Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Throw that Crystal Ball in the Trash

Let's talk about one symptom of taper madness. You know you have a problem when you see signs of how your future marathon is going to go in everything. To illustrate, let me tell you the story of last night.

Yesterday, after my pretzel binge, I felt kind of crappy all afternoon. I felt sluggish and stressed a bit. Mrp and I headed to the park by our house for our goal pace workout. I knew I felt crappy, but at the same time I recognized the opportunity that is running at goal pace (still 7:15)while feeling crappy 2 weeks before the marathon. Mrp and I decided to run a warm-up together since he was measuring our course with his GPS. We got to our starting line and noticed a poor squished frog on the road. No, this was not a sign, I assured myself. However, half-way through the warm-up I could tell I was already tuckered out by the 8:30 pace ! But I also knew better than to interpret this as anything other than a sign of the crappy training run to come.

Anyway, we came to our 2 mile point and I turned around and started running kind of hard, but not hard hard if you know what I mean. Marathon pace is weird like that. I hit the first half mile around 3:30 which was a bit fast, but figured it was the slight downhill and adjusting to pace. My first mile went by in 7:11. I got a bit discouraged because I seemed to slow down so much my second half mile, but there was an uphill and a bit of a headwind. Oh, and I might have overcorrected a bit from the too fast first half, so whatever--definitely, not a sign. On I went. I came to the 1.5 mile point and was slow again. Eek--maybe a sign? I finished the second mile in 7:17. Of course, by now I was mentally worn down by all those possible signs that this 2 seconds was now a sign of my impending doom.

I trotted around for 2 minutes, mentally regrouped and back I went, optimistic again, or at least I thought. I was going the opposite direction from my first 2 mile rep and this time I was going with the wind. I felt good and eased my way to a 7:02 first mile. "Whoa!" I thought. Maybe a positive sign? The second mile this way finishes on a slight uphill so I was very satisfied with a 7:11. Maybe? Again I trotted my 2 minute recovery, but then couldn't find the line that starts our 2 mile measured course. I kind of bugged about it a little. "Where's the line?!" I yelled to mrp as he passed me. A few seconds later he pointed to it about 50 feet in front of me. "Oh." I said and jogged on over to start my last rep. Of course, this teeny tiny minor thing was enough to put me into a tense knot. I thought, "great, now I can practice relaxing!" So, I tried. But can I tell you the more I tried to relax, the more I tensed up. As I was running, I thought "I haven't practiced drinking at this pace!! How will I do that?! I can't!!!!" For whatever reason I cannot command myself to relax. Once I focus on being tense, it's over. My splits were fine for this rep--7:12, 7:16--but I ended it with a side stitch and about zero confidence.

I felt so defeated. "Whatever," I hissed to myself. "Just stretch it out and get on with the cool down and be done with it." So after stretching my abdominals, I headed off for my 2 mile cool down. I was fine for all of 2 minutes until the stitch came back. "RELAX!" I commanded myself. It was no use. I stopped and stretched it out. I then started to run again, only to have it come back in a matter of minutes. "Dammit!!!!! You are so screwed if you get a stitch in the marathon. RELAXXXXX! or you are going to run the worst marathon ever!"

I then realized I had a knot in my throat and could hardly breathe. My god! I was such a tense wreck! It was ridiculous. I then became determined to finish the 2 miles and just let myself walk and stretch every time the stitch came back. That's what I did. I felt like a moron when people passed me walking (I especially hated being passed by Mr. Hot Dog roller blader guy!), but I just gave up caring. I made it back to the car and mrp was waiting. I just started to tear up, feeling so frustrated.

But I'll tell you as soon as I started talking about it I felt better and realized that I had so much nervous energy and anxiety built-up over so many months of training. Most days it's so diffused by optimism and confidence, but some days it leaks out. I realized how I got so wrapped up in these little things that I interpreted to be SO HORRIBLE, that were really just nothings--2 seconds, can't find the line, side stitch, etc (at least I let the squished frog go and never thought about it again--yeah for small victories, right? heh). I was so relieved that I had the opportunity to get it out of my system yesterday and not on race day!! I was also glad to figure out the whole making myself relax thing doesn't work. Looking back I haven't had much trouble relaxing this training cycle, so why try to fix something that doesn't need fixing. I do best when I'm not thinking too hard and when I am thinking I'm focused on the simple positives: I can do it! I can do it! I can do it!!

On a lark this morning, I logged into my old running journal and found this entry for October 4, 2006: 3 x 2 at mp. Felt HORRIBLE! Pushed through though!

So there you have it--pushing through and learning from a crappy 3 x 2 at MP means a great non-crappy marathon in the near future!!!


Jim said...

You're gonna do great in the marathon Salty. Just gotta remember that every training run can't be a Kodak moment and sometimes the body just says - I'm gonna be a pain in the ass today.

The bottom line is You are sooooo ready for a great race!

GP said...

Props to you for pushing through — squished frog and all.

But if you do nothing else, please remember what my wise Running Yoda said to me about my pre-race jitters:

Racing is like any other performance and even people who have done it many times get nervous, just like stage performers and accomplished singers. It's normal. You'll do great!! Good luck!

I think it was one of the few reasons I survived. That and, perhaps, watching that dog pass me. I'm not still bitter or anything.

But being reassured that my nerves were... natural actually helped me control and tame them. Sure, I still had some serious dry throat, but that happens.

Keep kicking butt!

DaisyDuc said...

Every runner has good days and bad days...and training through a bad day is much harder than running strong on a good one! Congrats as it sounds like you are on the way to a great marathon performance.

Thanks for the feedback on my issue. I will be doing those stretches!

Joe said...

I guess Salty One IS human after all. Well, you are human sometimes but Wonder Woman most of the time! I guess it's good to get a bad run out of your system now. It will make you mentally tougher for Boston.

Hey, are you one of those people who can drink on the run without spilling a drop or choking?