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Friday, July 15, 2011

Into the Mind of Brooks: Mental Training

I've been analyzing my running abilities (and life in general) lately, and something I ponder frequently is what it is that has made me stronger and faster at races this year. What I've started to realize is that there is no real trick or shortcut to it, but rather, a few reminders that make the suffering more palatable. Everybody's mind and body will work slightly differently than mine, but for what it's worth here's what works for me:
  1. Past experiences: After 2 1/2 years of pummeling my body at 50-100 mile distances, I've learned that humans are resilient creatures, and it takes a LOT to kill a person. Case in point: I'm sitting here writing this. And while I've certainly tried  at races (read: 2009 Minnesota Voyageur 50), nothing has proved fatal. This is a vital bit of knowledge when the going gets tough... I simply have to mentally remove myself from the current moment and current suffering and remind myself that this too, shall pass, that it won't kill me, and there is no reason to stop pushing.
  2. The faster you go, the sooner the suffering ends: Easy concept. Difficult to execute at times.
  3. The 'Small Drop in a Big Bucket' concept: This is one I came up with around mile 80 at last years' Leadville 100, and it has had the greatest psychological impact for me when I enter super-suffer mode. During a 100 miler, think about how short of a time period the 20-30 hours you're out there is in the grand scheme of things. Maybe it will be the worst 24 hours of your life, but consider how you have 8,736 hours to recover and NOT be in that level of pain until next year (assuming you don't swear off running altogether). Really doesn't seem like that long then, does it?
  4. Confidence: I don't know what this years LT100 field looks like yet, but I'm sure there will be 20+ runners at the starting line who are more talented, more fit, and stronger than me, but I doubt there will be 5 who can endure and push through as much pain as me. I consider this to be a great equalizer at the 100 mile distance.
  5. Regrets: Nothing has eaten away at me, and bothered me as much as my DNF at last years' Hardrock Hundred. Period. I plan on it being the last DNF I ever experience. Knowing the regret I still feel because of it provides all the motivation I need to keep grinding.
  6. Something to prove: I'm a bit of an anomoly, having Cystic Fibrosis and still doing ultra-distance racing. I like knowing that I'm doing something previously unfathomable, and want to see just how fast I can get despite this minor disadvantage.
Oh, almost forgot... this was in this months' Ultra Running magazine:

6 comments:

Will Robinson said...

Good things to think about. White River will be my first ultra and I have a very vague idea of how it will go. I think the mental game will make or break it for me. Best of luck to you and I'll see you there... hopefully at the finnish line!

BLOS said...

Whoo hoo! I made the front page! Fun trip!

GZ said...

Good stuff Brooks. The mind is such a player in all this. As I said at CP ... I was fine running and comfortable until I found out I was off course ... and then suddenly even a snails pace hurt.

Brooks said...

Will:
Running your 1st 50 is exciting, man! I wish you the best. Hopefully a couple of these tricks will help you. See you in Washington.
Matt:
Yep. You're kind of a big deal.
GZ:
Next time. You need to rekindle the Sean O'Day rivalry in 2012 at the ultra-distance!

GZ said...

I had no idea I was a rival with SOD until last year's BTMR when Brownie called him the GZ killer. Since then the score has been all on his side of the ledger.

Sean O'Day said...

Wish I could see ya at Leadville this year man.

I liked this entry. Concise. Except for the prt where you stir the rivalry pot.