Head games

This weekend’s race promises to be a scorcher here in Baltimore: a high of 92 with a zillion percent humidity. Yesterday, when talking about it with my friend Jess, who is also racing, she commented that “it won’t be a PR,” and shrugged her shoulders. The funny thing is, she can take that attitude and still turn out a fantastic race. Me? If I start thinking about the heat and how it won’t allow for a good race time, I’ll proceed to implode on race day. Instead, I’m taking the attitude that I’m primed for a good race, no matter what the conditions.

I’ve found over time that I need to have this kind of positive attitude, and a boat load of confidence, to race well. If I don’t, well, I can’t summon the right performance from my legs. This has proven itself out time and again for me. I’m amazed at someone like Jess who can pull it off no matter what. I wish I had a dose of that! But I guess I have the next best thing, which is knowing what’s necessary for me to perform well.

It’s been said 1,000 times before–running is a mental game, and I’m a believer in that. Running Times has a great article this month on how different athletes need different approaches to racing to be successful. The important thing is figuring out what you need and then executing it. What mental strategies work for you?

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  1. RockStarTri says

    I agree 100%. You know you are ready physically and it is all mental now. I seem to have two race gears: as fast as possible or just getting it done. I need to find a mental gear in between.

    Next year I should actually buy the french fry lamp for training. I'll let you borrow it if you want :)

  2. Caratunk Girl says

    This is awesome, I need to read that Running Times article! I agree, keeping a positive attitude and not mentally defeating yourself is key to a solid performance. You are going to bring it this weekend, I just know it!

  3. Teamarcia says

    I am so with you on this one–running is very mental. I too need to consciously force (sometimes) a positive attitude to run well.
    Good luck with your race and be safe in that heat!

  4. Dash says

    Miss Zippy! I wanted to run this race, but it was sold out before I got around to it. I ran it the first year and I thought it was so well managed and a nice course. My only thing to tell you is go out TOO slow (until the lake/mile4?), those hills coming back are going to need everything you got. Good luck this is a really great race and the community is very supportive of it, I wish I was running it with you! If memory serves me, up until mile 4 is shaded as well. It's a great race, you will do great even with the heat.

  5. Jennifer says

    I know about heat and humidity… plan your pacing, stay cool, get a towel or bandanna you can wet and wear around your neck it will help, a zillion percent. Of course I know you know all this! I guess I just find that if I make tactical plans for a race I have questions about, it somehow makes me feel as if I have some additional ammo to get by and that usually gets me back into the game mentally. Anyway, just more mind games!

  6. Johann says

    Mental it is. The trick is to not let conditions or other factors mess with your mental state. I try to do some mental strength building as part of my training, but it's not easy. For me the best to do is just relax and run. Adapt your plan according to conditions and do your best. You'll be great this weekend, I'm sure!

  7. P says

    My race performance is sometimes wildly inconsistent with my training; mental preparation is definitely a work in progress for me.
    Stay safe in the heat and GOOD LUCK! Can't wait to read your race report!

  8. Lisa says

    I think your attitude is more likely to result in a PR or a good race. Where your friend won't be disappointed when she doesn't run a good race, she won't be able to run a great race at all.

    I agree with a comment above– a race plan is my best mental plan in a race. My best races started with a good plan, including a good backup.

    Keep up with your positive attitude!

  9. ajh says

    Good luck. After running in DC last night I realized my race on Sat. will be slow. I have been wearing long sleeves at home so I was not exactly prepared for the heat here in DC. And it looks like it is only getting hotter.

  10. Molly says

    That is one thing I am really trying to work on, my brain! It's amazing how much it can mess with you, or help you. Keep up that positive thinking, I know you'll do great, even in the heat!

  11. ShutUpandRun says

    For me it's about being physically prepared enough that my mental state is a good one. I spend a lot of time mentally preparing in terms of visualizing, etc. That said, while the mental component is HUGE, you have to have that physical preparedness to go along with it for sure.

  12. Emz says

    That Running Times article was awesome!! I love that mag [possibly better than runner's world-less "fluff"].

    You've got this!

