6 Mental Leaps to Running a Half Marathon

Sunday, TJ and I ran the Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham.  Looking back, it was an awesome experience in so many ways.  I’m going to try and write several short posts about it over several days rather then a really long post.

My prep for this race was non existent.  Life got in the way and unlike any other half marathon or my 1 marathon, I did no training or workouts.  So for me this race was all mental.  I knew my physical conditioning wouldn’t bring me though.  Here are the “Mental Leaps” I had to take to actually run this race.

  1. Getting to the starting line.  The race registration was a Christmas gift from TJ (thanks TJ), but my race prep was non existent.  I have a lot of excuses, but non that matter.  Basically, I have been working crazy hours since last Spring and helping my Lovely Wife a lot as she hasn’t been feeling well. Many days I’ve been working /  erranding for 12 hours before I get a chance to run.  With it getting dark early and my hectic schedule, I end up only running 3-4 miles a day. So the race itself was a huge fear for the last couple of months. I even told my Lovely Wife that perhaps I’d show up and after TJ started the race, I’d go somewhere to sit and wait for him to finish (just not tell him that was my plan).  She didn’t think that was a good idea. But after the expo and talking with TJ, I decided to run the race and if need be, have a van take me back to the finish.  At least I’d try, fears and all!
  2. The 7 mile stretch.  I haven’t run over 7 miles for about a year.  Most days at 7 miles my joints and hips just shut down.  The pain gets pretty severe.  So on race day I knew at 7 miles I’d be half way through the race… A major mental leap for me.  The problem was that at 7 miles of running that morning, I was only at mile marker 5!  TJ and I ran 2 miles before the race just looking for a porta potty.  The only bathrooms were inside a nearby building and the line was a mile long.  We ran one direction and then the next.  Finally I asked a police officer and he said, “They are at 18th and 8th”.  I then got turned around and we ran the wrong way for 3 blocks.  When we found the potty, we used them, ran back to the line and… I realized I was too hot.  I had 2 jackets on as it was cold, but all that running made me realize I was over dressed.  So we ran 2 blocks back to the car, then back to the potty and back to the starting line.  2 miles of running and the race hadn’t even started.  Ugh.
  3. The Gu strategy.  My last half marathon nearly 2 years ago, TJ was pacing me.  He was an awesome pacer and he would give me a Gu every 3 miles to help me get the PR that I made that day.  So I tried to follow that same strategy during this race.  At mile 3 I got 2 Gu’s.  I put one in my pocket and eat one.  My “mental leap” was to keep looking forward to the next third mile.  At mile 5 when they gave out more Gu, I passed them up as I had one in my pocket.  Finally at mile 6 (mile 8 to me) I reached in to get my Gu and it was gone.  It must have fallen out of my pocket.  This was not good.  Just as I started to panic, there was someone giving out Gummy Bears. 🙂   I got a couple and at mile 7 an awesome little girl gave me more Gu.  I survived another mile.
  4. The half way point.   I made it half way.  It was not as bad as I thought.  I was trying to keep a 9:00 pace and was close to keeping that goal.  I ran the tangents like a pro.  Every inch that I could save I knew I would need.  At 6.5 miles I was still nervous and not sure I’d might need to walk some, but the goal I created at this point was to keep running and not walk during the race.  Miles 6-9 were pretty much up hill so I was beat, but this was the first point I thought I might finish the race.  I knew I was in new territory as I had now run 8.5 miles (with our potty runs) and my body hadn’t done that for a year.
  5. Mile 9 and mental gymnastics  I knew now I’d make the goal of completing the race and not walking.  But I’d have to do some brain tricks to keep going and I felt like I was fading.  I eat my Gu, I drank gatorade and kept going.  I would think to myself, “Only 4 miles to go”.  I’d think, “You made it past mile 8” – thus the mental gymnastics.  Each mile I’d be surprised that I was at that mile as I kept my brain a mile in the past.  I know this sounds crazy, but it helped being surprised that I was at mile 9 when I was thinking I was at mile 8.
  6. A new goal at mile 11  So far I made it to the starting line, I kept close to my 9:00 pace, but the hills set me back a bit.  I didn’t walk and I knew I’d finish.  My new goal at mile 11 was my biggest of the day.  According to the race clock, I was going to be just over 2 hours at my finish.  I knew I’d have to get below my 9 minute pace to beat 2 hours.  I was tired and my legs were killing me, but I sped up my pace.  I figured in my head that I had to be close to an 8:30 pace for the next 2.1 miles and I decided to go for it.  At the start of mile 12 my pace was down to 8:50.  I had to run faster if I was going to do this.  My 13th mile (15th with my potty run) I felt like walking.  I was really hurting.  I heard the finish announcers finally.  It was a LONG mile.  My app told me at mile 13 that I was at an 8:37 pace for that mile.  I entered the finish shoot.  I gave it all I had…

