Monday, March 10, 2014

The Highs and Lows of Marathon Training

Its race week already and I can't believe it!  Time has simply flown by, as it often seems to do when you're focused on a daily routine of life, training, work, etc.  However, whenever you look back on the past training cycle, it's important to look at the whole picture.  I can't help but reflect on the highs and lows that accompany every marathon training cycle.  We all face them.  Even the professionals.  So for the ease of organization and reading, here is a quick list of the ones I've been able to reflect from my own training experiences:

The Highs
  • The Runners High:  That daily dose from getting in a run, whether its a quick shakeout or an epic long run.  Who doesn't love that hit of endorphins!
  • Being Part of the .5%: Marathon training is accomplishing something few others will ever achieve.  Its difficult, especially when you're immersed in the sub-culture of uber fit athletes, to realize just how many people don't work out.  Turns out, 99.5% of the population don't run marathons.  Clearly, you're not one of them.  Congrats!
  • Marathon fitness: There's something about being able to go out and crush 20+ miles on any given day that makes you feel super fit.  Now granted, many marathoners probably can't do 25 pushups so its a different kind of fitness, but you simply feel like you're on top of the world when you're out there going long. 
  • Food.  Lots of it.  When you're in the thick of training, you rarely think twice about that second serving of dinner or dessert.  Of course, once taper time hits, it all changes and that little devil on your shoulder is telling you to take another, while it takes all of your willpower to just say no.
The Lows
  •  Mental drain: There's no doubt that training for a marathon is a long process that requires consistency and patience.  Toward the end of training, no matter how dedicated you are, the training just gets old.  This doesn't happen every day or even every training cycle, and there are certainly tactics to beat this mindset, but we all suffer from it at some point.  The key is to just take things day by day and forget about the end result.  You'll get there.
  • Head Games: We all have them.  We try to ignore them.  But they exist.  Have you thought to yourself: "Can I really run THAT far or fast for that long?  How am I going to do that on race day!"  They can really get to you, especially with a string of bad runs during the training cycle.  Just keep going.  Those thoughts will fade.
  • Too much of a good thing: It's easy to get caught up in the training and feel invincible once you start hitting those big mileage weeks.  And often times, we just want to keep piling on more, especially if we are still feeling good, without adequate rest.  This usually results in injury or overtraining a few weeks down the road when the fatigue finally catches up to you.  If you have a plan, stick with it and don't try to overachieve.  More does not always equal better.
  • Paralysis of Analysis: How many times have you sat there and tried to figure out how many different ways you can achieve your goal time?  By negative, even, and/or positive splitting?  Run/walking? If it's hot, cold, or windy?  Maybe it's time to step away from the Excel spreadsheet model you've just created with every variable plotted out.
  • Taper crazies: Whether you like it or not, taper is part of the deal.  From 3 weeks to 10 days, it makes you a little bit nutty no matter how long you taper.  In the blink of an eye, you can be convinced you have a major injury, only to show up on race day and forget all about that random tightness in your hip. Here's a tip: those phantom pains aren't real.  It's all in your mind.
With all the highs and lows, its easy to get stuck on one side or the other.  Hopefully, you spend more time enjoying training than hating it, but not all training cycles are created equal. The important point is that neither side, good or bad, should determine what you do on race day.  If you did the work, then you prepared for the race.  It's as simple as that.  And as long as you know you are entering the race prepared (even if you're a little under trained), you should feel confident that you'll be able to execute on race day.

Some of the worst training cycle experiences have resulted in the best races.  At the end of the day, you'll most likely remember the positives, once all the negative stuff fades away into a distant memory.  So you might as well make the most of it, right?

Here's to hoping you are able to bring out the best in yourself on race day!  Go get it!

1 comment:

Kimberly Westrich said...

Great list. Good luck on your race thus weekend!


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