Monday Musings: On Motivation



Since I signed up for this race, and commenced whining and complaining about all the effort I’ll have to put into it, I’ve heard all sorts of stuff from my friends and family about how ‘motivated’ I am. Statements tend to be along the lines of the following:

Oh but you’re so active already so you won’t find it hard to do more.

How can you say you’re not motivated? I’ve never seen anyone hike as much as you!

You are NOT lazy.

Here’s the thing: I am fundamentally lazy, and I don’t feel particularly motivated.  When I hear people talk about loving a challenge, and the joy of working through something difficult, here’s what I think: “Oh, PLEASE” (with an eye roll thrown in for good measure).  I mean, seriously, give me the easy road any day.  The easy road is paved with moderate effort…and cake…and wine. The easy road is lined with puppies and cherry blossoms perpetually in bloom.  On the easy road, you can’t help but smile and feel good about life.

The hard road, on the other hand, is paved with deprivation and sore muscles and saying no to that 4th (okay, 6th) glass of wine; it runs at a 40 degree incline and with each step you feel its pointy rocks through the soles of your shoes. The hard road is not lined with anything at all; it is a narrow path with steep drop-offs on both sides, such that one misstep will send you plummeting to certain death. On the hard road, you want to curl up in a fetal ball and cry, but you can’t because there’s no room for that.

This is my mental map and, granted, it is full of extremes.  In my mind, the easy road is a land of 6 workouts per week, including a couple of long hikes on the weekends.  For some, this might not be the easy road but I am used to this level of activity, so it’s become easy to maintain and, thus, really requires little motivation.  Easy roads, they’re all relative.

When it comes to training for this ultra, or any other life event that pushes me outside my comfort zone, I don’t rely on motivation.  It’s too fleeting and fickle. It’s too situational.  It’s too intangible for me to wrap my head around.  No, motivation is not my secret.  Are you ready to hear my secret?


That’s right, it’s guilt.  I know you’re probably thinking it sounds terribly unhealthy, and you might actually be right.  But let me tell you it works infinitely better than that whole motivation thing. Let’s compare motivation and guilt in a real-life scenario:

Scenario: I have to hike 32km tomorrow but…let’s open that second bottle of wine anyway!

Motivation Response: I am going to hike 32km tomorrow! I will see pretty things! It will be magical! No amount of wine can interfere with my will to hike!

Guilt Response: That second bottle of wine is going to make the 7:00am wake up call feel horrid and there’s a 50% probability that I’ll downgrade my hike to 10km. If I do that, I’ll start to lose my endurance and I’ll never work my way back to being able to hike 32km.  And if I can’t do that, I’ll never be able to run this ultra and everyone will know I’m a total failure.

I think it’s clear which strategy will lead to greater success. With motivation, I’m ignoring the very real risks to training and relying solely on my good intentions. And I am a firm believer that good intentions mean squat.

With guilt, however, I paint a picture of failure so compelling and humiliating that I cannot possibly ignore it, no matter how exaggerated and unrealistic it may be. This is the beauty of guilt. It is the ultimate accountability driver because it’s so very palpable…and irrational.  We like to think of ourselves as rational beings but, let’s be honest, psychological research has shown time and time again that humans are often irrational in their decision-making.  Revel in guilt’s inherent irrationality and get ready to be shocked by how much you can accomplish.

It’s time for a new model of motivation.  I say screw the hard road and digging deep and finding your inner strength.  Instead, bask in the glory of guilt and let it shame you into achieving your goals.

p.s. Yes, I am available to do motivational speaking at your next event.

Training Week in Review (TWIR): Week #1

Welcome to the first official TWIR! This is exciting for two reasons: 1. ultra marathon training is officially underway (okay, so ‘officially underway’ is a boldface lie, but it sounds better than ‘somewhat underway’ or ‘hasn’t actually started but I always work out six days a week so this looks sort of impressive’) and 2. who doesn’t love a good acronym?

Let’s get this TWIR started (see, catchy isn’t it?):

Monday:  Official registration in the Mount Robson ultra. In celebration, I manage to fit in a lackluster combo of spin and HIIT. Side note: wearing glasses while using the TRX is one of the worst workout experiences imaginable.

Tuesday: I plan on an “extra long run” but end up with only 11 km on predominantly flat ground before calling it a day. Inner rationalization: I have six months left to train so what’s the rush?

Wednesday: I barely make it to the gym, my workout fueled entirely by Ibuprofen and a desperate need to temporarily escape the office.  I knock out a sorry 55 minutes on the spin bike.  Again, I remind myself of my seemingly infinite training window.  Also, being the totally creepy gym-goer that I am, I observe that I’m using a tension three levels higher than the guy next to me, which makes me feel superior…and like I am clearly a fitness ninja.

Thursday: 12.5km run in the sunshine watching cherry blossom sway in the wind.  It is almost a poetically beautiful experience. I felt like I could’ve kept running for much longer, and yet I didn’t.  I read once that you should end a run while you still feel strong enough to keep running. I also read you shouldn’t increase your mileage by more than 10% at a time, and this already exceeded a 10% increase over Tuesday’s run. I like to knowingly misinterpret real advice to suit my needs, and then treat it like gospel.

