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Mental Training

So,Your Races Keep Getting Canceled? Now, what?

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Tangible, external goals are important. They provide direction, structure, and a measurable outcome to shoot for. But, 2020 has been an interesting year for racing. Most people have been dealing with the reality of their races being canceled, feeling disappointment followed quickly by lack of motivation. I’ve had a number of athletes reach out who have felt an aimlessness with training that has sometimes dipped into a “what’s the point?” mindset. If you’ve been experiencing similar feelings, you’re not alone! But, there also is a point! 

Learn About Yourself

As runners, we train hard so as to impact our results the way we want. Regardless of how performance is going on a day-to-day basis in training, many of us define the success of a season based on the results of the races. Over the last several months, I’ve noticed that when you take the end result out of the equation it creates space to learn more about yourself. Things like goal and achievement orientation seem much clearer when you’re forced to discover what motivates you to put in the work without a race on the horizon. 

Maybe you’ve really missed the race community and the companionship of joining others for group runs, exposing that a sense of relatedness in the sport is very important to you. Other athletes have shared that they don’t actually miss racing all that much, recognizing that they are much more intrinsically driven than they realized. My own example is that with less training structure and no races to get ready for, I took the opportunity to try new things. I unintentionally discovered cycling and not only did I find that I gain a lot of joy from it, but adding it to my training routine has positively impacted my strength in running. I had gotten so stuck in my typical routine of training, racing, and then repeating that I never recognized that I was in a bit of a rut. That’s something I never would have known without this opportunity to learn more about myself. 

Revisit Your ‘Why’

Running is about a lot more than PRs and belt buckles. Your connection to the sport, and the ‘why’ behind all of the hours of training and the discomfort and vulnerability of racing, matters. It matters a lot. When we get into the routine of training cycles and goal races, we sometimes lose sight of that ‘why.’ Your UltraSignUp rankings can quickly become a primary focus and the deeper connection of moving amongst Mother Nature or taking yourself into the pain cave can fade into the background. Now is the perfect opportunity to return to your ‘why’ and reconnect with what brought you to the trails in the first place. 

Rediscover the Process

During a typical spring and summer, many of us would be deep into the trail racing season. With a lineup of races on the calendar that are sure to be our Victory Tour, it’s easy to head into training each day visualizing the next race and taking one step closer to accomplishing your goals. That kind of psychological approach is useful and serves a purpose, but not at the expense of buying into the process. 

Admittedly, it can be hard to be present and committed to the daily grind, for its own sake, when there’s an important race looming in the distance. But, it’s important to reconnect and rediscover the deep satisfaction of putting in the work for the purpose of mastering your craft, not for a desired outcome. We are currently experiencing a time when we can do that without succumbing to FOMO – take advantage of it. Approach training with a mastery mindset, and let go of the excuses you’ve made in the past for ignoring the smaller parts of the process. 

The season has been hard, and we all want to get back to dawn race starts and finish line beers with all of our trail running friends. That time will come. For now, there is a lot that can be gained from focusing on personal growth and process goals. We don’t have to remember 2020 as the year all the races were canceled. We can remember it as the year we rediscovered ourselves. 

Addie is a professional ultra trail runner, coach, and sport psychology consultant helping athletes of all ages and abilities to prepare for the mental demands of competing through her practice, Strive Mental Performance