On Sunday, I ventured out into the pitch blackness of 4am to run my long run before hubby and I had to leave for a retreat in Escondido at 7am. For the record, the sun rises around 6:30am in San Diego, so I ran the entire run in the dark and contemplated my insanity the entire time. Also of note, I was not the only crazy person out during the super-wee hours of morning. I actually came across 78 people during the two and half hours I was running around in the dark. Yes, I counted them. And no, most of them were not partaking in healthy endeavors like me… Anyhow, I had covered 16 miles by 6:45am and normally, I would feel proud, pumped and motivated by a (fanatical) accomplishment like this, but this time, it left me feeling, well, ridiculously tired (I took a three hour nap after the retreat). And more troubling, it left me feeling burnt out!
I bullied myself into squeaking out an easy (but pathetic) four-miler yesterday and woke up this morning knowing I needed to rest. Actually, I feel like I need to rest for a month, but with a marathon in 12 days, that’s just not an option. Maybe this is what a marathon taper is supposed to feel like? Or maybe I’ve just hit the proverbial wall we hear so much about in endurance sports? Wikipedia even has a page dedicated to “hitting the wall,” which is characterized by “sudden fatigue and loss of energy.”
I’m not talking about the “wall” of depleted glycogen stores. I’m talking about a mental wall, characterized by sudden loss of all motivation.
I’m tired of running, tired of thinking about running, and tired of trying to keep my head “in the game.” During our walk this morning, I found myself telling hubby, I just don’t care about my time/speed goals as much as I did a few months ago. And then I started blabbering on about how it’s not so much that I don’t care (because heck yes I do!), but it’s more like I don’t think I’m capable of hitting my goals in 12 days. I’m feeling all down on myself, full of pessimism and doubt. All of this got me wondering if this (pessimism) is my “game plan.”
It’s no secret that I can be a pessimist. I don’t like the term “pessimist.” I prefer realist… though I will admit I have some really weird and cynical tendencies. For example, I’m the worrywart who didn’t learn to drive until I was almost 21 because of an (irrational) fear of dying a car wreck (hey, people get in wrecks every day). I’m also the Debbie Downer who makes strange comments during canoe trips, like: “I wonder if there are dead bodies at the bottom of this river?“ And while I’m out for runs at 4am, I plot ways to ward off attackers and shield my vital organs if I get hit by a car while crossing the street. Go ahead, judge me, but I’ll be ready when the worst happens (I’ll also be grateful when it doesn’t)!
Maybe those examples are less pessimistic than they are just plain morbid, but the bottom-line is that I’m crazy-bananas. And it’s apparent with how I’m feeling about next weekend’s marathon. I’ve had my best round of marathon training (in ten marathons!) and yet, I’m doubting myself…
Like I said, it’s a weird, twisted form of race strategy that I do unintentionally. I convince myself that I’m weak and incapable of accomplishing my goals and then I go out there and absolutely blow my goals out of the water, surprising myself and accomplishing what I’ve convinced myself was impossible.
But is the race pessimism worth it…?
Rob Udewitz, a clinical psychologist practicing in New York City and an avid runner, wrote his doctoral dissertation on the thought processes of high school runners. He studied a high school cross-country team, asking certain runners to try to distract themselves during painful and stressful moments in competition. A second group of runners, meanwhile, focused on their pain and stress, working through the rough patches with the help of guided positive thinking. Udewitz found that the latter group ran faster and, more importantly, said they enjoyed the sport more.*
*Brant, J. (2007, April 25). A Mile For Your Thoughts. Runner’s World. Retrieved September 27, 2011, from
I love running, but if I ditch the pessimism, I could love it even more?!?! Um, hi, I’m sold! Now what will it take to leave the gloomy Gus in the dust…? Brant continues by suggesting:
- Runners at Bingham High, for instance, follow meticulous pre-meet rituals, leaving little to chance. “Everything from their seat on the bus to how they fold their warm-up suits to the brand of energy bar they’re carrying is part of the ritual,” Arbogast says. “Routine gets the body/mind working in synergy, and good thoughts tend to follow.”
- Sports psychologists say that rather than deny defeatist thoughts, young runners should acknowledge them, analyze them, and learn to convert [defeatist thoughts] into affirmations.
- Udewitz treats fearful, pessimistic runners in a similar manner. “I try to bring [them] back to the present… I’ll go out on a hard run with a [runner], and midway through I’ll ask: ‘How do you feel right now?’ Almost always, the answer is: ‘Pretty good.’… The goal is to focus on uncomfortable thoughts without being overly reactive,” he says. “You want to relax and sit with those thoughts instead of denying them or fleeing them. It’s crucial for [runners] to know that other [runners] are thinking the same things.”
To summarize, my goal is to work through this “rough patch” by focusing on positive thinking.
- Visualize success every day!
- Counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
- Stay in the present moment (ahem, I’m not running 26.2 until 10/9, so chill out, Chuck!).
- And know that all marathoners are crazy-bananas like me and they’re all battling their own “walls” too.
How do you maintain positivity leading up to race day?
Any suggestions for how I can stay positive over the next 12 days?