Ultra Training: Do I Have What It Takes?

This past weekend proved to be one of the most trying times of any training cycle I've ever taken on. 

it wasn't the worst physically! I've covered more miles or logged more hours in the same amount of time.  This time it was all...

MENTAL!!!!  

I can't even count how many times I doubted myself, my drive, my abilities and my spirit!  

Let's back it up a little.

As you may or may not know I am tackling my first ultra, a 40-miler, on August 13. I am - to put it nicely - scared SHITLESS!!! 

Am I conveying my nervous level adequately?  

My friend Greg, an amazing ultramarthoner and Ironman, offered to help me with my training. A trial coaching partnership since he wants to become a running coach and I am always open to being a Guinea pig. ;) Plus I like Greg a lot and want to help him reach the next level of his career.  

This past weekend the schedule called for a 20-mile run on Saturday and a 13-mile run on Sunday. Okay I thought. I've done that before. Heck a month ago I ran a half and a full in a weekend. 

But this would be different. This would be a bigger test. It would be solo miles. Ooohhhh I rarely run long runs solo. I'm either joined with a friend for part of it or my dad rides his bike with me. 

I know I'll be alone on race day so I needed this practice. 

So I napped out a 5-mile loop for Saturday and a 3-mile loop for Sunday. My house would serve as my water stop/bathroom. Perfect!!! The race will be a 10-mile loop so this would be some good loop practice.  

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See the water stop even had an adorable attendant. ;)  

I set out and it was HOT. I know I know. Summer in Boston what did I expect?  

The first loop was fine. I headed out for the second loop and my mind started playing games already. I was fighting my brain to take each loop as a separate run.  

Just focus on the mile you are in - I shouted to myself.  

But nothing was working. 

The self-doubt was taking over. Shit! 

Thank goodness for social media. I turned to Snapchat, Twitter and good old text messages to garner some positivity.  

Greg was amazing. Reminding me we all have off days, but that I could do it. I'd run 20 miles many times before.  

When I hit the 10.65 mark (pictured above), I was mentally exhausted. My wife came out to see how I was doing and I had a little breakdown. 

What was I thinking signing up for this? 

I had no right thinking I could do this - I sobbed.  

She told me I could stop, but I knew I couldn't. I had a commitment of 20 miles and I would see it through. 

I wiped off the sweat. Took another sip of water. Headed back out.

I asked for one mile from myself. Then another. Then another.  

I took advantage of any shade I could find. But I just kept moving forward. 

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Once back at home base at Mile 16, it time to breakdown again. Seriously folks even in my first marathon I didn't shed this many tears or doubt myself this much.  

My stomach hurt. I tried to get back out for my final loop, but my stomach has other ideas.  

So I called the outdoor run at 16.13 miles. I would go inside, fix this GI issue and finish the final 3.87 on the treadmill.

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It wasn't ideal, but it would do. I laid down for a few minutes, drank some water and finally things got moving. The pain had subsided. So I headed down to the basement to finish this thing off.

The goal was the last 5 miles to be at "marathon pace," which was 8:25. With the pain, we opted to finish at whatever pace I could. 

Well I am excited to report I got 2 of the treadmill miles at 8:23 and 8:24 before bringing it down to a cooldown. Hollah! 

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I did it!!! 
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For a grand total of 20 miles!!!  

Cue the tears again. That was hands down one of the toughest runs I had ever pushed through. Yes harder than the marathon in Savannah in 90+ degree weather and 100% humidity. 

This run was mentally exhausting, but it taught me that 1) I am stronger than I think (yes I learn this lesson often) and 2) If I can get through that run, I can get through anything!  

I happily enjoyed an ice bath with the wife before heading off to a wedding. Yes I rocked heels after my run and before 13 the next day. Enter wedding dedication. 

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With another long run Sunday, we left the reception at a respectable time and I got right into bed. 

But my body did not want to wake up on Sunday so instead of rolling out at 7, I rolled out of bed at 9. For the first time in forever though? I felt rested. Which we all know rest is just as important as the workouts - if not more! 

So I set up my front porch water stop and had a plan of 4+ treks around my 3-mile loop! 

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Alright friends just out for a 3-mile run. I got this. Live in the mile you are in self. Don't think about what happened yesterday. Think about seeing Finding Dory after this run! 

First loop was hot, but manageable.  

Water stop at Mile 3 was great. Time to head back out. 

Alright the mind games want to start again on loop 2. Time to reach out for help. I texted my friend Gregg, who is an ultramarthoner and all around badass. He reminds me that runs like this will prepare me for what I will need to do to be successful on race day! 

Alright sir! I hear ya loud and clear.  

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Oh glorious water! You are a miracle. It was once again hot and I was ready to be in the AC.  

I hit the halfway point and focus all my energy on staying positive. I focus on those that can't run. I think about the time when I couldn't run.

I dig deep then I dig further down to pull out whatever I could to keep moving forward. 

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And yes this meant rewarding myself at the  end of each mile with a photo. 

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Plus it gave me a chance to hide in the shade whenever I could. ;) 

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At this moment. Gregg told me to take a breath, find my Ohhmmmm and finish this thing!!! 

And that is JUST what I did. 

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Oh happy happy day!!! :) 

And with that the biggest mental challenge of my fitness career was complete.  

How did I survive?  

*Reaching out to those who have been there before! 

*Digging deep within myself  

*Continuing to move forward even when I was in the middle of doubting myself  

*Letting my emotions out rather than pushing them deep down and pretending they didn't exist  

So you know what folks??? 

I think I DO have what it takes to make this 40-mile race thing happen...

But if I falter again, will you all be there to lift me up????