Monday, May 9, 2016

Mind Games Part 2: Attitude Adjustment

Of course, just one recovery run isn’t enough to erase doubt and boredom.  The next Saturday, I missed the club run, so I had to go out later in the day to run. 

I do think the end of winter running season is the hardest time of year to get motivated.  You’re sick of the cold, sick of the ice, and sick of doing laundry of all those layers.  I decided to take the opportunity and run in an area I hadn’t been in a long while, to distract me from how much time this run was going to take.  It’s a town that has a plethora of bike trails connecting the subdivisions, and part of the fun is getting lost within the various backyard trails.  However, it was Easter Weekend, so my mind was wishing I was enjoying the fun of family and celebration rather than running.

The start didn’t bode well, as I ended up back near the start on the first trail and a dead end at the second.  Soon, I was at one of my favorite forest preserves and decided that running the trail around it, then heading back to the car, was good enough.

While doing that loop, I had an epiphany.  According to our club leader’s training plan, these long runs weren’t about logging miles as much as pushing them at a pace, something I wasn’t doing.  I decided right there and then that I needed to pick up the pace on the Saturday runs so that Sunday’s runs were true recovery, where I was going to be tired from Saturday’s effort. 

I picked up the pace and ran back to the car.  Of course, when I stopped my Strava, I noticed that it had paused about right when I started going faster.  Well my legs would remember what my phone neglected to record.  The important part, to pick up the pace and really work on mentally pushing myself, had happened.

What has surprised me, more than anything, is how much faster I am running just by having a positive attitude.  By keeping myself focused on the task at hand and having a can-do attitude has taken serious time off the clock.  (Of course, so has running all the miles I’ve been doing.)  I’m now thinking that anything is possible again.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mind Games, Part 1

I’ve been running mile after mile after mile, but it doesn’t seem like I get any faster.  It’s what makes running—actually, any athletic endeavor—a challenge:  your mind.  Mine is more that my brain moves at the speed of light, but my feet struggle to do a mile under 10 minutes.  Long runs are both a constant stream of conscious and a constant feed of “I’m bored.  I’m so flipping bored.  How much longer do I have to be bored?”

Of late, I’m disappointed with my slow, slugglish pace when I upload my run.  It’s very discouraging when I’ve done so much speed work and run my recovery miles, yet rather than improve, I am still at 12+ min pace, rather than the 10:30 pace I’m trying to reach.  I don’t have a choice here; to qualify for Boston I have to be able to run a marathon near 9 min pace, and even if I’m wearing a charity bib, almost all the runners finish before five hours.

It’s always been a struggle to get motivated to do the longer runs of marathon training because they take hours, and then I’m spent all day.  Add in winter where I’m not running as much during the week, and I feel even slower.  I had started dreading the long run, the time, the boredom….and I wanted a distraction.  Of course, I’m the type of runner who when distracted, slows down even more.  Not helpful. Also not helpful…not having a big race on the horizon because there’s no PR for me to chase.  I needed a reboot, a way to push myself through, to maximize my limited time with mileage.

About a month ago, I started out on my Sunday recovery run, feeling sluggish and slow, tired and battling a headache.  While it was a recovery run, I did have a deadline:  the sunset.  My route would take me on trails that closed at sunset, 7:05 pm, so that was the cutoff.

After about a mile and a half, I hit a stoplight and checked my watch:  6:34 pm.  I thought about the route and guesstimated that I would really have to push myself to finish the trails in a half hour.

The trail coursed through the local high school’s athletic fields and then followed some power lines.  It seemed like I could not get out of the high school area, but as I turned onto the trail at the power lines, I could see the trail all the way to the golf course.  “Oh, that’s not so far,” I thought.  “Maybe I can do this.”  I coursed down the hill, and as I crested the hill by the golf course, I checked my watch again.  6:47 pm.  18 minutes is totally doable.

I ended up leaving the park at 6:58 pm, about seven minutes ahead of schedule.  My next deadline was to finish in under an hour, or 7:15 pm.  It was about two miles, so well under my usual pace.  I pushed onwards and hoped for the best.

As I made the last turn towards home, I was surprised again.  7:08 pm.   I had reached two goals I didn’t think possible on a day like today.  It’s amazing what happens when you make up your mind to do something…..

(to be continued)