Mental Tricks For Fighting off Fatigue/Discomfort
Fatigue and discomfort limit performance. This is a physical reality. Anxiety and fear MAGNIFY fatigue. Once fatigue has taken charge, it's a LONG way to the finish line!
The key is to ACCEPT discomfort and fatigue as part of the deal and be confident you will run well despite it. At this stage of the game, ALL of you should know this. There's just no way to run for an extended period of time and NOT experience some level of discomfort/fatigue. So, this should actually be a bit 'easier' for you than it was several months ago.
But, let's say something comes up during the run (or race). The best thing you can do is 'heighten your awareness' in the area where you're feeling discomfort or fatigue. So, if your right quad is feeling a bit fatigued/tight, consciously focus on this area, tighten your quad momentarily, and RELAX. This reduces anxiety, helping fight off fatigue with relaxation.
I raced a 5K a couple years ago and ran into some fatigue and discomfort (quite literally!). Racing a distance this short REQUIRES a level of discomfort/fatigue that you just don't experience when you're doing an EASY run. About halfway through the race, my lungs were really hurting.
It was an uncomfortable sensation, but I reminded myself that I had been there before and I just needed to stay focused and RELAX! While the discomfort didn't disappear, the latter part of the race was manageable and I even managed a little surge right at the end DESPITE the discomfort.
Telling myself to relax was a big part of this. Come up with some kind of 'relaxation slogan'. 'Calm, calm, calm' or 'Breathe, breathe, breathe.' 'Chill, chill, chill.' Whatever works for you.
Another tactic I use (and is recommended) is focus on your posture, biomechanics, and form. REALLY tune into where your feet are landing, how your arms are moving, what your breathing feels like, etc. This dovetails with the whole concept of 'associating'. In the latter stages of a tough run or race, form sometimes falls apart and by consciously FOCUSING on how your body is moving, you can stave this off to a certain extent. If you're running on fumes, the WORST thing you can do is start running inefficiently and WASTE what little juice you have left!
Talk to yourself. Remind yourself of EVERYTHING you've been through since you started training. The countless miles logged. The aches, the pains, the hot days, the windy days, etc. Don't forget the bar nights you've survived, too ;) In all seriousness, this is REALLY important!
If I'm in a race and I'm REALLY HURTING, I will start thinking about things I've endured (while running or in life) that have hurt worse. Almost invariably, I can find a run/race or life experience that puts things in perspective. This pretty much always helps me get through the discomfort/fatigue.
Getting angry/aggressive in this context can actually be a good thing. A sudden rush of adrenaline provides a psychological boost and may help break the hold of fatigue.
When I first started running cross country in high school, I developed this odd habit of letting out a 'war cry' in the latter stages of a race when I was really hurting and really digging deep to find one last surge. Literally, it was something out of 'Braveheart'.
During the state meet my sophmore year, I came charging up the final hill and saw LEGIONS of runners in front of me with about 400 meters to go. Something in me just snapped and I let out the 'war cry' and somehow found an extra gear outkicking about 20-30 people in that home stretch.
While I don't necessarily employ this technique anymore (maybe I should!), it was effective.
Hopefully, the content in this section has given all of you some good food for thought and a few ways to manage the challenges you've faced and will face on race day.
I've given all of you just about all of the knowledge and so-called wisdom I have, it's up to you now! :)