Sunday, January 1, 2017

Reflection on the Process

With two weeks to go until Marathon Day, I'm spending some time reflecting on my training. I went back and read some of my blog posts early on in training, as I was also preparing for a half marathon in October, and it inspired me to write my thoughts down in a new post. The hardest part of the training is done, and looking back on how I've gotten to today is kind of fun.

Back on August 31, with five weeks until my goal half marathon, I wrote this after reading David Boudia's book (he's an Olympic gold medal diver):

(Quoting David's book) "Be process oriented, not results oriented. Remember the Olympic creed? The important thing is not the triumph, but the fight. So many times in our lives, results are out of our hands and we are dependent on things we can't control for the outcomes we desire. Learning instead to focus on the process, the journey itself, allows us to focus our energies more on the things we can control. That, in turn, leads to greater fulfillment and more enjoyment s we go through life leaving our ultimate path in the Lord's hands (Psalm 37:5)."
Although I do have goals and I like to keep some focus on them as I train, he's totally right that in order to achieve our goal we have to focus on the process. The process in marathon training is months long. Each week serves a purpose, each workout serves a purpose. When the big picture and a focus on everything you still need to do in the months ahead, when you have a million doubts because you're having a tough training spell, you have to step back and focus on the process...what is the purpose and goal of THIS workout, why is it important, what does it mean if it's successful, what does it mean if it's not, what have I learned that I can take into the next workout, the next week, the next month, or even race day? We have complete control of that attitude.

Now, with two weeks to go, having seriously trained since July, I can look back and say with confidence that this is exactly how I approached training. I wrote myself a training plan that would require a lot of dedication, but I knew it would work in long run. I looked at each week separately, and focused on the purpose of each individual run and how it would benefit my training in the long run. I compared my improvement in similar workouts from previous weeks. I had a goal for each workout, and mostly managed to keep my focus on that small individual goal, then move on to the next run or the next week. I knew I had tough weeks ahead, but my successful training up to that point would help me be successful during those weeks as well.

I did have a tough time wrapping my mind around the 22 mile training run planned three weeks out from race day, the last really tough long run before the taper. It weighed on me going into that week and it was a bit tough to focus on the week's earlier workouts. I did what I could to shut my mind off, and juggled a couple of things around that would make me even more ready for that run. It helped that the only goal for that run was to finish it, not to be fast (which was impossible anyway, since it was 70 degrees and 100% humidity that morning), to be consistent from Mile 1 all the way to Mile 22, and to still feel some strength at the end of the run. Speed would never come into play, merely endurance. Despite the nasty weather, I got through the run and felt great for almost all of it, which is a huge win for me.

15 miles into the 22 miler, joined by the husband for the last 7 miles

This past week, I had my longest speed session planned (on Thursday) and again, I had a hard time keeping that out of my head early in the week. It would be a 9 mile run overall, with 10x800 meter repeats and a 400 meter recovery jog between. The goal is to be consistent with each 800 and your average time is a good indicator of a realistic marathon time. This workout would typically be done on the track, but because of schedules I ended up doing this at a nearby trail (mostly dirt and concrete). I figured my repeats would be a bit slower than on the track, but I could still use the workout to gauge whether or not my training had paid off. The importance of the run weighed on me. The wind that day wasn't helping! It ended up being a great run. I figured I'd average 4:05 for the 10 repeats, possibly slowing during the end of the workout (it's a lot of miles!), but I did better than that, even with the 20+mph headwinds in the second half. I averaged 3:58 per 1/2 mile repeat. I don't remember the last time I had that many miles of speed at less than 8:00 pace. The best part was that when I was done I definitely didn't feel like I had just run 9 miles.

With those two workouts done, and successful, it showed me that being so methodical about my training was the right plan...looking at each run as having a purpose, focusing on one run at a time, having a goal for each one, and then completing each one and moving onto the next. Mostly the workouts were successful, some were really tough, but I learned something from each one and could take those lessons into the next week.

So as I sit here, with two weeks to go, with all the "hard" workouts behind me, I can continue to reflect back on the last 5+ months, on my great October half marathon, and see how I can apply all of this to my marathon, both for my mental game and my physical game.

Also, can I just say that I think my training plan was seriously kick ass? I'm kind of proud of that!


  1. So true! I literally wrote a post on this exact topic just a couple of weeks before my 12/4 marathon. Hopefully it will all pay off for you! :)