"We just passed the 100 days to go mark!" That's what I read when I opened up the most recent runner update email for the Western States Endurance Run. There are actually 89 days and counting now as I write this. Perhaps it's time to start panicking!
A stubborn left Achilles and right hamstring haven't let me train like I'd hoped. Lately, I can't help but wonder how I will be able to survive a 100 mile race. My wondering then turns to ruminating and the list of CAN'Ts, HAVEN'T's, and DOUBTS grows increasingly longer. Negative thoughts spread infectiously, and I've found that they can get out of control very quickly.
The art of balancing rehabilitation while simultaneously building up for a fast approaching race is overwhelming. This experience has taught me that the importance of one does not outweigh the other. Spend too much time focused on one aspect, and the other will suffer. Luckily, I've found a small army of interventions to chip away at my problems.
Still, the process has been incredibly inconsistent and unpredictable as my symptoms seem to vary from day to day and minute to minute. At times the Achilles is the only issue. Other times, I may have no issues, or it's just the hamstring that acts up. On really bad days though, the Achilles, the hamstring, and another random accessory niggle like bilateral ear-lobitis will join the pain train. All aboard!
This fickle pattern has led to a lot of frustration. And in this frustration, I've found myself drawn into the trap of making mental lists. Lists like the one above. Lists of the things that I can't do or haven't done. I'm starting to realize though, that thoughts such as these help nothing and may actually slow my healing. In fact, some research suggests that the extra boost I need may come from imagery and positive thinking. It may be time to throw a little psychological warfare at my physical ailments. From now on, thoughts of Haile Gebreselassie gliding over bucolic countryside will be the metaphoric warm glass of milk to put me to sleep.
One of my former soccer coaches, Brian Baxter, once helped me with some anxiety issues that arose before and during games. Now, he specializes in Sport Psychology and is helping me again. I recently read one of his articles about positive self-talk and it's encouraged me to change my mindset. When doubts arise regarding where I am with my training, I'm starting to become aware of their impact and am trying to redirect my focus. I'm trying to "feed the good wolf."
Plus, in the grand scheme of life, to be able to run at all is a gift that I am incredibly grateful for. I find it challenging but helpful sometimes to take a step back from my narrow perspective. To take a third person view of myself. When I do, I'm able look back on that negative list and realize that it's actually pretty ridiculous to get upset over such trivial grievances. I need more reminding of that sometimes. Just because this year's training isn't exactly like what I was doing last year, things will work out. I will be ready. I will be fine. I just need a little more patience.