Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mind Games

Recently, I've run in a few races to kind of test the waters and see where I am at physically after the whole process of training for, racing in, and then recovering from my first marathon in Chicago. I honestly didn't know what to expect and how my body would feel getting back to the shorter distances and higher intensities. But really, who does when coming off a Marathon, particularly your first one??
Because of my very low key 2 to 3 week break after Chicago, I knew racing a Half- Marathon so soon would be a gamble.  But I wanted to experiment, see where I was at, and try to earn a few dollars by cracking top 5.

Aaron Linz, me and Laurie Knowles getting our medals after the Turkey Trot!
  So On November 18th, 6 weeks after Chicago,  I ran in the Philly Half and it turned out to be a great experiment.  My pace was a little sporadic with some of the hills, but I ran a 1:13:12 officially which is the same exact time as my Personal record that I ran in Naples at the beginning of the year.  I came in 3rd place overall, and it felt good to be back out on the racing scene.  3 days later, I came back to run and win the 8k Turkey Trot right here in Charlotte.  Although I've more or less lived here for 8 years, I very rarely get to race in Charlotte, so to come out on Thanksgiving Day and run with 9,000 other locals was seriously a cool experience; the best part being a 20 minute drive home instead of a 24 hour return trip ordeal that usually ends up in missed flights or delays.  Of course, the supposed to be "workout" that I was doing for "fun" ended up turning into a race.  Fellow elite runner, Laurie Knowles who recently moved to Charlotte, crept up behind me at mile 4 and tested my leg speed by forcing me to switch gears.  But even though my plan of running "comfortably hard" went out the wayside, in all honesty, I loved the competition, and was glad to recover so well from the Philly Half.:)  Thanks Laurie!!

My Soccer sisters, Swiney, Heidi and myself after the Main Street Crit "8k".....they cheered LOUD!!
Most recently on December 8th, I ran in the Main Street Crit 8k down in Columbia, South Carolina.  It was actually a really cool venue and great idea to have a Criterium race set up for runners.  Usually, a "Crit"is a short loop that is set up for cyclist races.  So although running at night and going around a block was really different for a road race, it turned out to be a great experience!!  Unfortunately, the course was short and turned out to be about 7.2k instead of 8k, so my time of 23:16 was more equivalent to about 25:50.  On lap 2, when I realized it was short,  time and pace went out the window and I knew it came down to just trying to win.  
Looking back now, my one train of thought says: it would have been really nice for me to post a legit 8k time which I have never had the opportunity to do before,.. BUT on the other hand, at least it was shorter rather than longer:)!! that wouldn't have been as fun.
Chillin with Susan and Heidi before the race at Starbucks. Yes, I had coffee!!
Anyhow, the true blessing and what really put the experience over the top, was being able to race with some of my really close friends, former soccer teammates and  Coach Mark Hadley cheering me on!  They obviously were able to see me a lot more than they would have in a normal road race, and their presence was priceless.

So all in all, I would say the last few segments of training and racing have gone pretty well since coming back from Chicago. It's nice to know that I haven't lost too much speed since the Marathon, but the results as usual, do leave in me with a  hint of in-satisfaction.  I know I can post faster times in a wide range of distances, and  as most athletes and competitors want, I too want to do better. I am excited to focus and race in more Halfs, 15ks and 10ks throughout this upcoming winter/spring seasons.  The Naples Half-Marathon in January will be a great opportunity to try and notch up the speed and get a personal record.  So this next little blurb to sum up my blog, is not really about my Philly Half experience,  nor the 8k turkey trot,  nor the Main Street Crit 8k.. ...  It's about what all runners need more fitness in,.... and what I plan on taking to a whole other level in this 2013 year.  MENTAL FITNESS! This year I want to step it up and experiment with some mind games that will help me to get through every hard workout and race.  My 2013 goals are ambitious. But if these type of things can help just a little bit in achieving them, then its worth trying!!

Here are a few past tricks that I've used in hard workouts and races. Maybe they could help you too!!???

1)   The Counting Game!

