Two weeks ago I ran the Chicago Distance Classic. It's a half marathon that starts in Grant Park and heads south to Hyde Park and then routes us back north along the lake. In theory, the course sounds grand. Runners can distract themselves the second half of the race with the beauty of Lake Michigan and the giant skyline of the city. But in reality, there was a massive tailwind the first half which in turn means that there's a massive headwind on the way back. Not only did we have the wind to contend with, we had to manuever through other runners and cyclists sharing the path. You'd think the organizer could shut down the path for the 8500 runners running this race. Not only did the organizer miss this point, but he also created a course that was 13.27 miles. .15miles too long! I thought something was funny when my mile splits were all fairly even until mile 7, where I was more than a minute off pace. I mean the wind was strong, but not THAT strong. I expected mile 8 to be short but not so. I was back to my pace. Then at mile 10, we had another long mile and no short miles to counter. I'm so happy that I wasn't using this race to qualify for coralls like so many people do. I would have finished very frustrated for sure.
My foot cooperated, mostly, during the race. I was able to endure it anyway. My goal was to make this a training run and run about my marathon pace. I was right on, mostly, despite the long course. Not bad for barely running the weeks leading up to this. Not a half marathon PR by any means, but I did PR in the mind game department.
I was reading some running psychology stuff lately because I think that's my real trouble. I know I can run fast for a long time, but can so easily just stop and forget it. I can focus for weeks and weeks training and then come race time, I give up too easily because it hurts. I thought I'd give some of the psychology a try in this run. I was going to try to not walk through the later water stations (total beginner thing I know) and also just try to push through when it wasn't going well. Once I hit that wind on the way back, it was perfect to practice this self talk psychology. Legs cramping, foot burning, I began to chant. "This is only making me stronger, this is only making me stronger, this is only making me stronger..." It seemed to work. Next I tried what Paula Radcliff does - count steps. I got pretty bored of this around 250 so I returned to my chant. I think I said it about 3000 times by the time it was all over.
This week was one of my first "real" training weeks. Tuesday I ran 12 miles with 6 at tempo pace. I usually get so nervous before my tempo runs. It's a silly waste of energy I know, but I'm very type A. But on this day, I wasn't going to get nervous. I was just going to go run and run the "tempo" that felt comfortably hard. I gave myself a big range of pace and shot for the slow end of that. First mile was on the fast end, second mile on the slow, then I was smack dab in the middle. That 6th mile I needed to dig for that psychology. "This is getting me closer to my goal, this is getting me closer to my goal, this getting me closer to my goal." And I finished this last mile as the fastest one. Good stuff.
So on I go. Bring on the marathon.