Ultrarunning – Building Confidence

What an enormous factor actually not only in ultra endurance but life too. Of course, here we focus on the sport side of this phenomena, but if you are in inner balance, you’ll totally realise how it overshadows on life itself.

As I get into philosophies, overview life strategies, open my soul and my mind to anything, anywhere and anyhow while keeping my filter, my brain lit up of course, I try to simplify ! Everything ! Simplify, not stupidify !
Self confidence is motivation. It is presence, it is harmony, it is propulsion, it is knowledge, it is strength. It can also be a decision in a certain situation. It is self understanding and inner harmony. It is also trust ! Not only self-trust though, but I explain this later on !
If we said EGO on a way like egoistic, hard charging, bullying, smack talking, intimidating and so, that is the opposite of confidence. It can be self-doubt, lost inner focus and too much concentration on external possibilities. Over confidence or false confidence is also a type of mind and “heart” state, but real long-term champions do not fall into this trap. For instance saying things, what we cannot back up from the past or in the future.

” If you never succeeded to run a sub 5h 50km ever, how could you run a sub 9h 100km . ” It doesn’t mean that it is not possible, but most probably, it will take time, maybe years, so overly being talkative about it is nonsense. That is false confidence. 

“If you absolutely smoked 50milers and maybe 100km races, you might want to say that you will destroy your next 100miler”. Well instead of finishing and learning from it, you already bailed out 3 times, so we can say that you totally did not put in the necessary learning curve to out-smart a 100miler. Get it done first, then apply the obtained knowledge and try perfecting your art race by race ! Self-confidence has nothing to do with being over-confident

External Confidence

Trusting outer factors to make you propel forward ! This has to be learnt, practiced and more or less correct decisions should be taken on the fly. If a wrong decision was taken, however your inner confidence will step in and it will help you to correct what ever you did wrong.

External confidence is trust in or acknowledgement of everything happening outside of your control. For instance trust in the aid-station people, that after they cleaned the port-a-potty, they disinfected their hands before cutting up the water melon. The belief in nature, after analysing it. Rock climbers can tell you about this ! It can materialise in river crossings for instance, where you put your trust into the river and into the race organisers. It should not represent itself as hope ! If you said: I hope I will survive this water-passage, you should not even go there. Instead of that, you think this: I know how to swim, the water is calm and not deep providing a safe wade, I can cross by foot, and the race director does not put 500+ people at risk ! Let’s go, everybody did it before me and will do after me, I do it too !
This can be a hard thing to learn, especially if you came from a harsh family background, you lack friends and community, had no practice in sketchy looking particular situations, something bad happened to you in very similar or same exact circumstances and so.
It also can be, that a shit-storm steers up ! Despite the precautions, the inner and outer confidence you invested, your trust get twisted. Another level of self-confidence will step in and you correct your situation ! In a past IronMan Nice, one aid-station had no barrel to mix large quantities of energy drinks, so they washed out a bin and used it as a mixing pot. Despite the light disinfection, every body was crapping into their bike bibs. The same happened to a local spartan race, where the rain was washing down water from a freshly fertilised garden. Basically participants were crawling in liquid feces.
A rock can dislodge under you and you can twist an ankle, fall or even break a bone. Self-confidence will put you into the right spot and your decisions will help you to solve the situation.

Smart, analytics based external confidence is necessary to avoid fear. I am not getting into the emotion of fear, but fear is like self-doubt, but about a non-controlable possible circumstance.

How to build and improve self-confidence

Knowledge is power

For some people the structure should be constructed from the ground up, while others need only the topping.
What do I mean ? Well, knowledge builds confidence. Learning creates knowledge. The more you learn, the more you know ! The more you know, the more you can apply, the more situations you can handle. Learning to learn and accepting that you have to learn is the very first step ! Learning how to read before you read and absorb what you have read. Learning how to write and learning expressing yourself, before you expressed yourself or written !
Others might be starting straight away with nutrition and proper running gait, because they know how to apply what they read, they know what and how to filter out and they do not afraid to look out for the help of smarter people in that particular subject. However as I said, you might want to learn how to learn first, as if you don’t know where why, what to and how to look for, you will not advance.