Friday:  I lead a boot camp for my colleagues every Friday, even though I have no idea what I’m doing from a training perspective.  I cannot provide counsel on form or modifications.  Once, one of my colleagues got bursitis care of one of my workouts.  Yet they continue to join in the fun, and sometimes they tell me my workouts are brutal, so I figure I must be doing something right.  Also, it provides me the opportunity to boss people around which I secretly love (although now not-so-secretly, since some of them read this–hi guys!!!! love you!!!!). Today is not a great workout for me. My sacroiliac is bugging me and, evidently, running stairs does not make it happier.  My colleagues abandon me 28 minutes in. Without anyone to boss around, I only make it another 20 minutes before calling it a day.

Self-rating on TWIR #1:

i tried

Except I really didn’t.  On the bright side, training can only go uphill from here!

Falling into the Rabbit Hole

Ah, the internet.  It is a vast wasteland of all the information about ultra marathons that anyone could ever want to know. Ever. Since I committed to my ultra goal earlier this week, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole of ultra research.  As I’ve investigated everything from coaches to training plans to nutrition, I’ve oscillated between sheer inspiration (“I really CAN do this!”) and utter despair (“WTF am I doing?????).

Here are my personal favourite finds and realizations and, let’s face it, some true gems:

  1. From This was promising at first. I’ve found an article that supports my view that anyone can run an ultra!  And then, then I read this: “All you have to do to run an ultra is slow down.”  As I reflected on these wise words, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, being able to run 50km really is as easy as slowing my pace. Could it be simple mathematics at play?  For instance, if I comfortably run 12km roughly at a pace of 5 min/km, then a basic algebraic formula tells me I should be able to comfortably run 50km at a pace of roughly 21 min/km. As an added bonus, while training at this new pace I can experience the shame of being passed on the seawall, while I’m “running”, by the countless hordes out for their casual strolls. Other minor details: at this comfortable ultra pace, it would take me 17.5 hours to complete the ultra and I would surely be disqualified for failing to reach the 18km mark in the allotted 2.5 hours.  However, I do seriously wonder if they would grant me an exception for mathematically solving the problem of ‘how do you comfortably run 50km?’

2. I will never find an ultra coach: Ultimately, I find the uber-inspirational to be…well, nauseating. I’m looking for what I’ve coined Inspiration Lite. I want the coach that won’t sugarcoat the hell of training for this type of event.  I want the coach who can empathize with my desire to lay on my couch for an entire day watching countless hours of Boy Meets World on Shomi (FYI readers: BOY MEETS WORLD IS ON SHOMI. In my opinion, this is a worthy shout-out and also a damn good reason to supplement your Netflix subscription with Shomi*). I want the coach that won’t make me hang my head in shame for lacking discipline and perseverance because he or she has been there. I read one coach’s blog on which she discussed her worst year of training and running, but then went on to say how she placed first in a 75km ultra that same year.  Let’s compare this to my own personal worst year of running in which I stopped running entirely for several months, gained 20 pounds, and then painstakingly built my way up to being able to run for 45 minutes without wanting to vomit.  Now that is a bad year in running. When I find a running coach with that story, I’m all ears. In fact, if you’re that running coach, please leave a comment and I will be your client/best friend for the next 6 months.

3.  Enough said.

  • Please note that Shomi has not endorsed this post nor paid me to promote their services (and I say this with great sadness, since I’d absolutely accept that payment).



So that happened

I am not a runner.

This is a pretty deeply entrenched story in my mind.  I run, but not seriously.   These days I rarely run farther than 12km at a time.

But even when I ran 22km every Saturday and 2-3 additional 15 km runs per week, I never felt like a runner. I didn’t (and don’t) have the build of a “real runner”. I didn’t consider myself disciplined. I didn’t consider myself serious about it. I certainly didn’t take fuelling and nutrition seriously. I never ran for time.  I never wanted to compete.  It all just seemed so decidedly casual that it couldn’t be possible that I was a runner.

I ran a half marathon.

I ran a full marathon. In the mountains.

I trail ran 25km all the time when I lived in Banff.

I have run on road or trail for varying distances for 11 years now.

Still, I can’t call myself myself a runner.

So I’m not a runner. But damn it, I’m going to run an ultra this year. I signed up for the Mount Robson Ultra, a measly 50km jaunt over the river and through the woods. The race is September 10th, just ever-so-shy of 6 months from now.

Follow my journey. Celebrate my insanity.  Expect a lot of bitching and moaning.  This is not a running blog.  This is a space to document my anticipated mental anguish care of what will surely be a ludicrously unconventional training plan (read: I am not willing to sacrifice my social life nor wine “hobby”).  If I survive, I can knock “run an ultra” off my bucket list, proudly declare myself a runner, and promptly plunge face first into a giant vat of wine.