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The above picture was snapped somewhere around mile 16. I was in a lot of pain.
The French call it L’appel du vide, it’s the call of the void. A series of dark, morbid thoughts that everyone gets once in a while.
These are thoughts every human gets. Most sane people don’t act on them. But our brains are pretty screwed up sometimes. In training I find every now and then you can capitalize on this to help push yourself harder than you ever thought you could.
Until recently I would have never considered myself an endurance athlete. I used to think a 10K run was impressive… Hell, I used to get excited at just finishing a 5K! Not that there is anything wrong with that, all my life, I have always loved being a gym rat! No cardio, just heavy weights, and an occasional 30 minute session on the Elliptical for ‘conditioning’. Earlier this year I wrote about signing up for the Swedish Classic, a 4 race endurance series honored in Swedish culture. The experience has dramatically changed the way I look at endurance sports. A marathon is no longer too far, a 300K bike race is not just for the ‘crazies’. In fact, the shortest run I have been on in months is a 5K. What a difference a year can make.
However, its not easy. In fact for me it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At 6’4″ and 205 pounds I am not the optimal frame for endurance sport where lean and light are favored attributes. I struggle… A lot, After about 20 kilometers of running I get cramps, I get sharp hip pain, and my stupid brain kicks in and tells me I should quit, go lay on the couch, eat a pizza, or just about anything that doesn’t involve running for 4 hours straight! This is when I find my dark place…
Your dark place is a lot like your happy place, except instead of going to a place where beautiful women serve me hamburgers while I ride a unicorn into space… I go to a place where murderous thugs are abducting my family, Taliban Terrorists are torturing me for my state secrets, and I can make peoples heads explode with mind power…
I’m not always proud of what I think about when I get in this state…
That’s the best part, you can get super weird in your own head with no consequence. After 2 hours of beating your legs against the road, knees screaming, stomach turning from the sugary junk you force down your throat to keep moving, use this time to slip into some seriously morbid thoughts!
Seriously, think about kicking the old man that just passed you (again…). Think about your loved ones on the verge of execution by some sleazy eastern European henchman… Go Dark. Enjoy the adrenaline boost and general distraction this provides while you continue to hammer on down the road.
I know not everyone will use this, or even need these distraction techniques. I envy you! But for the rest of us, stay weird, and go ahead and sign up for that marathon. Once you slip into the world of distance racing, there is no turning back.