The mental game is on months before the race. It is about all the tricks one plays on oneself to stay in a space of possibility. For me, it includes cognitive techniques such as reframing a situation to highlight the wonder of it and emotional techniques, such as trance-inducing music.
I love to dial up the challenge from adventure to adventure, so that there is something to learn. In this case, going from 300 miles in 6 days to 1000 in 20 or 30 days asks for a very different cadence, very different “lifestyle”. I find myself experiencing anxiety two months before the race – my awfulizer kicks in and anticipates all manners of disaster.
This drives improved planning and visualization. What are the likely risks? How can I mitigate them? What will I learn? What never-seen-before wonders await?
My mental game has failed at least once, at Kodiak 100. Underdressed and overexposed on a windy mesa, during an unexpected second night, between miles 92 and 98, crawling due to an early injury, I felt trapped in a groundhog-day, repetitive trail pattern after thinking I was basically done. As in many other ultrarunning situations, the way out was the bedrock mantra: Incessant Forward Motion.
More often, I find hidden resources as everything goes to hell in a hand basket around me. My awfulizer is too tired to work and something deeper takes over, making me a much more effective human being!