The Hardest Part of Marathon Training & Boston Prep Week 12 Re-Cap
I have identified a pattern in how I race and even how I train. There is this (whatever the opposite of sweet is) spot after the halfway point but not close enough to the end to really be motivated where I tend to lose focus. This happens pretty much every race I run and it happens in training too. I just completed week 12 of 18 so I am over halfway but not quite close enough to tapering to really feel motivated. Coincidentally, in training as well in racing, this tends to be the hardest part - but potentially also the most rewarding. This week is a 60+ mile week with a 2 x 3 mile track workout yesterday and a 9 mile tempo Thursday capped off by a 20 mile long run on Saturday. I have to admit that heading into this week I was not really excited at all. My body feels like it has gone through a war and lost. Even after my amazing massage, I am still working way too hard to hit my paces and my recovery runs are becoming slower. The only place that things really feel like they are going well for me is on the track. Yesterday's workout felt pretty great but today my legs felt like they were glued to the pavement until about mile 2 of my recovery run. I am managing to keep the little twinges I am getting here and there in check through foam rolling, self massage and grinding that shit out with a baseball, but the sciatic nerve issues in my left leg seem to be travelling below my knee and giving me strange sensations when running. But at the end of the day, these are all pretty minor and I feel confident that after some quality taper time and more massage my body will be ready when it comes to race day.
The bigger question is how will my mind be and what can I do differently to make it through the post heartbreak hill pre seeing the Citgo sign slump that occurs around mile 20? Every time I PR its by about a minute or so. I have never had a huge PR race and I think a large part of that is due to the fact that I give myself leeway at that 2/3 of the way finished to chill out a bit. I do the math and figure out even if I slow down a bit I will still PR. I am doing the physical training so my body will be prepared but if my mind isn't as strong, I won't be able to push through the doubt and discomfort.
I have found that the best runs I have been having recently are either out on the trails where I feel more of a connection to my surroundings and usually am overcome with joy and gratitude for the beauty around me and the fact that my body can carry me through it. I also tend to have really good runs the day after a good yoga class. There are certainly physical reasons why I feel better on these days: trails are generally softer and kinder on the body and yoga stretches and strengthens the entire body, but I think the mental benefits of these two activities have as much to do with feeling good as the physical. Meditation is - at its core - about developing a relationship with breathing and includes practicing contemplation on gratitude, motivation and generosity with the goal of being more mindful and connected to your surroundings. Trail running and yoga incorporate all of these things as well so it is no wonder they have such a positive impact on my overall attitude.
Meditation & Running
I decided to look into the connection between meditation and running and was pleased to discover that one of the highest buddhist monks, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, is an avid runner and has written an entire book about running and meditation. His 5 tips really resonate with me so I will share them here:
1) The first technique is mindfulness. We simply bring our mind to whatever activity we are doing and observe it in a nonjudgmental way. In running, we can be mindful of our breathing, the landing of our feet and the swinging of our arms.
2) The next technique is appreciation that brings joy. While running, it is important to allow ourselves to appreciate what we are doing -- and enjoy it.
3) The next technique is challenge. Another aspect of building mind-body synchronicity is seeing the benefits of challenging ourselves. Within every run or meditation session, there will always be challenges. Rather than see them as problematic, we can regard them as new frontiers for growth and strength.
4) The next technique is purpose. Whether we are meditating or running, having purpose is essential because it gives the mind a way to orient itself.
5) The next technique is worthiness. The integration of running and meditation results in a feeling of worthiness. When mind and body come together, we feel good because we are thoroughly engaged. Great vitality and power occur: we feel worthy to be who we are, where we are and doing what we are doing.
I also reached out to my college room mate Megan Monahan who is now a mediation leader at the Chopra center in San Diego for some pointers on how to start meditating at home and as if by some higher power she sent me a guided meditation she recorded for the LA marathon before even seeing my request. So crazy! Anyways. I am really excited to be able to share this guided meditation with you.
Get comfortable and follow this roughly 10 minute guided mediation for marathon runners:
Boston Training Week 12
Monday: Easy 5 miles at NP, followed by PT
Tuesday: 45 minute bike trainer workout, 3 mile bike ride to massage, core work, massage, 5 mile bike ride to work
Wednesday: PT and core at NP, 10 mile run @ 7:54 mm in GG Park, saw an awesome moon, a raccoon and an owl.
Friday: 2 mile warm up, 8 miles @ 6:48 average, 2 mile cool down. Go the tempo miles in but stopped a cpl times for water and generally felt it was more effort than it should be for "half marathon pace"
Saturday: 10 blissful miles on the trails. 9:05 mm avg, 1500 feet of elevation
Sunday: 13 miles @ 7:35 mm avg.. last 2 had very little zest in them so I stopped and picked up the dog to take him for a cpl miles. Nothing like the look on a dogs face when he's running to get you through a cpl hard miles.