Let That Sh*#ld Go

I’ve resisted starting my running taper for as long as possible. I am now seven days away from the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run, my first attempt at a 100 miler. I’d better stop moving my butt.

I suspect that a taper should be a two-week celebration of work. A time to sleep in and to catch up on other parts of life that have become weedy and overgrown while you were out running. Throw the windows open and put your feet up. Fill those legs with glycogen and hard-earned rest.

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Sioux, helping me pack this week.

I’m not feeling that way. I’m having trouble accepting that the work has been done. I feel uneasy that I’m unprepared, and when I stop to think that feeling through, my inner therapist and I go back and forth about it: I am feeling anxious. What are you feeling anxious about, Julie? That I’m not ready for this. What would make you feel more ready for this, what specifically are you worried about? I don’t know. Maybe I should go do 1,000 sit ups like Pam Reed or run fifty miles, just in case, or join kickboxing. I’m not strong enough. You sure about that?

This is a week of laissez faire. Disclaimer: I’m not good at laissez faire. It’s too late to quick add more hill repeats or quick add months of harder cross-training. I am in a hurry-up-and-wait situation now. The work has been done. I know that because I’m the one who did it. That’s why I wake up at 4:15 am most mornings, why I’ve run more 20+ milers this spring than I can remember, why I regularly average 55-75 mile weeks and why my laundry is 55-75% running clothes.

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I ran 82 miles last week, and at the end of the week I didn’t feel strung out, tired, or sore.I should be brimming with confidence. But over the whole week, I still only managed 4/5 of the race distance. 

Should lost meaning to me ages ago (during therapy with a real therapist). He started to recognize that all of the sessions where I came in uneasy or upset started with conversations of shoulds. I shouldn’t have done that. That shouldn’t have happened to me. I should’ve handled it differently. I should’ve been dealt a different hand. It didn’t matter who was at fault or what had happened, I always felt discouraged because it should’ve been different. I should’ve been better.

Here’s a hard one: I should be stronger.

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That word should is tricky because it has invisible strings. If you think for example, you should lose weight, it suggests that you have an ideal in your mind of the correct size. You are comparing something that is (reality) against a standard in your mind that you may or may not be cognizant of (ideal). Then, you do a simple math problem:

IDEAL – REALITY = SHOULD

I should lose 15 pounds. In one flash of a moment, you made several synapse-judgments and reached a conclusion without thinking it through. This can be a slippery slope to losing reality. You start thinking in terms of what you aren’t and what you don’t have.

Not every should is right or wrong. Some of them hold water (you really should take care of your body, you should be an honest person, you should probably run a lot before an ultramarathon). And, a lot of them don’t. If you think I should be a nicer person, that seems to ring true. Be careful, though, because that statement casts a shadow that suggests I am not a nice person now. The hard part is navigating the shoulds.

Disclaimer: we all need a swift kick in the petoot sometimes. If you’re being a jerk and a small voice in your head tells you not to be a jerk, listen to it.

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However, if you’re using these rapid synaptic comparisons to beat yourself up, especially without even knowing you’re beating yourself up, you need to let that should go. There is a way to bypass it.

Go back to the weight example. What’s your BMI? Learn about nutrition. Appraise your diet. Ask what you want out of this. Is it a worthy goal that aligns with your values? If it is, do it. Not because you should, but because you want to be able to play with your kids at the beach and live a long happy life.

Get that guilt-of-an-ideal-unmet out of there.

I should relax and enjoy my taper? I shouldn’t go running? Not until I check the facts and accept them. I’ve done the work. I’ve checked my ideal. In this case, the goal worthy of pursuit is to finish in under 30 hours and do my best. I’m also cursing that tomorrow is only Monday and I have to wait all week to drive to LaGrange, WI to lace up.

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I know that the first time you do a longer distance, it comes with new feels and new things to learn. I’m confident that I can train, run, and enjoy just about any 50 miler. That’s not how the first one went. Ultrarunning is often a live-and-learn scenario.

What happens after 82? The fact is, I am very slowly creeping toward the path into the unknown. I’m nervous. I’m excited. This is taking my best run and doubling it, which is totally insane to me. I know it’ll be a long week. I’ve seen where the Ice Age Trail ends (last weekend actually, climbing in Taylors Falls). I can’t wait to see the beginning.

Namaste.

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