Mar 22, 2010

Umstead Preview #3: Emotion is Fickle

I had a rather profound epiphany while writing this post (on Friday night.) It was so significant to me that I decided to strip everything in the post that doesn't lead to this thought.

Rocky Raccoon
My race report had a succinct summary about why I dropped:
At this point, there were three things working against me:
1.) Indifference
2.) Lots of pain, extreme fatigue, intense desire to sit down.
3.) Most importantly - the cutoff.

The cutoff was pure pragmatism. And of course there was pain and fatigue. Duh.

But the indifference. I definitely remember the indifference. Indifference is what surprised me at the time. It Shocked me. I didn't think I'd ever stop caring. I always thought I would have to let the raw desire and emotion overpower the rational reasons to quit. It turns out, I had that backwards.

100 milers and meta-cognition

Let say that again - At Rocky, I counted on pure raw emotion to get me through the tough times. I figured that I could count on raw desire, and it would get me there. That was the absolute opposite of what I needed. When the desire went away and indifference took over, I had nothing to keep me going. Emotions are fickle. They can change on a dime. But the rational thought - if I keep going, I'll finish - that's a truth that will never change. It's also a truth that many ultrarunners have counted on to get them to the finish line.

Don't believe me? Look at what I wrote here in my Rocky Raccoon race report:
"What was wrong with the 50 mile distance? I liked the 50-mile distance! You start in the morning, you're done at night! 100 miles, on the other hand - well, that's just stupid!!" - me

That sounds a lot like something an emotionally and physically distressed person would say in the middle of a death march in the wee hours of the morning. If it happened to me under those circumstances, I probably would attribute it to the physical circumstances and at least try to intellectually blow it off.

But that not how it happened.

I said that while I still felt fine physically.

At around mile 52. 8PM.

I was fine physically, but emotionally a mess. And - the messed up emotions likely intensified the physical pain I felt in the next 8 miles which took 3 hours!

Pretty wild, right?

Anyway, when the emotion took over, my mind dropped all the rational reasons not to quit, and replaced them with rational reasons to quit.

At Umstead, a big challenge for me will continue in the face of indifference. To let rationalism prevail when contrary emotions are overwhelming. I won't care - yet I'll have to not care that I won't care.

Let me tell you - if you run 100-milers and don't learn something about yourself, then you're not paying attention.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time

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