Friday, April 27, 2012

9 more sleeps, the emotion sets in

9 more sleeps until marathon day. You know what that means, readers? It means that the number of pre-race blog posts left are minimal. Well, until the next race. No doubt I'll have the urge to write the night before the race. I'm sure I'll have a little on my mind.

The taper demons, the marathon crazies, the mental preparation, the positive self-talk - these things I described in past posts continue on. I've gone on a few short runs this week, only to try to preserve my sanity and remind myself of how far I've come. If I fear that this taper is making me lose my fitness, I just have to pay attention on one of my short runs and see that after all this training, how effortless running a short distance has become to me. And that my perception of "short distance" is really not the average person's perception of "short distance" either.

Now the over-thinking is starting to happen. For the most part though, I'm trying to push it to the side and remind myself that I've spent the last 4 months thinking this through. Why over-think it now? Why second-guess the one person I should trust (i.e. me!)? It's time to let go. I've questioned my tested-and-true fueling strategy. I've questioned the shoes I plan to wear. I've questioned my target pace and my goal finish time and wonder if when I feel confident and think I set it too conservative, that I'm actually being unrealistic. It's all silly. Time to shut up the committee. I'm prepared.

The biggest thing happening in my mind now is all the emotion. I'll admit this (and for the record, I'm always able and willing to admit this out loud), that PMS might be playing into the emotion a bit. But the emotion is founded somewhat in reason. I've worked damn hard for this. Not just the last 4 months of intense training, but several years of trying to get my health on track, and half of my body weight to lose. In a sense, this first marathon, this very special marathon, is going to be one of the most important days in my life to date. I don't say this to put pressure on myself because I'll be proud of myself however I do. I say this because now I'm starting to realize just how big it is. It's twice as big as the race I did last year in Victoria because it's the longest distance I will have ever done in my life. And it's the distance that is commonly seen as a true accomplishment. 

The trouble is, there are few people in my life who truly get it. Cam definitely gets it because I won't shut up about it at home (haha!). My colleagues get it, on some level, because they too are athletic. But most don't know my story nor have they known me all that long to truly see the hugeness of this. Very few of my friends and family members get it. The ones that do get it, truly do get it, and have been amazingly supportive and encouraging. But they are few are far between. And no, I'm not here to complain or name names. I love everyone that I have in my life and am not upset or holding grudges - just explaining how I feel.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Two Weeks To Go = Mental Preparation

Banners line the Burrard & Cambie Bridges
I can hardly believe it, the race is in 2 weeks! I must admit, I'm a bit relieved. The anticipation is getting a bit much, and I'm happy to "get it out of the way". Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly excited! But like every other first-time-marathon-attempter out there, this excitement comes with some nervous anxiety. All the questions that one would expect have crossed my mind, at least once each...Have I trained enough? Am I really fit enough? Will I make it? Will the last 10K hurt? What if....?

But of course the doubt and nervousness does not serve me well. I am good at pushing those thoughts aside as I remind myself of some really important things. I have indeed trained enough. I've worked really hard. Nobody could argue otherwise. I've followed a solid plan, trained intelligently and although I deviated somewhat from it because of the back injury and the bad cold, I bounced right back, and the missed workouts won't make THAT much of a difference.  I really truly am the fittest I've ever been in my life. Today's 13.1 mile training run was "short and easy" when not too long ago, that was the very distance (i.e., a half marathon distance) I was slogging away in training to work up to. And sure, the last 10K of the race might hurt, but I'm tough, strong, and will work through it. I respect a good challenge, but don't give in to them. I will cross the finish and receive my medal. I'll see to it! I will soon have the ability to call myself a marathoner. How cool is that? Why bother with the what ifs...? If this marathon isn't perfect, there'll be others. I know it. One thing for certain - I will finish.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The marathon crazies

Whatever you want to call it, "marathon crazies", "taper gremlins", "the voices", "the committee", those who reside in my mind, they were talking a LOT today, and there was only one thing that would shut them up. Going for a run. Actually there were two things that did it - talking to my friend, Patti, calmed them to a whisper and helped me see another perspective, and then running got rid of the rest of the negativity. Running really truly is, in every sense of the word, a mental sport. The athlete begins in the mind (thanks Melissa for this quote).

