Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mental Fitness

There are now four days until the Pocatello Marathon!

At this point, the physical preparation is done. I have done the work. I have done A LOT of work. In this training cycle I have done high mileage weeks, killer track work-outs, and long runs chock full of miles at race pace and faster. I have not skipped a run or a workout (or even a mile). I have run a lot of hills, up and down. I set new PR's at the 5k and at the half-marathon distance. I have stayed healthy. I have seen and felt progress.

At this point there is nothing to be done for my physical fitness before Saturday except to rest, elevate my feet, stay hydrated, eat well, and respect the taper.

But there is plenty I can still do my for mental fitness.

Since I started running, I have be proud of mental toughness, and I have seen it as one of my biggest strengths as a runner. I have gotten out of bed every day to get my runs in, no excuses. I run by myself on almost all of my runs, and always on all of my tough runs/workouts. It is just me, my Garmin, my internal drive, my dreams, and my commitment, out on the roads or the track. I push myself hard, even when no one is watching. I never quit.

Very little sleep? Freezing temps? Rain? Head cold? Family stress? Busy day? I run anyway. I do work hard, and I am proud of that, and at the end of the day I think it will make the difference in my running.

I have always been confident in my running, excited about racing, and had a great mental game for marathons. But somewhere in the Boston Marathon, I got shaken. I know that my 3:37 finish, a Boston Qualifying time in 90 degree heat, was a decent run. I know that the crazy heat that day affected everyone and that for me to PR in those conditions (especially when I had been running in snow the week before) was not realistic. What bothered me though was that somewhere in those final miles - somewhere in between the six times I had to stop with a sick stomach and the times I let myself walk because I was so hot and sick feeling - I felt like I had been mentally defeated. I couldn't push myself any harder. I was not confident. The heat beat me, and I doubted myself.

I tried not to let that seed of doubt plant itself in my head. I tried not to water it or feed it. Despite that, it sprouted. I trained hard after Boston. I had many successful workouts and training runs. I had no reason to doubt myself. I believed that Utah Valley was going to be an awesome race for me, and a huge PR. And yet it didn't happen. High winds, a sore hip that came out of nowhere, and deep down, I think a lack of confidence and mental strength led to my first DNF. Choosing not to push through a race that was going terribly was probably the smart choice (especially with Ragnar Ultra a week later and Pocatello three months later), and yet I hope I never again feel, physically and mentally, the way I felt on the course that day.

So I have been putting a lot of work into my mental fitness, along with my physical fitness. I have read "The Mental Edge" and "Mind Gym", both of which I highly, highly recommend for athletes. Instead of ignoring the sprouted seed of doubt and pretending it wasn't there, I have ripped it out and thrown it away. There is no place for doubt in my mind or my heart.

This week I have been looking over my workouts since Utah Valley, and letting myself SEE and soak in how very much I have accomplished. 95 miles in a week? 20 mile run with 16 miles at race pace or faster? 8x800's on an 18 mile day, with all of the intervals in 2:57 or faster? Yeah, I DID THAT.

I have been reading all of my old race reports and absorbing the excitement, joy, and accomplishment.

I have been thinking about how full of gratitude I am for all of the love, support, and encouragement that I get from Josh and for how amazing he is and how much I love him. To have Josh and my family and friends supporting me, encouraging me, and believing in me is a powerful thing.

I have been so grateful for the love and support I get from my parents, family, and friends.

I have been taking the feelings of nervousness and transforming them into excitement and joy about the opportunity to race this weekend with my Jennifer and other friends.

I have been thinking about how much I truly love to run. 

I have also made a list of positive statements, thoughts, mantras, etc. that I have used while running and that give me a mental boost. I have been reading through the list several times throughout the day and will use a few of these at least during the race on Saturday.

Here is the list. (Some are parts of quotes, parts of scriptures, lines from a book, lines from songs, things people have told me, etc. Some I have modified a little.)

