I think that may be the trick to this ultrarunning thing.
Control what you can control. Ignore the rest of it.
No need to count the miles left. Or hours left. Or distance to the next aid station. Not helpful.
Think small. Look inward and find the rhythm the same way you do when you start out on a normal morning run. Or when you begin to crank it up on a particular fast track interval. Find your breath. Relax your shoulders. Relax your face. Find the line through the rocky trail maze.
Think small. No value in “Holy cow, I can’t do this for (fill in the blank with time or distance).” No point in “There’s no way I can last another XX hours in this heat.” And zero hope in “I cannot climb that climb one more time. No way.” Yes, you can. Yes, you can. Yes, you can.
Think small. Find whatever scale you are comfy with and set about wrapping your head around that scale. For me at Hinson Lake 24-Hour several weeks ago, it was each of two or three run segments on the 1.52-mile loop. Not covering the entire loop in a set amount of time.
And it was also making sure that I drank some chocolate milk every hour. And that I plopped in my chair every two hours for a quick 2- to 3-minute break, making sure I propped my feet up on my cooler to take a bit of pressure off them.
Think small. Once it got dark at HL, I shifted focus to the promise to begin running again at the first wooden bridge after the left turn off the dam. Find the bridge. Start running. Find second gear. Keep running until crossing the 300-foot-long bridge, then walk the entirety of the kitty-litter-like footing and small hill comically dubbed Mount Hinson. (Thanks for that bit of magic, Charles West!!!)
Think small. Be mindful of whatever the task immediately at hand, be it finishing that Zip-Lock baggie of Frito’s Corn Chips, polishing off the last of the green tea-Red Bull combo mix, finding just the right groove in the trail over there on the Hinson Front Nine’s longish straightaway.
Think small. Know when to say “No” — such as “The pizza is fresh. Who wants some pizza?! — and then push your mind onward to the next order of business. Same goes, most of the time, for getting caught up in visiting with somebody out there on the course, especially if that somebody is going at a different speed than your speed.
Think small. No need to get greedy and change what’s working just because the idea of, say, running for the next hour or even running the whole next climb happens to flash across your mind. Be patient. Remember your training. Trust your plan.
And if things happen to start to go a little sideways, then I know a really great strategy to bring things back to even … think. small.
Think small. When negativity starts its inevitable ultrarun creep, intake some calories and beat the neg back with the happiest thought you can muster.
Fresh off a 5-mile PR for 24 hours and a 10-mile course best in my sixth try at that same place, I’m thinking I may have bumbled across the answer I’ve been chasing all of these 20-something ultrarunning years.