This past weekend had me running a 19-mile training run; it was the type of run I was dreading for a few reasons:
- I had never run that long before.
- On recent 18 and 15 mile runs I’d struggled a bit at different times and was nervous (my right leg IT band starts acting up at around mile 14 now and HURTS for a while) about facing 19 and was facing 19 alone since my previously committed running partners bailed on me.
- I had to get up at 5:00am on a Saturday to fit the 3-hour run into my personal and family’s schedule. Getting up at 5:00am stinks enough during my M-F work week. On the weekend, yuck.
I went to bed early Friday evening (talk about a lifestyle change – 25 year old me would scoff at
what I’ve become), got up at 5:00am and went out to run. Then something weird happened: the run went great, really, really great. It was an easy 19, if such a thing in my realm exists. I ran all over the county with little thought or concern of where my feet took me; it was as carefree a run as I can remember having. (No, for those of you on pins and needles, I still wasn’t blessed by Runner’s High.)
With my mind not burdened by mental fatigue or stress, I had plenty of time to … think. Just blank slate thinking. Suddenly the reasons I was dreading my run, going solo and fearful about my ability to complete it, were gone and being solo became a blessing. For me, I do my best thinking when I’m not trying to; in the shower, on the treadmill and on long, boring drives. When my mind shuts down is when it gets creative. In negotiating daily work and family life, I’m normally a very left brained person. But here I was galloping around Winooski being all intuitive, thoughtful and subjective.
The topic I spent the most time on was race day emotions - specifically, how will I react along the course on May 27. Will I be all smiles, waving to the crowd and soaking up the cheers? Will I be my left brained self, totally focused on the task at hand? Who knows.
The biggest thing I am looking forward to is my emotions (assuming I can stand and exhibit normal brain function) when I cross the finish line. Anything is possible. I mean anything. I could fall in a heap of tears, out of both joy and sorrow. I could hug anything or anyone in sight (sorry in advance). This speculating is the best part. Often the fear of the unknown is paralyzing. In this case, I am embracing this unknown and cannot wait to see how it plays out.
My reaction will mostly depend on, no kidding, me. Running is an individual sport. When you boil it down it is you against you. While this is not news, it is new to me. My background in team sports fostered mutual respect and reliance on your teammates. You dropped the pass? Don’t worry, we’ll get the next one. On May 27 there is no next one. There is no teammate to pick up my slack, and, likewise, I cannot save the day for others. It’s all on me. It’s all on each of us as individuals.
I asked Coach about her experience dealing with emotions throughout her marathon career, and to sum it up we should expect a wide range of emotions, but what’s always helped carry her across the finish line is to, “Expect there will be good miles and tough miles, but that if you can just try to keep perspective and put one foot in front of the other [you'll be fine].”
Now onto a couple of miscellaneous topics.
I have been a regular reader of running articles on the web, most of which come across my Twitter feed. I wanted to share two recent ones that pertain to both the overall message of this post as well as running in general.
The first is from SLEEP, a quasi-medical journal that explores, well, all things sleep related. Here they discuss The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players. While the study focused on NCAA basketball players, the conclusion crosses the spectrum of all athletic competitions. They concluded, “Improvements in specific measures of basketball performance after sleep extension indicate that optimal sleep is likely beneficial in reaching peak athletic performance.” I know, we all may say that’s obvious. But it is often the obvious that gets overlooked in daily life. I happened to read this article three days after my great 19-mile run and it got me thinking that part of my success could be attributed to a full night of sleep on Friday. This definitely has small sample size alert written all over it, but I plan on adjusting my Friday sleep regimen for the rest of the training to see how it goes. If the results continue to be positive, then I may plan to get tons of sleep the week leading up to VCM.
The other study related fatigue to your mental state and strength. (Warning: that link contains a lot of WORDS and footnotes.) There’s a lot of good stuff to read there if you have 10+ minutes, but to sum it up they end with, “It is cowardice that exacerbates the sensations of fatigue, not the reverse.” My post last week had a few motivational quotes intended to help combat this sensation, which is not my normal m.o., but in the end, it it truly may be Mind over Matter.