Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 161 – Addie Bracy

[00:00:00] I was recruited. I did go on a recruiting trip. I went to the University of North Carolina. But it was a situation where I was like kind of right on the cusp. I wasn’t a scholarship athlete and it wasn’t a guaranteed spot. It was you know, they brought me in. They were interested. I needed to train hard over the summer and then essentially still kind of try out. So it wasn’t. Yeah, so a little more security than maybe just like deciding on a whim to go try out, but not a ton of security.

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Jesse: [00:01:17] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host Jesse Funk. My guest today is currently a trail ultra runner for Nike Trail. She has three USATF national championships under her belt. She has her master’s degree in sport and performance psychology. Currently is a mental performance consultant at Strive Mental Performance. She is the author of Mental Training for Ultrarunning. You can find her on Instagram or Twitter @AddieBracy. Welcome to the show, Addie Bracy.

Addie: [00:01:49] Thanks for having me.

Jesse: [00:01:51] So I didn’t include this in the intro, but I do want to ask you about it and I think it’s noteworthy. So for you, the listener, if you’re not familiar, not many people walk onto Division I programs and period, let alone do well. So I want to ask you a little bit about that kind of experience, at least in my own small experience. Often division I athletes are recruited, they don’t just pop out of the woodwork to come on to the team. So can you talk a little bit about, I guess, why you decided to come out, how the experience went and how that part of your story kind of unfolded?

Addie: [00:02:36] Sure. Yeah. I guess it was kind of a unique experience where I was recruited. I did go on a recruiting trip. I went to the University of North Carolina. But it was a situation where I was like kind of right on the cusp. I wasn’t a scholarship athlete and it wasn’t a guaranteed spot. It was, you know, they brought me in. They were interested. I needed to train hard over the summer and then essentially still kind of try out. So it wasn’t a yeah.

[00:03:02] So a little more security than maybe just like deciding on a whim to go try out, but not a ton of security. So for me, it was motivating. And I guess I’m always an athlete that’s just like identified with being a really hard worker and not necessarily just seriously naturally talented. So I kind of felt like I had a good shot if I worked hard over the summer and had a good showing in the fall. And I did.

[00:03:28] And yeah, then from there just kind of progressed and my performances throughout my time at the university and eventually was a team captain and school record holder and that kind of thing, but definitely did not start that way.

Jesse: [00:03:42] You know, I — in some ways, I kind of sympathize with college coaches. I, to a much lesser degree, kind of had an experience. I can relate to yours in that, like I went to this pretty competitive D2 school or I didn’t go there, but I talked to the coach and kind of visited campus and all those kind of things. Very competitive distance program. And basically I just I wasn’t even close to fast enough for him to be interested in me.

[00:04:13] And then so I went to a different school, but we still raced against the school. And because I, like you, work very hard, I was easily could have been on his varsity team without any problem. So it’s like on the one hand, like I had this like personal grudge and felt slighted, but at the same time, like, how, how do what coaches have to go on to judge, like, is this going to be a good fit for my team or they you’re going to they actually going to develop into anything you don’t have potential.

[00:04:45] So given your work in kind of trying to dig deeper into the nitty gritty of what’s going on with the brain and athletes, is there anything you look for when you go like, “This person’s not living up to their potential. And I can see why and what we need to tweak.”

Addie: [00:05:05] Oh, yeah, for sure. And I totally agree with you. It’s kind of hard to predict one way or the other. You know, you also see a lot of the other side of athletes coming in with maybe stellar high school resumes that don’t end up performing as well. I guess when I look at that, sometimes I look at where an athlete — I work with a lot of high school athletes, I look at what kind of environment are they currently training in and then what is their goal? If they if it is to compete in college, it’s not necessarily just runners. What is their goal there?

[00:05:37] And what I mean by that is a lot of times you might have athletes who are kind of like a big fish in a small pond and maybe aren’t used to not winning or aren’t used to not being the best on their team, and then might have ideas about going to like a big Division I program. And I often will start having conversations with them about things like dealing with that, dealing with not being the best on the team, dealing with people that are better than you, dealing with maybe not making varsity the first year because that might be something that would be challenging for them.