  13. Marlene says

    One thing I always work on is NOT worrying about the things I can't control (i.e. weather). You're prepared for this, so go for it! Whatever happens, happens.

  14. Kenley says

    Mental Strategies? Hmmmm. You know, I dont really have any yet. I just have a positive attitude and do the best I can do. But, on the same note, I do not settle for the middle of the road attitude either. What ever the conditions are, I just go with them. As far as the temps go, I prepare by trying to convince myself that it is cooler than what it is. THere is my mental game plan. Best wishes on your race, and hope you can cope with the temps.

  15. Viper says

    The "eh, oh well" attitude works for me on occasion, when I'm just not feeling it on race day. If I can convince myself that a less than ideal time doesn't matter, I usually surprise myself. I guess it takes off the pressure I put on myself.

  16. KBam says

    I'm the same way — I need the positive attitude. One of my training partners for my first marathon was wonderful to run with in general but hard to run with on the really long runs, because she would start cursing about hills or the distance or something, and it totally messed with my head. I just need to focus on the good things and stay motivated.

    You will have a great race this weekend because you're ready for it, regardless of what the conditions are. Stay hydrated and perhaps be a little conservative on the pace in the first half, and you will finish feeling great about your effort! Best of luck

  17. Irene says

    Sure, there's training involved, but positive attitude can really pull a person through… Remember the little train that could? 😉

  18. Laura says

    I don't know what works for me yet, too inexperienced! That sounds like an interesting article to read, I'm interested in performance anxiety and the way different people's minds react differently to the same thing like a race..

  19. blissfulrunner says

    I'm with Jess on this one – I like to prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised if it turns out better than expected. I can't be too hard on myself … I guess you can say I buckle under pressure!

  20. Fair Weather Runner says

    good luck with the heat and humidity, it's supposed to be the same here, blech. only i just have less than five to race. and yes, i still need to figure out how to deal with my racing approach to not psyche myself out, or sabatoge myself. still working on that! :)

  21. MCM Mama says

    Good luck with the race. Mental is definitely a big part of it. Although, with the weather we are having, I have to pay close attention to what is going on with my body.

  22. Char says

    I've always done best if I go in with no expectations. If I try to PR, invariably I don't. At last year's Gold Coast 10k I got there late and didn't have enough time to go to the loo. I decided on the start line that it wasn't going to be MY race then proceeded to get a 25s PR. No expectations = a better performance.

  23. Rad Runner says

    I think it was Running Times? No no.. Running world that just had a whole article on tips for running in the heat! Check it out and rock it girl!

  24. KC (my 140 point 6 mile journey) says

    Having a positive attitude is a huge part of the battle and so is your preparedness. You've put in a lot of hard work/training. Basically, you just put your game face on at the starting line and do your very best. Sending tons of positive energy to you…lord knows i feel your pain with the heat & humidity but being so well trained will be a huge advantage, no doubt about it.

  25. Cynthia O'H says

    Have a great run. For every race, I go in with the attitude "I can do it". Then, if things feel right, I do more.

  26. Anne says

    I totally understand that running is mental…but, sometimes it's hard right? :)
    Have a blast and good luck on your race!

  27. AM-GoalsfortheWeek! says

    oh, the mental component…it's a doozy i tell ya! looks like you got a lot of strategy suggestions, and I like em' all;-) i really try to do the visualzing too.

    have fun!!

  28. jamie @ sweatyhugs says

    Best of luck to you tomorrow! I know our weather here can be killer at times! I know all too well what the mind can do. I'm still trying to figure out how to break past it myself. hehe I think your approach to keeping things positve and light will work great!

  29. Maryland Girl aka Michelle says

    Have a good race. While you are sweating it in Baltimore, I will be sweating it in DC at the DC Triathlon. HUMIDITY be damned! I know I am ready and I will just keep the positive mental image going!

  30. Lorian says

    Good luck! I totally hear you about the heat and humidity, which is why I am picking races this summer that don't have any of that, unfortunately, it involves having to fly there to get to them.

    You are right about running being mostly mental. How many long runs would we have under our belt if we listened to that nagging voice saying it wanted to stop?