To get back to the basics, reading and possibly trying out and practicing what you read is quiet efficient ! Very efficent ! I am talking about everything as it all translates to running and life. You read about meditation ? Go ahead and try it. Not happening ? Read another book about it, watch some videos and look for other’s personal experiences to understand what you should really do ! You read about cooking and vegan diet, ketogenic lifestyle, slow and fast sugars ? Get into the kitchen !
Learnt about friendship building, car repairing, quantum physics ? Apply what ever you can. Having the abiliy to connect anywhere with people, can pull you through lowpoints during your race, to come out well on the other side !
I try not to give you stupid examples, but if you snapped a shoe lace during your A-Race (happened to me 2 minutes before the start), maybe have to apply first aid on fallen hiker or play the psychologue on a broken soul at the 67th mile’s aid station, your knowledge will be very welcome ! Read, Read, Read, listen to audiobooks and podcasts !

Practice makes…Practice makes you more self-reliant

Simulations of circumstances waiting for you in your event is the best way to be prepared. That is true to external factors like heat, temperature, humidity, scrambling, exposure. True to training factors like speed, muscular weaknesses, heart rate too. Also true to internal factors like lack of current motivation, mental fatigue and internal factors like giving up state, cursing, hallucinations and much more. These can be as well connected to race ailments of lack of sleep, blisters, cramps, hypoglycemia and so.

All can be practiced and so should be. Knowledge and experience comes back !
I cannot write a book to describe each situation. Maybe I should ! How to practice cramps for instance ? Well, you go on a low salt ketogenic diet, start taking 5grams of creatin a day and in 3days you go on a fasted run doing downhill repeats ! When you cramp up, you handle it !
I just said something really mad, but these are the kind of ideas, that you can learn from books and reading and self experimenting. That last example sounds stupid, but I learnt from it and I know that as my body and muscles are very well prepared for anything, my cramps are not caused by lack of training, but lack of salts, water and sugar. At this moment I might take in double dose of electrolytes, plain white sugar and sip on water for half an hour. Then I start eating real food and getting back to proper running again. Half an hour or even an our in a 100mile race, might not even cost you one single lost place in ranking, as due to the heat maybe you are the only one micro-managing himself !
One advice, here what you can repeat over and over again when running ultra races or doing multi-day fast sport adventures: Sleep, water, sugar ! Sleep, water, sugar ! Handle these well and you go prepared into a race, you take care of yourself during the race and you will recover better after the race !  Sleep, water, sugar !

  • Sleep well the weeks before any event, averaging 8 to 10 hours, going into bed in the same time. Practice afternoon cat naps of 5 – 10 – 15 – 20minutes ! This all will come handy during your race. 
  • Hydrate well before the race, so you’ll have less chance of getting into a dehydrated state. That includes water, electrolytes and external self-cooling with ice and water ! 
  • Eat a balanced diet. Do not force pasta and carb filled plates into your face, but think about what you eat during the weeks coming up to your race.
    Try consuming natural sugars during your event. I find that long term, everybody gets messed up by franken foods ! You want to go simple ! Honey or glucose are simple. You don’t need a 4:1:1 glucose/fructose/maltodextrin solution with BCAA, caffein, ginseng, ginger and guarana all mixed in concentrated fruit juice! Go simple or eat properly ! Get in your sandwich, your soup, your dried bananas, orange slices, water melon and salted boiled potatos. Avoid haribo, biscuits or complex energy bars.
    Do not mix fats and sugars ! Eating 4 slices of different kind of fruits, followed by cheese and ham, while finishing off with 2 cups of coke will hurt you in a couple of minutes or even 3-4hours down the road ! 


I  cannot go through all practices to build that serious self-confidence for each situation, but I must mention sleep. Sleep and no-sleep is not practiced enough. The populations us unhealthy. Most people cannot go through a night with no sleep, then get back into a normal sleep cycle. I find that as health is getting perfected, we can quiet often skip a night of sleep, then get back into a normal routine. For instance once each month. This will give you time to train, to experience and to build that confidence, that yes I can handle being up for 48hours ! You do not necessarily want to train for that prolonged time, not even for 24hours. Sleepless practices can vary in length and difficulty.