[00:06:09] On the flip side, I have athletes who are part of very competitive programs or play a club sport where they are kind of already used to that pressure. So I guess one thing would just be what kinds of training environments and expectations and pressure are they exposed to earlier? I think that can be something that’s helpful just to kind of get an idea of where someone’s at with that.

[00:06:29] The other side, it comes down a lot to what someone’s motivated by in terms of results and outcome and like extrinsic or is someone interested in getting better. And I think that that’s something that can be really indicative, especially in young athletes of like how long they might be in a sport.

[00:06:49] In fact, I did a podcast recently where the guy mentioned that a theme he had seen across the board over 200 episodes was that when he asked various performers and various different settings what kind of what they are motivated by or what they would be proud of. And ten years down the road, it was that like improving or getting better or meeting their potential.

[00:07:09] And so that’s something that’s a lot more sustainable over the long haul and shows that an athlete probably has a healthier relationship with outcome and like what that means about them as an athlete, if they have that focus versus just kind of like a strictly performance and outcome-based focus. So those two things are big ones that I can see as predictors of, like how long someone might be in a sport.

Jesse: [00:07:34] I think that’s definitely I mean, regardless of school size, there is, I think, always a jump. We’re not always, but roughly speaking, always a jump in training volume competitiveness when you go from high school to college. So then I think you get a little bit of culture shock. Like no matter where you came from, because if you’re competitive, you’re trying to move up, right? You’re always trying to move up, which means more competition, more pressure, more work, all those kind of things.

[00:08:12] And that is — I think as you deal with it. Trying to figure out if somebody’s going to crack or be able to handle the workload of being a student-athlete. Because you are a student-athlete for the vast majority of student-athletes, they’re not going to be getting paid, even with the changes in NCAA rules in dealing with that workload like. But there’s I just feel like there are so many factors to try to figure out if you’re a college coach, like who belongs on my team and you know, is it even quantifiable?

[00:08:53] Obviously, we can look at the numbers and go, “Oh, they play such and such and they ran such and such time regarding runners.” But can we quantify that, that mental part? Is it only do we just have them do like a questionnaire, intrinsic motivation, try to figure that out? Or is there anything else we can kind of like? Look at and try to suss out more of a, I guess, solid criteria to figure out if they can handle the mental stress.

Addie: [00:09:21] Yeah, I think it’s intriguing. There was a sports psychologist that developed a program or like a test kind of to test. I can’t remember exactly what he called it, but it was basically like athletic mental skills and like emotional and psychological intelligence. And it was used a lot in like drafting and major league sports. And I’ve kind of wondered why that hasn’t. And maybe it will start to become a component in intercollegiate athletics.

[00:09:54] And even one of my mentors and the director of sports psychology at my grad program works with the Denver Broncos, and he goes with them when they go to the drafting, whatever that’s called. Yeah. And it is like involved in those conversations and then gives his feedback or input on where he thinks that person is with their mental and psychological skills in addition to their physical skill set.

[00:10:20] And I think there’s definitely room for that in collegiate athletics for a number of reasons. You know, not only because you’re trying to have the best team, but also if you can see where someone’s at and then also see maybe where there’s deficits. Like just to have student-athletes have a healthier collegiate experience because a lot of people don’t because they are treated just as kind of like their outcome and numbers. So I don’t know if that answers your question. I don’t I don’t have an answer of like how to quantify that necessarily.

[00:10:45] But there are tools and […] was the only development in […] designer program. Just like you go from high school to college and all of a sudden I had a nutritionist and an athletic trainer and a strength coach and an advisor and all these tools. And we had a sports psychologist, but it wasn’t really utilized. And so on the other side of it, yeah, it would be nice to also see that as part of the strategy of how to improve an athlete’s potential while they’re at a program.

Jesse: [00:11:17] You know, you earlier you mentioned. Maybe kids, I’ll say kids, but young adults who are used to being a big fish in a small pond and trying to figure out whether they’re going to adapt to new changes. And then it made me wonder, maybe think about my friend Willie who unfortunately didn’t get to finish his tenure at the college I went to. But he was definitely big fish in small pond.

