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Mental Hurdles and Training for a BQ

Posted Sep 10 2013 9:00am

I’m back (again)…posts have been few and far between from me this spring and summer.  Lots going on in the Fit Dani household—big life changes that have been taking up a lot of my time—add to the mix marathon training where I’m hoping to squeak out a Boston Qualifying time for the 2015 running and it’s safe to say that time to sit and compose posts have been minimal.  I have two more Ragnar recap posts that are done, but they just don’t feel like the right time to post them (even though the gap from when Ragnar happened and when I eventually post them continues to grow); I even have a giveaway post to post, but alas that is on the back burner until we can get the blog fully transferred over to a self-hosted site (the free wordpress site that we now use doesn’t allow us to do giveaways).

I’m only 5-weeks out from my marathon—the Toronto Waterfront Marathon , where I’m trying to shave 14:12 (at least) off my current marathon PR to snag a hopeful 3:40:00 finish.  Not 3:40:01…not even 3:40:00:01   So how has my training been going?  It’s been going well I think—definitely some hiccups along the way.  Coming off of Ragnar with some pretty stellar runs, I had a big boost of confidence.  I had run well—on little sleep, on difficult terrain, with strangers and still managed to pull off times in the 7’s and 8’s.  Then a couple weeks later, I had a very travel intensive week (combination of work and personal business) that had me sidelined for a good portion of the week.  I snuck in whatever miles I could get, but after the week ended with only 12-miles under my belt I will certainly say I felt very defeated and down about my training.  I suddenly felt like I was going to be underprepared.

Fit Moms & Full Plates:  Determination

Fit Moms & Full Plates: Determination

One thing that training for a BQ has taught me is that it is potentially more of a mental battle than a physical one.  Sure you need to train hard and push your body to the limits while performing a delicate balancing act to prevent injury, but mentally you will be pushed to the brink and beyond.  It’s hard.  I’m training for this BQ and running the same race as my friend Jolene from Journey of a Canuck Mom on the Run .  We had talked about running together.  We talked about supporting each other along the way.  But the further and further along our training has gone, it has become clear to me that while we can (and do) support each other, we likely won’t be able to run together.  It won’t be good for either of us on race day.  In talking to Jolene, she is training for negative splits.  I don’t function that way—I’m an even split kind of girl (maybe banking a minute or two on the front end…maybe…if I’m lucky).  My past three weeks of long slow distance runs have proven my even pacing ability—all coming in with roughly the same pace each week.  Additionally, Jolene is training very different than I am.  Her coach has her going a LOT faster than my coach has me running—not that either coach is wrong, but it’s just different.  Admittedly, seeing Jolene’s amazing times and paces have made me very nervous and question my abilities to succeed on race day.

Last week, however, the stars all started to align in a way for me (knock on wood).  I was coming off of some decent long runs, when last weekend I had a 6-mi tempo run on the docket.  I was supposed to run 4-mi at ½ -marathon pace.  Somehow I ended up running them closer to what is likely my new 10k pace (my current 10k PR is way old—I was 12-weeks pregnant at the time in the middle of July so yeah, I think it’s safe to say I need a new 10k PR soon).   I was cranking out 7:20’s and 7:30’s…who did I think I was?!  Kara Goucher?! (hardly—considering 7:30’s for Kara is a long slow run)………. I started to panic with about 0.75-miles left in my tempo and subsequently started to hyperventilate—NOT a good thing while running.  Get a hold of yourself Dani-Girl—I yelled in my head.  I knew at that moment I needed to distract myself from the fear that was starting to consume me—99, 98, 97, 96, 95…0.65-miles to go…94, 93, 92, 91, 90…0.55-miles to go…89, 88, 87, 86, 85…and so on.  I started to count backwards and in concentrating on what the next number was I began to shift my attention off of the heavy weight that was crushing my lungs and pushing me to the ground.  Then suddenly my Garmin chirped alerting me that I could ease up for my cool down mile.  I did it—I faced a mental hurdle and instead of retreating from it or slowing down, I climbed over that hurdle ready to face the next one.

The next day, Sunday, was my long run (step back week) at 13-miles.  It was thundering, lightening, and pouring when I headed out the door.  Despite the puddles that had my shoes laden down with water, I still managed to do slightly better than my goal pace.  It definitely gave me a little bit of confidence, but I was still comparing myself to other runners across the blogosphere who were running faster times than I was cranking out.  I decided to email three of the girls I went to high school with who I still keep in touch with on Facebook.  All three were, and are, amazing athletes.  Katie, who blogs over at Experimental Running , is my idol.  She has always worked extremely hard and her efforts show in her amazing accomplishments.  Meaghan, who blogs at Miles, Miles, and More Miles , is another amazing athlete.  She has completed a 70.3 and an ultra.  And Kelly is simply amazing—she is a three-time Ironman.  All three of these ladies are kind and supportive and I knew I could trust them to tell it to me straight—based on my current and upcoming training, do I have what it takes to BQ?  Each came back with awesome words that really helped me.  Katie had some great advice on training and how I can work with my coach to tweak if I felt the need; Kelly, also had great advice on training and helped me to understand how my training was going; and Meaghan—well, Meaghan gave me two very important things to think about that I had been overlooking thus far:

“(2) STOP COMPARING YOURSELF…Trust in YOUR training…(4) This would give you a HUGE PR.  Make yourself some B, C, D goals, because ANY PR would be awesome.  Don’t sell yourself short.”

