Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's All In the Mind...Or Stomach.

I just ran 16 miles this past Sunday, aided by the New York Road Runners' awesome Long Training Run #2 which simulates a race environment with Gatorade and water on the course, mile markers, pacers, and recovery foods at the end (mmm....pretzels...helps with the profuse sweating...yum!) I was further aided by the company of my long-time friend and first Roomie ever, Jen. You may have heard of Jen before, as she has a lot babies and runs a lot of marathons. My definition of a lot is "two."

Okay, so great. Ran 16. Whoopie, you all know that this is happening. I'm gonna keep running more and more miles until I either run a Marathon or lose my mind. Whichever comes first. I'm not sure it's the sheer distance at this point, though, that matters. It's how you get there. Right? Right.

I read an article from Runner's World last week on overcoming mental blocks for running. While somewhat interesting, I couldn't help but wonder --as I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw -- are these so-called "mental blocks" really what keep people from running? Are they what challenge me as I run?

Here are what they classify as mental blockers along with my commentary.

Faster Runners. I mean, I guess if you're like, the #4 Olympian and you'd like to medal, this would be a mental block. But as I usually come in 10,000 or so out of a 20,000 person race...intimidation by those faster than me has kind of had to go out the window.

A tough course. Like...I'm not running in the Alps.

People who train more. Are cool? I guess this used to be kind of intimidating to me, but once you wear a boot your whole perspective on life changes. Feel free to run more than me. I would like to remain in my normal everyday shoes. Which are Dr. Scholl's. Comfort > Fashion. But I digress.

The idea of a first race. They mean the first type of race. Like, a first half marathon. Or a first marathon (as in my case). I don't think this is a mental block though. Because this is what I'm trying to it's more of a motivator than a block. I think that there is merit in this for your first 5K or 10K or Half Marathon for sure. But at a certain point you're just doing this to yourself.

Entering a Mega-Race. A-la the New York City Marathon (as opposed to small-town race or something). Fine, that's a big deal but I'm relatively sure that I'm not going to be the focus of National TV or in the newspapers or something. Mostly because I am not that pretty when I run. I'm not this guy:
 Saying "I'm a Runner." Clearly not an issue for me. I write a damn blog about it for goodness sakes. I'm not exactly closeted about this fact.

They finish by suggesting that you "rewire your brain" to get beyond your fears. And that you should worry about the process rather than the outcome of the race. Solid advice, but a little too theoretical rather than practical for my taste. Also, the "process"? That sounds really great in theory or in a Runners' World article, but in practice? I am finishin' the damn race. Just saying.

Okay, so here are MeriG's suggestions for mental blocks and how one might overcome them:

Block #1: Fitting Running Into Your Schedule. Okay, so figure you'll do a weekend long run, but you need at least a couple during the week, plus time to do one or two classes or other cross-training at minimum. So you've really got two options: morning or after work. After work is cool and all, but can really dip into time to eat and drink and socialize with friends. And doing both I find to be very tricky if you have to work past 6 pm. So if you're like me, you're left with mornings. Which means you have to get up early. Like, real early. And that sucks. So your next step is to get a cat.

That's right, you heard me, a cat.

Because a cat does not let you sleep in. Because cats can be real jerks.

Problem solved. You're welcome.

Block #2: But I'm tirrrrrreeddddd.
If you run a marathon you can basically eat whatever you want and not gain wait. And you'll probably get some ab muscles. Stop your whining and put on your shoes. And then go get a slice of pizza and some Godivas.

Block #3: I'm Slow.
I bet you can find someone slower to pass and then you'll feel faster. It's really all about being better than at least someone else. Write that down.

If you're not a vindictive person, here's another approach: pretend you're winning and that's half the battle.

Block #4: I can't run that far without stopping.
Run / walk in intervals and gradually change the run / walk ratio over time. Or get a cat. Either one.

Block #5: My legs and feet hurt when I run and that makes me sad.
Get yourself some good shoes, an ice pack, and some IB Profin and stop your bitchin.' I will also refer you back ot the "you can eat whatever you want" clause.

Note: This clause actually does change over time and you will have to start wtaching what you eat once your body gets used to running a certain distance. But at the beginning? It's like piggy central! Go for the gold! Enter an eating contest! The world is your oyster!

Block #6: But What If I Look Dumb?
You'll be fine. Buy yourself some new clothes at Gap Body or -- dare I say it -- Lululemon (you know the devil wears it, right?) and get out there. I promise you that there will be someone who looks worse than you.

Damn it, why can't I be nice to others! Maybe this is a mental block of my own...

Hope you found this uplifting and helpful. Now get out there, champs. There's eating to be done!

I mean running! There's running to be done!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Committed. And not just in the mental institution way.

I run the NYC Marathon in exactly 90 days. Holy moly!

Things are actually going really well in training world. Delightful even. I am in a great groove with nutrition, hydration and mileage, running pretty consistently 22-28 miles a week. My longest run so far was a week ago Saturday at 13, and next weekend I am slated for a 15.

