refocusing: t-3 until the Philadelphia Half Marathon

My goal race of the season is just three days away: the Philadelphia Half Marathon on Sunday, November 17. After the Perfect 10, I stated my goals for this race, and I admitted they were loftier, relatively, than goals I’ve made for other races this year. This was because I managed to surpass previous race goals significantly, so I figured why not fear my goal a little bit more? The goals were, simply put: run under 1:30:00, and do so with a negative split. That puts me at an average of under 6:52/mile, which after the Perfect 10, I thought was more doable than I had previously realized. I still think it’s doable. I haven’t missed a long run, workout, or other planned distance run since then. I’ve had some good workouts and ran a 10k PR less than a week later.

But I’m getting tired. 

Obviously, it’s normal to feel like this – not caring as much if I hit fast paces at the end of long runs, wanting to sleep more, wanting to avoid hills (though you wouldn’t think so by the routes I’ve been choosing…) – nearing the end of a training cycle. The thing is, I hardly know what it feels like to be at this point in training. I’ve only ever made it through one other “season,” and that was the one that concluded with the New Jersey Marathon…which I didn’t commit to in earnest until nearly a month before.

I registered for the Philly Half on June 30, the day before the last price increase. I never sign up for races so early, but I did it because…I don’t know. I did it because Steve was doing it. We registered at the same time, and confirmed this via text immediately. Throughout the fall (as you may recall I couldn’t even run when I signed up…), that had been the end goal: run sub-90 together at the Philly Half. I’ve been training and running more races than usual, but they helped me believe that I could gauge my fitness, make as plan, and execute that plan on race day, and that Philly would prove no different. Even workouts and long runs became victorious milestones, and I found myself in a place, mentally and physically, I had never been before. Running fast was fun, and it was happening.

In the past two or so weeks, that feeling has somewhat subsided. I don’t have that awesome feeling at the end of runs that make me toss goals around like, say, how running 3:17 in my next marathon sounds totally doable right now. Like how I never actually get tired when I run and negative split races, so the possibilities are endless. That was how I felt from late September to mid-October. Now, not so much. Nothing hurts. I haven’t skipped anything, like I said. So I can’t possibly be in worse shape. I tried to target what it was that made me feel not as motivated or confident, so I could address it before race day. I came up with a few theories. First was that I had simply lost focus. The Perfect 10 and the 10k were awesome, then there was a period of no racing, Halloween parties and such, the NYC expo which drained me. Among other things. Second was that Steve was gone, and could no longer motivate me every day, which was exactly what he had been doing. I found it hard to believe that one person could have such an effect on my motivation though, being someone who is usually very self-motivated.

Steve. So, I should write a brief explanation. I shall stick to the parts relevant to running and this post, since doing otherwise would be far beyond the realm of my intentions for this blog. This is Steve:

The only pictures of him on this blog are of him dressed as Ironman or on some kind of boat, but I suppose there are worse potential blog identities. Our first run together was the run I wasn’t able to finish: the sudden demise of my IT band on May 16th. On May 17th, my car got totaled, so we joked that he was definitely my bad luck charm. But, once I started running again and after a couple crazy months of being kind of all over the place, geographically and otherwise, we found ourselves actually being able to run together, for real this time. I don’t know exactly why, maybe there are several reasons behind it, but Steve made me see running through a new light this fall. Which, I might add, is really difficult to do to someone who is surrounded by running-related things all day. Maybe it was a combination of his confidence in me and in himself, no-nonsense attitude, and big dreams that made everything just make so much sense to me. It was like, this was the outlook I wanted to have toward running all along, but I was always pressured into believing I needed to be more careful, or else. That I shouldn’t dream too big and say those dreams out loud. Now, here was someone who I could say them to, and they wouldn’t be dismissed or greeted with doubt. Most of all, they would become challenges that weren’t overpowering or stressful, but FUN.The journey would be fun, the reward would be more fun. And the reflection would just cause hunger for more. And I loved it.

Did I mention he's the competitive type?
Did I mention he’s the competitive type?

For reasons beyond his control, he had to temporarily relocate to Oklahoma, as of the week following the Perfect 10. I still have people to run with, sort of. I have people to discuss my race goals with, and talk about my workouts and ask for advice. But it’s not the same, for whatever reason. So, I thought maybe that was why my head doesn’t feel 100% in the game anymore. I was so excited  for the Perfect 10, and distracted from any fears. I don’t doubt that Steve was most of the reason why. I may have signed him up to track me Sunday against his will…accountability is the word of the day.

The third reason I might be feeling a little out of it – and by the way, these are not excuses! In fact, I’m so mad that I’m feeling like this because it’s totally unacceptable; I’m just looking for attitude adjustment opportunities by searching for these reasons – is the end of Daylight Savings. The feeling hit me hard at the exact same time, and I thought it was just the stress of the expo. It makes so much sense though. I know I am very affected chemically by loss of daylight hours and seasonal affective disorder. I should have picked a race that was right before this weekend instead…because this year it might be worse than previous years. If there is a chemical change in the body, of course it’s going to affect things – sleep, which in turn affects mood, motivation, and just the general feeling I have on runs. Sunday morning I felt like stopping at a half mile and laughing at myself, that’s how strange my legs felt, and how awoken-from-deep-sleep my head felt. I should hibernate. I really should. This has led to a “get this over with” attitude towards Sunday, which is not what I want. 

So what am I going to do?

Well, I did one of my favorite runs today, as featured in this post about a “perfect run”: I thought it would be good to go reenact it, or something. I probably should have found a way to cut it two miles short, since I was concerned I overtrained. Oh yeah, that was a fourth theory. When you’re screaming “taper please!” a week from the race, and it’s a half marathon not a marathon, that might be bad? It might be worse when you don’t feel too much better three days out, but I’ll do what I can. It wasn’t so bad. It was sunny…

Other things I think I ‘m going to do include:

  • Make a new mix CD, and include new songs worthy of repeating over and over again so that I can reach into my brain for it during the race if need be. Everything falling into that category now for me is too slow….
  • Read all my blog entries from this fall when I felt awesome.
  • Try my best to REST.
  • Finally figure out what shirt I’m wearing so I can visualize myself racing.
  • Wear compression socks. Maybe even ice.
  • Look at my training log from this fall.
  • Plan strategies according to the  course map.
  • Maybe make Steve give me a pep talk?

And of course, do anything else I can to GET PUMPED because now it’s MY TURN!

corralsMy bib number is 20184 if you are interested in tracking…though you don’t need to know the number to track I think? I’ve never had such a large number or ran in such a big race!


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