miles at 18min/mile pace felt difficult. So let the mind games begin.
I have completed two 100’s, C&O Canal which is flat and Umstead 100 which has 10,000 feet of climb. It was the time in my running career to make a go of a very difficult 100 miler. Oil Creek has 18,000 feet of climb. Did I bite off more than I can chew? This meant serious training during the summer, which I despise. Heat and humidity are my nemesis. 12 weeks of 19+ mile Saturdays in a row. Is it enough? Hours and hours of climbing steep grades trying to simulate the climbs I am facing at Oil Creek. Is it enough? Last Saturday I felt ready, a week later I feel panic.
The mental part of this game is the toughest. At C&O 100 I felt severely undertrained but went on to set a two hour PR at the distance. It was my 4th attempt at C&O, having failed three times due to inexperience, hypothermia, and near heat exhaustion. Coming out of the race I felt invincible, ready to conquer any race. Now after my recent training block, I am questioning my ability. What could I have done differently? Did I train enough?
In 2 weeks, the outcome will be decided. Can this 63 year old step up his game or will this race humble me to submission. In the mean time, I have two weeks to play mind games. There will be very light running and a lot of time for my brain to waffle back and forth.
As Mike approaches the Heartland 100 miler, he echoes Butch’s sentiment and offers a few thoughts on mindset entering your “A” race for the year.
I’m four weeks away from my second attempt at the 100 mile distance. The first attempt ended at 82 miles, when my IT band decided the day was done. That was 2015, and since then, I have realized great respect for making the jump to the 100 mile distance. I have no doubt I could muster every bit of mental toughness to complete a 100 miler, regardless of physical ailments or full-blown injury. But I want to finish with dignity, not limping over the finish line.
Fourteen months ago, I deferred my 2017 registration for the Heartland 100, when I recognized that my training wasn’t progressing as desired. Having completed several running coach and personal training certifications, I had learned a few things about how to train properly and my perspective on training changed 100-fold. If your ultimate goal is to complete a race, and your training plan is built to accomplish that objective at all costs, then you may be setting yourself up for failure. Failure in this case does not mean failure to cross the finish line, rather it means failure to continue running healthy for months, years, and decades after you cross the finish line. Although my goal is to complete the Heartland 100, my ultimate goal is to continue running until my time on Earth expires. This means that I must do things on a daily and weekly basis that contribute positively to both ends. This means building an unshakeable foundation of consistency, varying the intensity so that all of my “systems” (aerobic, glycolytic, anaerobic) continue to develop. This means not falling into the trap of being strictly a long slow distance runner.
Training should encompass all aspects of daily living. It includes your workouts, what you eat, how much you sleep, and the litany of stressors and pleasures that you receive. To approach training any other way is short-sighted and can be counterproductive. I don’t know how my second attempt at the 100 mile distance will turn out, but I do know that I enjoyed the process. If training for a race or event consumes your life and detracts from you enjoying life, then you may want to reevaluate your priorities. For me, the challenge of achieving a balance between being present for my family and achieving my weekly training objectives has been fulfilling. Although I want to complete the 100 miler, if I don’t, for whatever unforeseen reason, I will cherish the lessons learned and use them to be even stronger for whatever comes next. It is all about perspective.
The take-home point here is simple, you should enjoy the process of training for your races and events. Your body responds to stimulus, but it’s not a simple equation. Balancing your near-term and long-term goals is the gray area between confidence and self-doubt. Whether or not you provided the proper stimulus to be prepared for the race will be decided on race day. There’s an old adage that goes: it is better to be 10% undertrained, than 1% overtrained. The beauty of our sport, and the attraction that keeps us coming back, is the ongoing challenge of how we walk this line. It is a balancing act.
Live and train as if your life depended on it, because it does.