[00:11:48] But I always saw that as a positive thing in his case because he was willing to learn and he had a lot of potential. He lived in a town of like 1200 people. So and on his track and his track team, I think he can I mean, as a distance runner, competed in the maximum number of events he could every single meet and still was doing well. So it was like we — I think we saw him as he has a lot of like physical gifts that haven’t necessarily been brought to the fore yet by like concentrating him down into where he belongs. He’s like whatever he’s most adept at.

[00:12:32] So I kind of like, I wonder about that. Like, almost like. This is the entrepreneur in me like a value-added opportunity, like buying a fixer-upper and a house. Like it’s the worst house on the best block kind of situation is what I’m thinking about with, with these athletes in the big fish small pond situation, if that’s like a potential strategy of we see that they have physical gifts, maybe you’re not there and then they haven’t had the opportunity to work with a mental performance consultant or psychologists and those things we think could really bump them up.

[00:13:10] Okay. So we’re back from a little bit of a technical issue, so I’m not exactly sure where we ended up having to cut, but I was asking Addie about her, her big fish, small pond scenario where I see it almost as like potentially an opportunity for college coaches. So the story about my friend Willie, who grew up in a small town, did all kinds of events for his track meet or his track team is an account of like 1200. Came to college. Kind of worked him down into more specifically what he was good at. And he really excelled.

[00:13:49] So I kind of see potentially those like big fish, small pond athletes as possibly like like a fixer-upper house situation where you’re buying the best or the worst house on the best block, where it’s like there’s a lot of potential there, basically. If you can get them a better coach, constructor, what they’re doing a little bit more, give them access to maybe trainers if they need them. I mean, for like sports, medicine, mental performance, all that kind of thing. Like, see it as like maybe they didn’t have they didn’t win state or be the absolutely best performer at high school, but they still have a long way to go and have shown kind of performance so far. So I kind of wonder what your thoughts are on if that seems like a potentially valid strategy for recruitment.

Addie: [00:14:49] Totally. Yeah. And that’s kind of yeah, I guess as a sidebar is it’s only the small fish. Big, big fish, small pond is only an issue or a challenge if the athlete isn’t adapting their mental their perspective over the situation. And I would say I was that way. I lived in a small community. I was the best on my team by a lot and I won a lot of races. And the year I went to Carolina, Charlene Flanagan had just made the Olympic team and she was still on the team.

[00:15:20] And so I saw that as, Wow, this will be cool, that I actually have people to train with that are better than me. You know, I’m going to be competing against people that are better than me. And we know that, that that helps people improve. That’s there’s been such a rise and running groups and training groups and professionally in the US over the last ten years for that exact reason. So I absolutely think it’s an opportunity.

[00:15:44] It’s if the mental side of that and the emotional side of that is fostered and talked about because the challenge is when that becomes discouraging to the athlete, all of a sudden they were the best and they were winning everything and now they’re not. But so it’s all about perspective. But yeah, I totally agree with you. I think it’s absolutely an opportunity and I would see an athlete coming from that kind of background as having tons of potential, if fostered in the right way.

Jesse: [00:16:13] So I want to back up a little bit because you were talking about earlier the work a lot or with a lot of high school athletes, even though you’ve worked with athletes at a variety of levels and performances. So I guess I want to ask about what it is that you do and maybe how you kind of found yourself in that avenue.

Addie: [00:16:40] Yeah. The way I got into sports, like working in sports psychology and mental performance is that I have spent I mean, I’m just turned 36. I’ve been training and competing at a high level, I would say, since high school. I was taking it pretty serious even then, and over that time had just recognized, you know, probably my early thirties, how big of a piece of the pie the mental piece was and how that was the piece I spent the least amount of time on.

And, and it also seems like that was the hardest resource to find when I did realize that and realize like, wow, this is probably my biggest weakness or my biggest deficit and I’m having a hard time finding someone to help me.

[00:17:25] And at the time I was coaching and I do still coach, but I had done some college coaching, some high school coaching, some post-collegiate coaching and kind of felt like I was a pretty good coach, but there were so many really great coaches and there weren’t a lot of people I that I felt like were providing this resource in a way that was accessible.

So that led that’s kind of what led me on this track. And then the way I work with athletes and have all different levels and ages is it’s you don’t really have to when you have a conversation. And like most people, most athletes would agree that the psychological side is huge, but it’s called mental training for a reason. It’s not like you just have it.

