A Tale of Two Buddies
A ghostly tale of motivation and discipline
In honor of Halloween, and of the 163rd anniversary of the publishing of A Tale of Two Cities, we take a brief hiatus from our regularly scheduled programming for a very special episode.
Think: What I’m thinking about
“It is the worst of times,” our insipid protagonist Charles said to himself with incredulity. “It is the season of darkness, the winter of despair. How have I let myself get so out of shape?”
And so, avowed to begin an intense fitness regimen, Charles called upon his fickle buddy, Mr. Motivation.
“Mo, I’ve got to get back in the gym. Whilst thou accompany me?”
“Oh, hells yeah! I’ll get you up at 5:30 and we’ll lift all the weights.”
True to his word, Mo aroused Charles at 5:30 the very next morn, and together they did lift all of the weights. And day after day, Monday through Friday, Motivation dutifully aroused Charles and pulled him from the warmth of his bedclothes into gym shorts and they did workout for an entire week.
But the following Monday, Charles turned his gaze to the clock and noticed that he had thrice activated the snooze button and that it was now nigh on 6:00 am. He turned, and cried out, “Mo, where are you, buddy?”
“Oh, hey yeah, I’m running late. Go to the gym without me. I’ll meet you in the parking lot.”
And so, Charles drug himself from the bed and to the gym where he waited, glaring at his watch, before again calling on Motivation, “I’m here, where are you?”
“Hey bro, sorry. Go ahead and get started. I’ll show up.”
Charles entered the gym and located a recumbent bike which allowed him to spin the pedals lazily while watching a rerun of ‘Charmed’ starring Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs, and Rose McGowan.
But even the Power of Three failed to conjure Motivation and eventually, Charles gave up and went home. Motivation had ghosted him, and without him, he couldn’t go on.
Charles climbed back into bed a disgruntled and broken man, who thereafter managed to eke out a Dickensian existence by online trading in 1990s television memorabilia while endeavoring to claim the prodigious strength found in sorrow and despair. He was occasionally visited in his slumber by nocturnal spirits representing his glorious past, dismal present, and predictably grim future (but that is another story for another time).
The second of our tales commences in a similar fashion. We find Sydney bemoaning the events that had placed him in such dire straits. He had allowed his work to consume him, and in so doing, he watched as his strength slowly ebbed until now, in a final desperate bid, he vowed to return to the gym. He too called upon a buddy to assist, Mr. Discipline.
“Hey D,” I’m getting back to the gym tomorrow, will you join me?
“Of course, as long as you are committed. But first, we need to establish a SMART goal and from that goal, develop a system that will get us there.”
“I know about SMART goals, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based, but how do I set up a system, D?”
“Simple. You automate the things you can automate. Put out your clothes the night before, prep your pre-workout meal, know what workout you are going to do, and keep your expectations in check.
The next morning when Sydney woke to the alarm, he didn’t feel like getting up. It was going to be hard, and so he called on Discipline, “Hey, D. I’m not feeling it today.”
“I don’t care. It’s not a matter of feeling like it. We built the system, you execute it. Get up, brush your teeth, look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m the type of person who goes to the gym in the morning.’ Put on the gym clothes you laid out last night, drink your smoothie, go to the gym, and follow the workout. You may feel better once you get going, or you may not, but that is irrelevant. Do the work and do it again tomorrow and the day after that. Some days Motivation will show up and he’ll make the work fun, but if you keep at it, you will see results. Each day you stick with the system it will become easier until going to the gym will simply be something you do without conscious thought.
“Sydney nodded his head at this sage advice and smiled. “Mr. Discipline, what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire. My decision to ask for your help was a far, far better thing than I have ever done. But if you will excuse me, my dear friend, I’m tired after leg day and I need to get to bed where I shall have a far, far better rest than I have ever known.”
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Read: Because you really should read it:
A Tale of Two Cities
By Charles Dickens
In the book, Charles Darnay tries to make amends for his family’s transgressions, but he is a passive character who allows events to unfold around him. While Sidney Carton begins the story as an apathetic alcoholic. Ultimately he redeems himself and is proof that there is hope for all of us.
Write: Where I answer your questions about anything:
Last week B.B. Sanders wrote: I'm targeting my first ultra in July (30-miler). Do you have any advice or lessons learned that you think would be valuable to share with myself and everyone else?
This is a great question. First I recommend starting with a good training plan. Johnathan Savage has compiled a list of great plans for races ranging from 50K through 100 Miles here.
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. You will want to complete a run or two in the 18-22 mile range to prepare for a 50K, and you need to build to that distance slowly enough to avoid injury.
In the final 6-8 weeks before the race, focus on specificity; if the run has a lot of elevation, work that in, both up and downhill. Try to complete a last long run after a full workday to run when you are already tired. If the race has the potential to be run at night, get used to running with a headlamp, and put in nighttime miles.
Test out everything you plan to eat, drink, and use during the race before you get there. Make sure that you can stomach the gels or whatever you plan to eat and aim to consume 200 - 250 calories per hour, your body can’t use much more than that. Break in your shoes.
You may want to take in most of your calories in your water. I have had great luck with Tailwind.
Taper in the final two weeks before the race. It can be hard, but trust your training. Cut your running back and focus on recovery, prep, sleep, and mental rehearsals.
This may not apply to a 50K, but certainly for anything longer, or if the terrain is challenging, you should consider establishing a run/walk plan. As a rule, unless you know you’re in shape to run the entire thing, walk the uphills and establish a run/walk pattern that works for you.
On race day, show up early, make sure your drop bags are where they need to be. Make time for a final trip to the bathroom and lube up the places that chafe.
Start off slower than you need to. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and run yourself into the ground. You made your plan when you were well-rested and thinking straight. Stick to it. Eat a few hundred calories every hour, and stay hydrated. Stop and deal with blisters or other issues immediately; they won’t get better on their own.
Have a plan for when your plan does not go to plan.
I usually have an A, B, and C time goal. If everything goes great I push for the A goal, but if that becomes unachievable, transition to the B goal. Finally, when Murphy strikes and everything that can go wrong does go wrong, it’s time to aim for the C goal which is to finish within the time limit.
Finishing slow is always better than not finishing -unless you are hurt. I don’t believe in quitting, but I have. It sucks. I don’t recommend it, but if you race long enough it will happen.
If it gets really bad, get to the next aid station, sit down, eat something and regroup.
In the words of David Horton, “It never always gets worse.”
I recommend reading Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell
I can’t wait to hear all about it!
Repeat: Words of inspiration from those who said it best:
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I'm going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?” - Marcus Aurelius
“For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories. ” – Plato
“You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. …And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.” – Leonardo da Vinci
“What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.” – Aristotle
“Success is created through the performance of a few small daily disciplines that stack up over time to produce achievements far beyond anything you could of ever planned for. Failure, on the other hand, is just as easy to slip into. Failure is nothing more than the inevitable outcome of a few small acts of daily neglect performed consistently over time so that they take you past the point of no return.” – Robin Sharma
“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius
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Thanks! That is some of the best information I have read on running an ultra. I look forward to integrating alot of that as I train.