For beginners I recommend to work your Friday as you do, go out for a an 8 to 10 hour night hike, finishing with the sunrise and spend your next day doing light physical work in the garden, with of course, no wood splitting and bush trimming, for safety reasons.
There are certain things to understand from nutritional, physiological and mental standpoints. You have to read about these in depth to really understand what is going on in the body while un-slept ! Just to mention one thing, when you don’t sleep, you are pre-diabetic. You are going on a sugar roller coaster, if you ate even the healthiest fruits. The day after that skipped sleep, you want to do salads with avocado, nuts and seeds, maybe a can of sardines and stay very low to moderate sugar. Adding a handful of raisins or a pumpkin slice to your salade is no issue !
As I a said, knowledge is a must for self confidence. You have to know what to apply and you have to know yourself. You have to build health, before you engage in ultra endurance training, then maintain that health ! I recommend here tons of things tried and tested on me, my wife and my clients, but individual needs are always different. There are sleep hacks with coffee, green macha and mate tea, black tea, ginseng, guarana, ginger. Stop them 8h before the next night. Get a slow carb meal 2 hours before you go to sleep. Sweet potatoes, cooled white rice with lettuce and spinach leafs, plantain, manioca. Carbs will help you to secrete melatonin the sleep hormone. Get a cold shower before bed, some lavender oil diffusing, and chill the room slightly.
Learn how to breathe, like box breathing, and deep nasal breathing, in case you have trouble falling as sleep. I don’t recommend alcohol or smoking pot but quality CBD drops will help you too get into a deeper sleep state. No I don’t recommend getting stoned, but vaporising a small amount of cannabis, with lavender and camomille might help, if you had hard time. Magnesium ingested and sprayed on you, taken in with lemon juice and calcium will work just fine !

Of course by time and by experience, if you wanted, you can slowly do all day outings, 24 to 36hour pushes, speed records and so. It is your personal choice.

Sleep is a biggy in 100milers and in multi-day events. When you have the regular experience of “yeah I can do 48h on no sleep anytime” , your self confidence will be on a whole different level !

Mike Horn

Visualising, motivation, listening to Eric Thomas, Tony Robbins, Les Brown. These are all good. They help you understand, that motivation, confidence, trust comes from within. From experience, from knowledge, from emotions, from past positive and negative actions and from many other aspects of life. From personality, attitude, environment and much more. It also can come and go as a shallow attitude, but people with enormous self-confidence are always lit up in greater depths and no matter what is happening right now, they know that they can overcome and they put trust into their present actions to have a positive future outcome ! The pain of now and maybe tomorrow and maybe the pain of this whole 4year olympic period is for your own good !

However, there are some of you who still don’t understand the big picture of confidence, so a viable, visual and more real life experience is a good way to drive yourself to that higher elevation ! To see, that your problems are not unique, not even hard and totally solvable.

I am not sure that outside of the French and South African outdoor community many of you would know about Mike Horn. He is living the dream every single day of his life and lets nothing come across it. I recommend you to read all his books and get real motivation, real understanding of self confidence and the real life experience of someone who has done it!

I give you a couple of short stories, of the shitstorm he is in all the time. He swam down on a hydrospeed on the Amazon, from source to delta ! Yes, swam ! He circumnavigated the planet only on human power. Wind and sailing on the oceans, he again, went across the amazon, but buy contra-current, he circumnavigated the arctic circle and so. He learns all the time, sometimes on the hard way, but he learns !

Once he got bitten by a snake, staying all alone in the middle of the jungle lying 6 days in his hammock in fever, shaking, hallucinations and day by day cutting out his own flash with a knife to eliminate the toxins from his body. He cut off his own toe to continue his expedition traversing towards Siberia. Once when I think they were attempting a record towards north-pole, they as a stupid or a smart idea, decided to make a day 28hours instead of 24 ! So walking 24hours and sleeping only 4, either ways the sun is never up ! He was attacked by polar bears. In the jungle hunted by drug cartels and hidden tribes. He was eating all kind of creatures, hunting for his own food and carrying his own equipment. Often hauling between 45 to 55kg on his back. He climbed an over 5000meter mountain having a delta-plan attached to his back pack, what finally he never used. By the way he climbed from 0 to 5000 with zero acclimatisation in like 24h or so. Of course he climbed 4 over 8000meter peaks too ! His more known adventures started out in 1991, but even recently he became the first ever human in 2017 to traverse the Antarctic in it’s integrality in 57 days in a totally autonomous non-motorised way !

Well the guy is not a miracle, not lucky, not a freak like Killian Jornet. He is just the most open minded, the most willing to try out anything. He has the outmost confidence, that as a human he can learn anything.
I mean, if you wanted a mentor for your self-confidence, try reading all of his books ! You’ll be amazed !

  • Latitude zéro, XO éditions (2001)
  • Conquérant de l’impossible, XO éditions (2005)
  • À l’école du Grand Nord, XO éditions (2005)
  • Objectif : Pôle Nord de nuit, XO éditions (2007)
  • Vouloir toucher les étoiles, XO éditions (2015)
  • Aventurier de l’extrême, coédition XO Éditions & Les Éditions du Chêne (2016)
  • Libre !, coédition XO Éditions & Les Éditions du Chêne (2017)
  • L’Antarctique, le rêve d’une vie, XO éditions (2018)
Categories: Nutrition, Personal Development, running, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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