It's weird how common these distances have become, but that's largely due to my attitude. I think last year I let it get a big "larger than life" as it were. Now? I do what I can. I need to go into work earlier and skip my morning run? It happens. I'm feeling too sore to get a workout in one day? Great, I skip. I'm trying to remember that schedules are only guidelines, and that ultimately no coach knows how I'm feeling better than I do.

That said...sometimes the guidelines are there for a reason. To keep you going and keep you on track. This past weekend was an example of needing to man up despite a desire to do otherwise.

On Friday I had the incredible pleasure of volunteering with my parents at the Pan Mass Challenge.  The PMC is a one or two-day ride (depending on the route you choose) that starts and ends in different towns throughout the state. My parents and I volunteered at the Babson College location in Wellesley, MA, setting up the registration, food and merchandise for the festival that goes on during registration before the Saturday riders do their thing. This was my Mom's 2nd year, my 3rd, and my Dad's 9th year volunteering for this unbelievable event that raises $36+MM a year to benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. As you may know, the Farber is incredibly near and dear to my family recently, so it's a very emotional and powerful day for us to be involved with the PMC now more than ever.

I also love motto of the event, which they have printed on the riding jerseys. So meaningful to me in a lot of ways, and I think it embodies everything out how the riders, the volunteers, the patients and the families feel in one word:

Awesome, and very cool...but what does this have to do with running, MeriG?

Glad you asked.

I was on my feet for 12 hours on Friday before we finally called it. Saturday morning, bright and early, my alarm went off. The forecast called for 95 and humid in Plymouth, MA, so I knew my scheduled 14 miles -- if it was going to happen -- needed to start before 8 am if I didn't want to risk steaming and charring myself live over-cooked asparagus in a natural sauna. Metaphor.

Anyways, needless to say, the 6:30 wakeup call didn't happen. So I got up, stretched more, and re-evaluated. In the afternoon I really felt fine and wanted to get my long run in...but by then the world had turned into a moist hell-pit. So I went to Planet Fitness to get a slightly shorter run ("only" 12 miles) in on a treadmill so that I could A) stop when needed if I was too sore and/or feeling any pain and B) not melt.

This brings me to my topic of the day: How does one run 12 miles on a treadmill without going crazy?

While I was running, I was thinking about the answer to this, and I have a few helpful tips that will hopefully aid you if and when you need to do treadmill running yourself:

1) Exactly as I was, use the opportunity to think! Have a presentation on Monday? An issue with a friend to hash out? A sudoku you just can't freaking solve? Use your time wisely.

2) Set your goals in advance. I knew I was going to go to 12 if I could. If you just start without a goal in mind, I promise you that you will not finish. Commit to it (see phrase above) and just don't waver (unless you feel pain! Then for the love of god stop! Don't run through pain! Aaahh!)

3) I recommend doing a half and half method. What I did was run 6 miles, stop for a minute to drink some water and eat a gu, and then I started the second half counting down. Clearly I knew that I had run 8 when it said 2, but the mental break of thinking of it as 6 and 6 instead of 12 was really helpful.

4) Set mini-goals throughout the way. Here's how my 12 went down:

Mile 1: Warm-up pace (for me, 10 min mile or 6.0 on treadmill)
2: Up to 6.2
3: Up to 6.4
4: Up to 6.6
5: Up to 6.8
6: Half at 7.0 and half down to 6.4
7 & 8: 6.4
9 & 10: 6.6
11: 6.4
12: 6.2

I know it might seem slight, but those up and downs and thinking about the ups and downs in advance help me psychologically break up the run and get through it. Mid-week I sometimes do the same type thing as above with hill work-outs and speed work-outs (definitely at lower miles). I go up up up and down and repeat over and over until I'm done.

5) Have a visual. I bring my ipod but try to watch TV if it's something remotely watchable. Looking up instead of at the timer every five seconds is helpful. And I'm personally not one of those people who can run with a towel over the clock. Because then I'm just like, "what time is it? How far have I run? What time is it? How far have I run?" like a child ever 5 seconds. Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

The TV pickings were slim for the first half. Planet Fitness in Plymouth, MA had the TVs at the front with channels set as opposed to on the machines like at NYSC. The 5 choices I had were: CNN (gets old quick), a repeat of Grey's Anatomy I had already seen a million times, a Zumba infomercial, a funny music anthology infomercial (welcomes an SNL parody), and Olympics coverage of Water Polo.

Water Polo it was.

Good news is that at about mile 7 they did the exciting Men's 2000 meter final that was actually a great race. Watching men run actually is quite motivating and was a welcome distraction. Albeit a bit humbling as they literally were running 4 minute miles while I was struggling for 9s. But that's why they get paid the big bucks.

So that's how it's done. Hope that helps you in your future treadmill endeavors. To be read in the Dos Equis man voice: I don't always run on treadmills. But when I do it is with excellence.