Last night's program included a nice little Stuart Smalley-esque warm up exercise where I repeated a few affirmations to myself while looking at my reflection in my iPad. Then, I was tasked to write about a time when I performed free of fear, anxiety or tension. I was to recall what it felt like and relive the experience. The time I recalled was California International Marathon 2008. Here's what I wrote in my workbook:
The time I recall where I felt I performed free of anxiety or tension was my 2008 CIM performance. I felt relaxed because I had already run my goal race at Marine Corps Marathon a few weeks before, and it didn't go well. I felt like I had nothing to lose, and I had confidence that my fitness was higher than the 2:57 performance I had at MCM. I was focused on running as fast as I had trained for in the first half of the race (2:53-2:54 marathon pace) and was surprised with how easy that felt. I was drafting off of another runner that I knew to be faster than me and was surprised to still be with her at the half. When her coach told her to pick up the pace I went with her. I passed her a couple of miles later because I knew I could run faster. I did not look at my watch even though I knew I was going faster than I had trained for. It came very easily. I continued to pick up the pace and never really thought about fearing whether or not I could hold the pace or if I would crumble in the last few miles. I was shocked when I rounded the corner for the finish and saw 2:50 on the clock.This was a good exercise for me. It helped me realize a couple of key elements in that performance. First, I had no pressure to perform because nobody, myself included, expected me to perform well since I had just run another marathon a few weeks before. Second, I had confidence in my fitness and knew that I was faster than the 2:57 time I posted at MCM. Third, the lack of anxiety and tension allowed me to run completely by feel, and I didn't try to sabotage myself by slavishly minding my split times. Finally, I enjoyed the hell out of that race from start to finish. The headliner picture for this blog was taken at mile 20 in that marathon--happy as can be.
I was also tasked to keep track of some of the signs that I am allowing fear of failure to affect my performance. I thought I'd get a chance to look for those signs today in my long run. As it turned out, I had a great long run and hard workout and really didn't experience any distress during the run. I did, however, go through the usual gyrations before I went out to run, working myself up and practicing avoidance behavior (can I postpone until tomorrow? I think I feel something weird in my stomach. Maybe I can't do this after all. And on, and on.)
My long run was an 18 miler including 10 miles of pace work. The 10 miles included 1 mile @ 10-12 seconds faster than goal marathon pace (GMP), then 1 mile @ 45 seconds slower than GMP. Repeat that 4 more times without stopping between pace changes. Using 6:15 as my GMP, my target paces were 6:00-6:05 and 7:00-7:05. I resolved up front that I would stop for water and to take gu, since I was starting the run at 11:00 a.m. with temperatures in the low 70s, but I set the stops up front and wanted them to coincide with the slower-paced miles. I wanted to stop because I planned to, not because I was in distress and felt like I needed to.
iPod Nano. It's much less clunky than that blasted iPad. I normally don't run with music for hard workouts or any workouts for that matter, but I've been wearing my new toy all week on my runs. I also read this article from Matt Fitzgerald about the costs and benefits of running to music. I wanted to see whether it made a difference for me.
I think the music actually helped me today. When I wanted to be distracted during the hard part of my workout, I could concentrate on the lyrics to whatever uptempo song was blasting into my ears. I could also concentrate easily on the task at hand if I needed to. I had stopped listening to music while running using the argument that I wasn't going to race with my earphones in, so I shouldn't train with them. I'm less convinced that is a real issue for me.
I never got to a point in my run today where my legs felt heavy or I felt like quitting or stopping. I didn't sandbag this run either. In fact, my last split was my fastest. My splits were:
Today, my focus word was control. In a long workout like this, it's easy to go out too fast. I needed to not only control the fast miles, but I found it hard to keep the slower miles in the proper range too. I actually failed to do that. That was the hardest part of this workout: slowing down enough in the slow miles. I was surprised with how easy 6:30-6:45 pace felt during this workout and really had to work to slow down during the second mile of the set.
I get to learn about perfectionism in my fearless athlete lesson today. I should be able to relate to that one just a little.
Three weeks to go and the taper begins NOW! Yippeeeee!