The next 10 minutes could shave hours off your UTA time
Welcome to the self-doubt riddled sharpen/taper phase.
Here’s a few questions we get in the last few weeks to race day,
Am I doing enough?
Two things, the first being the most important,
1) regardless of whether you are or aren’t doing ‘enough’ there’s stuff all you can do about it now and changing what you are doing is only going to make matters WORSE. Increasing volume now is the EXACT wrong thing to do. So instead of ‘have I done enough’ you have to accept that ‘I’ve done the best I can with the time I had available to me. I could do more right now but that would be a mistake’.
You can’t effect ANY measurable change to your fitness in the 4 weeks remaining. Nothing. But you could steal from the bank account by doing too much or pushing too hard for too long.
Don’t put 5kg of icing on the cake, you’ll squash it.
2) You are fit and super strong. You are experienced and knowledgeable. Aerobic capacity is a pretty important factor but it counts for five fifths of stuff all if you bottle in execution. There are guys and girls out there that run 100mi weeks that MIGHT beat you. But you never were going to run 100mi weeks so what sort of comparison is that?
You are the sum of ALL your training.
ALL.OF.IT. Mostly the stuff you did BEFORE you started training for THIS Ultra-trail Australia.
If I’ve coached you, hopefully I’ve taught you to be strong and confident. You take from your training under me the knowledge that we squeezed out the best of you in the what time we had.
The kilometres you’ve run this year have been structured and purposeful. How much better is that than someone who has done 2000km of wandering around in the bush without any meaning?
Even if you had time to run 2000km would that have made you a better athlete – probably not.
In 4 weeks time you will beat people that have done more kms than you and you will get beat by people that have done less.
Do you need to go back out on the course?
No, there’s just mental conditioning up there for you, no physical adaptation. If you really want to get your EYE on parts of the course so your BRAIN can be at ease with the sensation of traversing some of it – sure. But that’s all it is, mental conditioning. You could just go for a run at home and use that time to really think about how you can deliver a quality race without stressing about the training rats-and-mice.
I’ve attached a meta on mind-power and I want you to dive into three aspects of it, the three things that have been proven to help.
Prefix: I am not an ‘airy-fairy’ hippie coach. I run on pure fury and nothing makes me more deadly than the “screw you, I’ll show you all” approach to racing. However, science be sciencing stuff and I wish I had learned more of this in my racing years.
I look back to some of the ultra’s I ran best in and the thought processes I used in those races were that of positive/growth mindset.
“What are three things I love right now?” – repeated for 70km.
From the attached Meta Analysis:“PST interventions involving imagery, self-talk and goal setting offer a promising tool for improving the performance of endurance athletes”
POSITIVE psychological stimulus:
a) Section 3.3.2 – Goal Setting.Avoid time goals.
Use intrinsic goals like,
“I want to roll into Dunphy’s feeling like the work has begun but not beyond any limits”
“I want to arrive at Nellies ready for a nice hard hike and use this as an opportunity to get a little fuel in”
“I expect to be battered by the time I reach Wentworth Falls but I am ready for this and have plenty of running left in my legs”
Set yourself a few sets of these kinds of goals.
Effort and execution determines Result. Don’t reverse those. The moment you start working backwards from a time objective is the moment you start having to structure your SPEED over distance and no good can come from this.
b) Section 3.3.4 – Imagery.
Positive images improve performance. Just pictures of happy things will make you run better. Consider having a few small flip cards of the family and kids in your pocket.
You love that squad. They are proud of you. Run well for them.
Just smiling improves performance.
Ever thought Kipchoge was laughing at some inside joke the entire time he’s ripping 2:52min/kms to a world record marathon? Grinners really are winners. Smile no matter what. The more you are suffering the more you will benefit from smiling. Make others smile back at you and take some positivity from them.
Protip: Tell a volunteer a joke.
c) Section 3.3.8 – Self-Talk.
“I am strong, I am strong, I am strong, I am strong….” Somehow a basic message on a loop helps. Pour water on a flat surface and the bulk of it will run away but some will seep into the cracks.
More than 1 mantra is a good idea because you don’t always need the same message all the time as your emotional state and fatigue is a moving target. “I have trained for this, I have trained for this…”
Find a handful of very real verbal queues you can use to steady the ship when the seas get rough. They can be anything from basic positive messages to queues that have you returning to the present moment. Try something like “economy is key, economy is key…” and in that moment think about how you’re spending your fitness. How is your body position? Are you upright, shoulders back, breathing relaxed, moving efficiently?
Kipchoge subscribes to some ‘happy-clappy’ positive mindset stuff but much of it rooted in genuine, scientifically backed research. He really thinks he can run 2hrs for a marathon and that helps. It really does. Not just at a conscious level. It’s no good to try and trick your mind if the ‘awake’ portion of your brain is circumventing your efforts by thinking “bullsh1t you can run 2hrs”. You have to actually believe it.
You will run a devastating Ultra-trail Australia because you have trained for it. Because you are running within yourself and executing a good race. Don’t subscribe to something you don’t believe in, rather have the GENUINE self-belief that you ‘are actually that good‘.
NEGATIVE psychological stimulus:
d) Section 3.4.2 – Mental Fatigue.
Let’s not deep dive into the ‘what not to do’ least the take home be only negative messages but suffice to say if your brain is scrambled on race day science is adamant that you’ll underachieve. Don’t bring work, family & life stress to the start line. Be rested and relaxed. This may mean locking yourself away in a motel room for a few days prior so you can read a chill book or a series on Netflix.
Sleep is the biggest lever to pull so pull it as hard as you can in the final week.
Want to see this all put into action?
Here’s a <4min clip by Andrea Comastri from his 100km Ultra-trail Australia 2018.
It’s a short watch and rather than just tune out to the basics of the video itself, take a moment to focus on not what is happening rather how he’s doing it.
He is realistic and in the moment.
He knows where he is and what he’s doing.
He is connected to the actual stimulus of fatigue and effort but at the same time he’s smiling.
Andrea says “Thank you” to EVERYONE.
He asks “how are you doing” of those around him and himself but always responds in the positive.
He says “only 300m to CP4, that’s a good achievement already” as opposed to “I’m barely half way…”
Words are always positive doing or feeling words like “party” and “happy” “awesome” etc”
This is tough but fun and we’ve trained for this”
It wont always be easy and it seems irrational to grin while the course is sawing your legs off with a rusty hacksaw but you know what – it’s almost certainly going to get tough out there. Leura Forest to Fairmont is a emotional low-point for many. Be prepared for the battle EMOTIONALLY. Your fitness will fall in line.
It need not be said that Andrea crushed his debut 100km having never run further than a marathon.