Saturday, April 30, 2016

One More Sleep

(OH MY LORDY it has taken me two weeks to write this post. I have had zero time. So here I am, the night before Eugene, deciding maybe it's best to post *something* some non-zero time before the race rather than nothing.)

We’ve been chilling in Southern Oregon for the past few days, drinking all the wine & beer & sampling all the cheese and chocolate, & it has been lovely. If you’re ever in this neck of the woods, I can definitely recommend some good spots.

And, oh yeah, there is also the matter of this little footrace I am running in the morning.

Physically, I’m not really worried about this race. My left foot is still kind of a mess, but I’ve tried to stay off of it all week, so ultimately, in terms of whether I can finish or not, that will be what it will be. And of course all the itinerant challenges & discomforts of running a marathon (SN:AFU) also will be what they will be.

Mentally, I’ve been a bit worried just because the two races I’ve run this year were just so, so hard from a psychological/emotional perspective. In both cases I got super negative relatively early-on and just fell apart, which isn’t a problem I’ve had in the past. While that sucked a lot, at least I only had to handle it for 45 & 110 minutes respectively; getting stuck in that place for 3.5+ hours, well, I’m not sure I can handle that.

Recently, I ran across this article from TrainingPeaks about strategies for dealing with the pain of endurance racing, and when I thought about those two awful races, the three recommendations really resonated with me. Behold:

  • Trust it will pass. “Oftentimes, it’s the emotional experience of the pain that convinces you to give up. As humans, we have an innate desire to always try to gain some ground beneath us and feel like we are in control. Trying to gain control is your way of managing your feelings of discomfort, fear, and anxiety. On race day, the quickest way to eliminate those uncomfortable emotions and gain control is to stop moving. In your mind, you need to establish an end that lets you know that you are still in control and this pain won’t last forever.”

    In both my 2016 races thus far, I think feeling out of control of the situation led to mild panic, which then led to all kinds of negative feelings & suckage. So for this race I’m keeping in my back pocket a gentle reminder to myself that I absolutely don’t have to maintain a certain pace or effort level or even keep going at all, that this is supposed to be a cool, awesome experience and it’s completely up to me what I do with it. (I know it seems counterintuitive, but this sort of thinking actually makes me less likely to walk/quit/etc. because I don’t feel trapped.)

  • Talk to yourself. “When you focus on the pain you’re in, it makes you want to stop. When you are at the peak of suffering and it’s taking everything you have to keep moving, sometimes the most effective strategy is to engage in rhythmic cognitive behavior. This pain coping strategy has you repeating something over and over. Doing this occupies your mind constantly with information other than focusing on the pain you are feeling in your body.”

    I do a lot of counting down by strides or seconds when I run, even on easy runs (particularly if I’m tired or almost done), but there is a big difference time-wise between “the hard part of a 10K” vs “the hard part of a marathon,” so I’m thinking I probably need to specifically plan the things I’m going to start telling myself if & when those negative thoughts come creeping in. Something along the lines of, “No expectations/Just finish/One more mile.”

  • Accept What The Day Brings. “Your brain is like a magnet for your expectations. It will pick up on things in your environment that fit the storyline you have already created. It will also cling to and fixate on anything that doesn’t fit into the storyline as well. An example would be thinking, ‘It wasn’t supposed to be this hot/windy/hard/hilly, etc.’ These expectations will influence your perception of pain. The most important thing you can do is be open for whatever race day brings, know that you can handle it, and don’t fight against what is happening. The sooner you accept that the clouds have already rained, i.e. this is happening no matter how badly you want it not to be, the sooner you will recover and make the best of it.”

    Man, I failed so much at this not only at my two races this year but also Santa Rosa Marathon 2014. With all three races, in my head I’d already envisioned how the entire thing would go—it would be cool and flat and I would surprise myself with how good and fast I felt. So when it was hot or slightly hilly or I felt sluggish or slower than I thought I should be, I actually felt betrayed by the world, which was the beginning of melting down psychologically. So, I am trying to embrace the idea that this race doesn’t owe me anything—not a pancake flat course nor pleasant weather nor a “fast” (or even “fast under the circumstances”) time.

    Get ready for it.

    So yeah. I think I'm kind of boiling it down to this:

    I’m not necessarily recommending “having no expectations, ever” as an all-encompassing approach to finding happiness in every corner of your life. But in this particular situation, I’m trying to embrace it. My left foot is still kind of a mess and I don’t know how that’s going to shake out. I also know for a fact I’m in far from the best shape of my life right now, but in spite of that, I finished both my races so far this year disappointed and unsatisfied in part because I expected to do better. (Like, I wasn’t expecting fast races but I also wasn’t expecting personal worsts.) So I am doing my best to really, truly let all expectations go so that as long as I finish, I won’t leave Oregon disappointed.


    1. I saw a quote that I really liked the other day. "The race always hurts. Expect it to hurt. You don't train so it doesn't hurt. You train so you can tolerate it.' Whatever this race throws at you you can cope with.

    2. I'm so glad it went so well! Given all the training/health problems you've had, this is a massive success and a mental triumph as well!! Nice work. I'm so happy for you.

      I need all your Eugene recs, as we're reader there over the summer!