Meaghan was so right.  I’m very goal oriented and when I set my sights on a goal I tend to go at it with an all or nothing mentality.  I’m so afraid to fail that I’d rather prepare myself for the worst than expect the best in a given situation.  I keep looking to people validate that they think I can do it…or maybe more accurately, I keep looking for people to tell me that I stand no chance in hell of succeeding.  Disappointment is easier to get over that way.  However, what I am missing is that everyone keeps telling me that I CAN do this IF I have the mindset to do it.  I need to trust my training.  Trust that my coach has set me up for success.  I listen to the Another Mother Runner podcast and Dimity has said many times over different episodes that we need to don’t think just do.  I need to get out of my own head and need to stop listening to the part of me that not only questions my abilities, but tries to set myself up for the disappointment of failure.  And that ties into Meaghan’s second point—what ARE my B, C, and D goals?!  dedication So what if I don’t get a BQ?  I won’t have FAILED at my attempt; it will just mean that it wasn’t meant to be on that day.  Let’s face facts, unless something catastrophic happens I should be in position for a PR, and potentially a fairly decent one.   I have done all I can do to set myself up for this— I’ve got a coach who is challenging me , I’m doing the work, I picked a flat course up north where it will be cool.  As long as I can keep healthy and injury free, there is slim to no chance of a freak hurricane coming in with high humidity and tropical force winds along the course like last year at MCM.  I need to stop thinking about IF I qualify for Boston but instead think in terms of WHEN I qualify for Boston.  Maybe it won’t be this year but it will happen.

National Marathon 2012 Finisher picture:  my first sub-4 hour marathon--EXACTLY how I pictured it!

National Marathon 2012 Finisher picture: my first sub-4 hour marathon–EXACTLY how I pictured it!

When I think back to my National Marathon training session, my second marathon, I had a big goal.  To everyone I talked to it was to just PR and get close to 4:05—but my secret squirrel goal was to sub-4 hour that race.  My initial marathon, Philly in 2010, I ran in 4:29:37—and people kept saying that getting close to 4-hours was going to be a difficult feat.  However, I remember that I KNEW it was inside of me to sub-4.  As I would do my training runs on the basement treadmill while watching The Biggest Loser, I would race every last .2-miles of the runs and envision the finish line getting closer and closer and as I crossed the line my arms would extend in the air triumphant—I DID IT!  I sub-4’ed!  EVERY. SINGLE. TRAINING. RUN.   I saw it happen—then on race day I willed that scene to happen and the picture I have now of me crossing that finish line is everything I had envisioned as I ran on that treadmill.  The power of positive thinking is very strong—it’s the mental aspect of training for a Boston Qualifying time.  It’s believing that you can do it; it’s pushing past your comfort zone.  It’s counting backwards from 100 when you hyperventilate because you are paralyzed with fear.  It’s trusting your training and knowing that in your heart of hearts YOU can succeed; you WILL succeed.

Yesterday, as I drove home from my 19-mile long slow distance run I will admit I cried.  I cried because I was filled with emotion.  It’s been a tough 2013 for me personally:  we have had to make some important decisions as a family; I went through the lows of not getting selected for Nuun’s HTC team to the highs of having them ask me to be a part of Ragnar with them .  I totally bonked on my ½-marathon attempt and have questioned more than once if I am capable of running a BQ in Toronto.  All of that emotion, combined with an amazing week of running where my confidence soared thanks in part to some wonderful, supportive friends and family who truly believe I can accomplish this achievement overflowed when Katy Perry’s new song, Roar came on the radio.  If by some chance you’re not familiar with the song, the chorus goes like this:

“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR
Louder, louder than a lion
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR”

Race day is coming, and it’s coming fast.  My training schedule, nor my everyday life events, plus work, plus trying to get things in order are not going to get any easier.  In fact, my training schedule over the next three weeks is pretty frightening—I will peak at 52-miles.  That will be my highest mileage week ever run. 

Peak weeks are approaching....

Peak weeks are approaching….

I am planning to play things smart and safe—fuel my body properly, fuel my soul and spirit properly, care for my body by seeing my chiropractor and foam rolling and icing.  But as race day approaches Katy Perry’s song is becoming my anthem.  Oh yeah, you’re gonna hear me roar—I will roar so loud that the earth will shake.  And whether or not I walk away from that finish line with a BQ time—I will cross that finish line with my head held high, my fists pumping triumphantly in the air because I will have succeeded.  I will have stared down that dream that burns so deeply within me and I will know that I went after it with everything that I have; with my whole being.  And THAT is what makes us each successful!  That is what champions are made of—not the actual act of winning, but the process that we go through to make it to that day and see it through to its completion no matter what the outcome.



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