I had been looking forward to today's workout for some time: my last hard effort before the 3-week taper. I had the route planned and everything. I carbed up, salted up, and hydrated appropriately. Over the last several weeks, I found comfort in anything I read that said that getting in at least two 20-mile runs (32km) during training was key to a successful marathon. It was just a matter of doing it. But Friday evening, I started feeling that scratchy feeling in the back of the throat, and then by yesterday (Saturday), it was full-on cold symptoms and a high fever for most of the day. Not fun. Nevertheless, I still did everything I could to believe my 32km run today was going to happen. 

After falling asleep in a sweaty, feverish stupor on the couch before sunset last night, waking up only briefly when Cam got home from work and helped me to bed, and getting about 13 hours of sleep as a result, I felt loads better this morning. The fever was gone, the body aches were gone, but my head still stuffed like nobody's business. What was my first thought? Yes, I can run that 32km run. But I knew it wasn't true.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tracking my running thoughts

I never run with music. Part of the reason is so that I can stay safe - always aware of my surroundings (cars, other people, wild animals, etc.). Then there's being able to hear my footsteps and my breathing and be fully in tune with the amount of effort I'm putting into my run, to know if I need to pull back or push harder. But the real reason why I never run with music is I deeply value the alone time I get, just me, myself, and my thoughts - a quiet meditation so to speak. 

I'm sure that half the time I'm thinking of nothing at all. I know that too is healthy, considering how plugged in we all are on a given day, with our computers, phones, and other techy gadgets. It's good to just stop! But the other half of the time, I know I do a lot of thinking. I often say that when I run, I "solve the world's problems" one stride at a time. Of course I can't take credit for that, but some of my clearest and most positive thoughts and revelations come to me when I'm running.

Today was my 2nd speed session at the track built into my current marathon training plan. There's something about the repetitive and predictable nature of running in circles at the track that really gets the mind going. You don't have to think about where you're going and how you're going to get there, it's just one foot in front of the other, rinse, repeat.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

One Month To Go!

Well, here we are, one month to go until the marathon. My first marathon. My first 26.2 miles. My first 42.2km. How do I feel about it, you ask? Excited. Thrilled. Restless. A hint of nervous. But mostly excited. I'm already starting to think about how I might commemorate my accomplishment. No, not counting chickens...just feeling confident and like this accomplishment is within reach.

It feels like I've been thinking about the marathon, talking about it, writing about it, for such a really long time. But in all honesty, since starting training for it, time has gone by really fast. Suddenly, there's only a month to go, and I'm feeling so close to being ready. So close, I can almost taste it.
Another post-race photo from last weekend.

When I started training, I was excited yes, but mostly unsure how it would be possible to do this. I mean, I'd never run more than a half marathon. How was I to double that distance, just like that, when a half marathon isn't exactly an easy distance? How could someone who used to carry all that extra weight and who was new to running *again* believe a marathon was within reach? I didn't even know how I was going to survive the long training run distances, especially those two 32K runs. But regardless of the doubt inside, I somehow trusted in my plan, trusted in myself, and believed in myself. And now here I am, just about ready to go. The worry of not being ready for the challenge has dissipated. I really have a lot to be proud of, even though I've not run this race yet.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Race Report: BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool's Day Half Marathon - April 1, 2012

This morning, I finished my fourth half marathon - The BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool's Half Marathon, from Gibsons to Sechelt, B.C. I must say, running a half marathon race as part of my training for the May marathon was an excellent idea. I'm buzzing with the runner's high, so excited to keep training, keep working hard, keep enjoying the experience of endurance running, and continue to get fitter.

Me after earning my 4th finisher medal!
This race was a huge ego boost, and a bit of a test of my marathon training. Sure, this was an "easy week" in the grand scheme of things with the training plan (I know, it sounds ridiculous...). But after a killer long training run, there's nobody on the side of the road ringing cow bells and offering high fives, no finish line to run through, and certainly no finisher medal. This was the full race experience, nestled in my marathon training plan, and it was perfect.