I crossed the finish line at 1:59:56!

All the mental leaps.  All the fear.  All the running.  The cold.  The Gu.  The awesome runners and volunteers.  This was the most fun I’ve had in a half marathon ever.  No PR – In fact I was about 18 minutes slower then my PR.  But I finished the race, I didn’t walk, I made it under 2 hours.  And in front of me was a battered TJ, all bandaged up from a fall at the finish line.

This is why I love running.  That 4 seconds under my goal.  Had I made one stop, had I walked, had I not pushed as much as I could that last mile – It all came down to 4 seconds.

It… was… awesome!

Running/mountains/life – the good, bad and the…

One thing I’ve learned since I began running in March of 2011… some days you feel like superman and some you don’t.

Yesterday TJ, RS and I went to the mountain to do our weekly run.  If you have read this blog at all over the past several months, you will know that I found this crazy road going up a mountain in our local state park.  I’ve run it many times now.  A few weeks ago, TJ coaxed me into going further past the top of the mountain.  There is a long hill that goes down and then a very steep climb up to the end of the road.  By the time we leave the car and make it back, we run about 7.5 miles on the mountain.

Back to my starting sentence.  Yesterday I didn’t feel like superman.  We started our run (RS likes to run alone, so he left after us) and my legs had no strength.  They honestly felt like rubber.  I kept racking my brain as to why this would be.  I hydrated well this weekend and last week.  I eat well.  I slept better then normal.  Also I walked Friday and took Saturday of.  I should have been smokin!

Not!

I figured by the time we got going my legs would wake up.  They didn’t.  I got to the top of the mountain and felt like I was on mile 20 of a marathon.  I was shot.  What kept me going?  Other then being almost 4 miles away from the car and running with TJ, I kept thinking to myself, “This will help my legs get used to running tired – like at mile 20 of a marathon”.

So I finished.  It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t walk.  I pushed through.  To be honest, coming down the mountain was the worse!  I had to concentrate to keep my legs from giving way as we pounded down the steep inclines.

Running really does mirror life sometimes.  There are days when you wake up and you feel like you are at mile 20.  It is not only hard to get going, but it can be hard to keep going.  But we have to keep our eyes on the prize and push through.  Every up also has a down and every down has an up.  Life is never going to stay as good as you feel right now or as bad.  Life means change.  When you are tired, just keep going.  When you are happy, be thankful.  When you are sad, know that one day you will be happy again, whether you feel like you will be or not.

Before I sign off I want to congratulate RS who made it to the top of the mountain for the first time.  As we were coming back, we passed him.  I told him he made it and he said, “Really?”.  He didn’t know he had made it to the top!  Hmmm.  Seems like life also.  Sometimes we have everything we ever wanted, we make it to the top of the mountain and don’t even know that we have arrived.

Running/mountains/life.  Gotta love it!

Tom

Nightmare on Oak Mountain

Running up the mountain…

Thoughts running through my head…

A dream.  I was hear before in a dream.  I remember part of that dream.

Oh. Another dream.  Another thought.  I can see a vision of it in my head.

