Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Junk Running vs. Mental Training

On Saturday I participated in the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail marathon for the third year in a row. The conditions were the best they've been compared to the past two years, so I was hoping to improve on my times of 5:50 and 5:56. I put out there a modest goal of 5:45, but was secretly hoping to go sub 5:30. By no means fast at all, it would be a good improvement for me, and my confidence has been increasing over the past month.

In summary, I realized at the aid station at mile 15 that I went out too fast. After refilling my bottles and adding more CarboPro to carry me to the end, I knew I'd need more than that to carry me the rest of the way. My legs were shot. Gone. I wasn't sure if it was the shoes (Salomons), or the fact that I was trying Nuun tabs in my bottles instead of using Succeed salt tabs, or that I was was running on a much flatter and runable course, but I knew it was going to be an ugly 11 miles.

I kept moving and tried to run as much as I could. I had my goal time that I wanted to reach, so I made it more of a mental run than a physical one. I managed to finish in 5:37, but I hurt. I hurt bad. I don't know what it is about that course, but my legs ache so much afterwards.

I tried to carry the mental training over to Sunday when I put in 16 miles on the MMT course. I started at 211 and ran up to Gap/Jawbone II, and saw part of the course for the first time in the daylight (Scothorn Trail). From Gap, I went up to Jawbone and came back down Kerns Mountain and to 211, as I would be doing on the first part of the course. The first part was tough going as the legs did not want to move, and when they did, they were pretty stiff. I was able to run most of Scothorn, which could be really muddy race day, and moved along at a good pace. The views atop Kerns Mountain are unbelieveable, as is the terrain. This was about a 5 mile section that started to drain on me, which is where the mental training kicked in.

I started thinking about how a handful of people I know doing MMT ran the 50k on Saturday and are probably putting in more miles on Sunday than I was. Thoughts like this would cause me to lose my concentration, stumble, kick rocks, get off course, or start walking. I would feel sorry for myself. I would feel undertrained, out of shape, and wonder if I have what it takes to beat the cut off time. These miles felt like junk.. worthless.. pointless.. if I wasn't getting any faster, and just getting heavy, lead legs.

There was a lot of self doubt, but something that kept me going; something that kept me moving. I decided to listen to that voice to keep me moving, keep me motivated. I also looked at my watching, knowing company would be over early in the evening and we still had a lot to do, so that kept me moving, too. Total time on the course was just under 5 hours for 16 miles.

It felt good, but I almost feel like I'm spending too much time out on the course by getting out there every weekend. What sort of training am I doing? Is it just time on my feet/time on the rocks? Will I be faster, or just have more knowledge of the course and time between aid stations? Is it making me tougher mentally, or breaking me down?

I hope I can answer these questions before May.


At 6:09 PM, Blogger Xena said...

You are an amazing athlete. Take a day off, eat a pop tart, and get your stoke back.


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