[00:18:09] Yeah, of course. You develop some mental skills as a byproduct of doing hard things and doing certain training and existing in a certain program. But to have intention and to have direction over the skills you’re trying to develop and realizing like where the blind spots are is huge. I think it’s kind of everything. It’s the thing that brings all the other pieces together. If you’re doing all the other things, that’s kind of like the glue that holds all together and lets you actually perform.

[00:18:36] So just like any. I kind of I guess the way I describe my job sometimes is like as a PT for the brain and the sense that if there’s a symptom showing up, there’s probably a core reason. So if the symptom is someone’s choking at really high-pressure situations, there’s probably a reason. If someone is struggling with like motivation, there’s probably a reason.

[00:19:00] And so we kind of look at the symptom and then figure out what the core issue is. The same you would like my knees hurting, but the issue is like my glutes are weak. And so then we start working on that thing and we have literal tools, exercises that we’re implementing into training to develop this mental skill so that this new way of thinking about things or reacting to things or focus our attention becomes like the new pattern, just like PT exercises. You’re trying to correct a faulty pattern. So it’s very similar, and I think of it as a pretty literal, tangible skill development, just like any other part of training.

Jesse: [00:19:38] It makes me wonder about so. Generally speaking, when you — now I know things change actual PT all the time or have over the years, but when you think about like what you’re doing and just the field of psychology, like it’s still very young as compared to say like physical medicine. So I kind of wonder about like you’re talking about identifying the core issue and then working backwards from there to how do we resolve it and implement new tools, new skills. Are you using methodologies developed by somebody or are you developing your own methodologies? How does that practice kind of unfold for you?

Addie: [00:20:27] Kind of both. Yeah, there’s definitely a combination of there’s just general psychology and human behavior and like really just knowing how the brain works. So a lot of the theories and methodologies are that of typical counseling and yeah, just understanding the relationship between thoughts and behaviors. And that’s kind of like the core tenet, I guess a lot of it.

[00:20:51] I work with athletes and a lot of different sports, but with my background, there’s definitely a lot of my own theories I’ve kind of developed in terms of what’s most important within the realm of like, let’s say, distance running specifically, just because I think it’s a pretty unique sport, especially trail and ultrarunning. So some of that is, is just my own experience and what I’ve seen over decades of being an athlete and a coach.

[00:21:15] But I would say a lot of it revolves around just the research and what we know about how the brain works when, like I said, it’s pretty literal in a lot of ways. And so when you can understand some kind of core behaviors or reasons, there’s kind of themes that tend to show up. And to me that’s actually really awesome because when you can kind of blame it on like biology or like, okay, I see what the intention was here. I see why my brain reacted that way, that this is the reason why we developed that skill, but it’s a little bit outdated. So let me implement this new, more desired reaction or thought process. So kind of a combination of things, I would say like biology, psychology, human behavior, and then just experience.

Jesse: [00:22:02] So if you don’t mind trying to get to maybe a tangible work through. So say I come to you and we’ll just go us. I’ll just say “Addie, I’m just I just have a lot of real negative mental self-talk” or I just tell myself that I suck and I’m not good and all these things. Where do you start with me in that in that kind of process of trying to break down what’s going on inside my brain and get it worse, operating more efficiently.

Addie: [00:22:35] Yeah. So I mean, self-talk is a huge one for sure. I would want to understand kind of like relationship with outcome and performance and results. A lot of times when we have unproductive thought like self-talk or thought patterns, it comes from there’s, there’s like a lack of belief for some reason. And we’re usually. Almost like talking ourselves out of it before, like self-sabotaging.

[00:23:04] And there’s usually a reason for that. I would say that most of the time that’s probably coming from having like an unhealthy connection between identity and worth and results, which is a very easy trap to fall into as a collegiate athlete, as a professional athlete, as an athlete in certain sports I work with where there’s like a big lifestyle component. And so typically that can become one of that’s usually like one of the core reasons is, is that relationship with identity and that kind of materializing as unproductive self-talk.

