First of all, this week has been a shock to my system. I took Sunday-Wednesday off completely and I don't think my body knew what to do with all the energy it would have spent on running. Without fail, I woke up between 2:00-3:00am each of these mornings, and was awake for at least an hour. In fact, on Monday morning, I woke up at 2:30 and never went back to sleep.
Physically, I haven't been feeling the affects of this lack of sleep, but I've been moody and cranky.
The combination of little sleep and zero running is not something I'm used to, and I've found that my tolerance for "annoying" things this week was close to zero.
I ran for 20 minutes on Thursday morning, which seemed to nudge my body back to normalcy in terms of its regular rhythm. Of course, all of this will go to hell now that we've lost an hour of sleep to daylight savings time.
|PR Cake for Greg and Me|
Before the Race
When Greg and I sat down for dinner on the Thursday evening before the race, I noticed how at ease I felt. This was such a huge contrast to how I used to feel in the days leading up to a marathon. I used to feel like there was a monkey on my back, or something hanging over my head. I wasn't at peace mentally. It's moments like these, when I truly feel like a more relaxed, peaceful person, that inspired me to write my book. Overcoming race anxiety was a life change for me, and I didn't realize just how negatively it was affecting my sense of well-being until I was able to move past it.
I mentioned in my race report that I slept well the night before the race, and that was mainly due to the fact that I had a peaceful, relaxed state of mind. Sure, I was excited, but excitement is a feeling, whereas my previous anxiety was a state of being. It was all-encompassing.
One of the most important mental skills I've learned in racing is to stay emotion-neutral. It's helpful to stay focused on the task at hand and not be impacted by things outside of my control. Anything can happen during a race, especially if it's as long as marathon, so I've found it helpful to be "immune" to my surroundings and completely focused on my race execution. This includes my pacing strategy, focusing on the mile I am in, my nutrition/hydration schedule, and being aware of the course. Some people take the approach of feeding on external things like crowd support, scenery, etc. Greg is like this. He likes to be distracted. I, on the other hand, find it mentally taxing to think about anything other than running.
When I reached the halfway point, a thought briefly crossed my mind: I'm doing it. For several years, my anxiety would cause me to slow down as early as mile 8, and by the halfway point I would drop out or simply give up because I knew I wouldn't reach my goal. Once I started working on my issues, I would approach miles 8-13 hoping that this stretch wouldn't be the end of my race. The thought came and went very quickly. As I said above, I was emotion-neutral throughout the entire race. But I did take a mental note that I was at the halfway point, running a 7:40 pace, still feeling like I had plenty of energy in the tank.
At that point, I knew I was going to set a huge PR and BQ, but I refused to let myself think about that. Even though those are very motivating thoughts, I felt like I needed every ounce of mental energy to convince myself to keep pushing hard. I couldn't afford to think about anything else other than maintaining the effort because if I stopped thinking about it, I would surely succumb to my body's desire to slow down.
As I approached the finish line, I didn't feel any more or less excited than I would at a 5K. Like any other race, I was focused on my final kick and getting every last bit of speed out of my legs. Afterwards, I was excited about my performance and my time, but not as excited as I have been about previous races. I think I "neutralized" myself so much that the positive emotions just weren't as strong as I would have expected them to be. Maybe it just took awhile to process. Maybe it still feels surreal.
Just yesterday, I saw someone on Strava run a 3:25 marathon and I thought to myself "wow- that's so fast." And then I realized, "wait a minute-- I just ran a 3:21." So maybe the process of realizing I'm at a whole new level as a marathoner is just taking its time to settle in. Maybe part of it is that I don't define myself by my running like I used to. I can run a fast time and have it be just that- a fast time. It's not life-changing. It's not like I'm a new person.
I was far more emotional when I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Half Marathon last year, and I think it's because I realized how much I had to overcome to run the race that I did. In 2010, I DNF'ed the full marathon. In 2011, I couldn't run the race because I was injured. In 2012, I DNF'ed the marathon for the second time. In 2014, I was the only person on my running team who didn't set a half marathon PR, because I let the wind slow me down substantially. Everyone was getting faster. Everyone else conquered the wind. I was slower and I couldn't handle the wind. So I was literally holding back tears when I crossed the half marathon finish line in 1:33:36, in even windier conditions, setting a PR by over two minutes. That was the ultimate redemption.
Even though I'm pleased with my performance, my age group win, and my large BQ, this week
|Post-race with my medal|
The Sky's The Limit
My next marathon will the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November. I was registered for it last fall, but due to having mono all summer, I was unable to run it. My coach thinks, and I agree, that I can still run faster in the marathon. I'm not sure what I will be targeting there. Definitely sub 3:20, but how much "sub" is to be determined.
Greg informed me this morning that he'd like for Indianapolis to be his first BQ attempt! I'm so excited because I really enjoy coaching him and watching him improve. I definitely think he's capable of qualifying and I hope they don't change the standards for 2019.
The Cherry Blossom 10-miler is my most immediate goal. The last time I ran this race was in 2014, with a PR of 1:15:26, which is only 10 seconds per mile faster than marathon pace. I'm really excited to see what I can do coming off of this training cycle, particularly since the 10-mile distance is probably the most "enjoyable" in my mind. You get to run it hard, but not for as long as a half marathon, and not quite as painful as a 10K. A happy medium.
As for my recovery, I ran on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday of this week, each for 20 minutes. My total weekly mileage is 7! My legs feel mainly recovered, with just some minor lingering soreness in my right lower hamstring. Next week I will be running a bit more, but everything will be easy. I won't get back into speed work until the week after next. Do I miss marathon training? No. I'm happy to have a break from it. I think I'll be ready to be back in full force come August, though. In the meantime, shorter races will be the focus.