Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mind games

I did it! 17 miles down. I've had my pastry, my recovery drink, a solid meal, (very brief) first ever ice bath, icy hot gel applied to legs, water, and am resting now with legs up until baby wakes from nap. Overall, feeling pretty damn good!

But it wasn't easy.

All week long, I'd been looking forward to today's long run then yesterday evening, I started psyching myself out. Am I coming down with a bug? I feel warm. My stomach isn't right. My legs are spent - I shouldn't have walked so much at the zoo today. Last night, my sleep was light, fitful. This morning, I woke up at 5:50 a.m., made my Perpetuem energy, filled my water bottles, ate my toast with almond butter, then drove to the start of my loop (Essential Baking Company).

I started running the quiet Burke Gilman trail, heading east toward the University District, over the University Bridge, and south along the east side of Lake Union. I felt like SHIT. My stomach and bowels were not happy. My legs felt like they were made of lead. I literally wanted to cry and crawl back to my car. But how could I be feeling bad? There was no logical reason to feel the way I did.

Was I REALLY feeling bad or was this all in my head? I thought there was NO WAY I could run 17 miles. But I had to keep going because I was meeting S* at the South end of the Lake. I couldn't flake out on her after she made the effort to get up early on a Saturday. The whole 4 miles to my meeting with S, I debated about what I would tell her, why I couldn't run.

Once I saw her, I explained I was moving slow & feeling rough. We took it easy and as we started talking, my body started to feel better. We finished out the run strong and overall had a fantastic pace despite about 2 miles of long hills. THANK YOU, S!

But what gives? What was my mind doing? How did I manage to almost defeat myself like that? I would have defeated myself, I would have quit, if I hadn't met up with S. I've never had such a mental panic before. I've never made myself sick. It's so strange that it all faded away after taking my mind off of myself and felt the energy of someone else. Of course, it also helped that S has run several marathons and knew just what to say to talk me down.

This really makes me nervous because I realize that this can happen at any time, including on race day. I really felt sick and I can totally ruin my marathon experience simply by thinking myself into feeling bad. I expect that the coming long runs will help me prepare mentally for the marathon but today's experience shows me that my confidence is something I really need to focus on during training. Doing a couple long runs on the marathon course will help me have the confidence that I can run the route but also, I think I should visualize feeling good on race day.

What do you all do to prepare yourself mentally? Any quick & dirty tips to share?

While you think about that, some delectable recovery treats to make your taste buds smile:

S & Average Woman Runner @ Essential Baking Co.

Lemon-raspberry scone - yet to be consumed

Cinnamon roll for the hubs

This strawberry croissant was MINE. ALL MINE!

* This was my third run with S. The first run was the New Orleans RNR, where I met S through Elizabeth @ Running for Bling. S lives out of state but happens to be here in Seattle for a short-term internship. Isn't the blog network great?


  1. AWESOME! I'm so proud of you for not quitting!! It helps me to have a mantra.

  2. Congrats on 17 miles Alma! You can use this as a learning experience, so that the next time it happens, you'll remember that it happened before and you did great and tell your mind to Shush :) Rock on!!

  3. Way to get it done. Love the bloggy meetups, they are my favorite, well that strawberry croissant looks pretty good too!

  4. your text today seriously made my day!! i love that y’all have connected and it was good to see others doing the same thing as me across the country. and funny, your post is very similar to mine yesterday. I was worried that I had mentally psyched myself out of the 20 today. I used my mantras throughout the whole run. it helped. and way jealous of those sweets!! glad you rocked your 17!! and you didn’t detail the ice bath. thoughts? i did mine too-think i have it down to a science. :)

  5. For me, the mental training is at least as important as the physical training. And just like physical training, it takes practice, practice, practice!
    Awesome job on getting your run done!

  6. You're amazing! Way to go! I haven't ever ran farther than 13.1 miles, but I agree with P - the mental endurance takes practice, so I'm sure the more long runs you do, the more strong your mind will get. BTW, I LOVE Essential Bakery! I go there so often for lunch!

  7. 17 miles is great and man those post workout snacks look fantastic. My friend and I were just talking today on how important mental attitude is. It's a tough one though.

  8. I used to have the same problems before a long run, imagining all sorts of aiments and illnesses. I also trained with a friend for part of my long runs - it really helps. You did really well to finish the run - well done!

  9. I think we've all dealt with those crazy mental things that tell us that we can't do it. And we all deal with them in our own way. You did great just to keep going until you felt better. I'll tell myself to make it to the next stop sign or post and then I'll reassess. By that time, I can usually convince myself to go a little farther. Sometimes a good song will get me out of it. And sometimes just getting mad at myself for complaining will do it! Mental toughness training is almost as important as the physical training. You did great!
    Besides, those pastries make a really good reward for finishing!

  10. A whole bunch of marathon training and the marathon itself is going to be mental. I wish my training had gone worse because I was a little unprepared for how much mental strength I would need on marathon day when things weren't going so right. Be grateful for this experience and making it to the other side!

    Anyway, I make a playlist of songs that love with some encouraging stuff up there for weaker moments. I try to run an out and back course so that I have no choice but to complete the run. Oh and the "Just A Little Further" game someone else mentioned works great. Breaking a long distance down into .25 miles sometimes works wonders. It makes what seems impossible seem doable.

  11. seeing as though my longest run to date has been 7 miles, I have no advice for conquering 17!!

    But maybe you need to have something to remind yourself of the strength you already have? What if you got a necklace, bracelet or something else with a key phrase that you can turn to when you're feeling defeated?

  12. Thank you for such a sweet comment on my blog Alma!! Made myday!

    A year ago hitting double digts was unheard of for me. I'm so proud you tackled your 17! Learn from this one and think about what you would do diff and the same the next long run.

    I always break my runs up into single digits 20 miles = 4 x 5 mile runs! :)

  13. You know what, I had myself alllll freaked out for 8 this weekend. Seeing it as 'eight miles' mapped out on Daily Mile - and seeing what a long distance it was point to point - had me freaked.

    I instead tackled the 4mi loop twice, which, well, seemed a hell of a lot mentally easier.

    I think what I'll be doing as I get longer & longer runs is breaking up the long runs into chunks, mentally tackling a bit at a time.