I just wanted to take a moment and work out some things that are going on in my brain right now.
This upcoming race is going to be a big one mentally. I was not happy with my last two big races.
I ran the Drumheller 1/2 Marathon last September. The first 2km is a pretty serious uphill on a dirt road, then you have a small downhill, then another uphill. This wasn’t a problem. The issue was that my guts were having this habit of severely cramping up about 20-30 minutes into any sort of exercise for 10 minutes straight. During these 10 minutes I wouldn’t be able to do anything but sit or crouch and breathe through the cramps until they went away. Then once they subsided it was like nothing ever happened and I could continue business as usual. So this happened while I was trudging up the second hill and I had to crouch by the side of the road for 10 minutes while people kept asking if I was ok. Embarrassing. The rest of the race I ran as hard as I could and passed everyone possible, but I finished at 2:07 which I wasn’t happy about. I could only think about what I could have done had my body not fought against me.
My next race was the Portland Marathon in October. I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe it was the pressure I had put on myself to keep PR-ing. Maybe I didn’t eat enough the day before. Maybe it was the fact that my cat had passed away a few weeks prior and I was still grieving (he was my baby for 11 years and adjusting to life without him was hard. I’m sure anyone with a pet would understand). Whatever it was, I trained hard, started out strong and then everything started to hurt about half way through, my hips, knees, self esteem. Just a downward spiral of pain/perceived pain.
I say that because I’m not totally sure if I was in actual pain or if my mind had enough and I just wanted to quit. I wished for my knee or something to explode so I could be carried off in a stretcher. It was the first time that I’ve ever seriously considered just quitting a race.
I just wanted it to be over and forget that it happened more than anything. Dan was following me on a bike and as soon as I saw him (mile 20-something) and as soon as I saw him I burst into tears and ran into his arms sobbing like a baby
I stretched out my sore legs and Dan encouraged me to keep going and just finish. That guy biked by my side for the entire rest of the race, carried my water for me, and smiled at me every time I looked at him in pain while I shuffled along.
I finished, about 40 minutes slower than my last marathon, but I still finished. Although my confidence was pretty low for a bit, I was still glad to have completed it even when it was the last thing I wanted to do, and I did not give up.
So coming off those last two races, I felt like there’s a lot riding on this one. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
As I run more and more, I obviously get physically stronger, but I have come to the point where I want to take things to the next level. I want to run a sub-4 marathon And I am training, whooo boy I am training HARD. So much of my time out of work is spent running and working out, I physically cannot spend much more time training. And my training paces are alright, they’re on track. My track workouts and tempo runs are on pace. My long runs are on pace (about 10:10-10:15/mile), but they are still hard when it comes to the end, and then I start to lose faith in myself. How the hell am I supposed to run 4-6 miles MORE than I run now, at a 8:30-9:00 pace?! I don’t even know.
Blogs have helped. Reading other runners experiences definitely make me feel like I’m not alone. Apparently others also have these thoughts and still make PRs. Apparently I am not insane or incapable.
I think the biggest kick in the ass was from Lindsey from Out for a Run. Here’s some things that really resonated with me:
From I Added Miles and Got Tough post:
“This goes hand in hand with the confidence. I had to be confident to get tough. When the tempo runs felt hard at mile 4, I dug deep and worked hard mentally and physically. When my long runs with marathon pace miles hurt, I embraced it and pushed harder. And on race day when I was at mile 14 and it seemed hopeless that I could keep pace for 12 more miles, I remembered those days when I pushed harder when it hurt. And I got tough. If you want to get faster, you have to get tough. “
From Shamrock Marathon Recap:
“I reminded myself that I was tapered, my body was ready for this. And most importantly, this wasn’t the day to give up and run slow. I didn’t give up and run slow in any of my training runs, why would I do it here. ”
“When the mind battles came, I reminded myself, it won’t last. The entire race won’t feel like this, get out of your funk and you will feel good, at least decent in a bit. You are not having an off day, you are having an off moment. ”
“There was a girl holding a sign at mile 12 that said “trust your training“-this was right after we had the terrible board walk section of headwind and my body was still adjusting back. I kept that on repeat in my mind from then on. I remembered the 10 mile tempo runs and the 20 miles I ran on not much sleep. I remembered all of the stroller runs that ended in a headwind. I thought about how hard I worked on mile repeat days. I kept those workouts in my back pocket and pushed.”
I realized that sometimes I give up too easily, especially under pressure. I used to do it when I was in ski competitions. I would start to fail, and instead of getting back into it, I’d just succumb to failure and let it happen. Focusing on the moment for what it is, acknowledging it’s a moment of doubt, will help it pass.
Also acknowledging the pain that comes with the crazy sport. Running a marathon hurts, and I have to face that fact, push through it, and not take the easy road out:
Since I have started really focusing on the mental game of all this, I’ve seen some good changes happen. Slowly my runs have been getting faster. I slayed my last long (20 mile) run, running an average pace of 9:34 min/mile. This is about 45 seconds per mile faster than my previous two long runs over 16 miles. I tried running the last quarter of my run at/near marathon pace, and for those last 5 miles I averaged an 8:45 pace (my unrealistic-dream-pace for this marathon is 8:35/mile). Sooo…. not too shabby?! My last couple tempo runs have been faster-than-goal pace too. This confidence surge has been fuel to my fire, and I am not letting myself get nervous that this streak will end, or won’t be reflected in my race time.
I am going to run hard, and focus on the finish line. I will make it there, PR, and pain face with tears running down my cheeks if I have to.
Time to get tough.