- I want to see you fly. (from my sweet Josh)
- Breakthrough!! (Thanks Rick)
- You are built to run fast. (Bart Yasso told me that!)
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
- I am not afraid.
- I was born to do this.
- I am ready.
- Your best is good enough.
- Victory lap!
- Seabiscuit
- Heart Power
- The hard work is done.
- Fun turns pressure into pleasure.
- Awake and Alive
- I want it more.
- Be the Dream
- can-do attitude
- Trust in my talent
- Running is a gift from God
- Let me be brave
- The hard makes it great
- Attitude is everything
- run in the moment
- in the present there is no pressure
- nice and easy
- Relax - breathe - focus
- dissolve the pain
- Go with the flow
- I am a fighter
- Enjoy the moment
- Find love and joy in what you do
- Let your light shine
- This train don't stop
- Never give up
- Warrior Mentality
- Run Happy! 
- Results will take care of themselves 
- Give it all you've got
- Trust in my body
- Just run your race
- Bring it on!
- I freaking got this!
- Be the lion.
- Thoroughly enjoy the process

What would you add to the list? Do you work on your mental fitness along with your physical fitness?


Gracie said...

Your workouts sound to me like you could go a lot faster than your current goal. I can't wait to read the results!

Christy @ My Dirt Road Anthem: A Runner's Blog said...

GOod luck!

One of my favorites is "enjoy being fast" Your training is amazing!

L.A. Runner said...

"Seabiscuit"- Love it!

This is a great and honest post, Erin. Last year, I had a very long spell of "downers." Out of nowhere I had a ton of unmet goals and crazy instances happen to me. It all happened during a time when *thought* I would be running my best. My spell lasted about 3 months. While it was totally craptastic, I came away with many life lessons.

Sometimes we don't get what we deserve. This is a terrible thing to deal with- to train so hard and not see the rewards, to have a race go to pot after so much preparation. Then again, sometimes we don't get what we deserve, Thank you, Lord! :)

I wish you all the best, Erin. No matter that clock says this week, you are already a winner! HUGS!

Cory Reese said...

Basically you are going to do awesome and I can't wait to read about you KILLING it!

The only other thing I could think to add to your list would be "It's okay if I blow chunks. That means I'm going super fast."

Amy Lauren said...

You are going to do so awesome :). I love all your inspirational sayings too. Every time I read your blog, it's really incredible and regardless of any race time, your dedication really shows that you're already a winner.

Eevi said...

I can't wait to hear how the race goes. You are truly an inspiration with your work ethic and your ability to push yourself so hard. I am starting my training for my second marathon and I will use you as my role model to push through each run!

You will run so fast and strong!

{lifeasa}RunningMom said...

Awesome and you are such an inspiration!

Mental training is a huge part of my training and I am working more and more on it. This month my thought process has been "train hard August" as once September hits I am going to have to think more about tapering and less about building in order to race a good marathon on the 16th.

Some of my favorite go to's are:

I need you now Dad. It makes me think about my Dad, how precious life is, and that running is a gift from God. It is what my spirit is meant to do and inner peace helps me overcome the mental hurdles.

One step at a time.

Stay in the present.

Relax. Enjoy. Run.

By the way, I am also registered for my 3rd marathon to take place on 12/9 and have been meaning to ask your advice on how to best move from race day on 9/16 to training for 12/9. I haven't decided about the proper down time.....

Happy Running Mama said...

I can't wait to read your race report!

One of my favorite sayings I think of before a race is simply: Trust Yourself

You have done the work and it will pay off during the race! Good luck!!


Raina said...

A lot of hard work has built up to this one. You HAVE it. No doubt about it!
Great effort on those workouts. It sounds like you are mentally prepared too. I like to remember to "embrace the pain" because it is only for a little while. The satisfaction will be there for a lifetime. Also, I like to remember...whatever it is Lord, let it be for YOUR glory.:)

Have a super race, Erin! You have earned it.

Terzah said...

I have been thinking a lot about you and this race, and I'm very excited for you. Since I'm going to Mumford & Sons tomorrow night, the quote that runs through my head for you is from their new song:

"Raise my hands, paint my spirit gold"

You can and will do it--you will exceed your own expectations.

Beth @ Miles and Trials said...

One of my race music songs (I rarely listen to music during training, but will use it the latter half of a marathon to pump me up) is Eminem's Lose Yourself. Some of the lyrics are just plain gross, but what I focus on is "this opportunity comes once in a lifetime". It just gets me fired up during a race. I know that in reality there will always be another marathon, but it makes me feel like this is it, I've prepared for this day and I must lay it all on the line.

Wishing all the best. I know you are going to rock it this weekend!

Adrienne said...