By now, I’ve totally forgotten I’m running. Flashes are going through my head.  One dream, another, another.  It seems like dozens.  I remember.  Now were these dreams I’m remembering or were they real.  What is the difference between my dream and reality.  My mind is reeling.

Suddenly I’m near the top of the mountain.  I’m not feeling well.  Was I running too hard or is there something happening that all these thoughts are causing.

I start walking.

I am panicing.   What is happening to me.

20 seconds.

I start running again.

Slowly.  I feel better.  I am moving toward the end of my destination and heading back down the mountain.

5 minutes later.

I forget most of the thoughts.  The visions.  Even the panic and feeling like I am not going to make it.  All gone.  I feel normal again.  I get back to my car and head home.  All is normal again.

What was that.  I wasn’t running too hard.  I eat eggs and a banana.  Everything was normal.  Then it hit.  It was like a daymare.

Ever happen to you?

I hope I never experience it again.

Tom

Runner’s mood boost

I ran yesterday.  The first non-stop run since my SI joint acted up last Tuesday.

All in all I’d say it was a good run.  I didn’t push myself as I didn’t want to get hurt again.  At this point, I’d rather run slow then not run at all.  I think my family agrees as I seem to be addicted to endorphins.  When I can’t run, I get just a bit grumpy.  I’ve never been one to get a runner’s high, at least not that I’ve noticed.  I can notice though, that if I don’t run I just seem more moody and angry at the world.  Fortunately I am a pretty laid back person, so I can hold in most of my frustration. It is amazing though how I miss that ability to get my frustrations out while on a run.  I guess I get a runner’s mood boost rather than a runner’s high.  Either way, it really helps.

So my running yesterday was a good thing for everyone.  I ran in my old Saucony Mirage shoes.  I am trying to get away from my Fastwitch shoes because I think they might be some of the reason for my injuries.  I am a heavy runner and they are basically a racing flat.  The Mirage are much more built up and steady.  The Mirage I ran in yesterday also only have about 100 miles on them, so they have plenty of time left on them.  I will be going to my Brooks PureFlow 2 after I get over my SI joint issue.  I don’t want to introduce another variable into my running until I know I am well.

Back to my run.  I got in 3 miles at about a 9:30 pace.  My hip felt a little strange.  It didn’t hurt, but it did feel like it wanted to turn inward as I ran.

Today I am going to walk a mile before my run.  I hope that will loosen me up more and remove any stiffness.

I guess running has become a way of life.  I never thought I’d become so dependent on it, but I’m glad I am!

Ordinary running

Ran again yesterday.  7 days in a row.

I was thinking as I ran how “ordinary” my running is.  I don’t mean that in a negative way, but I think I am feeling some rebound from training for a marathon.

I wondered as I trained, how I would feel after it was all over.  Would I have a difficult time adjusting to the fact I wasn’t training anymore, or would I be relieved.  I was happy to find out that after the marathon was all over, I was satisfied.  I didn’t feel upset or unfocused.  I was just living in the fact that I had completed my goal.

Now, almost 4 week later, I think I did have some issues that came up over the past few weeks.  Even as I ran yesterday, I felt a bit “off” thinking that it is all over.  My running right now is ordinary running.  Nothing special.  Nothing to train for.  Nothing but me and the road and my shoes.

I don’t mean that I am not planning some races. We have a 10K in a month and TJ just talked to me about running a few 5K’s.  In February we have the Mercedes Half Marathon and in March the Shamrock Marathon.

Right now though, I am enjoying just running and not really training.  I am enjoying pushing it a bit.  I am enjoying the cooler weather (though the heat index yesterday was 90).  I really am enjoying the no pressure running that I am doing.  But deep inside there is a little sadness.  There is a little loss.  Training for a marathon was hard, especially in the summer.  It was grueling and tiring.  I am surprised though how much of my identity was tied up in that training.  Even now it seems hard to not have that goal to reach out to.  It seems hard to not be in a place of, “Can I actually do this?”

