Friday, October 14, 2011

My Most Memorable Marathon Moments

Now that I am not so sore and the memory of pain is fading from Sunday's race, I wanted to share a few moments that stood out for me during the 26.2.  What were your best memories?

1.  The buzzing at the start line.  The nervous energy throughout the crowd as the National Anthem was sung, the elite runners were announced and the countdown to the start.

2.  Seeing my best friend cheering me on at mile 4.  She came down all the way from Wisconsin to surprise me!

3.  In Chinatown, I witnessed a 30-something male leaning against a utility pole clutching his quad.   A Chinese grandmother ran over and started pounding rapidly on his leg.   I am not certain that she knew him, but I am certain that she was trying to help!

4.  The deja vu I felt at my low point- the frontage road near White Sox field.  As soon as I was chugging along in the sun all my memories from 2010 came flooding back.  This is where I was mentally exhausted, my legs felt like concrete slabs, and I still had about 3.5 miles to go.    This was when I said in 2010 "this is my last marathon" and I know I uttered those words again this year.

5.  The Nike Cheerzone on S. Michigan Ave- thank you for being there.  You were a light near the end of the tunnel.

6.  The "trail of tears" after the Nike Cheerzone.  People were honestly dropping like flies.  It went like this: Lean over, clutch aching muscle, limp to the side of the street, crumple to the ground.  I saw this happen at least 10 times in the last two miles and just prayed it would not happen to me.

6.  Crossing that finish line- does it really get any better than that?!?!?!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Recap

As I type these words I am not sure if I am quite ready to write the race recap.  My body is aching, my mind is sluggish and I have blisters the size of quarters on my toes.  Right now I hate the marathon.  I am sure many of you who ran yesterday can empathize with me- it is a tough event.

The day turned out to be warm, but not nearly as hot as I expected.  There was a cool breeze blowing most of the race.  The first 13 miles flew by- through the loop, boystown, old town and out to the west loop.  A good portion of that half is in the shade and the miles flew by.   I was doing well the entire first half.  Miles 14 and 15 felt pretty good.  And then it started- a dull ache in my hip.  I have been in PT the last several weeks for my hip and thought it was back to normal.  After 15 miles, my body begged to differ.

I plowed through those last 10 miles at the most painful, harrowing 10 minute mile pace you could imagine.  It was a mind game to not just start walking.  Thanks so much to friends who were cheering and supporting me along the way.  Between Chinatown and the last stretch of Michigan Ave is where you get to have a personal struggle between your body and mind..  There is an ugly stretch of frontage road where the crowd is sparse, the sun is beating and you just want. to. be. done.  But you still have 5 miles to go.  

Once I made that last left turn I could start to see the light.  The Nike Cheer Zone was awesome and I am pretty sure many of the spectators were drunk, which makes for loud cheering.  I dug deep and could not even feel my legs on the last little hill towards the finish line.   As much as I hated myself during those last 10 miles and despite the pain, crossing that finish line is a glorious feeling.

There is a reason I call myself a  "triathlete" and "triathlon coach."  Racing in a triathlon is what I love to do.  Yesterday's event was a true challenge for my mind and body but I am not convinced that it made me feel good, like a triathlon would.   Like many others, I said "not next year" about running the marathon again.  I think I will come back and try to get my revenge, but I am going to take a few years off.  This bod needs some cross training and year of dedicated tri training.

Congrats to ALL of you out there yesterday, especially those I have coached throughout the years!  You are a marathoner and you should be so proud!

-Coach A

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Get Marathon Ready: Visualization 101

Alright runners, we are in the final hours.  It is time for you to chill out, take a minute, and visualize how you are going to dominate this race on Sunday!  Here is what you need to do.

Find 20 minutes, a quiet room and a comfortable space.   It can even be the time right before you are going to drift off to sleep tonight.  Close your eyes and start to imagine the alarm going off Sunday morning.  Go through your morning routine; eating, getting dressed, making your way to Grant Park.  Imagine the masses of runners heading toward the start and the active warm-up you will do before you make your way into the corrals.   Picture how you want to feel Sunday morning- light on your feet, fit, exhilarated, fast.  Spend several minutes going through the miles in the race; the different neighborhoods, the spectators, the mile markers.  Go to mile 20 where you will have tired legs and mind and use your mental plan to power through.  Place your mind at the last mile where the crowd will get you through to the finish.  Take a few moments and think about how awesome you will feel when you cross that finish line.  Linger here for a bit.  

Once you have made it through your entire race morning you should feel empowered, pumped and completely prepared for your race.  Visualization may seem corny, but it will help calm your mind and body and prepare you for what to expect on race day.  

You are all ready!  See you at the race!
-Coach A

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marathon Mania: Mental Mistakes to Avoid

We are 4 days away!  Woot!  The city is buzzing with excitement, Tom Skilling is getting detailed with the (warm!) forecast, and the athletes are getting nervous.  What a great week!  It's time to get your mental game intact.  Below are a few things you need to avoid:

1.  Phantom Injuries Over the past couple of weeks I have had hip pain, calf pain and IT band pain.  Not to mention signs of a cold and an upset stomach.  The thing about all these symptoms is that they have been fleeting and  random.  But with the occurrence of each one my mind has jumped immediately to the marathon and how this new symptom was going to effect my race.  My guess is that each of these small things happen often, but I typically would not even pay attention to them.  Try not to linger on the small things.   Your body is ready- you will be fine.

2.  Negative Talk/Giving Yourself an Out.  Has someone ever asked you how you plan to do during a race and you reply "I want to break 4 hours, but I have not been sleeping well, been in PT and my stomach hurts today."  Not only is that response mostly negative, but you are giving yourself an out in case you don't have a great race.   Instead with your response, you should just own it. "I plan on breaking 4 hours".  Say it, believe it, do it.

3. Not Having a Mental Plan.  The first half of the marathon is cake.  It's cool, tons of fans and you feel great.  Mile 20-25 are a completely different story.  When your legs feel like lead and negative thoughts are clouding your mind, you need to have a plan.   I remember the exact minute I "gave up" on my Boston dream last year.  It was hot and I was hurting.  I told myself that I did not care if I qualified because I never wanted to do another marathon.   And that was it, I could not trump that thought.  This year I have a few different places to go when I want to give up- those early training mornings, thoughts of my friend Ellen who passed away a couple months ago, and the way I felt looking back at last year's race.  Have a few thoughts in your back pocket that you can pull out when you need a kick in the rear.

Work on getting these things in shape and you are on the right track.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a visualization exercise that will be sure to get you pumped for the big day!
-Coach A