This is happening, people. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is my 50 mile ultra marathon. I’m seemingly pretty chill but that might due to being paralyzed by anxiety.
Yesterday was a great day. Yesterday I got up, did yoga and had a shiatsu massage. I love massages and try very hard to get them once every other year or so. Sigh. If I had any of that mythological “extra” money laying around, I’d have a massage once a week….once a day, if I could swing it. I would live in a 500 square foot shack next to the lavish house I gifted to my masseuse, just so they would always be at my beck and call. There is nothing else that feels as inherently healing to me. I honestly believe massage could heal just about anything that wrong with me, be it my Raynaud’s, my old-lady hip or my inherent cynicism. Obviously, it was quite a treat for me.
I was celebrating the end of my training. See, yesterday there was no stress. Yesterday wasn’t a pack and prep and freak out day. Not a stare-wide-eyed-at-the-sky-yelling-“Stop RAINING!” day. Yesterday I didn’t have to worry about oversleeping or falling or being cut from the race for being too damn slow. (A solid possibility.) I rarely feel as content as I did yesterday. Six months of training, for whatever errors and injuries and set-backs, seemed something to commemorate and so I did.
I was thinking about all I gained over the past months. (Besides eight, stupid pounds I mean, which we are all going to agree is muscle, right?) And what popped into my mind was how often I had to practice silencing that bitchy, inner voice–the one that says “You can not do this thing.” 50 miles is kind of a deal. I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt so breathless with the enormity of a task. Maybe in the last, anxious weeks of my first pregnancy. You think you know what’s going to happen, because you’ve done your homework–read your little books, bought the gear, took the vitamins–but you also suspect that you are completely full of shit and utterly unprepared. Dead on to what I feel right now. So full of cautious optimism and simultaneous regret; I didn’t prepare correctly, I’m not fit enough, look at me! I’m no athlete! All week I have been simply pushing those thoughts from my head with the same, cold-hearted precision with which I have culled other unwanted brain nuggets; historical dates, election news, and the pressing need to schedule preventative dental care. Whenever I start feeling negative I simply refuse to think about it.
This is maybe the healthiest activity I have engaged in during the entire process–learning that I do not need to place any credence on critical thoughts that bubble up through my brain. My brain also periodically tosses out the lyrics to the Lutheran Girl Pioneer theme song we used to sing before meetings back in the 1970s, and I don’t spend any time or energy on that, do I? (Actually, I do. It was kind of a catchy tune.)
I feel in all the “think optimistic” advice floating around out there, this was the part that I missed. How to deal with negative thoughts? Literally don’t think about it. Refuse. “Oh my god, I’m as big as a house today.” Push that sucker right out of the brain the nanosecond it pops up. Treat it like the sudden apparition of your second grade teacher’s maiden name and get on with your day. Discard it without emotion. Decide that self-criticism holds no interest to you. Boring. Like the milling process of Cream of Wheat or calculating compound interest–let it be a snoozefest with which you cannot be bothered.
How perfectly marveous! Obviously, it’s going to take some practice. I don’t always succeed, but it has helped me maintain a pretty positive outlook during training. Like on the day I was running around a local lake and being relentlessly passed by younger, fitter, faster runners. I have been known to not take to that situation well. In the past, there might have been a time, though you can’t prove it, that I abandoned my run to sit pouting on a bench because I was so frustrated. This time I managed to dismiss all that negative comparisons. Instead, I focused on the beauty of the lake and the ease with which I ran. I wondered idly how many of these young runners would still be running two decades from now? How many would be looking to run longer and longer distances?
“I am a goddamn inspiration.” I said, and then laughed until I snorted. Yes, it made me look like a lunatic, but, luckily, I no longer worry about things like that.