Preparing for spring and summer ultra-racing season in northern WY takes a lot of planning. There will be long runs that have to be run in February and March, which is usually the coldest and snowiest season one will encounter in these parts. The frustrating part of living in a part of the United States that most people don’t even know exists is that when it is -20 outside with a wind chill of -41, the rest of the United States gets cool names like polar vortex while in northern WY we just call it Wednesday.
Since it is Wednesday and your training plan has you running six miles of hill repeats you have to decide how you are going to do this. When I lived in a big city and it got colder than twenty outside, I would do my hill climb days inside one of the high rises on the stairs, running up and down. Since in my town, the highest building is only three stories that isn’t really going to work.
Which brings me back to the dilemma. How to get six miles of hill repeats in when one knows it is going to be -20 with a wind chill of -41. Most people would just decide to bag that training run and do it another day. The reason why this really shouldn’t be done is that if the weather is lousy on race day and you’ve already spent the money on registration and possibly travel, you’re not going to wake up and say “it’s raining outside, I think I’ll skip this fifty-mile race until the sun comes out again.” No, you’re going to run the race, embrace the suck and run on until through the fog and rain you spy the finish line.
Why Hill Repeats are Great Practice for Life
On this particular Wednesday, knowing it was going to be colder than blue blazes outside and knowing I wasn’t going to skip the run, I devised an alternate strategy. There is a hill in town that is a half mile up and then a half mile down. I decided that what I would do is run up the hill and back down, get in my truck and sit for about five minutes in the glorious heat to get thawed out. Rinse and repeat and voila hill repeat Wednesday would be in the books. After my fourth repeat, while getting into my truck I realized I couldn’t feel my face anymore. With that, the decision was made that it was time to call it a day and be proud of what I accomplished and head home for a nice long, hot shower.
So why would one subject themselves to this kind of torture voluntarily? That is what many of you are thinking while reading this. The simple reason would be that it is training season. The much more difficult thing to explain is mentally what happens when one faces the weather elements and overcomes them to get a simple run in the books. Ultra-marathons are about 90% mental and about 50% physical (that’s my Yogi Berraism for the day). On race day in an ultra-marathon if you are not prepared mentally you are going to have a very miserable day. Preparing yourself mentally takes developing mental memory, the memories of when it totally sucked and you pushed through it anyway. These are the methods that will push you to keep food down, to drink so you don’t dehydrate and to push your body when every muscle is screaming at you to stop.
Life is Like an Ultra-Marathon
This isn’t completely why I do it though. Life is like an ultra-marathon and everything it takes to prepare to run an ultra-marathon. Very seldom is your day going to go exactly the way you want your day to go, despite what the positive mental attitude giants are trying to sell you. If you are like me, you are going to go into your day with plans and goals, appointments and objectives, things you want to get done that day. It doesn’t matter if you are a banker, a salesperson, a stay at home parent or a candlestick maker. You have things you want to accomplish.
If you approach your day without a pre-set method to overcome the mental defeats and challenges you will have throughout the day, then you will live a defeated life instead of a full life. I decided I want to live a full life, what I call an ultra-life. This is a life lived to the full with no regrets for what you didn’t accomplish. In order to prepare myself to live an ultra-life, I must first decide that no matter what life throws at me, I am going to keep on keeping on.
Training season in northern WY is where I practice the very same methods in my running that I employ in my daily life. These are the five methods that I deploy with every difficult training run I do and also deploy in my daily life.
Five Methods for Living an Ultra-life
1. Discipline. Discipline is simply doing what you know needs to be done no matter what your emotions are that minute, that hour, that day. Discipline is knowing that if you do the things that need to be done, then you will reap the prize when you finish the race, whatever race you are running. Your race might be parenting children and making sure your children become productive members of society. Whatever you face today, decide that you will have the discipline to stick to what you are doing no matter what happens.
2. Dedication. Dedication is doing what you do with resolve, every day, day in and day out. This is that mindset you put in yourself that allows you to do what needs to be done knowing that when your race is finished you have put everything you have into it.
3. Passion. Passion is the approach in life that shows you love what you are doing, even when what you are doing is hard. Passion shows when you have the same smile on your face at mile fifty as you had on your face at mile one. Passion is showing people that just because your job looks like a dead end, this doesn’t mean that you do it half ass and with the expectation that somebody owes you something.
4. Peace. Peace is that little something inside of you that everybody else thinks you’re just sort of gliding, that you make things look easy when you are doing them. Peace is that settled feeling you have when you know you are doing what you are supposed to be doing and that no matter the result, you are satisfied because you have done everything you could possibly do to make it to the finish line.
5. Purpose and plan. I watch so many people just meandering through life, trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. And they’re in their sixties. Purpose is what helps you plan. You cannot make a plan if you don’t know what the purpose is, the why you are doing what you do. When you figure out the purpose, you can now make your plans. Then be ready to scrap your plans and adjust as necessary.
This is why preparing for ultra-marathon season in northern Wyoming is just a microcosm of what life is like. I do not believe this is exclusive to northern WY, in other words, you don’t have to move to the Bighorn Mountains to learn how to live an ultra-life. You can apply these truths to your 5K race all the way to your next hundred-mile race. Perhaps you could even apply these truths to your daily life and begin making a difference in the people that surround you.