The First Leadman Event – The Road to Leadville Part – 8

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The Marathon

26 Reasons NOT to Run a Marathon…like #4, Chafing

“OK. Here it comes….I got this…..What else do I need to do to get ready…not sure…OK… what?”


Yup, that’s the voice in my head trying to create anxiety and concern about the first of the five Leadman events, the Marathon up Mosquito pass to 13,185 feet and back down on July 14th, 2014.

All of us have had butterflies in the stomach, anxiousness, and anticipation prior to a big event.  It’s all part of the fun right, if it didn’t matter then those things would not happen, and if it didn’t matter you might not be doing it anyway.  So the anxiety is all part of what we signed up for and to be expected.

But, it’s nice to know “you have your ducks in a row”, that the “sun is going to come out tomorrow”, and that “everything is gonna be alright” …as they say.

Sooooo….what do you do to prepare your mind and tame the voice in your head?  Here are three suggestions…

Step one:  Visualize what you are going to do

Starting an event that is important to you without knowing what you are actually going to do is asking for surprises.  Always take the time to drive, ride, walk, run, paddle or whatever the area and course you will be performing on.  Knowing the nuances of the turns, hills, terrain, etc…. previewing the area makes a huge difference in your mental preparedness for the event.  If you are running in the LR marathon, go walk/run and drive sections of the course prior to the event.  Often some of the most fun we had on the AMBCS Race Series was pre-riding the courses the day or weekend before the actual race event.  We took the time to ride as a group, discuss race strategy, enjoy the course, assess tricky spots, and built friendships and camaraderie that was priceless.

See also  Expedition Ozark Returns!
View of Leadville, Colorado, Mountain Lake and Diamond Lake near Mosquito Pass on June 1, 2014. Still a lot of snow up there.
View of Leadville, Colorado, Mountain Lake and Diamond Lake near Mosquito Pass on June 1, 2014. Still a lot of snow up there.

For the Leadville marathon I headed up to Mosquito Pass two weeks prior to the event to check out the course and test my high altitude legs.  The reconnaissance mission was priceless for several reasons.  One, I got to know the worst and hardest part of the course.  A couple of large snow fields cover the road at the top end of the pass making it tough going, now I know that.  Two, my confidence soared as I was able to “run” up several areas of the switchback and at the top of the pass, something I have previously not been able to do.  Three, I realized some of my equipment was more than critical to success, it would be critical to my survival…facing 40+ mph winds at the top required a really good wind breaker to prevent hypothermia and trekking poles proved invaluable for getting through the snow and up and down the loose gravel covering the high altitude unimproved “road”.

Going through the wind, cold, and logistics of running up and down the pass also built confidence in my nutrition plan and physical readiness.  These are the same things you want to do for your special event….do a pre-event course reconnaissance to get to know the area and build confidence and mentally visualize your ability to conquer the obstacles presented.

Step Two: Verify you have everything ready to go

A test run of the event forum decked out in your event gear will verify all your equipment is good to go.  I love my custom shoe inserts RB made for me, but often these inserts require a couple of trips to the shop for tweaking and adjusting.  On the 3 hour 9.5 mile run at Mosquito pass I had no problems with the new inserts.  But, back at home on a 1 ½ hour 9.5 mile run (yeah, note the difference in time….this marathon may be difficult the voice in my head says) I developed a terrible blister.  Fortunately I had my first aid baggie with moleskin in my pack and used a strip to minimize the damage, and then subsequently replaced the removed moleskin with two other variations for the next time a blister decides to present itself.  I double down’ed on taking care of blisters which means I now have the confidence, experience and supplies to deal with them and they are no longer a deterrent or factor in my event, or more importantly decommissioned as ammo for the voice in my head.  Also noted was strap fraying on my trekking pole handle.  All issues that I am so glad will not cause anxiety on race day.  Whatever your event and whatever your gear, verify it imagining the worst things that can happen, and develop a plan to get around those issues.  That builds confidence and mental preparedness which will be priceless when something goes wrong. 

Step 3: Vocalize about it with others

Look at all the Ultra runners talking about the course and setting expectations at Rocky Raccoon 100 mile event, January 31st, 2014
Look at all the Ultra runners talking about the course and setting expectations at Rocky Raccoon 100 mile event, January 31st, 2014

Talking about what you are doing helps relieve tension and anxiety, and builds accountability and confidence.  Casually share with both those involved in similar activities and those that have no idea what you are doing and think you are crazy.  Hearing their reactions and comments helps you appreciate and respect your challenge.  Fellow athletes will no doubt have advice and opinions you can glean valuable insights from.  Friends will ask you questions about things maybe you had not thought of (“Do you really run the whole 100 miles?”) and create accountability and expectations, which will help you develop the courage to deliver when the going gets tough (“I have to get to the finish because all my friends know I’m out here trying to do this ‘crazy’ event, and I don’t want to look like a failure!”).  Having a coach sure helps create accountability, too (see previous article).

Vocalize it and “just do it” as you heard 25 years ago (Dan Wieden’s video clip on how he developed the slogan).

A Confession

I have a confession….what do you think these Leadman series of articles are all about?  Certainly I am trying to share my experiences so that you too can learn from my mistakes and sweat to become a better athlete.  But I am also creating accountability, making it clear what my goals are and sharing them with the Arkansas Outside tribe and the Internet as a whole so I know people are watching and expecting me to perform.  That gives me motivation.  The flip side is I get to visualize every one of you standing at the finish line with Joe Jacobs cheering me on….I can hear it now, ”Come on James, you can do it!”  That is tremendous and priceless.  Thank you.

So, take the time to prepare for your next event.  Visualize, Verify, and Vocalize about what you are doing.  “Stack the deck”, “get a leg up”, “go balls to the wall”, and “go for broke”.  Let’s do it!

Good luck out there.

The Community Bicyclist


See the other articles in the Road to Leadman Series at….

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