Problems And Solutions

AJW ponders how to overcome negative thinking heading into a race.

By on October 28, 2016 | 4 comments

AJW's TaproomAs I am in the midst of a training cycle for the JFK 50 Mile on November 19th, I am thinking quite a bit about what can go wrong. It’s kind of funny, actually, in most of my training I tend to focus on what can go right and then try to ignore the rest. Maybe it’s my way of compartmentalizing or perhaps my tendency to simply adhere to being a shameless optimist, but, whatever the reason, that has been my modus operandi over the past 15 years or so.

And yet, here I am, training specifically for a 50 miler for the first time since the late ’90’s, and I am focusing on the negatives. I have just over three weeks to crawl out of this rabbit hole. How can I do it?

Well, step one is to maintain consistency and predictability. Run lots of roads, hit the rolling hills when I can, and then spice it up with technical trail when I feel the need. JFK is a sneaky animal and requires focus, patience, and a fair amount of let’s-just-see-what-happens pluckiness.

Then, there’s the never-ending need to silence those voices in my head. Over the years, the more the miles have built up and the more the accrual of those miles has hardened my brain cells, the more I’ve sought stillness on the run. That time to just settle in and go. It’s easier said than done when training for a fast 50 than it is for something like Hardrock, but still the need is there and it’s visceral. So that part requires attention to detail and the runner’s particular skill of listening.

Third is specificity. This is the part of training that has always intrigued me. On one hand, I have always liked the consistent grind. I am one of those runners for whom doing the same thing day after day is just fine. But, of course, I also know that I need to mix things up, especially if I am preparing for an event with a particular type of terrain or surface. And, it is in solving the specificity problem that I find to be an interesting metaphor for life.

You see, I have felt over the years an interesting parallel between specificity training and the vicissitudes of the rest of life. At times daily existence demands of us rigorous work dominated by big volume and significant vertical. At other times, we may be compelled to stick to the flatlands and work a bit on speed and form. And, on occasion, we are also required to lay low and rest. During some training cycles we may find ourselves in the midst of regular group sessions while at others we may spend most of our time alone.

At this particular juncture of my training and my life, I am in a period in which running and living have become synchronistic. For me these days most of my time is spent alone or in the company of small groups. The daily training is relaxed and focused both on the run and on the job and my sense of wholeness emerges when the consistency evolves into normalcy. It is that sweet spot that I hope, between now and JFK in three weeks, will provide some solutions to the perplexing problems before me.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Harpoon Imperial PumpkinThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Harpoon Brewery in Boston, Massachusetts. Their explosive Imperial Pumpkin stout packs a Big Papi-type wallop at 10.5% and yet is not boozy and eminently sippable. From my perspective a great campfire beer for these chill autumn nights.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • How have you tried to overcome negative thinking in the weeks before a race?
  • Has it worked?
Andy Jones-Wilkins
Andy Jones-Wilkins finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.