Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kill Plan B

So I haven't talked much about my metal training for RAAM yet.

It's a hard thing to share publicly, becuase it exposes your weaknesses, and I am not sure how I feel about that.

One of the things that I did was have a session with sports psycologist Dr. Stan Beecham.

We talked for a couple of hours, and it was a fantastic experience. Within minutes, he had unpacked some issues that I had been struggling with for months. He was able to get me out of my own head look at issues in a clear and analytical way. I learned when I was being emotional and loosing my perspective on reality.

We also talked about the BIG why of endurance racing. I feel like this deserves its own post, but there are certainly two prongs for me: the deep philisopical veiw, and the lighter joyful view.

Right here, I would like to talk about having a "Plan B." We have probably all done it. Things like, "if I'm feeling good when the longer and shorter races split, I'll take the longer one," "My A time goal is this, my B time goal is that, and you know, worst case is my C time goal, which is crossing the finish line before they pull me off the course." Dr. Beecham does NOT think that is how you should work. He teaches to LET GO OF FEAR. To face that fear, release it, and watch your performance soar.

Here is a short piece from this month's Running Times Magazine article entitled "Resolutions for Serious Runner" by Sara Barker.


Whether it's a mountain marathon or a mile on the track, try an event that frightens you--and where you might be awful. "Most people set goals they are 100 percent sure they can hit," says sport psychologist Dr. Stan Beecham. "It's better to set a goal you are only 60 percent sure you will make. The more challenging the goal, the more engaged you will be." Furthermore, don't be a pantywaist. Dr. Beecham recommends you work without a net, metaphorically: "Having a Plan B is the best way to sabotage your Plan A--kill Plan B." Spoken like a fearless guy. And whether you fail or succeed at the event that turns your stomach, the experience will help you the next time the going gets rough.

This is some serious stuff. To be honest though, the races that have been the most satisfying are the ones that made me want to vomit the moment I registered. I think that is why I have been going longer longer and longer with my races. I think I LIKE being scared. I like facing that demon. I like overcoming. I think we all do. Otherwise, we would just sit at home and be comfortable. Those of us in this sport are looking for the challenge that we are not sure if we can meet. Things that are not certain.

As the Sage Eminem would say:

"Success is my only motherf**n option, Failure's not."

Another example is the Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei. They are Tendai Buddhist monks in Japan who embark on a truly mind-blowing running pilgramage whose details would make any western ultra-runner cringe. Really. It seems inhuman.

It is a 1000 day pilgramage over the course of 7 years with 100 day continuous back to back marathons (actually up to 84km/day). No food or drink is permitted while running, and during the 5th year, they have to do 9 of these days without food or water.

Here's the deal. they take an oath that they will finish, or they carry a knife with which to kill themselves. For them, this spiritual journey has no quit. None. DNF's do not happen. Overcoming must occur. There can be no fear of the physical feat, because there is no room for that.

Before they stat their physical journey, they work on seated meditation, breath control, and visualization. The importance of the mind cannot be overstated when we are talking about ultra endurance sports.

I do not think that is the level that I want to be on, but I do believe in commiting you entire self to a goal if you want to reach it. This sign was up when I was at Camp Twin Lakes this week. It seemed perfect.

RAAM is not certain. ANYTHING can happen. It really can. I am not 100% sure we can do it, and that is a part of the allure and the excitment about RAAM. Anything can happen.

Let's be real though--NOTHING is certain. Only now is certain. But with my one plan, then plan to finish, I can live "as if" the future is certain. I can train my body and my mind towards success.

But you know what? There is no room for doubt, and there is no room for Plan B. Arriving in Annapolis with Dani and my crew under the time limit is Plan A, Plan B, Plan C all the way to Plan Z. There is no other plan. There is no room for fear. We have to acknowledge it, and release it to get to the finish line.

The human body has unlimited power when the mind lets go of the fear that holds us back.

I believe that.


  1. I take a knife with me during Ironman races....
    when I can get them by TSA that is.. :)

  2. This is amazing. Loving reading about your build up to RAAM and can't wait to hear about the adventure itself. You're tough as nails - plan A all the way.

  3. :) I love this. Get after it and get it done, right girl?

  4. This definitely made me think about what Plan A really means. I've felt like I'm stuck in a certain goal/race/finish routine and need to mix it up, maybe a new outlook will help. :)

    Keep chugging along! RAAM is going to be an awesome adventure.

  5. Awesome outlook! So much of what we do is a mental battle :)

  6. First of all... I thought I'd left a comment FIRST time I read this when you posted it :D apparently I didn't! so... I LOVE this!! and you guys are going to accomplish Plan A, of that I have 100% confidence!!