[00:23:43] So the first step in terms of like foundationally, you would want to work on relationship with sport, you would want to work on recognizing you’re a whole person and kind of fostering those other pieces. But as like a more maybe narrow, narrow approach or skill set would be to work on self-talk.

[00:24:01] And sometimes it’s it would be really dependent on the specific situation, but sometimes that means working on self-talk, but sometimes that means redirecting focus and attention somewhere else so that the self-talk kind of isn’t even an issue. So there’s yeah, the way I look at it is usually there’s a big picture of like, okay, where is this coming from? What’s the core thing we really need to work on? But also like, here’s the symptom that we also kind of have to take care of.

[00:24:25] And self-talk is a habit and there becomes our brain is to go back to like the biology piece. Our brain is really good at kind of creating associations with certain things, especially experiences. And so sometimes self-talk becomes just like literally a habit of like this experience mixed with this emotion that I’m feeling leads me to feel this way about myself or say this, talk to myself in this way. And that’s like an association that can be changed, but it just takes kind of in tension and self-awareness.

Jesse: [00:25:00] You had mentioned one of the root causes potentially being this idea about identity being wrapped up in expectation of positive results. And this is something that I think I’ve certainly grappled with over the years. And I think I’ve experienced many people who have trouble, say, post-collegiate, who unlike you or I maybe don’t go on to do anything post-collegiate. And just now they’re just floating in free space and are no longer, no longer a runner or no longer a soccer player, no longer this thing. And they’ve lost the sense of identity.

[00:25:43] It makes me think about when I spoke with Kim Vandenburg was back in episode 97. She’s an Olympic bronze medal swimmer from 2008. She talks about when she’s coaching young kids, even no matter how ambitious they are, she says, Well, you need something else. Like she plays the piano. I think she has other stuff too. But that was the one thing that she mentioned because she had a piano in the background when I talked to her. That’s kind of her methodology for like trying to help foster that sense of whole identity versus like, this is my one thing and I’m only this thing, and if I’m not good at it, then I’m not worth anything. What — do you have a method or a suggestion for decoupling that this is who I am versus this is what I do?

Addie: [00:26:36] Yeah. I mean, one thing that I like to think about is. What are you getting? What are you getting out of it? And this comes from a lot of research I’ve seen where someone that goes on to be successful when there is a career-ending injury or something like out of their control, like took the one thing from them, but then they pivot and end up doing something else, whether that’s at a high level or just finding joy and satisfaction.

[00:27:02] And one of the ways that people do that is like, what are you getting? What is it that makes this thing something that’s so important to you? And the piano is a great example because I would imagine there’s like some flow that’s experienced in both swimming and on the piano. There’s measurable improvement, there’s that. There’s probably the independent factor that they’re both pretty individual. I would there’s probably a lot of different similarities between the two that makes them similarly fulfilling. And so that’s something I’m nearing retirement from running and I’ve started trying to build that foundation for myself. And so for me as an example is what I get from my sport that I hope to recreate and continue to find in other places is connection.

[00:27:51] Doing hard things, being outside, being in nature, a lot of different things that could be also fulfilled with mountain biking or skiing or other things that aren’t running. And so that’s where I would start. I think sometimes we just we don’t have that much intention behind it or we don’t try and replicate when actually there’s probably a lot of things that might not be as satisfying but could be pretty close. And I think that’s that’s one way to kind of fill that void or at least have some support around it.

[00:28:23] But then on the other side is just I talk one place, I start with most people and what I talk about myself is like values and realizing there are a lot of things that are important to me outside of running. And due to a comment that was made by my coach/father when I was really young, I thought for a really long time that being the most dedicated athlete and to have the highest likelihood of success meant nothing else could matter to me, that was not like everything else needed to be secondary and I needed to be willing to sacrifice everything for running.

[00:29:00] And I fully disagree with that now. So a lot of times it’s just perspective and seeing. It’s also important to me to spend time with friends. It’s also important to me to be a good family member. My job is important to me. And so when you can also look at it as a whole, you’re not just trying to replicate what you’re getting from your performance. You’re also seeing that there’s other dimensions that are worth investing in.

