It’s All in Your Head

by Lisa Rosen on October 19, 2010

Today’s run: 20 miles. I had to go earlier in the week than I usually do, because I’m going out of town for the weekend. It was really just a get-‘er-done kind of day. At this point in training, the challenge is as much mental as physical–I know I can run 20 miles, but do I really want to? Not so much.

So I played a couple of mind games with myself. First–I plotted out a route that was basically three laps of the neighborhood next to ours. It was, as planned, mind-numbingly dull. Just dreadful. Purpose: practice for the marathon itself, which is a double loop. You can’t imagine how difficult it is to pass the finish line when you’ve still got half the race to go. We have a cousin (who has done a lot more marathons than I have) who has never done Kiawah, and never will, because she knows just how mentally hard it is to run the same loop twice in a row. So–I practiced, making myself turn around 2 blocks from home and do it again. And–a third time.

To balance the agony of running the same roads all morning, I gave myself a treat. Actually, Delaney gave me a treat. She got herself out of bed (she’s on fall break all week) and rode her bicycle out to join me for the last loop. Yay for having a pacer! I know I won’t have the pleasure of her company on race day, but I figure it’s a reasonable training strategy, because I’ll have a whole race full of people to chat with.

I was pretty exhausted by the time she caught up with me, so we moved at a plodding pace. We chatted a little bit, and she played some songs for me from her iPod. Mostly she just kept me distracted and thinking about something other than my own misery.

It worked brilliantly, and I got through that last loop. When we got home, and I was having a big glass of water and trying to (carefully) stretch out a little bit, she made an interesting observation: she said that while we were out there, trudging along, I seemed much better than she expected me to. I was whining less than she thought I would.

I told her this (and this is the most important lesson I’ve learned from running): whining never helps when you’re trying to get through something unpleasant. After the fact–help yourself. Whine to your heart’s content. I sure do. But while I’m in the thick of it? You won’t hear a negative word out of me. I try to avoid even the miserable thoughts (more easily said than done), but even when my mind slips into a negative train of thought, I never voice those thoughts. Negative words cannot possibly be helpful; on the contrary, they are usually destructive and self-defeating.

For the record, that last lesson applies to so much more of life than just running . . .

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Amelia October 20, 2010 at 10:56 am

I SO know what you mean about the mental torture of passing the finish line halfway through! IM Florida is a 2-loop run course (heck, CDA was too, wasn’t it?), but Florida was just a horrendous race for me and I had a HUGE meltdown at mile 10….which I reached after dark, as my husband is trailing me on his mountain bike with a head lamp on. So I start balling and he starts yelling. Thank goodness I wasn’t quite close enough to hear the finish-line hoopla yet. Because 3 miles later, at mile 13, I COULD hear the hoopla. Also thank goodness, I worked worked through my meltdown and was ready to plod on out into the darkness again….because if I’d had the meltdown at mile 13, I am quite sure I’d have just walked off the course!
So good for you for practicing the loops. If I get crazy enough to do another Ironman, I will definitely adopt this strategy!

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Lisa Rosen October 21, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Loops–loopy-making!

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