One of my favorite Avett Brother's songs is Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of promises. It came to mind over the last two weeks on training runs. Doubt is a sneaky feeling. It never comes out in full force right away, it slowly seeps into your thoughts and waits until you acknowledge it and say the words; "I don't know if I can..." Then it feeds off of anything it can to plant itself firmly in your psyche.
The full force of running another 50 miler hit me as I ran around Cheesman Park two weeks ago. Although the race is a full three months away, as my legs moved at a sluggish pace, I started to doubt if I could take on a 50 miler again and finish. As soon as I let my brain wander towards doubt, the doubt monster started feeding on every fleeting thought that came bustling in: do you have time to train, what about food, what about pacers, what if it rains....what if you can't finish?
What if I can't finish?
What if I don't finish?
I've tried to be realistic about my abilities as a runner. I'm not fast, but I know my pace. What I lack in speed I make up for in knowing I can keep going despite the pain of an empty tank. The thought of not being able to finish something is a thought I ban from my memory. Doubt, like an ex-boyfriend who lives in your brain, needs a wall built around it. It's there you just hope that the wall is tall and sturdy enough to keep it contained. I let myself creep over that wall over the last two weeks and it's been a struggle not letting that doubt climb out.
I can't take back the doubt I had/have about not being able to do this race. I thought it, I can't unthink it, so that's what I have to deal with. A healthy dose of humility is not a bad thing. Fully accepting and embracing the difficulty of a race, event, task is a great motivator to do the work early on to be successful later. There's no 10 week couch to 50 miler program out there. If there was I would be highly skeptical. While the fear of a bad race is a good motivator at time, I felt the doubt start affecting my training runs and I knew I had to do something to turn that around.
First and foremost, I needed to get off the road. Road running isn't bad. I enjoy it from time to time. I indulge in lots of road races and Denver's mostly mild winter means I can run outside a good portion of the year. However, I suspected part of the doubt crept in because I haven't been doing any trail running. Even in Wisconsin I ran on the road. Sure it was around lakes with tall trees shading me, but it was still on pavement. Too much time to think about being too slow. Too much time to think about not running on the terrain the race will be on. Too much time to come up with reasons why I won't be successful.
My friend Tom and I took a Tuesday night and ran out at Apex Park. I was reminded how hard running uphill is when you've been neglecting it, but all that faded away as I darted through the Aspens and powered up the little climbs on Enchanted Forrest to be rewarded with fun rocks and root dodging on the downhills. This past weekend I was up in the Mountains and got to hop on a trail in Summit County and get some altitude training in. Not that I need altitude training for the 50 miler (the highest elevation we get to is 1890ft), but I needed to do something tough and finish it. I needed a success, to triumph over a run, shove any doubt in a sack and toss it aside. It felt good to be out and I needed a reminder why I love trails.
Doubt also reminded me I need to be more proactive about training. I recently took on an additional
contract research job which eats into my nights and even lunch time runs. I can't be quite so loose about when/where I run over the next few months because my "loose" time is limited. That's not a bad thing. It's just a time management thing I haven't had to be quite as strict about the last few months. Happy hours will suffer, but the lack of happy hours now will hopefully translate into Happier Hours on a trail December 5th.
I really wanted to write this post to help ease my mind about the fears I have going forward. Reading old posts I sound pretty darn optimistic about things and felt it was about time I admit that I'm not always 100% confident heading into races and life in general. Truthfully, my mind is not always Taylor Swift songs as I run. I think about why I run, if I'm having fun, if all of this is worth it to me. Right now the answer to the last question is still yes. As long as that is a yes then I'll keep fighting off doubt and lacing up my shoes. I'm still nervous about the race, but I'm excited for my training leading up to it. I'm so fortunate that I am able to do these crazy feats of athleticism and I'll get to the finish line one day at a time. California, here I come.