“Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” Yogi Berra, the famous player, coach, and manager once observed. This week, I learned — somewhat painfully — that much the same could be said about running. Details on my week of training, and the Reston Ten Miler, after the break.
Although in the end it turned out to be a good week — or, at the least, considerably improved — it certainly didn’t feel that way as the week, and the race passed. And, like Berra’s observation, while some of the challenges were physical, many of the barriers were mental. Here’s a rundown on the week, as we begin the prepare for the final 34 days before the big race.
A rest day, following last week’s long eight mile run in the rain.
As has become my habit, I participated in a Vinyasa yoga class. I can usually quiet the constant stream of chatter in my mind, and the stretching is helpful in balancing out the aches and pains the accumulate from running. Although I normally have some sort of intervals scheduled for Tuesday’s, those were absent from the schedule as I started a small taper in advance of Sunday’s Reston Ten Miler.
My one easy run of the week seemed anything but. It was warm (59º) and breezy, so the weather was nice enough. But it was difficult to bring the effort together. Thinking about the hills of Reston, I picked a variation on my usual course that included a couple of steep hills, and — as was mostly the point — they took their toll.
Overall, I covered 3.16 miles in 36:08, with a short section of the course going cross-country. I started out well enough, at an easy 10:41 pace for the first mile, but proceeded to slow down, walking up the last bit of the main hill. In my defense, I gained 218 feet in elevation over the course, and my legs seemed not up to it. They felt like lead the last mile or so.
Thursday – Saturday
Both Thursday and Saturday were scheduled rest days, and I’d planned to take a short run with a few intervals tossed in on Friday. Mother Nature had other plans. Like most of the region, the Shenandoah Valley was buffeted by high winds — we saw gusts well over 60 miles per hour here, which was enough to take out a couple of trees behind my home. We were lucky, with one missing the back of the house by about five feet.
I considered going out to fit in my scheduled run, but just couldn’t face trying to push against the powerful winds. In addition to the weather, I was nursing some strange pains. My right hamstring was tight and sore, and the top of my right foot was quite painful, with a limited range of motion. I contented myself with some walks, stretching, and some tape for my foot.
We’ll cut to the chase — I vastly improved my time on the Reston course, completing the race in 1:52:14. That’s not great, but was just over seven minutes faster than my previous outing, last Fall. Then, I had run the Reston Perfect Ten miler in 1:59:17. (The races, with a few small differences, follow the same basic course.) Mentally, this one was a mess — I was literally shocked when I compared my times for the two races. If anything, I was sure I had turned in a worse performance this time around.
Problems started at the outset. The race start time was quite cool — around freezing — with gusty winds. I layered up, and did my best to work in some pre-run stretching. My hamstring was feeling better, and the tape seemed to be helping my foot. And I started out a bit faster than I needed to, scoring just under ten minute miles for the first two miles. I’d planned to try and maintain a steady pace through the race, slowing for the worst of the hills. But I took advantage of the mostly downhill start, and adrenaline carried me through the second mile where you start to climb the first of the hills.
It was, of course, a mistake. The faster pace, combined with working against the wind in spots, took a toll. Although I started to recover for the last few miles, that was the fastest I’d go as I steadily slowed through most of the rest of the race — even for downhill sections of the course. I walked through the water stops, and slowed a couple of times to take off a jacket that had become much too warm as the race progressed, and temperatures rose.
I tried to take advantage of the downhill sections to make up time (and the final result shows it helped), but my times on the uphill segments, and the effort required, were physically and emotionally draining. I was convinced I was running a horrible race, when in reality, I was showing improvement. By the time I finished, my back was quite sore (I stopped at one point to stretch), and the wind had left me coated in sticky dried sweat.
This is running long, so I’ll try to wrap up with some lessons learned.
First, as Yogi cautions us, physical preparation counts. While I’ve been seeing improvement, I’ve still got a ways to go before I’m ready for the Cherry Blossom. In particular, my weight continues to stubbornly refuse to drop, even with diet and exercise. It’s been too long since I’ve been in the gym — the yoga helps maintain flexibility, but I need to pick up the weight training to strengthen my back and other muscles that don’t get a workout on runs.
Second, mental preparation is nearly everything. Writer Annie Lamot is known for the expression, “My mind is like a bad neighborhood — I try not to go there alone.” There’s a lot of humor in that, but for anyone who’s tried to work through depression or self-doubt, there’s a lot of poignancy as well.
Sunday, my mind was the worst of neighborhoods. While the weather and conditions played a part, it was mostly self-inflicted damage. Although I’d run the course before, I failed to review my past performance and bring a plan for the race. (And I failed to follow even the simplistic plan I devised on race day.) Knowing my previous times and performance would likely have helped bring me out of the negative self-talk I encountered through much of the race, and that might have helped improve my time — or at least, how I felt about the run.
Anyway, it’s a new week. Time to regroup and recover, and keep heading on the path to the CUCB race. Be sure to follow the link below to read about the training experiences of my fellow bloggers — and have a great week.