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The Hay is in the Barn

Now, let’s set it ablaze

From Eric’s Training Journal:

One week out from The Speed Project (TSP).

This is the time when my brain is flooded with thoughts of self-doubt. There’s not enough time to put in more impactful work that will benefit my fitness, so I’m left considering the past:

“Did I make the right training decisions over the past 5-6 months? Did I stay intentional and driven enough for it all to pay off in a week? Am I good enough, strong enough, determined enough to conquer this thing?” 

There’s no vacancy for doubt in this final week though. There’s only room for reflection and visualization that provides confidence. I’m energized as I consider the cliche pre-race mantra, “the hay is in the barn.” But what does that mean in the final days leading to the race? I get that the work is complete. It’s just time to unleash the fitness on race day, but there has to be something more? 

eric resting on a driveway

Better quality hay goes a long way

The beginning half of 2023 was not a good one for me. I battled an ankle injury that took me out of TSP ‘23, made the frustrating decision to DNF a 100 miler at mile 48, dealt with a calf and hamstring tweak that kept me from pursuing a self-made ultra adventure, and a mix of other unfavorable life circumstances.

Unintentionally, I began running to old vices to cope with my shortcomings and did not like who I was becoming. It was time to give as much focus to my emotional and mental health as I do to my physical health. Hello therapy! Weeding through the mess of emotions we have bottled up is like headlamp batteries dying in the middle of a trail run at midnight. You only really know there is a tree in front of you until it reveals itself at the last second so you can run face-first into it.

A friend of mine who is a practicing therapist advised me that as I embark on the journey of therapy I may see a decline in performance for a time. My naive self smiled and thanked him for the heads up, while internally rejecting the thought because ‘i’m different’. The exact voice of someone who needs therapy and would get hit with a performance slump. Of course, that’s exactly what happened…but it was the best thing for me. 

I had the opportunity to redefine my fuel source in this sport as I unpacked my emotional baggage. This was my chance to create sustainable energy versus running on emotional NOS all the time. This round of training for TSP has been as much about understanding “what hay is going in the barn” mentally as it was physically. Once I was able to view training from a lens of opportunity instead of obligation, I’ve been able to run with a baseline of gratitude. It’s been a wild shift, but I’ve found it to be more sustainable than anything else so far.

Build a bigger barn

I try to incorporate other races/challenges throughout my training to focus on race-day-specific routines. Don’t get me wrong. I love the grind of the 4 AM solo long run with no one cheering me on, but it’s nice to switch things up a bit. It’s amazing how even just one person cheering for you, in running or in life, can provide the confidence boost you need to be successful at a given task. 

I’m humbled at the outcome of the training plan (shout out Caleb with Team Wicked Bonkproof) and consistent support of my community as I look back at the last 6 months. I was able to PR my 50k and hit my overall goal of 40 miles under 6 hours at the Oakwood24 6hr run. I’ve run about 7 training marathons in 2024 already, 4 of which were in a single week. I completed the 4x4x48 challenge (4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours) alongside the amazing Runologie community. I share these recent accomplishments to remind myself that the prep work was hard. But we did it. It’s easy at this stage to doubt that you built a big enough barn.

The combination of emotional work in therapy and run training created more depth in the day-to-day successes than I expected. Each day was an opportunity to create small wins, an important part of training for longevity. Yes, I want a successful race day, but I am equally as stoked about the hundreds of daily wins that I have tucked away. With each win, the barn gets bigger. 

Just a few days left

The last week leading to race day isn’t just about carb loading, reducing miles, and getting good sleep. It’s sometimes not even much about running. This is 7 days of reflection to provide a slow burning fuel to sustain me through the hardest moments. TSP will be filled with grueling miles seeking relief from the desert sun, sleep deprivation that leads me to fall asleep while running, and moments where no quantity of water combats the dry dusty air. It’s gonna get trippy to say the least. Am I intimidated? You know it.

But, the hay is in the barn. Now, let’s set this thing ablaze and rip through the desert. 

See ya in Vegas.