I have found that when I am at the end of my rope and I truly feel that my legs have had it, that they have gone as far as they can go and the lactic acid is absolutely burning, ....sometimes it helps to do the exact opposite of what the brain and body want to do; which is to slow down.  
What I have learned over time, is that sometimes, just sometimes, it can actually help to speed up for a short amount of time.  Some people call it surges or pick-ups.  Call it what you want, but for me, I see it nothing more than changing your running gait.  I have discovered, that for short amounts of time, by picking up the pace and turning my legs over at a very fast rate, no matter how much pain I'm in, I am actually giving certain muscles a break by using a whole different set of muscles.  Obviously, most people who do this at the end of races will call this their finishing "kick", but I have used this trick in the middle of races too.  When I feel I am slowing down, burning out, or even after ascending a hill, I have found that one of the best things I can do is change my gait a bit.  So I will get on my toes, and run really fast while counting to 17. Don't ask me why 17 seems to be my number, but it just seems like the right amount of time for me to pick it up in an anaerobic surge before I have to get back to aerobic breathing and am unable to lift my legs at that rate.  And although you may think it can make things even worse or the body even more tired, I believe that by changing my gait slightly and getting on my toes, it's a way to make my body use different muscles and suffer a different kind of pain. This in turn, gives the mind and body a break from the monotonous task that we call steady running, especially in the longer distances.  For some people, 10 or 15 seconds may be just the right amount of time to fuel the fire.  Others might try to do surges for a whole minute!  In either case, by counting to a set number, you are taking control of what you know you can handle. And really, it's all about what feels best for the individual.  I would say that experimenting in tempo or progression type workouts is the best way for you to throw a counting surge in because those type of workouts are not anaerobic in nature.  Being a Newton runner helps me a bunch because the shoes have lugs on the bottom that make it really easy to get on your toes and get your sprint on!!

2)  The song game! 

You need an ipod for this one!
In my longer runs or boring treadmill runs I will sometimes wear an ipod. I love running to music and have used it as a tool since I started in the sport.  Whether it's Christian Worship music, Alternative (Cold play or Goo goo dolls) or country (Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney) I try to have different genres and albums for every mood that I''m in or pace that i want to run.  For example, listening to Christian Rock really pumps me up, so on days where i want to just stroll and run easy, I'll sway on the side of some low key country.  I do not listen to music on every run and especially don't for my real hard workouts where I need to focus and be alone in my head. HOWEVER, I have been known to wear my ipod for certain races that i am treating as a workout.  I feel like it's a great boost for races where I am not trying to run super fast or get a P.R., but just want to put in a good solid effort.  In fact, runners world even commented on it once! check out number 4 on this list:

3) Memorization and Mantras!

Where as music is used for my low key type training days, Memorization and Mantras are used for the times when I am HURTING and the brain starts to think of all the negatives and reasons why "I can't".  Over the course of my life, I have literally memorized hundreds of scriptures and chapters from the Bible.  It's funny because I can barely remember to get gas or brush my teeth some days, but I have stored in my head life giving Bible verses that have really pulled me through some tough life situations and races too.

I have come to find out that if I recite 1 cor. 9:24-27, I can get through at least a quarter mile or 90 seconds of hard running.  I know others who have memorized poems or inspirational quotes that they say over and over again to keep themselves in a positive mindset. Some runners recite things like "I AM STRONG" or "I CAN DO THIS" over and over again.  In either case whatever you say in your head has got to be positive, encouraging and/or inspiring.  And even though we all have negative thoughts sometimes, dwelling on things like "I'm not fit enough"or "I hate this", or "I am slow", will not help the situation!!  They definitely go through my mind sometimes, but dwelling on them does NOT help me get through a hard effort, no matter how true they may be!!:)

1 cor. 9:24- "Do you not know in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games, goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.  I do not beat my body like a man beating the air.  No I beat my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

NOTE: Paul isn't necessarily talking about running here, but it's still a great scripture to recite!!:) 

Anyways stay tuned for more mind games in 2013. The cool thing about the sport of running is that you can make whatever you want of it. Sure it’s a physical sport, but it’s your mind that dictates how fast, far and frequent you want to run. It’s really a beautiful thing!

No comments:

Post a Comment