Tuning In To The Right Headspace

A discussion about finding the right headspace for a goal race.

By on June 6, 2014 | Comments

AJWs TaproomFor any school leader, graduation weekend is always a mix of celebratory joy and anxiety-ridden tension. And so it was for me last weekend as I presided over the 42nd Commencement Exercises at Tandem Friends School. It was a wonderful weekend filled with all the ritual and ceremony we have come to expect from graduations. And, by the end of it, after all the speeches, handshakes, and parties, I was left exhausted–physically and emotionally. Graduation weekend just takes it out of me.

Thus, when I finally got out for my 32-mile scheduled long run on Sunday I was pretty much running on fumes from the outset. I joined a small group of guys to cover some beautiful country in Shenandoah National Park and by the end of it I knew it had been good 100-mile training. I also knew I needed to re-charge my batteries a bit before my final 12-day push to the Western States 100 starting line in Squaw Valley.

So, on Monday and Tuesday, I took it really easy, getting out when I could and resting when I wanted to, which was often. I ate a ton of food and spent over nine hours a day sleeping. It was just the kind of recovery I needed. By Wednesday I felt back to normal and on Thursday morning my legs actually felt snappy on my seven-mile daily constitutional. It was a good reminder to me of how the physical toll of Western States training requires the rest of me to find ways to tune into the right headspace. And, three weeks before the Big Day is the ideal time to do just that.

Over the past week as I have finally put the school year behind me, I have been able to zero in more specifically on what it will take this year to get from Squaw to Auburn. I took stock of my training and realized that I have been behind all year. While the training has been solid, I have had more difficulty this year getting to the point where I felt on top of my training. It’s a somewhat difficult thing to explain but I feel better when I can be proactive about my training than reactive and up until about three weeks ago, I was reactive most of the time. That is the bad news.

The good news is that today I feel much more proactive and I am enjoying training immensely, particularly after the post-graduation forced rest. The miles are flowing more smoothly and my aspirational race-day weight, 165 pounds, is creeping closer to reality (for 11 months out of the year I wear pants with a 34-inch waist. However, I have three pairs of ‘June pants’ in my closet that have a 32-inch waist. I just started wearing those on Tuesday, a few days later than I’d like. :)

This, therefore, is the time to tune into the right headspace. In that context I spend time daily visualizing sections of the Western States course and zeroing in on how I expect to feel in those places. I have begun the annually agonizing race-day shoe-choice ritual which is likely to take another week or so and I have dusted off my trusty Race Ready running shorts that have been with me every race since my first Western States in 2001. In short, while my body has lagged a bit in coming into form, my mind seems to be ahead of schedule. From where I sit, that’s a pretty good thing!

Bottoms up!

Stone Brewing Company Arrogant Bastard AleAJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week is dedicated to Scott Mills and the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run. This race, which starts on Saturday morning, has quickly become one of the top boutique 100 milers in the country. In large part due to Scotty’s incredibly hard work and commitment to what is right with ultrarunning, the SD100 has overcome a devastating wildfire to persevere for another year and the event is committed to supporting the restoration of the Southern California wildlands. Therefore, this week’s Beer of the Week is Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, California. Bold in all ways, this beer is as strong and solid as Scotty Mills’s quads.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • How do you find the headspace you seek for a goal race?
  • How many days or weeks out from your goal race do you find yourself tuning into your proper mindset?
  • Have you ever raced a big race without being in the right-for-you headspace? Did you find it more challenging?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.