Friday, November 16, 2012

Pre-Race Jitters (A Journey into the Soul)

Today we have a guest post from DJ Research!  Tomorrow he's embarking on the greatest race of his life (up to this point).  He's nervous.  I'm nervous.  We'd appreciate any strong, positive vibes directed his way.  And you can bet he'll be sporting a Peformance Enhancing Kokepelli!

I'm never going to earn anything more than a few magazine subscriptions with my frequent flier miles, but I've certainly taken my fair share of airplane trips in my 33 years.  And as many trips as I've taken, I still get nervous every time.  The thing is, I'm never nervous until the very moment the plane starts to pull away from the terminal.  Until that moment, I'm fine.  I'm always excited to go on a trip.  I look forward to my in-flight movie, whatever crappy romantic comedy it may be. And I can't wait for all the reading I'll get done.  But the second the plane starts moving, a small but notable anxiety - one that will remain with me the entire flight - instantly underlies everything.

It's the same with public speaking and tests.  I feel no different than in any other unexceptional moment of life, until that very second I start talking or the clock starts ticking.

So, it's making me really nervous that for the last two weeks, I've been nervous about my upcoming race.  That's right, I'm nervous about being nervous.  Which is making me more nervous.

At 6AM this Saturday, I will attempt my first 50-miler. 

Stone Mill 50-miler

This year's Stone Mill 50 is a 350ish-person trail race held by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club.  In its third year, it has become a (much much) less expensive alternative to the much much more famous JFK50.  Held on the same day this year, the two races never actually cross, but run virtually parallel to one another about 20 miles apart.

Including any distance, this is my seventh race.  Five of my previous six were road races between 5k and 26.2mi; the other race was a trail 50k and in all of them, I've been happy with my results if not exceedingly happy.  I will admit to some anxiety before my marathon, because heading in, I was really unsure whether or not I'd meet my A-goal, instead of my still difficult, still would-have-made-me-very-happy B-goal.  But prior to none of them was I this nervous.

The reasons are thus:

Can I really handle 19 more miles than I've ever run before?  Though I've been told it's really no big deal, the jump up in distance from 50k (31mi) to 50mi, just seems impossibly huge.  If you'd told me after my recent marathon that you'd give me $1,000 to run another 24 miles in the next 6.5 hours (I'm shooting for 10 hours on Saturday), I would have said, "Damn," and then I'd have taken a nap.

What am I going to eat for 10 hours? While the Gunpowder Keg 50k, an excellent Fat Ass held by the Baltimore Road Runners, was very very well-aided and this race promises to be even better aided, I'm really nervous about my fueling. I've certainly thought about it plenty, but I still don't really have a concrete fueling strategy outside of periodically eating Clif bars and Gu. All I know is, if I have to eat more than a dozen Gu, I'm likely to... I don't know (but in terms of severity, it'd probably fall between invading Lichtenstein and watching a Teletubbies marathon).

Have I trained enough?  Theoretically, yes.  I've read time and again that being able to run 30 trail miles should be sufficient.  But theoretically, no.  95% of all my training was done on the road.  And while I occasionally have to avoid a heaping pile of dog poop on my local sidewalks, there really is no replacement for the hills and roots and rocks that trails will throw at you, except other hills and roots and rocks.

Have I even recovered yet from my marathon?  This is the big one.  And the answer is a resounding no.  Three weeks will have passed between races, which has been more than enough historically, but I'm only now getting my energy back.  I pushed HARD in that marathon, harder than in anything I've ever done.  And I did it on an already twinge-y achilles.  So I'm nervous that my legs'll be shot after only some of those hills.  With my achilles, the question isn't whether or not it'll hurt, the question is just how much agony will I be in at mile 30?  At 45?  There is no way to make light of this, this is genuine fear.

All together, these questions are founded in one overarching concern:

I really don't want to DNF.

I want to be able to say I finish all my races.  Let me rephrase, I want to be able to say I finish everything I start and care about.  I want someday for my son to believe what I believe, that (within reason) limping across a finish line hours after you intended is better than giving up for a little hunger, or a little pain. 

But where's the dividing line between a little and a lot?  How much suffering can I and should I put up with?  And if i do have to DNF, how will i feel about that decision a month later?  I guess I'm scared that when push comes to shove, I might draw the line in the wrong place and regret it later.

When I signed up for it, I'd thought this race would be a nice run in the woods, but somehow it's turned into a representation of my values as a human being.

Nevertheless, here we go...

Performance Enhancing Kokopelli

Have you ever started a race scared?  How did you overcome that fear?

Have you ever run an ultramarathon?


1 comment: