In the final weeks leading up to the Rock’n’roll San Diego Marathon, I had the overwhelming urge to stop talking about the race. Somehow, it felt like talking about it would jinx everything.
Now that the race is over, I have so much to tell you!
The Problem with My Training
I was afraid. I was stuck fearing that I wouldn’t get the outcome I wanted. I was scared I couldn’t hit the times I needed to in workouts, I was fearful of injuries, and ultimately anxious that I wouldn’t get the outcome (a 3:3x) I so badly desired.
Nearly every run made me nervous and unless I was running with a friend I was having difficulty finding the joy in all of this.
I needed to get a freaking grip (it’s just running after all) and realized my thoughts were my main weakness, not my training and not my body.
Training My Mind
I thought that running at night in 6 degree wind chills with Ashley during winter months showed my determination and dedication, but the real determination came in the form of trying to change my old thought patterns.
I became as dedicated to the mental aspects of training as I was to the physical.
I bookmarked every article I could find about overcoming mental barriers. I read them and re-read them. I sat them beside my bed at night and referred to them often.
I shared the ideas I read with clients and slowly but surely the ideas became ingrained in my psyche.
I stopped thinking about the outcome of the marathon and started thinking about what I could do in each moment of every workout.
A Breakthrough Workout
About a month before the marathon the mental and physical work started to come together. Previously, I had been selling myself short in workouts. I was too afraid of the next mile or next interval or even worse… failure.
Then one day, I went out for mile repeats and the chatter in my brain changed. I was finally able to clock my first sub 7:00 mile repeats, a pace I should have been hitting all along.
I arrived at the starting line in San Diego an hour before the marathon start. I found a spot in the grass, put the hood of my oversized throwaway sweatshirt over my head, closed my eyes and counted my breath until I reached one hundred.
No matter how my legs were going to feel when the starting gun went off, I was filled with gratitude and somehow the thirty minutes in savasana made me feel like my day was already complete.
I’ve found my new pre-race ritual.
The 3:30 Pace Group
My race plan was lightly sketched out, but the most crucial piece was my sports psych playbook. I wanted to mentally be prepared for any and everything. More than reaching any time goal, I knew I wanted to run the best race I could that day and my mind had to be onboard in order for that to happen.
When the gun went off, I found myself close to the 3:30 pace group. I decided to stick with them for as long as it felt good. And it did feel good until it didn’t.
Sloped roads, eighty-eight percent humidity, a crowded narrow park path, and a giant hill on a sloped road for most of mile 21 were obstacles I was determined to overcome.
If I was going to get my 3:3x it was going to take all I had.
The thought that I wasn’t going to be able to complete the 26.2 miles only popped in my head once… when I was face down on the ground just past mile 14.
I don’t know if I sprained my ankle and slammed into the ground or if I slammed into the ground and then sprained my ankle.
I obviously scared the runners around me as they jumped to help me up (runners are good people). I think I was on the ground for only a few seconds, but as soon as I started running again, I actually thought a DNF might be in the cards.
I erased that thought as soon as it came visible and didn’t think about the fall again until I crossed the finish line.
Doing Math, An Apology to Mike, and Crazy Brain
Positioned somewhere around mile 25 was the one and only Michael Conlon (also known as my physical therapist and I swear the only reason I am still able to run at all). As a Team in Training Coach he was positioned on the course to provide encouragement to the TNT runners.
If you know anything about running, you know that in those last miles you’re a crazy person. Lights seemed to be flashing and I really had no idea if I could BQ or not.
Mike ran up to me and asked how I was doing and about my time. I remember cursing the hill and him asking something about pace and time. To which I replied “I don’t know what my time is.” He politely pointed out that I was in fact wearing a garmin watch which would have my time on it.
Luckily, he also pointed out that since I had been running for 3:20, I still had plenty of time to get to the finish line and still get my 3:3x.
Mike, I’m sorry for being a crazy person. Mile 25 was rough, what can I say?
- I walked half the hill at mile 21.
- I ate like I was at an all you can eat buffet. I had 3 cliff shots, 2 otter pops, a packet of salt and half a pack of honey stinger chews.
- I walked again at mile 23 so I could eat my second otter pop of the day and I swear it saved me.
- I walked through a number of water stops…
And I still managed to snag a BQ.
Thank you for cheering for me and following me on this journey. I’m beyond thrilled, but I also have my eyes on a new prize.
Disclosure: When RNR (aka competitor group) heard that Run for the Red might be cancelled just as last year’s NYCM was cancelled, they invited me to San Diego to participate in this race (and quite honestly this BQ wouldn’t be possible without them). I received a complimentary race entry and they provided me with accommodations. The blood, sweat and tears were all my own and I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity to make my dream come true.