Friday, May 22, 2015

CLE Marathon: Maybe it's not about the happy ending - maybe it's about the story.

I don’t know where to begin on this one.  In the 5 weeks leading up to this race I think I told Anthony three or four different times that I was not going to race.  Maybe if I was feeling up to it, I would switch to the half marathon and just run for fun, but I wasn’t going to run the full, no way.  Not because I didn’t think I could do it, but because I thought I was going to let myself down and be embarrassed with the outcome. 

I started focusing on training for this race in mid January and everything was going exactly as I had planned from the get-go.  I was hitting my paces and distances and I was extremely confident about finishing in the 3:25-3:30 time frame.  From January through Early April, my mileage was pretty consistently between 40 and 55 miles/week with a couple of planned 60 mile weeks in mid April.  I was so excited to be hitting those numbers, but simultaneously my mind and body were falling apart.  I was focusing so much on the end goal that every run was becoming a stressful event.  I wasn’t enjoying the process, but instead I was overthinking everything.  Extra unnecessary stress like that added to training is a recipe for disaster.

Anthony kept telling me to just look at that days workout and focus on it – not on what it means to race day, not what's on tap for the rest of the week, just focus on the mile I was in.  Just enjoy the process and have fun training my body to crush 26.2 in May!  My mind was unraveling with this goal that I had put up on a pedestal.  The result:  I fell apart.  My last “long run” (16miles) was on April 12th, over a month before race day and it didn’t go exactly as planned.  I started dealing with old injuries and a new “injury” I’ve never dealt with…..self doubt and general insanity.  The week of April 6th was a 50 mile week.  The “Rundown” in my journal at the end of this week: “Week didn’t go as planned.  Onward and upward!”  My notes show that my glute and hip pain were starting to cause problems again.  This was the start of a mental trip like none I have ever been on.  The next two weeks were each less than 30miles with a swim and a bike ride.  The fact that my hip and glute were causing problems again sent me over the edge.

Every day I tried so hard to get out of whatever kind of mental slump I was in.  I couldn’t quite understand why I was acting the way I was.  I had one last opportunity to get a good week of training in (4/27-5/3).  Intervals on Tuesday went ok, Tempo run on Thursday -I finished, but not at a tempo pace – I gave up.  My fitness was there, but my mind wasn’t letting me access it, so once again, I told myself to just “hit reset.” PT had gotten my hip and glute back under control and I was ready to get it together, or so I thought.  I was excited to prove to myself that I could overcome whatever was going on in my mind once and for all.   Saturday, May 2nd, was one of my last chances to give myself a big boost of confidence before race day.  One last 16miler and….I quit at 8.5miles and told Anthony I wasn’t going to race.  ?!!?! WHO AM I?! OH, and did I mention it was going exactly as planned? 100% on pace.  But I was having slight hip and glute pain/tightness (that the Dr. said I could/should push through!)  After Anthony talked to me and reminded me that I am not a quitter and that I am strong and I can reach my goals, I gathered myself and quickly realized how badly I regretted quitting that morning.

That was it.  I had totally let myself down.  I spent 11 weeks training my butt off to get in “3:25 marathon shape,” and I just let it go.  I finally got it together with about two weeks to go.  Not enough time to gain any fitness back, just enough time to gain a little confidence.  It was time to taper.  I got one last successful interval run and tempo run in and ended the week with 35miles.  Race week was a really great week mentally, but deep down I was really unsure of what I was going to be able to do on race day. Mileage in the five weeks leading up to race week: 26, 28, 40, 35, 19(race week).  I quit and skipped a lot of runs.  Some of those skipped miles were necessary – I had to listen to my body.  But for many of them, it was mental.  This was all new to me, I have NEVER struggled with this insanity, self-doubt, and lack of self-respect in training.  All because I was focused on this outcome that I was letting define me.

I learned so much from this training cycle.  I am still unsure what caused me to fall in to this slump, and as painful as it was, I am really grateful that it happened.  I learned the importance of being a process-oriented athlete.  I didn’t need to learn to push through pain, I’ve been doing that for years.  I needed to remember to enjoy the process and “enjoy” the pain because that is what leads to goals getting accomplished.  I learned to respond in positive ways instead of negative ways, but it is a work in progress. As I become a stronger athlete, my goals become bigger and that is GREAT, but I have to work a lot harder to not let these goals control and define me.  Most importantly I can’t let my dreams of PRs and BQs effect my love of training and racing.   

I am learning to glance at my watch, realize that I am running too slow for a given workout, and instead of being negative, thinking about race day, or quitting, I simply tell myself “just a little harder.”  Or when a negative thought slips in my mind, I am learning to appreciate my ability to push hard even with those thoughts there…they eventually float away.  My body awareness is getting better, my trust in my endurance and speed are getting stronger, and my ability to just trust the plan is improving.  I am becoming a better athlete and I think for that to happen I needed to suffer through a training cycle like this. 

I am so thankful to have had my husband coach me through this.  We learned a lot about each other and I learned how great of a coach he is.  I am convinced that had my body and mind not gotten the best of me that I would have crushed my goals.  I look back and realize how much training I threw away.  My 16 mile run on March 29th, before my short bout of insanity occurred, was at a comfortable long run pace and averaged 7:58/mi! Needless to say, I lost a bit of fitness in the final 5 weeks of my training. 

That saying that you can’t learn if you don’t fail.., That is so true.  I have also gained a new appreciation for my love of running and triathlon and for my body.  I am strong.  I am fast.  I am able to crush my BIG goals.  But for all of that to shine through, I MUST be focused on the process, not the outcome.  I need to take training one day at a time and appreciate the journey. 

I can’t say it much better than this:  “Of all the lessons sport teaches us about life, perhaps none is more dramatic than the danger of focusing on the outcome.” – George Sheehan

I have big dreams and I am learning how to not only accomplish those but also to enjoy each and every mile along the way.  I am so thankful to have a body that allowed me to happily run a 3:38 marathon after essentially taking over a month off of training because my mind was on vacation.  I am stronger, I will be faster, I am smarter, and I am happier all because of this training cycle.  I did not fail, I learned.

Moral of the story: Don’t focus on the outcome, focus on the moment you are in.  If you can simply concentrate on the workout currently on tap and execute it as your coach/plan says without overthinking it or trying to make some comparison to race day… Well, then you are well on your way to achieving the outcome that you want.

On May 17, 2015, my love of 26.2 miles grew deeper.  Race Report to come in the next couple of days.. J

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