If you're training for a long race, at some point, the time and miles start to really get to you. It feels like work. It stops being fun. This is where a lot of people just stop. But there are ways to bust through the slump.
Lets acknowledge the main way people address this issue. You get up in the morning, you put your shoes on, and you get your miles. Doesn't matter if you want to. Doesn't matter if it isn't fun. You get the job done. This takes a mental toughness that a lot of people just can't quite get into. And the longer the race, the longer the training miles, the tougher this gets. If this describes you, you are really awesome. And a lot of people try that. They get up. They put the time in. And they burn out.
There are lots of solutions to this problem. We'll go over a few of my favorite.
Go Somewhere New
I don't care if it's a new part of town, a new trail, or a new state. A change of scenery can bring a whole new light to your training. In my case, my family went on vacation, and I packed my running shoes. I found new trails in Connecticut, I ran somewhat familiar areas on the Maine/New Hampshire border, and I went on a big run through the Presidential Range in NH in the form of the Presidential Traverse. All of this gave me something new to explore, something new to see, and a challenge I had read about and thought I might never be able to accomplish.
The trails in CT were a blast. I had seen some pictures of a state park not far from my in-laws place. So I woke up at dawn, crept out of the house to avoid waking anyone, and drove the 15 minutes to the park. These trails were incredible! Lots of rolling hills. Lots of short, steep climbs. Lots of technical rocks. It was everything i was looking for.
The roads on the ME/NH border I have run before. But I only get to run here about a week every year. So it was nice to get back out and explore the area around the lake and do some speed work.
And the presidential traverse... Well, that was simply incredible. The trails were every bit as rugged and steep as I had been told. I did not anticipate the world above treeline to be so majestic. Maybe it's just the difference between the dense forested areas below and the wide open views above the tree line, but it felt almost as if I were in another dimension.
Go. Find someplace new. Explore. It's good for you.
(Photo credit Matt Rutledge. All copyrights reserved.)
Find Some New Running Friends
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with your old running friends. I'm sure they're still awesome. I'm just saying adding a new person now and then can bring in some new energy. And if you really want to mix it up, offer to pace someone for a race, or help out a race director scout and mark a course. I've had the opportunity to do all of that this month (often in combination), and I don't regret a single minute. Running friends add smiles to your miles. This one is pretty simple. Be social. Meet people. Share the experience.
(Photo credit James B. Valdez. Used with permission. No copyright claimed or implied.)
Do Something New
OK. This is where I might need to branch off into a whole new blog entry. But here it is. Find something completely new. Maybe it's a color run. Maybe it's a bubble run, or a black light run, or a beer mile, or a naked mile... For me, it was a burro race.
As of May 29, 2012, pack burro racing is the official summer herritage sport in Colorado. (The winter sport is skiing.) Well, my training plan called for 30 miles at altitude. On a Wednesday, a guy at work sent an email about the burro race on Sunday. Turns out, that was 29 miles at altitude. So I gave it a shot. Did you know you can rent a race burro?
This is Thumper. Thuper likes hugs, being scratched between the ears, thistles, and yellow flowers.
(Photo credit Matt Rutledge. All copyright reserved.)
Knowing my solo times for efforts around that distance on similar terrain and with similar altitude gain, I went into the event rather optimistic. There weren't many signed up for the long course, and I figured if I were to finish just ahead of the middle of the herd, I might be into some prize money. Boy was I mistaken.
The biggest thing about burro racing is that it is a team sport - you and the burro are the team. If one of you has a different outlook on the objectives for the day, someone is going to be very disapointed. And in my case, Thumper (the burro) decided he was in charge and he would set the pace. What this means is I wound up pulling Thumper over 20 miles. I'm going to save the details for a race report. It really justifies its own write up. But here's a teaser.
(Photo credit Jennifer Mewes. Used with permission. No copyright claimed or implied.)
But I got my miles, and I had a blast. The finish line smile isn't just a fake for the camera. The day was a hoot. And that's the point. Get out. Find something new. Relax and smile. It makes the running easier.
And that's it. Three ways to keep the training fun. You might not have a vacation planned. You might have to work to find some people. You might not have a burro race nearby. But with a little creativity finding someplace new, finding some new people, and finding something new to do shouldn't be too hard.
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