Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mental Tour of the Marathon

In our Galloway Training Programs textbook, Jeff Galloway suggests having a mental rehearsal of your race as often as you can to practice tackling any challenge you may face during the race. By tackling them over and over in your mind, they won't seem so bad on race day. I did this before for a duathlon, mentally practicing the transitions to ensure I didn't forget anything. It seemed really important for multi-sports events because of all the moving parts, but I've never done it for a running only event. I thought I would give it a try this time and write it out here. I'll be curious to see how this resembles the race report after the race :)

EDIT - I realize this is a best case scenario, but I really do not feel there is any challenge I can't handle. I've run in blistering heat, freezing cold, pouring rain, and gusty winds. I'm ready for anything this race can throw at me. The hardest challenge will be the internal struggle with my left brain, so I chose to focus on that Any other challenge I'm forgetting?
** Visualizing My Marathon Race Day **

I wake up before the alarm goes off because I did not slept as well as I hoped. That is ok, because I got plenty of sleep the previous 2 days. I use the restroom and check the weather one last time to confirm my race outfit is appropriate. The temperature at this early hour is in the low 50s. I step outside to get a feel for how cold it is and shiver. I am not a fan of cold weather, but I know this is the perfect weather for my race and that I must resist the urge to overdress. I put on my race outfit: running skirt, knee high compression socks, short sleeve shirt, and "wanna race?" bondi band. I step outside one more time and debate whether I should wear my arm warmers or windbreaker jacket. I decide to bring them along just in case, but plan to leave them in the car before the race. I grab a garbage bag in case I need something to keep me a little warmer before the race starts if we can't find parking nearby.

We get to the race site early and find a parking spot near the start. I step outside of the car and it is still a bit cold for my liking; I try to remember how warm I will be later in the race if I wear more layers, and how uncomfortable I will feel having the extra clothes I've shed weighing me down. While I typically do not warm up for longer races, I decide to do a very gentle warm up jog to assure my body it won't freeze if I don't put on more layers :) It works like a charm and I head to the starting corrals.

I meet up with my running group an we exchange nervous laughter. We take a group photo to remember what we looked like before we began this journey, wish each other luck, then walk to our respective starring corrals. Since I have a specific goal and pace strategy in mind, I line up near the 5:00 hour pace group as a point of reference, but I do not intend to stay with them. I will run my own race.

The count down begins and it's not long before we have blast off and runners in front of me begin shuffling forward. I conserve my energy and walk towards the starting mat with my finger hovering over the start button on my watch. As soon as I step on the mat, I hit the button on my watch, start my interval timer, and begin my first run interval. It's not hard to hold back the pace here because of the crowded start. I run towards the edge to be in place for my first walk break and not get in anyone's way. The first 2 minutes go by quickly and I begin my first walk break. Of course I do not need it yet, but I know the importance of sticking to my plan from the very beginning. The 1 minute comes just as quickly and now I'm running again. I'm enjoying seeing the sunrise over the water and the sea of runners, some of which are wearing space-themed costumes. I soak it all in and don't let myself get carried away by the pace of others passing me -- I know I will pass them during the 2nd half of the race.

We are already at mile 4 and I'm feeling great. I eat my first gel at the nearest water stop and continue cruising along, slowly inching my average pace under 12 min/mile by mile 5. I continue to fuel like clockwork every 3-4 miles, and I enjoy the whimsical themed water stops along the way. I'm still running with my 2/1 interval, conserving energy for the later challenging miles, while picking up the pace ever so slowly with each passing mile. By mile 11, my pace is near 11:45 and I'm right on schedule still feeling good. I finish the first half feeling great and get a mental boost when I flirt with Jason; he came to the course to cheer me on after finishing a very speedy half marathon. I get a kick out of making funny faces as he takes my picture, and I'm giddy with laughter from the silliness. I'll hang on to this feeling when I need a boost later on in the race.

By mile 19, my average pace is 11:30 and the battle between my body and my brain begins. I am not going to let my left brain win, so I focus on my form and breathing and push ahead. My body hurts and I'm tired, but I am still in high spirits because I know I'm going to meet my goal if I just dig deep. I just have to want it bad enough, and I really really want it! By mile 24, my body wants to quit but I've somehow managed to still speed up enough to have an average pace of 11:20. Walking is becoming more difficult now, so I walk just long enough to catch my breath from the run segments then slow jog the rest before picking up the pace again during the run segments. I know that I am very close and letting my body slow down will only prolong the suffering, so I dig deep and push as hard as I can during each of the running segments. It hurts, but I know that I am not hurt, and that I have more to give just like I did during that last 31 mile run. I remember the conversation with Kirsty and Stephanie that got me through those last few tough miles and I smile. I let out primal screams every time I run, but it feels oddly good to push through the pain.

I am nearing the finish line now. I can hear the crowd cheering, and I begin to get emotional because I'm about to finish my 2nd marathon and meet my goal. Even though I don't think there is any way I can possibly run any faster, I somehow find it within me to sprint across the finish line as I hear my friends screaming my name. I'm spent and I burst into tears. I've done it! I have the medal around my neck, and the beach towel around my shoulders. I stumble around with blurry vision and find Jason who is beaming at me. I throw my arms around him and give him a very sweaty hug and cry, "I did it!" Then I start thinking about my next race ;)

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