[00:29:22] And what’s really cool is that when you do, to use your word, decouple the identity from the performance and you do take all the pressure, not all of it, but take some of the pressure and expectations. When you put everything into that one thing, there’s also this by this side, I guess, side effect of then expecting that to give everything back to you. And that doesn’t always happen.

[00:29:44] And so when people have a more balanced, holistic approach and identity, they’re willing to take more risks. They’re willing to put themselves out there in the performance setting, because if it falls short, then the whole world doesn’t crumble. And that’s something I’ve really seen in myself the last five or six years.

Jesse: [00:30:01] Well. So it kind of. I mean. Stumble over my words here. But so nobody gets away from all the time, so to speak. We all have a shelf life as athletes. Now we can compete, continue competing. But just there’s at some point a peak and a decline. You’re talking about being able or coming to a point sometime soon thinking about retiring. But I think unless I’m mistaken, you just had a pretty good win just a couple of weeks ago. So is it, I guess can you talk me through that and then maybe thoughts on retirement unless that’s going to, like, mess with your head and then ignore me.

Addie: [00:30:49] No, I think I don’t. I don’t know. I guess there’s a couple of different answers to that question. One is. I am still winning races, but I also am still declining. I have changed my events and I’m in a domain now where I do think that you can have more longevity than maybe on the track or the road. I hit that point already where I started to get slower and not faster.

[00:31:16] I think a lot of it is just the only way. I think something I see sometimes or maybe something that I want to be careful with is. I don’t see — I don’t want to get to the point where I’m just like sucking everything I can out of my body. So for me, a lot of the decision to maybe retire in the next few years is I’ve given a lot of my life to the sport and it’s been great and I am glad that I haven’t. It’s given me everything back, but there’s also time that I would like to have back and other things that I want to do.

[00:31:47] So I think I see it more from that standpoint. There’s a lot of different reasons to retire, and I think sometimes we get fixated on thinking that the only reason is because our bodies are done, kind of giving us what it did give us.

Jesse: [00:32:02] I think that’s fair. And that’s also probably just again, as I mentioned earlier, just my own grappling with identity and who am I if I’m not this thing and just kind of projecting that on you a little bit. But it’s just because we all come at it from a different place, I think. I guess speaking from a personal standpoint, I get, I guess maybe a little envious of people that had the opportunity to race at such a high level.

[00:32:37] And then I just go, “Why would you retire if you didn’t have to?” It’s this like weird situation. Where it’s like, I both understand that there is more to life. You also have this kind of to me it feels like unfinished business, but it is finished whether it’s I feel like it’s unfinished or not of that kind of alternate life that I imagine for myself at one point in time. So just interesting mind games that I kind of play with myself, I guess.

Addie: [00:33:11] Yeah, I mean, it would be I think that one reason why I do have this perspective, though, is my entire professional life outside of my life as an athlete has still come to fruition and has been impacted a lot by my life as an athlete, meaning that like I’m not someone that’s quitting the sport and then going into like investment banking or something, know my whole. So I think because of that, it’s, it’s, it’s more like I don’t see myself stepping away from the sport so much as just changing my role in it.

[00:33:43] And I think that’s made it easier to it’s an I’m fortunate in that sense that I will always be involved in the sport at a really intense level and my role is starting to change. But I think I would have a harder time if it was like I had to stop and then to walk away and start something totally different.

Jesse: [00:33:58] Yeah, I think that’s fair and I think I think that’s maybe a lesson for me. I obviously run this company that’s related to athletics, but. Just for anybody. You know, like I mentioned, people have this tough time going from, say, collegiate athlete or Olympic athlete or whatever it is. And then just like cold turkey being cut off, like finding some tangential way to stay connected, I think can be helpful.

[00:34:30] Maybe not for everybody. I mean, like I mentioned with Kim earlier, she — I don’t know if this is her whole job, but if she’s coaching swimming, she’s not obviously not swimming in an Olympic level anymore. But like she’s helping young kids come up and learn how to swim and learn how to be people and that kind of thing and kind of taking that those skills and identity that she fostered over the years and putting them to use instead of like setting them on a shelf and letting them get dusty and be like, “Oh, way back when.” So I think maybe that’s an interesting or potential mental strategy for people that are dealing with that off the cliff kind of situation.

Addie: [00:35:15] Yeah.

