Recently I competed in the Suedtirol Ultra Sky Race; which is a 121km and 7600m elevation running race in the north of Italy. So I thought i'd share a few things I took away from the experience...
1) Get out of your comfort zoom. Now I don't mean just wake up early on a cold morning and go for a jog around the block, I mean set yourself a proper goal that will make you nervous and uncomfortable at the thought of it. Go further/longer/harder than you ever have before - actually push your limits, you will grow mentally and physically.
2) Be prepared... mentally. You know it will hurt and you know you will suffer, so expect it! You can't block pain or discomfort, you just have to deal with it and accept it's part of it. It's the same for everyone and why you signed up in the first place!
3) You are the only and most important person you need to have faith in. I went out really hard at the start of the race with the front group, then found myself absolutely cooked after just 30km into the race. In the middle of nowhere, raining, up in the mountains... At that point I just kept repeating to myself that i'll come good and it's only temporary. This lasted for hours and I then started to tell myself "when the sun comes up, you'll feel great, this is what you do". And it did, and I did! You will come good, back yourself.
4) Break it down. Doesn't matter the distance or duration, break it down into sections. If you keep looking at the full picture, you will become overwhelmed and psyche yourself out. During the race, I kept setting myself the task to get to the next feed zone, which were usually staggered 10km apart. So i'd tell myself: "Right just 10km, 10 of your best!".
5) Have fun. Sometimes you just have to smile and laugh to distract the mind of what's going on. Simple little things like this can have a profound positive effect on your performance and help fight the negative thoughts that can creep in.
6) Why not? There's no downside to pushing yourself! You don't have to go out and run an ultra marathon or do a 24hr MTB race, but go a little further or harder than you have before, you will learn a lot about yourself. And if you're worried about surviving, get a coach!