Mental fitness is SO important! So much so I specialize in it:)

Go in prepared for everything, but with a positive outlook and a willingness to take some risks out there, and you'll do awesome!

Good luck and positive thoughts for your race this weekend.

Jen@runfortheboys said...

Your list rocks and you are the toughest chick I know - mentally and physically!

Nicole said...

Run Strong, Think Big!

You got this. You will have a great race!

Kortni said...

What a great list! I love "Be the Lion" It reminds me of the Newsboys song which always gets me moving!

Wishing you a strong and fun race!

Jlern1 said...

I am so excited for you this weekend and I will be praying for you....that everything which you can't control falls into place, and that all that you have done will pay off! Your quotes are great and another good one is "The pain is temporary, the pride is forever." Wishing you the best!!! (and your BFF Jennifer too!)

coach dion said...

So it's almost time to relax, and when you relax (taper) don't worry about the marathon, the training is in the log book and it's a thing of the past...

The race will happen, and if you spend time worrying about it you could use all your energy before you start running (My guess as to what happened at Boston!)

So yes Mental fitness is needed, or more so mental rest (tapering)!!!

Momshomerun said...

I agree that running makes you stronger mentally. Since I've become a runner I have much more confidence in myself and that I can get things done.

I wish you all the best for the marathon!

MizFit said...

for me it is 100% mental.
which is why Im not a great or strong runner.


fancy nancy said...

Mental toughness can make or break a run. You my dear have more mental toughness than most! I can't wait to hear all about the race!!

My Dad used to always say, "Do your best and let God do the rest!"

Mark Matthews said...

Love this post. Both because I was curious how your brain works, and because I love the mental side of running.

One thing I say in my brain, over and over, while running a marathon is: "There is no tomorrow! There is no tomorrow!"

Or I ask myself again and again "What are you made of?" of course, I only ask this when I can answer back something motivational and inspiring.

I also love snippets of music and lyrics that tap into my mental state. Or I just make loud, grunting and roaring sounds, usually only in my head, but others may be able to hear them as well.

Abbey said...

Love this! Good luck this weekend!

jayloh said...

I need to bookmark this post for inspiration down the road!
I'm sure you know that your experiences at your last 2 marathons shaped the runner you will be at this next one. Without them, you may not have had this fire you do, right now!

My current mantra, while recovering from injury, is "this WILL pay off!"

Good luck and can't wait to hear all the gory details.

Anonymous said...

Hi Erin,
I love reading your blog and I thought this entry was especially inspiring! One mantra that helped me during the DC Rock and Roll Marathon was:

"Run the mile you're in."

It helped me remember to take one mile at a time.

Thanks for passing along your collection of mantras. Will definitely be helpful as I get ready for the Rochester, NY Marathon in September!

Have fun this weekend!

-Tiffany K. from Syracuse, NY

Laura @ Mommy run fast said...

I love that list! I've been thinking so much about mental toughness lately, from reading a few ultrarunning books (Running on Empty, and currently Eat & Run)- it's such an important piece! Glad you're soaking up all that hard work you put in and trusting yourself. It may not be fun toward the end, but you can (and you WILL) do it!

KimPossible said...

You are amazing, Erin!

lindsay said...

i won't lie... i'm pretty jealous of these workouts and your speed. when you run that sub-3 you're going to have to give me some tips! :)

Vicky Cook said...

Go get it! Will be thinking of you!

Allison said...

I LOVE this list! Mental fitness is SO important and, I believe, it is completely linked to our physical fitness. A favorite new mantra I would add is:

"Feel your feet"

I heard this at a conference and immediately fell in love with it. It reminds me to stay present in the moment and focus on feeling the ground move beneath my feet. It takes my mind off of how much more I need to go, allows me to focus on how far I've come, and helps me enjoy where I am right now. Feel your feet, Erin, and fly in your upcoming race! I believe in you!

Cindy said...

Hi, Erin,

Good luck this weekend! You'll do great. And this is a great post. I loved reading all of your mantras - I do the same thing; I even keep a list on my phone that I look at when things start to wane in the confidence department. I have two to add, the first one I just posted in FB yesterday: "breath, believe and battle." That's from Carrie Walsh Jennings and Misty May Trainer. Second one is courtesy of my daughter, and I use it in every race, because she came up with it for my last marathon:

"hit it, babe." :-)

So get out there and hit it, babe - you've freaking got this!