Jesse: [00:35:16] So I want to ask you, I think you’ve got Leadville coming up. Soon?

Addie: [00:35:21] Yep.

Jesse: [00:35:22] I’ll try to find the date

Addie: [00:35:28] One week from now. Next weekend.

Jesse: [00:35:29] Yeah. I was like I think it’s like I was like in my head. I’m like, it’s really soon. I kind of like on the Leadville site trying to find the actual date and have a hard time for some reason. So one of the things I don’t know because I’ve never gotten into Ultra is even though I seem to talk to a lot of pros runners. Do you guys do a big taper leading up to the race like I mean I know I would expecting going in 5000 10,000 you’re trying to peak in those fast aggressive things pretty big taper intensity stays high, but then your mileage really drops. With the ultras, obviously, you’ve got to still be able to go the distance. So are you still dropping mileage going into a race like that?

Addie: [00:36:16] Yeah, I usually will do. Still a decent week out. Still a decent week, three weeks out and usually three weeks out I’ll do like my biggest volume weekend or one of and then still like a decent weekend two weeks out and then the week off. Yeah. Maybe not similar to track and that kind of thing is I don’t do much at all like the four days before. So it’s a little bit different, but it’s also like the physical demands are different. You know, you’re not needing to be like super sharp and on point. So yeah, I think some people probably back off more than I do. I kind of do like decent training and then a hard drop rather than like a long taper.

Jesse: [00:36:55] What I think is interesting like the dichotomy, because I’m more familiar with that, that short, sharp taper where you still got to be you got to be able to crank the gears pretty high and hard and be fresh for that versus like like taking off for days before, say, a championship feat to run a 5000. I can see if somebody like got a cold or something and needed to get well, but like that was almost like blasphemy I think, for most people to think about in that situation. So is it just a matter of going like, I don’t know how far this phrase goes, […] Say hay is in the barn when the work was done, is it just going? I’ve got my base. That’s really all I need. And then I need fresh legs. And that’s it for you. Is that the strategy?

Addie: [00:37:53] Pretty much. Yeah, it’s interesting I’ve kind of I’m self-coached and I obviously ran on the track for many years at a pretty decent level and I’ve played with different ways of training, 400 milers and then also like the few weeks leading up to it. And there were times when I still would do faster workouts for the duration of the training program and even up to like the week of or the week before, just like I would when I was training for the 10K or something.

[00:38:19] And it didn’t necessarily feel detrimental, but it didn’t really necessarily feel helpful either. So yeah, to answer your question, it’s at that point you’re just like, you’re just resting. You’ve got all the bass miles and there’s no like sharpness required. Race pace is so slow compared to anything you’ve done, so you really just want to be rested, no aches or niggles and eat a lot. Like honestly, the four days before, I’m just like not doing much and like eating a ton.

[00:38:47] So it’s different for sure than yeah, not even that long ago, six, seven years ago. You’re doing three or four days before a big track meet. You’re probably running some of your fastest repeats. Yeah, not high volume, but you want to be like ripping pretty fast three days before, otherwise you’d start to go pretty flat. So it’s definitely different. It’s been a learning curve for me.

Jesse: [00:39:07] One of the things I always find interesting about everybody is like strategy and training varies. But just like the thing I find interesting about some ultra runners and I don’t know how common is among the pros is like. Say we’re going to the races of 50 miler and then like their typical training volume is like just 50 miles a week. Like they don’t really have any longer runs. Just something about that just messes with my brain, I think, because I’m used to needing that mileage and then the speed on top of it for the shorter stuff.

[00:39:41] But just something about that goes, how do you have enough base? Are you to go from? So so, I mean, if you’re running 50 miles a week and you’re running, I’ll say five days a week, you’re probably running more than that, but you’re only doing ten mile days. And then now you’re going to go run a 50 mile or like there’s just a disconnect in my brain. Can you talk to me about, I guess, maybe the physical and mental challenges of making that jump, since it seems physically possible for some people?

