Tuesday, September 20, 2011

26.2 Mile Training Run

On Saturday, I did my longest run yet in preparation for my November "race" (quotations because I ain't racin' nothing other than a 12 hour clock).  My long run just happened to be in the form of an official chip-timed marathon.  I just happened to not need to bring my own gatorade and also happened to get a big fat medal at the end of it.  Oh and people were also cheering for me as I ran along.  Neat long run.  And yes, it was the United States Air Force Marathon that I spoke of in the last entry.

I don't know what it is about that distance or the presence of a timing chip and clock that completely changes people.  Things happen during marathons that NEVER happen on long runs and I don't get it.  Many people can go up to 24 miles on a training run and never have a problem.  Stick them in a marathon and all hell breaks loose.... and generally much sooner than mile 24.  True, the pace is usually faster than what most people run during marathon training long runs.  But still... proper training without injury, sufficient taper and good fueling techniques will get the job done.  That is only true if it were just a physical race we were running.  The mentally strong dominate that racing distance when all of the above factors are in place.  They race calmly and intelligently.  They don't panic, they simply readjust as needed along the way.  They are smooth, they are strong and they are usually victorious.  They push pain and fatigue aside because they absolutely KNOW there is more to give.  People like me are in awe of people like them.

So how does someone like me change that terrified mindset?  Well for a confident racer, people like me are annoying.... they see talent, they see motivation and drive and they see it all wasted on fear.  They simply do not understand that trying to change that is like trying to change one's eye color.  It is part of who we are  and how we deal with that kind of pressure.  It is deeply rooted, and has a choking grip.  It can absolutely paralyze the strongest and the most well-trained athlete.  And the more important the goal, the bigger the fear, no matter that the goal is quite reachable.  BUT, it is changeable.  I know this for a fact since I have done it (sort of).  I remember sitting at home after the 2010 Flying Pig Marathon.  I sat on my bed and said over and over  "I just don't get it.  How could something that was NEVER a problem while training be what stops my race?"  I was angry and felt so cheated as I recalled the difficult winter training.  When it was suggested to me that perhaps my physical racing problems were the result of my confidence crisis and fear of racing and failing, I was terribly insulted and hurt.  Right before I pulled my hamstring, I was quite relaxed... happy to be finished with the hard hill of that marathon.  I was not afraid at that moment.  And considering I was limping pretty severely and the back of my leg was pretty f'd up, I thought THAT person was crazy.  Until I talked to more people and began researching this phenomenon.  Indeed, our minds are so powerful that they can cause involuntary muscle and nerve reactions that can hurt us.  Ever get a stress headache?  Ever heard of stress killing people?  If stress is a state of mind, how can it cause heart attacks?  Because the body reacts to the mind.  Hormones come into play and cause physical changes (cortisol.. stress hormone).

In Columbus 2010, I unknowingly ran my race with a tibial stress fracture.  At the first sign of pain, I did actually calm myself down and told myself I was ok and that if I just didn't panic, it would go away.  I took all time constraints off the table, turned my Garmin upside down and continued.  So did the pain.  I continued to not think of missing my BQ and pushed through.  There was no panic and no fear.  I just hurt and wanted to be finished and although it really is stupid to run that far in that situation, at that time in my life, it was necessary.  But I would't recommend it to anyone as it is NOT.GOOD.FOR.THE.BODY (Of course my dad would say running all these miles is not good for the body and he worries about my brother and I very much... even after trying to convince him that Jesus ran a TON).

What was the difference between Flying Pig and Columbus?  Well once I could take a good, hard and honest look at myself (that sucks to do, by the way... it's hard to admit you are looney), I could change.  I knew it was my only chance to ever reach a BQ.  That it would never happen if I could not race calmly and confidently.  I wanted it very much and it was the only way I'd ever get it.  To change that I had to run some of my long runs alone.  When no one was looking, I had to resist the urge to walk and try to pick up the pace.  I had to go to the track alone sometimes and do ALL my repeats.  Not just some because no one was around.  I had to tell myself that if I could not get it together mentally, I was wasting time training.  It would never happen.  I could be a sub three hour marathoner in training and still NEVER get to Boston if I didn't change the way I viewed racing.

Happy in the later miles... a first ever.
Throughout the course of training for a Boston qualifier, I did drain myself mentally, hence the ultra goal this year.  I had to get back my love of running and run without a time goal.  Running marathons as training runs puts me back into the marathon setting, without the pressure of time.  Being in that setting so much this fall will definitely help me toe the line with a more confident attitude next year... simply because I've made it familiar.  It's all part of the plan.  Plus, I LOVE MEDALS (the Air Force one ROCKS!).

On Saturday I ran a marathon and I loved it!  Not only did I run beside John, who secretly signed up to run with me, but I ran relaxed and happy.  I walked through water stops, went to the bathroom and took pictures along the way.  There was no hitting the wall, no tears of missed goals (for me) and an incredible feeling of satisfaction when I finished.  On the way home I ate a Big Mac and fries (I know, GROSS), and did not care a bit.  I've potentially got three more of those "training runs" before the JFK 50 and I can't WAIT!                                

PS.. much as I really wanted to blog about John, I was forbidden.  He's such a killjoy!


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