"Winning has nothing to do with racing. Most days don't have races anyway. Winning is about struggle and effort and optimism, and never, ever, ever giving up."

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Psychology of Fear and Pain in Racing

Dictionary.com defines Psychology as "1. the science of the mind or of mental states and processes. 2. The sum or characteristics of the mental states and processes of a person or class of persons, or of the mental states and processes involved in a field of activity." Fears, doubts, and anxieties are byproducts of mental training, just as lactic acid is a byproduct of physical training. It just happens.

I was thinking about my first race--and truly, I can't remember it. I wish I could remember whether it was a road race, or a XC race. I think the reason I can't remember my first race is because there was no pressure, no standards by which to gauge my performance. It was simply accomplished for the sheer joy of the sport. I do remember my first marathon though--Twin Cities 2007--the hot year. I remember crossing the line, and my friend Trey, coming up to me and saying, "Bree, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." I asked him why he was sorry, and he said because it was a terrible first marathon experience in those temperatures. My approach was different--if the experience was that bad, it could only get better from there, right?! That conversation is another blog, but from that point my heart and passion for marathons ignited.

Approaching this topic, the psychology of fear and pain in racing, as a college grad with a degree in psychology, was spurred on by a recent article in Endurance News (generated by Hammer Nutrition). My greatest challenge in racing (and training, for that matter), has always been fear. Fear of uncertainty and pain. Uncertainty of my abilities, my training, my fitness, my ability to complete the task at hand. Yet at the same time I am drawn to the uncertainty and mystery curious of the outcome--which is why I come back to the start line, again and again. And the fear of pain. We are conditioned to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. It will hurt--but how much, and can I tolerate it? What I've learned through racing is that as I get more comfortable with the uncomfortableness of racing--it empowers me to keep on pursuing racing to better myself as an individual, and as an athlete.

The article distinguished the difference between training and racing. They gave this analogy: "Training is like a rehearsal; while racing is akin to performance. In rehearsal, we stop and start, repeat certain sections, break things down into smaller, simpler increments. We practice drills and conduct interval sessions. We pause to rest and examine, then repeat. However, in races and performances we strive for uninterrupted continuity and perfection while in the presence of others."

The road to the start line is similar to that of a death march. A part of me will die on that day-the part that doubts I'm able to do it. As I approach the start line of the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10, a part of me will die again. The part that is unsure of whether I can do it. I will do it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Final Countdown

I have begun the final countdown to my third running of the Chicago Marathon. Race date is 10/10/10. How do you forget a date like that?! The countdown has become official, because I have successfully logged my last 20 mile run! Through my training I have completed two 20 mile runs, one 22 mile run, and a few 18-19 mile runs. It feels really nice to have the last 20 miler completed. My "long" run next weekend is 13 miles. That is most definitely doable!

As mentioned in previous posts, Jeremy has been my biggest supporter during these long runs. When I'm with him, I don't need music, I don't need anything. I know I can complete the task at hand when he's there. My anxiety goes away during the runs, and I maintain my confidence and strength, as he encourages me, and passes me powerade and sport beans!

I started my 20 mile run yesterday at 8:00AM. For those of you who know me, this is sleeping in for me! I usually like to start my runs around 5:00AM! But due to the cooler weather, I knew it wouldn't be terrible to start later. We hopped on the greenway (bike path) and ran all the way (past St. Louis Park), into Hopkins, and then turned around and came back. The greenway is great for many reasons. One, it's completely flat, which makes for a somewhat comfortable run. Two, you don't have to deal with traffic, and stopping at stoplights. Third, there are actual lanes (for bikers and runners), to ensure no accidents occur on the path!

I finished the run in 2 hours and 37 minutes, and held an average pace of 7:52/mile. Again, I think that time could be slower due to all the underpasses on the greenway (my garmin loses satelite reception). Regardless, I am VERY happy with that time. If I can maintain an 8:00/mile pace at Chicago I will be pleased.

