Weeks 10 and 11 of training for the ATX marathon are in the books, and they may have taught me a little about what’s in my head. Lots of people will tell you running is mostly a mental game, where persistence and perspective are just as important as fartleks and fuel. I realized that if I’m going to make it through the 4 hardest weeks of my training cycle, I needed to shift my perspective in a few ways (or else face a really painful slog):
It’s a cutback week, even with a 17-miler. When Jason Fitzgerald first called week 10 a cutback in the training plan he wrote for me, I snorted in disbelief. “Wait, there’s a 17-miler that week. That’s no cutback!” Even at week’s end, I was still giving him crap about it.
But, after the 34 miles in week 10, I found I had no problem taking on the 43 miles with no full rest day in week 11. So I take back (some) of the attitude I had about that cutback week; it really did count.
Training is about building you up, not breaking you down. When people asked me about my marathon training, invariably I launched into some diatribe about long runs leaving me exhausted, getting up before dawn to fling myself up & down a hill for sprints, whining about snow and ice screwing up my long-run paces. I’ve been focusing so much on how training wears me down, that I kind of forgot the real point: it builds me up. The challenges of training are tiring, true, but they result in change that means week after week, I can do more, go faster, recover more quickly. My weekly mileage increases are a testament to this fact.
The dreadmill is your friend. Really. Fearing the worst from New England January weather, and not wanting to miss my peak week runs, I got a 30-day gym pass giving me access to… THE DREADMILL. I saw this as a necessary evil, because pounding out hours on the treadmill sounds as enjoyable as dental surgery only without the pain-alleviating drugs (legally, anyway). But I did 9.5 miles of my 18-mile long run indoors today, and was surprised by how tolerable it was – and it sure made staying on pace a lot easier (until the parts where I got tired and walked). I’m not rushing to do all my workouts there, but I don’t think I’ll hate them in the face, either.
Where my brain game could still use some improvement is in my long-run endurance. In the week 10 17-miler, I walked a good portion of the last 3 miles when, really, I could have pushed myself harder; and I cut ½ mile off today’s 18-miler because, frankly, I was just bored with running. Obviously, that’s not going to cut it through 26.2, but I’ve got a 19-miler and two (!!!) 20-milers coming up where I can try to hone my mental mettle.