>Getting Tough

>Kara Goucher recently blogged about her NYC Half Marathon experience. I am a huge KG fan, and the honesty and candidness with which she talks about her life and training is unmatched throughout alot of professional athletes. One of the parts that struck me was when she said this:

“At ten miles, the lead group really sped up, and split up. I went with the move initially, but then I started to worry about blowing up, and let three women go ahead of me. About a mile later I realized I felt fine. I hadn’t let the others go because I had to; I’d let them go because I was afraid.”

Fear. It’s such a huge part of racing. Not that I can really compare myself to the calibar of athlete that KG is, but I still know a thing or two about fear in a race. I am still somewhat haunted by HURT, in fact. Winning a big-name 100 mile race is the ultrarunning equivalent (for me) of getting to Kona. It’s making a name for yourself. You don’t get lucky in 100’s. If you win one, it’s because you deserve it. Very few training days go by when I don’t think of what ran through my mind when I was told coming in from lap 3 of HURT that I was now leading the women’s race. I know that in that instant my race began to deteriorate. I may have been the strongest woman out there still running, but I was too afraid to show it. Like flipping a switch, when I was passed and sat comfortably in second place, only then was I able to regain my composure and race my race. The bottom line? I didn’t truly think of myself as capable of winning that race. I was afraid of going for it.

In an effort not to dwell on that too much, I have focused my energy on ensuring that this year, if there ever is to be a spot to Kona within my reach, I will not end up with the same fate. Come November I still may not have earned myself a spot, but if I can look back and say that there was not a single moment in a race when I was afraid to give a little more – to get tough and go for it – then I’ll be okay.

So, easier said than done, right? This week, however, was one of those weeks that I put into the bank of “get tough” weeks.  It will be drawn on in races when I need reassurance that I can do it – speed up, push harder, and go with the pack. (Okay so there probably won’t be a “pack” persay, but it’s a metaphor people!) Starting with my Tuesday from hell which was a mental hurdle, to the Wednesday speed workout that kicked my butt, another long day Thursday, followed up by a solo long run in the cold rain on Friday morning. But it didn’t end there. Saturday as I was walking out the door with my bike, the rain started. It was only about 40 degrees as it was, but at that point, I said F it, I’m still riding outside. It was as if I was being sabatoged- the weather was bad, drivers wanted anything but the added distraction of me on the road, and I had to stop twice when I noticed loose screws on my bike. But, I did it. And then I swam my workout. Because it wasn’t a great day for training, but it was a day to get tough.

Those moments that go unnoticed and unrewarded (until blogged about, of course) are what will give me confidence when I battle for a top age group spot. Sometimes it’s hard to find words to motivate you when the weather is bad and when your legs are dead. Sometimes it’s hard to remember why you should keep running when you’re huddled in the cold rain waiting for a running partner and realizing that they aren’t waking up that morning. Sometimes it’s hard to bear a solo 50 mile ride with trucks spraying gross street rain in your face.

But sometimes, you just get tough.

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

0 comments on “>Getting Tough”

  1. >Great post. I have the speed fear. The constant thinking "I'm not fast enough to keep up." It really frustrates me, but when I can get over that fear and just go out and do it, I often surprise myself (training IS paying off!) and overcome the fear. 🙂

  2. >I wondered about that myself, Alyssa. I saw it all unfold and I had no answer for you as to how to convince you of what you already knew, that you could win it if you wanted to win it. It was all within your reach, and your legs and stomach were operating as well as anyone I've ever paced in a 100. I didn't realize that you were human, that something like fear or doubt could affect you just like it affects the rest of us, not after the toughness you displayed on the course.Maybe the fear will fade with more of these moments? Maybe it was a one time deal? I think one of the bigger differences between a winner and a perpetual podium finisher is confidence. And I firmly believe that one person's source of confidence may not necessarily match with anyone else's. You have to find something which you can cling to in your moment of truth, the rope that will pull you on to greatness. It's all so intangible, but more time in the pain cage will unravel the details.

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