I started this post about a month ago and never finished it. As I get closer and closer to Marathon #15 and try to dial in my goals, I feel my anxiety creeping up. So I thought a mindset shift was in order, and I revisited this post to finish it. Hope you enjoy.
As I approach my half marathon taper and am now 2 weeks out from race day, my mental strength has started to waver a bit. Nothing like an ill-timed injury to make you second guess your ability, right? That dumb September injury has tried over and over again to screw with my head, even though I'm pretty much recovered from it.
I have started to re-read some of my old blog posts in the hope of tweaking my mental outlook. I need to start focusing only on the positives of the last several weeks and not the fact that I had a blip in the road. And, of course, anytime I start thinking too much, a blog post forms in my head.
Focus on the positives? Okay, here it goes.
What are my strengths this training cycle?
The big one that keeps popping up into my head is COMMITMENT.
If I am anything when it comes to training, it's that I am committed. I write a plan, I plan my calendar, I look days in advance to be sure I can fit in what I need to do, and I EXECUTE the plan. Am I about to have an incredibly busy day that starts really early but I still need to run 8 miles? I guess I'm setting my alarm for 4:30am and getting my butt to bed early.
Since coming back from injury in October, I have only missed one run and that was because I was feeling unwell. One run. I'm pretty damn proud of that. I battled fatigue and laziness but I still got out there and put in the work. I committed to 26.2 miles and damnit I'm not throwing that away! Obviously, many factors can come into play that can wreak a little havoc on a training cycle - the early signs of injury, which should never be ignored, illness, and the occasional unexpected emergency that robs you of your time. I've been pretty lucky so far. But even the occasional blip shouldn't ruin your commitment. There's a reason I'm a morning runner the vast majority of the time and that I like to get up before dark to train...if I keep putting off my run or I schedule a lot of evening runs, there's a bigger chance that something will come up and I have to skip it. Nope....I'm starting off my day right instead!
Another strength? I find JOY from training. Doing this does not wear on me...usually! It invigorates me emotionally. I might be physically tired, but my mind is clear and happy when I get to train. I love this journey. I genuinely feel lucky that I am healthy and able enough to do such good things for my body. I try to never take that for granted.
Another vital attribute that I think is important, particularly when getting into the latter parts of a training plan or if you're starting to have doubts, is FOCUS. This goes a step further than just being committed to your training. Every single training run has a purpose. I don't believe that there is such a thing as junk miles. I have structured my plan in such a way that I'm gaining benefit from every single run, whether it's a 10:30 pace recovery run, or a tempo run with a few miles at 7:45 pace, whether it's an easy paced long run, or a long run with a marathon pace workout built in. While I always need to look at my training week as a whole, I also aim to focus solely on the workout I'm in and try not to lose sight of its purpose.
But I am also not a slave to my training plan if I feel like I need to tweak it. Being FLEXIBLE is sometimes necessary. During one particular week I was feeling a bit more fatigue than normal, and I had already run several faster paced miles that week, so I changed my scheduled 7 mile track workout to a 7 mile easy run with strides. I felt fantastic the next day and it led to a very solid weekend of training. I had overshot on how many hard miles I had scheduled into the week and needed to change things. I didn't reduce my mileage, but I knew when I needed to ease up on intensity, even for just one run. Next weekend on Sunday the 17th, Greg is running the Austin Half Marathon, and I have a 16 miler on my schedule that day. I want to be at the finish line to see Greg, so I am shifting my long run to Saturday instead. I'll get up early with him and get my six mile recovery run in before I head to downtown Austin. Still getting in my miles, but being flexible on the order and that's okay!
Lastly, I think I'm pretty good at seeing the BIG PICTURE. At the end of the day, the week, and even at the end of this cycle, I need to remember that I am lucky I get to do this. I have a healthy body (mostly) and the ability to pursue this passion. No matter what happens on race day, my journey is fun and fulfilling. Only 10% of marathoners qualify for Boston, and that statistic is not lost on me. I have the opportunity to run in the world's oldest marathon, and THAT is the most important thing. Add to that the fact that I'll be running every step of it with my best friend, and it makes whatever number the finish line clock shows completely irrelevant. The 20 week training journey, the trip to Boston, the time spent with Greg, every single one of the steps from Hopkinton to Boylston Street.....THAT is the Big Picture. I need to keep remembering this when I start to feel anxiety on whether I'm in as good of shape as I was last January in Baton Rouge.
67 more days!