Sunday, February 16, 2014

Week Eleven: Mind over Matter

Some days, running is effortless and fun and rejuvenating. Like my Thursday night run this week. After a horrible couple of days of gloomy cold, fog and drizzle, the sun finally peeked through Wednesday afternoon, making for a great easy quick run around campus that evening. And the next day, I was nearly salivating by the time 5:00 PM rolled around on Thursday, with the anticipation of another run through Worth Hills, savoring the last of that day's bright sunshine. I had never been so excited about 8 miles during the week, not in recent memory at least. And it fulfilled its promise. I had a hilly course and a little stomach bubbling, but I felt strong and I ran happy. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy...

So many students enjoying the end of the day outside on campus. 
Last night, we went out to the Texas Motor Speedway and got chased by zombies.  The "zombies"  were scattered around the course and lurched toward you unexpectedly, but it was non-contact so it was just silly fun.  There was a decent post-run party, and while the course measured short of an official 5k, it was a fun run where we ran against the clock to see who would survive the Zombie Apocalypse and who would succumb to the horde. 

Pre-race waiting for the Zombies! 
We all survived! Take that, Zombies! 
One of the zombies lurching around on the course. 
My sister-I-choose and Fred came out to cheer and have dinner with us after, so we ended the night with lots of laughs. And we got to see some cars zooming around the track while we ran under the tunnels off and back onto the infield, so that part was cool.  I ran a lot faster than I intended to - I planned to take it somewhat easy, knowing I had a long run the next day, but I guess I got caught up in the fun and ended up averaging a lot faster than I have been running lately.

And that's where we pick up the story, this morning. It was nearly midnight by the time we got home after the race so I didn't set an alarm for my long run. I knew it would be warmer than it has been all week (THANKS TEXAS WEATHER, I HATE YOU!!) but I also knew I needed to sleep. Turns out I lingered in bed too long and hung out having breakfast with the Savant too long.  By the time I got out, it was already humid and sticky.  I overdressed, wearing a long-sleeved shirt that suddenly felt too tight and too suffocating after a couple of miles. I somehow ripped a hole in my shorts, so I could feel a hotspot starting to chafe on one thigh. I knew i needed to carry water, but the bottle was super heavy and clumsy and I nearly chucked it into the creek a couple of times. My mental state was dodgy from the beginning and went downhill really fast. Long story short, I salvaged 12 miles of my planned 15, but they were hard-fought, slow and very taxing mentally.  I just could never get in a groove where I felt comfortable, much less hit that effortless state that I had on Thursday night. It was a struggle, and it took all the tools I had at my disposal (my power songs on my playlist, dial-a-friend text messages, and a helpful ride to the gym and an encouraging kick in the azz from my sweet baboo) to get those 12 done. It wasn't the 15 I wanted, but it was about eight more than what my mind wanted me to do.

My mid-run selfies indicate my mindset. Yes, there was a full wardrobe change involved today... 

Classic case of FITYMI (Fake it til you make it): "YAY, RUNNING...." 
There's a lot of thoughts that run through your head when you are on a long run; you have lots of time to think. You have even more time to think when you are walking huge chunks of that long run. You think thoughts like "why am I doing this?" and "what am I trying to prove again?" and you risk spiraling down into a very Bad Place. And you think that even though you have run more than 10 marathons, and you remind yourself that you are treating this like it's your first one again, you really can't escape the knowledge that you have and the experience that you have from those marathons. You KNOW it's hard. You KNOW that 15 miles is a long way, and 20 is even longer, and 26 is even more, but it's that damn .2 that bites you hard. You KNOW that you can't control for certain things, like the weather... ahem. You know race day might be hot and humid, because the race gods don't care that hot and humid is your Kryptonite. Or it might be 30 degrees colder at mile 15 than at the start. Or it might even rain and hail and sleet on you. Anything can happen, and you can't control for some of those things.

But you also know that you CAN control for some things. You can control your nutrition and your hydration, especially in challenging conditions. You can control your attitude. You can choose to see the upside in the situation. I am not going to say I was 100 percent successful in all of this, but I salvaged more out of today than I would have before. I did question my sanity, and I can't lie, I questioned my decision to train for a full marathon again. But at the end of the hours it took me to cover 12 miles today, what wasn't up to question was my ability to fight back. I could have caved at four miles. But I didn't. Despite the overall pace, despite having to break up the run into 3 segments, I didn't cave. And I choose to see that upside in today's outing, instead of seeing the missing 3 miles. Because I know, after the races I've done and the marathons I've finished, and mostly the ones that I haven't, that the mental part of the training is just as critical as the physical part.

Week 11:  31 miles done. Included 2 hilly runs around campus after work, 1 extremely windy lunch run, the Zombie apocalypse and a 12-mile long "run."


Michelle K said...

This is good stuff. Building mental toughness is just as important (if not more important) that the miles themself. I'm proud of you for fighting back!! said...

Rock on lady!!!! Mental toughness is harder than the actual run I have decided...Way to get it done!