Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Mental Toughness

So, apparently, I have committed to signed up for a race in 2 weeks that involves ducks and loops and eight hours on my feet or some such?  I blame @twitter. Or the big-azz google document that a bunch of frunners have been collaborating on that includes pretty much every race in NTexas from now until May, so that we can better coordinate 1) training runs, 2) carpooling & lodging as needed, 3) meetups/post-run party and 4) showdowns. In any case, yes, I will be Running From the Ducks on September 25.
will there be real ducks? I'm not sure... quack quack!!
This race is set up on a looped course, and you start when they say go and stop 8 hours later.  You have a chip on your shoe and it tracks how many loops you cover. You can set up a campsite with your chair, cooler, drop bag essentials like extra shoes, socks, bandaids, tequila, whatever you might need to get you through 8 hours of running/walking/slogging/marathon death marching.

Why am I doing this? Besides the aforementioned twitter-pressure (yes, I blame Twitter generically but I blame @trigolfer specifically), I thought it would be an excellent way to get a true measure of my stamina and endurance at this point in time. The 5k tests I've done in August and again this past Saturday (2nd AG, thank you very much!!) are good to tell me what my max pain point will get me in miles per hour, but what does that tell me about where I am relative to running (and finishing) a 50K? or more importantly, a 50-miler? I know I need to make adjustments to the training plan, and when I saw this race I thought it would be an excellent marker of not only Where Am I? but How Far Do I Have to Go?

So, I'm in. And for someone who hates the monotony of a treadmill, I'm not sure that hours upon hours on a tiny loop like that is going to be fun. Sure, the race atmosphere is great, and coming back through camp every 10-12 minutes will be fun, but I get bored easily. It's a character flaw I'm working on (or at least I start to work on it, until... well, yeah... I get bored with it...PLEASE tell me this was not a surprise to you). This means that doing this race, and preparing for this race, is really less of a physical challenge for me (not that it won't be challenging physically, because I might want to die at the end) but more of a mental exercise.  I practiced for this race on Sunday morning with my long run of 12 miles, and let me tell you, mental exercise doesn't describe it as well as mental TORTURE!

This was my longest run since the surgery, not counting the Hottest Half in mid-August. I wasn't sure what my paces would be, and I knew I was going it alone. My iPod has been janky lately so I wasn't even going to count on using it.  I mapped out a .85 mile loop around my house - very coincidentally, it's the distance around my block and the block over - and got set up to run.  I took a bottle of water and a bottle of my patented gator-wator (Blue Powerade, even though BLUE IS NOT A FLAVOR!!) and set them on the fence that runs along the creek opposite my block. I set the stopwatch to zero, not so much to track time, but to just get an idea of what I was looking at pace-wise when it was done, and to track laps. I had to have SOME way to track laps or I knew I would lose count.  I had dilly-dallied a bit more than I should have, and I had a thing to get ready for, so when I started running at 7 AM, I knew I had just about 2 and a half hours to get it done.  With a half-marathon time of 2:50 a month ago, plus a two-week break in the interim, I didn't really know if I could hit the full 12 miles. I was just going to go until it was time to stop.

So, first loop. Ok, I can do this... 13 more times... Oy. Second loop. the mind starts to wander... "Are we there yet?"  Third loop, find something to focus on. Counting the number of parked cars got old on the first lap. Nobody is out walking dogs or jogging so nobody to talk to like when I go to the park.  I remember on Daily Mile reading something about nose breathing. So I decide I'm going to try it for a lap and see what happens. I can't at that moment remember what was supposed to be good about it, or why i should do it, but I thought, why not?  So I did. And my 3rd lap time was comparable to the first two, but with what felt like much less effort. If anything, I was gasping a little more than I should have been so early in a long run and the nose breathing put a stop to that. Hmmm. fluke? Let's try it again. So 4th lap was more nose breathing. Did I slow down? Nope, same results. Groovy!!

So that's what I did. I picked something different every lap after that to really hone in on.  Potato chip hands on one lap. Not stomping the hell out of the sidewalk when I land on another. Not doing that weird hand curl thing I do with my left hand on another lap. Before I knew it, it was time to rotate and change directions! Halfway through!! WOOT!

By now it was getting warm, as the sun had come up full, but I was doing really well with my hydration strategy of sipping water each lap for the first 5 loops, then alternating water & Gatorwater. Didn't feel tired, didn't feel muscle fatigue, or any tweaks or twinges.  In fact, I started to speed up. It was very exciting, but I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and the pace to fall. but it didn't. I was just feeling strong all the way through. And before I knew it, I was counting down and had only 3 laps to go. Well, pffft, that ain't nothing but a thing! Finally, two hours and 16 minutes after I started, i was DONE. 12 miles on a .85 mile loop. And I didn't lose my mind!

I did play with peeling off to my 10k loop when I hit the 6 mile mark, but talked myself out of it.  Then I thought about going to my park 5k loop when I hit 9 miles, thinking that if I did that, I'd be done when I got back. Each time, the Angry Voice in my head very rudely, yet convincingly, told the Impatient Voice to shut the hell up, we were going to do the loop, dammit.  So, we stuck to the plan and did the loop. Again. And again. And again. It wasn't necessarily fun, but it wasn't hideous. I didn't give myself the option to quit running the loop. Just like I'm not going to give myself the option to quit during the race. Just keep moving. One more lap. One more loop. Loopty-loop-me. Rinse, repeat.

It also helped that I was getting faster as I went along on Sunday morning. I ended up negative-splitting that training run by 3 minutes. That's stupid - I *NEVER* negative split. I am the one who always comes out of the gate too fast and then dies a slow painful brutal death slogging in at the end. But I'll take it - maybe it's a good sign of things to come, of how things will be now.  I just felt good and strong and capable. And let me tell you what. I needed that. Oh, I so very much needed that kind of a run, after the planned and unplanned breaks in training, and after the frustration of the tests that showed nothing, and after feeling like I was never going to feel like a runner again.   So I would have to say that I passed this test. With flying colors. Kinda like a duck would...

That's a good thing, because I get to do it again this Sunday. I have a 10-mile race Saturday morning and then on Sunday I'll be back in the 'hood, circling the block again, this time for 15 miles. Woot and Squee indeed!!

.85 lap splits, because I have them: 
Lap 1 10:17
Lap 2 9:52
Lap 3 10:00
Lap 4 9:53
Lap 5 9:57
Lap 6 9:42
Lap 7 9:38 - 1:09:22 at halfway point
Lap 8 9:20
Lap 9 9:28
Lap 10 9:22
Lap 11 9:31
Lap 12 9:46
Lap 13 9:45
Lap 14  8:54 - Last One, Fast One! 2:15:14

1 comment:

ERIN C. said...

Your pace is awesome. That's all .. for now :)