I’ve been reading Kilian Jornet’s memoir, Run or Die, and I was interested by his technique to keep pushing and make the time pass during races. He weaves fantasies and gets lost in them, imagining things like “I am a fugitive fleeing the police across the mountains, a medieval knight escaping from the army pursuing him; I am chasing bandits who have set fire to my home.”
I tried out this technique during last night’s Capt’n Karl’s 60K at Pedernales Falls. Mine turned out to be a little less fanciful than Kilian’s. Here were my top 5 race fantasies:
1. Imagining that I had finished the race and was handed a cold beer.
I don’t even like beer that much, but during the hot, humid first 18+ mile loop, that sounded really good.
2. Imagining that I was on a water ride.
Throughout the race, I periodically shot blasts of ice water into my face. For a brief second it would feel like I was on a fun water ride, instead of feeling like I was running at noon on the equator. (No joke, it was a very effective strategy for cooling myself down.)
3. Imagining that I was in a Saltines-eating contest.
In one of my trademark goofball moves, I brought only 8 gels per loop, and then some trail mix to fill out the remainder of the calories I’d need. Towards the end of the first loop, when I ran out of gels, I took a big handful of trail mix and shoved it in my mouth – only to discover that it made my mouth so dry that I couldn’t swallow it. It took about four minutes and several shots of water to get it all down.
4. Imagining that I didn’t just get a piece of spiderweb in my mouth.
In the end, you can imagine all you want, but the reality is that you have a piece of spiderweb in your mouth.
5. Imagining texting my mom that I’d gotten 3rd place.
Okay, this maybe this one falls into the category of plan old visualization. Still, I was happy when I was able to actually send the text.
Joking aside, I think Kilian’s strategy has a lot of potential for my runs. And let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to add this element of his running philosophy to my own training, as opposed to any other aspect of his running.
On completely different note, today is the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and I heard one of my favorite verses at Mass: “I have competed well. I have run the race. I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). I really feel like every act in our lives can be a chance to cultivate holiness, and for me, running is probably the most spiritual thing I do. To push myself to my limit, out in the woods, all alone, just because I want to do my best with what God gives me, gives me so much joy. And for me, an ultra-distance race is a microcosm of life, bringing into sharp relief the knowledge that I’m totally dependent on God for everything. As my devotional says, “Accept each day just as it comes to you. Do not waste your time and energy wishing for a different set of circumstances. Instead, trust Me enough to yield to My design and purposes.” Geez, is that a devotional or a manual for ultrarunning?