So, I am working on enjoying my ordinary running.

Sometimes life is ordinary.  There is nothing to reach out for.  It is work, home, run, eat and sleep.

If we don’t enjoy the moments, even in the ordinary times, we will never appreciate the marathon of life.

Hmmm.  Now I feel better.  I’m glad I had a chance to write through this thought process.

On to my ordinary life.  I’m glad I am alive, can eat, can run and can sleep in a bed and have a wonderful family.

Ordinary is good.

How do you deal with a bad day when you can’t run?

Yesterday was a particularly rough day.  It was one of those days where you know that a good run is “better than therapy”.   One of those days where you would barely get out of the door with your running gear on before you are off running as hard as you can just to get the junk out of your head.

For me, yesterday was a day of frustration.  Yes, the day was difficult, but the frustrating part of the day was the fact I can’t run until Friday.

Seriously?!?

I could have set a PR.  I could have run so hard and so long.  I could have run off the day.  I could have saved my mind and my body a lot of stress if I could just have gone for a run.

I walked.

I walked for hours.

I walked along highways with no shoulders.  At times I was inches from cars on a two lane road.  I had to leave the neighborhood and there aren’t many areas to walk nearby and I didn’t want to drive somewhere.  I was careful though and most of the time stayed a few feet from the traffic.  Cars were considerate and moved over for me when they could.  At one point I slipped on pine straw, but I caught myself and was fine.

Finally after miles of walking I headed home.  This walk helped.  I’m glad I could walk and I am thankful I am in shape.  I had no fear of doing “too much”.  I just walked off my day.

I miss my running.  I think some of my problems from the day was the fact I haven’t really run much in the past month.  I was hurt the week before my marathon so I didn’t run.  I was too sore to run (or even walk) the week after my marathon.  Now I had to take a week off for other reasons.  I guess I’m having endorphin withdrawal.  🙂

Tomorrow my hiatus from running is over.  I can run as much as I want.  I already have a 6 mile run planned with my friend Neill on Saturday.  I’m looking forward to that.

We take so much for granted in this life.  I never knew how much of my mental well-being was tied up in running.  I never knew until yesterday how much I NEED running.  I have been transformed into a runner and I cannot go back.

Everyday running is a new day!

Everyday running is a new day!  

That is the great thing about running.  You can have the worse day running of your week, month, year and then go out one day and suddenly you have a PR.

Friday I had probably the worse day running in months.  No storms.  No heat.  Lower humidity.  But I got up at 3:30 AM, worked until 2:00, went to the Chiropractor and by the time I went out to run, it was almost 5:00 PM.  I was tired, hungry and not in the mood for a run.  I ran 3.33 miles and stopped.  I was disheartened and depressed about my upcoming marathon.  Then Saturday I ran 10 miles and Sunday I ran 20 miles.  Bam!  I was back!!!

Everyday running is a new day!  

That is the hard thing about running.  You can set PRs, you can run almost 5 hours in 2 days.  You put your blood, sweat and tears into your workouts and go to bed proud, excited and content.  Then you wake up and it is a new day.  Of course you have your base, but today… you start all over again.

I confess that I am tired.  I have been training for the Lehigh Valley Marathon for months.  I haven’t slept past 5:00 AM in over a month, in fact most days I get up at 4:00 AM.  All I seem to do is wake up, go to work, do errands, go to doctors and then run.  On the weekend, it is different.  I wake up, run, do errands and go to bed.  Now that is a nice change of pace.  🙂

Everyday running is a new day!  

Today is a new day.  The weather is still moderate, not as nice as last week, but not HOT.  I have new confidence after my fantastic weekend of running.  Yes, I’m tired, but that will end in less than 3 weeks.   I have a very supportive family.  They know I’m tired and they really try to help.  My Lovely Wife has been awesome to me and understands what I am going through.  I’m very fortunate.  I have good kids, a blog I love writing and “a hope and a future”.

In the end, I’m glad that…

Everyday running is a new day!