Friday, April 22, 2011

Going Mental

As I have shared with you all, I am currently in the midst of training for a half marathon. For me, this countdown is even more anticipated than the royal wedding, if you can believe that. The official countdown? 22 days!

For anyone who has trained for a race, or really any sort of test of endurance, you know that its all about building. Prepping. Conditioning your body to understand a new standard of normal and to push through. But no one ever talks about the mental building. I think there should be a whole extra chapter book on that.

Running is mental. I've been told this by lots of runners. But I really started to believe it when I knew my body could do one thing, but some days I just couldn't pull through to finish it out. The body is an amazing thing, but if your mind isn't synced up, its going to be a very bumpy ride.

Last weekend, a group of us competed in a local 8k (5 miles) race. My training up to date has been all about endurance. While finishing at a certain time would be nice, finishing itself is the goal. Turns out, I completed the 8k minutes before I anticipated. While it was a gigantic boost of confidence, I must say, a small part of me started to worry. Sure, I was able to push myself, but in four weeks I would have to run nearly triple what I just completed. For the first time I really started to wonder what if I really can't do it. Insert mind eff.

Naturally, I began to fear the magnitude of what was still ahead of me. Having not completed a long (8-10 miles) run since early March (eek) I knew I had to conquer my fear and just commit. So in the spirit of my jovial day on Wednesday, I decided today was the day I was going to bang out 10 miles. The sun was shining, it was nearly 75 degrees and I was out of work at 2:00 pm--what could possibly go wrong? Well in the interest of keeping this short, I failed. My legs felt heavy. I couldn't get into the groove. I was HOT. I couldn't imagine taking 3 more steps let alone finishing 3 more miles. Not only did I come in very shy of my goal for the day, but I was literally miles from home. FAIL. I had the whole walk home to beat myself up, get more nervous, to ask myself if I could really do it. In a matter of 35 minutes my mood went from good to bad. 

Looking at my schedule, today was the only other day to conquer this run. When I awoke this morning I contemplated not going, but I had to. So I mapped my plan of attack and took it one step at a time. Literally. Slow and steady wins the race, I had to think. Scratch that, I'm a bit more of a realist--slow and steady may not win the race, but she'll finish. 

I focused on each next destination on my route, slowed my pace down when I got overwhelmed, and even though I felt like a stroller could have passed me at times, I forged on. I purposely planned my route so that I would stay occupied. Through different neighborhoods, along different streets, and before I knew it that little voice on my iPod was telling me I had one mile to go. 

With each step I knew I was getting closer and closer, and as I started to recognize my surroundings I knew exactly how far from home I was. I mustered everything I had until it was done. Finished. As I stopped at the steps in front of my apartment I was tired, but not winded. Sore, but not uncomfortable. That good feeling when your legs are tight and strong like they could carry you all day.  I knew I'd just made a huge accomplishment in my physical training, but more importantly in my mental training.  Because for the first time, the only thing I could think was...

Holy shit...I'm really going to do this!

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