Some thoughts and musings post-Baystate.
Your mind can be a bigger enemy – or ally – than your body. I’ve read this, thought I understood it, and probably even RT’d some related quotes, but it really sunk in from this race. I have some experiences with physical aches, pains, niggles, past injuries and how the physical side of a marathon (and worrying about all the aforementioned things) can feel and can be in your head, both in the race and in training. Trying to hit new paces and get faster and stronger is also tough in both ways. But in this race – and, thinking back, in this training cycle – it was the mental aspect that was the most challenging. That was kind of a surprise to me, as I can be fairly driven and goal-oriented, and I like that and use it to my advantage. My mind turning into a balky horse that didn’t want to go anywhere wasn’t something I’d expected during the race. Sure, I’d had early morning speedwork/tough runs or long runs where it seemed like it was taking me longer and longer to get going or where I had to coax myself through it, but for my mind to chatter at me about stopping before 10k in the race itself? I didn’t see that coming, and I hadn’t spent time training for it. (I’m still feeling kind of surprised and battered by it, wondering what my own mind was doing behaving that way, seemingly out of my control.)
I hadn’t done as much mental training and visualization for this race as I had for Shamrock, preferring most nights to read and eat bananas and nut butter and Arctic Zero (aka lazy). So perhaps fear had gotten hold of me even in training – fear of not hitting my goal (and disappointment at adjusting my goal, followed by fear of not hitting THAT goal), fear of injury, maybe even fear of success? Whatever it was, it reared its ugly head for several hours on Sunday. But I beat it back. I may have had to do so ridiculously frequently, and with any and every means at my disposal (gel, music, watching people’s shoes), but I did it. And I kept the physical side of myself going while I did it, keeping my fueling on plan, my speed up and getting me a better BQ and new PR.
Though I wish it hadn’t happened, I am proud of how I handled it – the effort and the process – and I’m so lucky to be happy with the outcome and proud of that too. Beating BQ by 12:13 is awesome (sort of still in disbelief that it happened, AND a spiffy PR), and I’m looking forward to being in the second wave of registration for 2016. And someday I intend for that first wave to be MINE.
I am mentally even tougher than I thought. I thought I was fairly tough after the Fort Story miles at Shamrock, and after pushing myself through training basically since the end of last year. But I really showed up in the mental toughness game for this race. That said, mental toughness shouldn’t be taken for granted, and I plan to get back into the mental training aspect in this new training cycle. Improvement in all things if I can!
I wished at some point on the Tuesday after the race – driving to chiro and feeling fatigue hit – that I was one of “those people” who could finish a marathon so strong they would jump across the line, go out and tour around, etc. But then I thought, “that’s just not the way I do it”….if I had that much energy left, I probably could have done the race faster. When I’m going after a PR, or even just wanting to give it my best, I want to know that I left it all on the course and gave it all I had. If that means I cross the line spent, exhausted and a little incoherent, so be it. If that means I’m tired and low energy for a while after, so be it. I’m okay with that. I don’t want to be left wondering “what if I’d pushed myself harder?” or “did I really do all I could, was that my best?” I may not run every race full out (Richmond will be done as a training run) but when I do, I want to know that I gave it everything I had, whatever that was on the day. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of with both my marathons (both BQs!! and PRs!!) this year, and I think that’s my approach, at least for now.
All the strength exercises – from my chiro, from Coach Jay’s GSM or anywhere else – they mattered. They helped. I could feel it during the race. So every time I made myself do them, made myself late for something else BY doing them, or otherwise overcame whatever trivial barrier there was between me and strength training – paid off. Same with my Whartons.
Though I am much stronger than I used to be, I need some serious hill training for Boston as well as more strength work – core and leg, including single leg and balance. That said, I have told myself the story in the past that “I’m not good at hills” and I don’t think I’ve run enough of them to be able to say that. I think I did pretty well in this race! I never walked, tried to keep even effort on the uphill and take what I could from the downhill. Hills are an area I can really make some improvements in, which will pay off in strength, speed and my Boston times! I could also try to do some knee drive and more “gazelle” like form work to open up my stride and increase my speed. Up to now, I’ve been more of a glider by “nature”, and it works, but I’ll take improvements and benefits in any part of my running.
The regular chiro (weekly) and massage appointments (every couple of weeks) helped keep me healthy throughout the training and allowed me to get to the start line healthy, trained and grateful for that and the opportunity to race. I am so lucky to have the ability to take advantage of these professionals on my team, and I know it. Their support is needed and deeply appreciated.
All the focus on running goal pace or faster miles during long runs and at other times paid off.
I can’t say if adjusting my goal pace to be a bit, um, less fast, was the right thing to do, but given I got to the race and through the race healthy, uninjured, with good results, it probably was. It was a tough choice, disappointing and upsetting. I’ll always wonder if I could have hit that other goal. (I plan to hit it eventually, haven’t let it go!) I’ll never know if it was just fear on my part or some internal warning signal that said “this is a lot harder than maybe it should be, you might be taking a risk here you don’t want to”. Would it have been “better” to push harder during training and wind up with an injury, or try to do something I wasn’t ready for and blow up in the race? While there is some appeal – ok, a fair amount of appeal for me – in the hardcore push-it-to-the-limit approach, the problem is that you often don’t find the limit until you’ve passed it, with consequences that are unacceptable. I have to be able to train consistently to improve, and for my health and sanity. So what keeps me healthy and able to run consistently is the right thing to do. Sometimes that’s not pushing as hard as my ego wants.
All the decisions about eating this or not, sleeping or not, doing a workout or backing off….they were tough in the moment, and I second-guessed myself, but on balance, they worked out for me. It’s hard to know with any one decision or choice if you’re tilting the balance the “wrong” way and getting yourself into trouble. I was cautious in some ways and not cautious enough in others, and it’s a constant learning experience. Hopefully I will get better and “smarter” as time goes on, learning from others and sharing what I learn.
I was once again very lucky – my health, my training, my GI tract, the weather, the course and a host of other variables came together to allow me a great race. Perhaps not easy as I’d hoped, not necessarily fun, but in its own way – in what I learned and my results especially – great.
Last and by no means least:
IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.
On to BOSTON!