Addie: [00:40:10] Yeah. I mean, that would be a blow for people trying to win those races. But there’s plenty of people, one 800 milers who don’t run more than 80 miles a week. Yeah. I mean, I would say one of the biggest mental barriers to ultrarunning is the gap between training and race demands. I mean, even when I used to run marathons, we would still do a 21, 22 mile long run. And even then I felt like, gosh, how am I going to go four or five more miles? But now my longest training run I did do 50 miles, and that’s longer than most people do, but that’s still half the distance.

[00:40:43] So a lot of it is just believing, believing that it’s enough from a mental standpoint. And there’s I think that’s for me where I get a lot of comfort and believing that the mental piece has more of an impact on performance in hundreds than it does in like a 5k, it has an impact in 5k. But my point is that like if you don’t have a certain physical preparation or even genetic makeup, like it doesn’t matter how confident you are or how mentally sound you are, like you’re not going to run a 1535K if you don’t have a certain skill set.

[00:41:23] For hundreds, all the people winning these races are super talented, but I do think the physiology, the purely, purely physiological threshold is lower and that the mental piece is the bigger piece. And so I guess I find comfort in that and that helps me kind of deal with that disconnect between what I’ve done recently and what I’m racing from.

[00:41:41] But I will say from a more logistical or like training aspect. For example, like I said, I ran marathons for many years and I think I went like five or six years, maybe more, where I average over 100 miles a week for the whole year and topped out was probably doing 120 miles a week a lot of the time. And I was only training for a marathon. And so in my head when I first switched to 100, I was like, I don’t know how to like I can’t run that much more than that. And now I run —

Jesse: [00:42:11] 200 miles a week or something. It would just be insane.

Addie: [00:42:14] Right. And so this recent buildup, I think my highest week was 107 miles, which pure, pure mileage is not that much. It is a lot. But for someone that’s been doing it for ten years, I’m like, That’s not a ton. But the difference is I was doing it at 10,000 feet and then with trail and ultrarunning, it’s on trails. And so what I’ve started to look at instead is training time.

[00:42:36] And so yeah, I ran 107 miles, but I but with let’s say 18,000 feet of elevation gain. And so then when you look at time, I’m like, well, I ran 20 hours that week and if you do kind of the math on that, that would be 135 miles. So I guess what I’m saying is trail and ultra runners aren’t as wrapped up in just that one variable of mileage as much as I was when I was in Road Runner, a track runner, and as much as there’s a lot of other variables that make that like actually more impressive than it sounds. So there’s ten of two answers for you of how, like, I reconcile that in my own head.

Jesse: [00:43:09] Yeah, yeah, no worries. So as we’re winding down on time listeners of the show for you listening know this but I ask a single question each season of the show to all my guests. For you, it’s very poignant because it just happened, and I’m hoping you get a good answer. But this season’s question is, how do you celebrate your wins?

Addie: [00:43:36] Oh, good question. Well, the most recent one was hard because it feel — it felt like it was like not the —

Jesse: [00:43:45] Not the one.

Addie: [00:43:46] Yeah. So I’m not ready to celebrate it. Maybe ask me in two weeks. Gosh, I guess from a literal standpoint, I mean, my sport requires a lot of support. And so a lot of it is literally celebrating with the people that helped me get here and the ones that will help me throughout the day, throughout the day. But I don’t know. I think sometimes I feel like sometimes I celebrate the wins by remembering the lows, like, wow, I the winds are few and far between at this point.

[00:44:14] And so sometimes I like to kind of reflect and be like, “wow, this was two or three or four years in the making.” So yeah, kind of taking some reflection time to think about like where I came from to get there and then just some good old-fashioned celebrating too and, and hanging out with people and just feeling how good it feels because it passes quickly too.

Jesse: [00:44:36] Addie, if people want to see what you’re up to, I guess by the time this airs, or already happen. So they can see the results if they want to connect with you, any of that kind of stuff. Where can they do that?

Addie: [00:44:51] Yeah, I’m on Instagram @AddieBracy and then my private practice is Striving Mental Performance it’s strivementalperformance.com and there’s two good places.

Jesse: [00:45:02] Awesome. Addie, thanks for hanging out with me today. Good luck in Leadville. For you listening, go ahead and look up the results. You’ll be able to see what happened, but we won’t know for a little bit more time. So.

Addie: [00:45:15] Thank you. Yeah, thanks for having me.

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