As of right now I am spending a lot of time trying to prepare mentally! I feel like the Lord has really blessed my training this season. I have had no injuries, no flare-ups with my knee. I have had a mental toughness that I don't remember having before. I don't feel like God has given me as many sermon ideas, as I've experienced in past training seasons; however, I do believe that I have been able to experience His presence, and His peace while running. And I am incredibly thankful for that! My prayer is that as I run, God would be exaulted in my body. That my discipline, my heart, my passion, and my worship would bring Him great joy!

Last year the Chicago Marathon was the only thing holding me back from getting married. This year, the marathon is the only thing holding me back from my 1 year anniversary cruise!!!

Bring on 10/10/10!!! :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

City of the Lakes 25K Race Recap

I don't even know where to start in regards to a recap for this race. There is so much to say. The weather conditions for this race couldn't have been more ideal. It was mid 50's at the start of the race with a windspeed of about 2-3 mph. Jeremy and I got to the start of the course at about 7:00AM (race started at 8:00AM). I like to get there early just to make sure I'm ready to go. We waited around for quite a bit, and then I hopped in line for the portapotties in preparation for the race. I saw two guys that I recognized from the Bootcamp class at Lifetime that I had been a part of. I also met the men's XC coach for Minnetonka High School. We both acknowledged that when coaching, your own personal training program is somewhat sacrificed for the sake of your runners. Although it can mess with you mentally, the joy of coaching and being around student athletes is FAR worth it! My parents got there at about 7:40. It was so nice to have them cheering me on.

I was ready to run a 25k (aka 15.5 miles). I approached the front of the start line, wanting to get a head start on the pack of 1,200 runners. As I looked around, two minutes before the gun went off, I realized there were mostly men around me. There were very few ladies up near the line. But I decided to be bold and stay up front. The gun went off and we were off. The course was a figure eight, two and a half times around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. I knew this course. I ran this race last year, and Jeremy and I had run these lakes last weekend as a part of my 22 mile run. What I forgot was that when we ran the weekend before, we ran on the path alongside the lakes; however, the race was actually on the parkway (the roads next to the lakes). The parkway is far hillier than the actual path. Regardless I felt strong. I ran the first mile a lot faster than I had planned to run. I wanted to stay in control, and not exhaust my legs too quickly. I ended up running 7:21 my first mile. Jeremy found me on his bike just after the one mile and cautioned me to slow down. He knew if I tried to keep that pace I'd crash and burn at some point. And I took his advice.

I saw my parents numerous times along the course, and they cheered loud and gave me high fives, it was great! They were often near large hills, so seeing their faces got me up those hills each time. My dad is known to run alongside me for parts of the race, and it ALWAYS makes me smile. As always, my biggest fan (my husband) was on his bike ready to support me a large portion of the course. I cannot express the overwhelming comfort I experience when my best friend is on his bike alongside me. I could hear the gentle whisper of his wheels rotating amidst the soft slapping of shoes hitting the pavement. One of my XC runners, DC, was also there cheering me on. He is by far the loudest fan I had, and it was much appreciated. I could here him cheering from a distance. I even had another runner turn around and say, "Who's Bree? You have quite the fan club, that's awesome!" Two co-workers, Dana and Mary, were also there cheering me on! It was so great to have their smiling faces there, reminding me that I was capable of doing the task at hand. I also had a good friend, runner, and former client, Sarah, there cheering me on. With such a big smile on her face, I couldn't help but smile and waive back! I was so blessed to have so many people supporting me.

