Since I took my break I've been working hard on the mental side of my training. Last I left you I ran a disappointing 10 mile race. During the race Coach G rode his bike near me during the 9th mile and got on my case about looking at my watch too much. I never really thought about it, but I tend to peek at my watch an awful lot sometimes. As he was yelling at me about it I noticed I was having trouble resisting the impulse to look. A couple of times I thought I lost him, took a peek and then heard him yell at me again about it! Ha!
What's the harm you ask? Well a couple of things. One, is that whether I realize it or not, I'm running by the watch. I have an idea in my head what pace I should run and then I use the watch to adjust accordingly. The weird thing is that I have a tendency to worry about going too fast so I pick a pace that I'm comfortable with and target that rather than race goal pace. Weird, I know! But this certainly explains why I keep running races really close to times I've already run. I haven't always done this and I think a reason for it is that I'm training so hard that I'm a little burned out with pushing myself. I used to save pretty much all the pushing myself for race day, but not these days. I have to learn to find that next level of pushing myself. Hopefully by marathon day!
The other thing that's a problem with the watch staring is that it shows how unfocused I can be. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, I'm distracting myself with thoughts on how far I have to go or how much longer until the next mile marker and stuff like that. If I want to run to my potential I need to learn to focus focus focus! Working on it!
Since that race I've picked up two tricks to help me not think about looking at the watch. They're similar, but I find having two tricks is helpful when one of them starts getting boring. Neither of these tricks is mind-blowing. In fact, they're downright silly! But they are working for me. The first is to repeat, "Left foot. Right foot." every time my left foot strikes. The second technique is to count to 10 over and over--each number falling on a foot strike. The latter is especially good because I've discovered that 8 counts of 10 is about a minute no matter how fast I'm running.
In between these very simple mantras I have some affirmations to pull out of my mental trick bag. The best one is, "No matter the result, I run like a champion." This is great because it's positive and it helps me not worry about pace, time, results, splits, etc. The rest are pretty basic: "Today is my day;" "You're doing great;" "This is fun;" etc.
I've been practicing these techniques at every track workout. On the track I aim to not look at my watch at all. Coach G calls the splits and I go with them. I don't worry about whether I'm on pace and the weird thing is, more often than not I hit the mark. The techniques help a lot with tempos and at the end of long runs when I start getting bored or lose focus. They also help me stay relaxed even when I'm struggling to hit the paces.
On Sunday, I ran a half marathon. It was my first race to use all my new mental tricks. I made it my goal to look at my watch minimally, stay focused and positive throughout the race, and to not worry about the end result--just run! I'll be back soon with a race report!