You are only as fast (or slow) as your mind lets you be.

Recently having run a training route in the Lake District, my running mate made the comment that he thought “you’re only as fast as your mind lets you be”.  Having given this some consideration at the time, and reflecting on the route we took I don’t think he was wrong.

We had set out to run a loop starting at Howtown and ascending via Fusedale onto High Street.  Just short of ten miles, this was not a long run, but having suffered in Fusedale on the UTLD 50 last year, I was determined not to do the same this year, so run, walk or crawl I was going to keep moving upwards.  I had to consider how much of last years effects were due to starting too fast (first ultra marathon, and got easily caught up in a pace quicker than I should), how much was due to heat and dehydration, and how much of my “bonk” was mental.

And “bonk” I did.  Quite badly.  Finding myself having to stop at the beck by the tree at the top of the first section of the climb to take on fluid and cool down.  But with reflection, this could have been partly psychological.  On a previous training run, we started at Mardale head and ascended to Nan Bield Pass before heading up to High Street.  The descent to Martindale and looping round to Howtown set us up for that ascent of Fusedale.  Where I “bonked” at the same spot.  Lots of lovely cool beck water and a gel with a bit of a rest set me up to continue back over High and Low Kop before descending to Haweswater and back round to Mardale Head.

Having this in mind was probably a big part of what brought me to a halt at the same spot on the race.
On last weekend’s training run, I was determined that no matter how bad I felt, I would not stop at the beck, but would continue past.  Chris was clearly thinking the same and continued steadily past the beck and onto the next rise.
No problem.  Not running by this stage.  Not even jogging on this part of the climb, but still moving at a pace I will be happy with if I match it on race day.
So refining Chris’s comment, for me “you are only as fast (or slow) as your mind lets you be”.  This has to be a reinforced element of my race plan.  Starting too quick (for me) last year did me some damage and I need to engage my brain properly from the start and kick off slowly.  Keeping  my energy levels more even for the early stages of the event will provide the mental strength to tackle the psychological “wall” that Fusedale had become.
Moving more quickly where the ground and energy levels permit will be goverened further by conscious thought.
Am I over analysing this?  I don’t think so.  Mental preparation is as critical to a good training plan as the physical.  I am not an athlete.  I will never be a competitor.  However, I am happy to race myself and seek improvement year on year, even if I never get better than mid pack.
So, for this year I need to think more about the pace.  Act according to the plan, and think through the problem spots.  Consciously driving myself past the obvious, easy halts and engaging in continuous forward motion as far as physically possible.
looking back down Fusedal
Looking back down Fusedale

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