Losing the Mental Game
Lately I’ve been feeling like my running is more of a mental than physical game. After last weekend’s 5k, I was pretty disappointed. There are two kinds of thoughts that I’ve been going back and forth on in the past week or so.
The first: “Come on, Jenny. Give yourself a break! It was hot and humid and a tough day to all-out race a 5k. You almost PR’d and you’re still so early in this training cycle!”.
The second: “No excuses. You weren’t mentally prepared. You weren’t even nervous or excited about the possibility of running a PR.”
To be fair, both of these thoughts are legitimate, but running and all of the emotions that go along with it aren never black and white. I’m too stubborn to accept the first thought (so stubborn, I suppose, that I feel like I can conquer anything weather throws at me.) And I’m too scared to accept the second thought as true because this is the one that I have control over.
The truth is that there are things that I can do in the future to make sure that I’m mentally prepared for a race that is supposed to be uncomfortable.
When I started running regularly I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or how addicting that feeling of crossing the finish line with a PR would be. Lemme tell ya, we all want to get back to that feeling as soon as humanly possible once it happens. And that’s probably why training and racing long distances is so tough. The payoff doesn’t come until months and months down the road. It’s really easy to get greedy.
I wanted that instantaneous hit of “I did it! I PR’d a race I wasn’t really that prepared for!” and I didn’t get it.
I don’t think I internalized my goal last weekend. My legs forgot what it felt like to run consistent 6:30s and I crossed the finish line feeling like they were going to fall off. I let myself get distracted enough to not care about the time on the clock. And that’s a sad thought.
It wasn’t my body that failed me, it was my brain. And that thought still hurts.
I’m planning on slotting another 5k into my training before Grand Rapids to see if redemption is possible. Even if I don’t PR the next one, my goal is to arrive at the start line with a “quiet confidence” that I can push myself for +/- 20 minutes because that’s what my head, my heart, and body are capable of.
I started consistently training again at the end of May, with a 21-week plan to the Grand Rapids Marathon from Coach. Between mid-April and early June, I was really lazy. I was all too happy to accept that and I’m so glad that I allowed myself the time off. I’ve never been the type of runner to jump into another training cycle immediately following a race. And like most people, the mental and physical rest was necessary after Boston.
I just finished up Week 5 of the 21-week cycle. Back to base-building and a slow progression to speed and stamina workouts:
Week 1: 30 miles
Happy to run 5 x per week again & surprised to find I hadn’t lost much fitness in sloth-mode!
Week 2: 33 miles
Highlights included consistent 400 m splits under 1:30 and two tempo miles faster than I expected
Week 3: 34 miles
11 miles through the “wilderness”
Week 4: 32 miles
Highlights included tough 800s into a massive headwind, beer run, and 5k race
Week 5: 34 miles
First strength training class at my gym in months, some heat training, and a weekend of anniversary celebration
There’s no reason to be unhappy with my training so far this cycle. I remember when I used to dream of running the paces I run on a consistent basis now. I just have to be patient and work hard.
What do you do to get mentally prepared for a race? Have you ever “raced greedy” before?