I’m sitting on the edge of my bumper. Scratch that–now I’m sitting on the bumper. Before that I was in my car for 15 minutes. Alright…before that it was ‘the struggle’ to get running clothes on this morning. But hey, I’ve gotten as far as the bumper, so that’s something. To be honest I feel completely exhausted. I realize running 60 or 70-miles a week for the past few months could be a factor. But I know that ‘tired’ and this isn’t it. This is literally the easiest week I’ve had to do in months. To make it even worse, I’m sitting on this bumper like a worn out prize fighter in a ring (instead, I’m in a parking lot) with the shortest run I have to do on this very easy week in front of me. I slept alright last night, no complaints there. I ate well too.
So, what is zapping all of this energy and keeping my butt glued to the back of this car?
There hasn’t been a minute in the last two weeks that I haven’t had thoughts of this 50 mile training run I have coming up. Now, if you were to ask me whether or not I was worried about if I could complete this 50 mile training run, I would say no. I have some physical ailments for sure. Some nagging pains, difficulties that have created some doubts as to whether or not I’ll physically be able to complete the hundred miles. I also know I have the legs this year from all the solid training, and have completed some really good long runs.
Of course, the physical is not where my thoughts go…or, should I say, where my Inner Critic, the voice in my head that feeds me fear and self doubt, takes me. Those thoughts say, “Yeah, you may feel pretty good at the end of the 50 mile training run…but, you know…another 50 is a whole other thing!” Another good one, “What happens if you don’t feel good on the 50 miler? What does that mean for your hundred-miler?” Or, “I wonder how cold it will be… Colder than what you’ve been training in, that’s for sure” It goes on and on… I think you get the point.
Whether I know it or not, these are the most important moments in training. It’s when the actual turning of the tide can happen. And, if I don’t give a real effort to support myself, rest assured that tide will become a tidal wave that will crash right over me. What I need now is to give up this inner critic and all of it’s garbage-filled thoughts. These thoughts are using all of my energy for fuel to ‘supposedly’ keep me safe and sitting on that bumper. The Inner Critic’s voice is firing off all of these horrible bumper stickers about how I’m not good enough or capable enough so rapidly that I can’t seem to hear a word from my Internal Coach. My Internal Coach is that other voice in my head that consistently has had my back during these tough moments. It helps me with constructive criticism. Reminds me of all the ‘wins’ I’ve accumulated over the many years of running and that this isn’t my first rodeo.
I’d like to say that times like this (bumper-sitting times) are far and few between. That I’ve never just had those human moments where, having that Inner Critic front and center megaphoning self doubt and fear, has caused me to pack it up and take comfort over progress. It has. But, over the years, it has become far more of the exception rather than the rule. I’ve learned that if all I can manage is to stop and just ask myself one question before throwing in the towel it is going to be this:
What do I want?
I’m not talking about the fancy shirts, medals, or belt buckles from finishing races. I’m not talking about accolades, people patting me on the back, telling me how awesome I am, a lucrative contract with Adidas that gets me my very own cool van, whisking me around the country to the all high profile races, kissing babies, and seeing myself on a Wheaties box (though, as I’m actually typing this, that sounds like that would be pretty damn cool… Not the point though). What I’m talking about is, “What do I want to feel?” Because right now, by listening to my Inner Critic, I am feeding myself thoughts, images, worries, and concerns about a future that hasn’t happened, yet this is creating fear, anxiety, and self-doubt in real-time.
These emotions are unhelpful, energy-draining, and dampen the wick of inspiration and motivation that I know is in me. I’m not saying all these self-preservation emotions aren’t ever needed. I’m just saying, they’re not needed right now. Not while I’m stuck to this bumper.
What are needed are the wonderful images and memories of past successes in this arena (any arena I’ve been successful in actually) that fill me with inspiration, confidence, and possibility. Mental reminders that provide gratefulness (which is the antidote to my Inner Critic’s anxiety) that I actually have experience in this arena. That it’s normal to be nervous before a race, or even the smallest of training runs as I get closer to my event. And that every, single time I’ve chosen to get off ‘the bumper’ and make the effort required, whether on easy training runs or in the hardest races I’ve ever done, I’ve felt stronger, lighter, and more capable within just a few minutes for the mere fact that I put myself out there.
I’ve got my hydration pack on and I’ve slowly gotten up off the bumper. I’ve accepted that this may not be my fastest or best-feeling training run. And that’s okay. Truth be told, I’m going to feel a lot better for getting out and actually doing this, than if I had handed my fate over to that Inner Critic today. What I really get is the confidence that I can trust myself and get myself out the door when I need to, and the joy in the accomplishment that I will feel when I am finished with this training run. Gaining those feelings is worth a little physical discomfort. In fact, it’s worth a lot of physical discomfort.
It will be incredible if I can finish my hundred-mile race, and I am sure that will fill me with all kinds of confidence, joy, and feelings of capableness for myself. But if, for whatever reason, I am not successful, the confidence and joy that comes from knowing that I gave everything that I had, that I put in real, consistent effort to get myself to the starting line, is just as real and just as important to me. These emotions are what I want to fee/. I know they are not found on the bumper of my car, they are earned out on the road. That’s where I’m headed.