For most of the race, there was a girl near me who appeared my age. She'd pull ahead, until we got to the hills, that's where I'd take her. Once we got over the hills we'd often be side by side, or she'd pull slightly ahead. I knew I wanted to keep pace with her, because she was in my age bracket :)

At the Half Marathon split, I crossed the line at 1:41:08, which is a new half PR for me! At that point I was slightly in front of my competition. I don't know how much further she was behind, and I was too afraid to look back, in fear that she was right behind me. At mile 14 it started getting really tough. I had a sideache like I have never experienced before. It wasn't just on one side--it was on BOTH! I often thought about stopping to stretch it out. But two thoughts crossed my mind.
1. "The pain of discipline is FAR LESS than the pain of regret."
2. You've got 1 1/2 miles left, do you SERIOUSLY want to walk now, when you've come this far.

I slowed my pace (not by choice), sucked it up, and kept running. I finally hit mile 15, and knew the end was right around the bend. As I hit the straightaway towards the finish, I picked it up, and gave what I had left. I could see my Dad, Mom, Jeremy, DC, Mary, and Dana. They were all cheering for me.

Before I share my results I want to share my results from last year. Last year was my first year running this race, and I did it in 2:07:50. There is always more pressure when you do a race for the second time. My goal was to beat my time from last year. Realistically I was hoping for 2:05:something.

Time: 2:00:22
Age Place: 16/65
Female Place: 53/246
Overall: 53/653 (actually finishers)

I did it! I shaved over 7 minutes off my time from last year. Not only did I beat my time from last year, but I beat my goal of 2:05. I came close to breaking the 2 hour mark. I am very pleased with my time. AND, final accomplishment.....I beat the girl in my age bracket! Many goals were accomplished at this race!

I did not feel the strongest physically, but what I am very happy with is that I felt EXTREMELY mentally strong. The mental strength is what I will need for Chicago Marathon.

I am ready for Chicago--10/10/10.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Road of Determination-->10/10/10

This past Sunday marked the longest training run I will do before the Chicago Marathon. On Sunday morning I ran 22 miles, again, with Jeremy on my side. I don't think anyone has more belief in my abilities than Jeremy. I get anxiety and usually struggle to fall asleep the night before a long run. I actually allowed myself (and Jeremy) to sleep in, and started my run shortly after 6:30AM, as opposed to 5:00AM--the usual. It was so beautiful. The temperature was about 51 degrees. It didn't start warming up much until around 9:00ish, and I was nearing the finish by then. This was the best I've felt on a training run. I ran confidently, and comfortably for the first 20 miles.

Our journey took us down the greenway (bike path), which I did not realize started so close to home! We jumped on the greenway near the metrodome, and ran all the way to St. Louis Park. From there we turned around and headed to Lake Calhoun. We circled Calhoun, and then made our way to Lake Harriet and around. Then back to finish Calhoun and get back on the greenway to head home! The cooler temps helped immensely. I believe the cool weather even tricked me into feeling as if I didn't need liquids. Turns out, that's not true.

There were so many people out doing their runs. Big packs of runners, individuals, and friends, chatting their way, step by step. On our way back, we saw a biker who was laying on the pavement, with a bunch of friends surrounding him. He looked unconscious. I'm not sure what happened, and wasn't sure what to do. I didn't think it was appropriate to stop, given he had so many people around him, and I could hear the ambulance buzzing, so I knew help was on its way. So we continued on our path, but it definitely gave me a prayer focus as we passed the incident.

At mile 20 I really started to struggle. I'm not sure if it was because I ran out of powerade, but my body really started cramping, I just struggled with those last 2 miles. But soon enough, we were back on campus, and the 22 mile run was over! It took me 2 hours, and 57 minutes, which equates to an 8:04/pace. I actually think I ran faster--my watch went a little crazy with all the bridges on the greenway.

When we got home, I enjoyed a nice chocolate smoothie and iced my knees for about 10 minutes (no ice bath this time, folks)!

Now I have the City of the Lakes 25k on Sunday--15.5 miles. This will be an accurate assessment of how I'm going to do at Chicago. I have a lot of mental toughness when Jeremy is by my side--we'll see how it goes on Sunday when he's NOT by my side. The one thing I know is this: When I'm weak, it is HE that makes me strong!