Sunday, September 19, 2010

Exercise #1

I started my fearless athlete workbook last night and am fairly happy with the program so far.  It's geared more toward sports that involve apparatus like soccer, golf and baseball, but I am modifying it as I go along to work for running.

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.

One change that I made for this workout was to wear my super duper cool new 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!  


  1. dang!!! i had my eye on one of those new ipod nanos!! i'm hoping to get one for my upcoming birthday or maybe wedding anniversary! i use the ipod shuffle for running and i have two of the old style nanos for my car and dreadmill. i saw the new nano recently and thought to myself "i must have one!".
    you know, there was a time when i was very anti ipod-during-running, but then jen p encouraged me to try it and i haven't been the same since! it was especially helpful when i lived in southern cal and didn't know anybody... so i did 20+ mile runs by myself. the ipod became a great training partner for me, so much so that sometimes i prefer to run with my trusty ipod, get into the music and get into my groove, without any other company. i also find it's great for those tough moments when you just aren't feeling so hot. the music is very distracting. i never, ever wear the ipod for workouts or hard long runs... only easy running. it works really well. i find that when i'm doing any form of workout, having the ipod on my head and the music in my ears is actually an annoyance because i like to get into my workout zone. but for easy runs, you can't beat wearing the ipod. don't worry... it still means you're a serious runner even if you wear an ipod occasionally. ;)
    so i'm jealous! what color did you get?

  2. Looks like it's going well so far. Hope you get to have a CIM-style race at Chicago - amazing photo that - looks like you're in the early stages of a 5k.

    I want in iPod that comes with fast intuitive software. iTunes drives me up the wall!

  3. Well, tmeat, you know from FB that I got the pink Nano. I love it, just like all of my electronic devices.

    Ewen, I think the CIM experience was all about letting go of the reigns and just running. I'm working on that for Chicago. It's going to take some re-programming of my nutcase brain, though. I'm on the accelerated plan!

    Yes, iTunes is a pain. I avoid it as much as possible. I just get the music on the device and then you don't have to monkey with it.