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THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE: Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

The above picture truly captures me in my happy place: body mid-air, arms swaying strong, relaxed posture, music pumping, hint of grimace and determination on my face as I taste the finish line just ahead.  It was taken at mile 13 of the Staten Island Half Marathon last Sunday. 

Ironically, I was actually quite uncomfortable: my calves started cramping around mile 11 because I was lacking salt, I was sweating so much that my glasses were fogging, my toes were starting to get a little bit numb and my brain was trying to lure me into slowing down to a more comfortable breathing pace.  All that is not what was on my mind in the moment the picture happened.  It’s what was in the back of my mind, trying to takeover.  

What was front of mind is a very simple thought, “You are stronger than you think. The uncomfortable will pass.”  I kept saying these phrases over and over again and willing my legs to go a little bit faster, my knees to lift a little bit higher, my breathing to relax. I thought of my training runs where my coach would push me to run tempo pace for miles (a much faster pace) after an easy 10 miles. Even though I was uncomfortable I knew that eventually I’d settle down and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

 

Since January 2013 I have run five Half Marathons (13.1 miles) and all within a finish time range of 2:10-2:14.  I finished the Staten Island Half in 2:04. Not a PR (Personal Record) or the sub-2 hours I so very much long to achieve and not my best Staten Island Half time (last year in 2012 I finished in 2:02) but I gave it my absolute hardest effort. Can’t ask for anything more of myself.

I realized after finishing the Staten Island Half that my legs have two marathons on them over the past year. Although I’d like to believe this fact makes me stronger, it can also make me plateau and face more muscle fatigue. (And oh have I: shins, plantar fascia, calf pains, hamstring tightening!) None of this matters. Comes with the training. I need to just stay relaxed, listen to my body, rest when I should rest during taper, believe in my strength and go as hard as I can for that finish line.

Although I’m not smiling in the above picture, a picture that truly captures my happy place, as soon as I rushed across the finish line, I was smiling ear to ear with immense satisfaction and pride.  I just LOVE that finish line!

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The “Take It Easy” vs “Pass One More Ass” Strategies

I’ve just started reading Hal Higdon’s book “Marathon: The Ulimate Training Guide”.  Practically every page makes some kind of profoundly inspiring statement about running a marathon that just tugs at my heartstrings and makes me bawl up in tears!  

He says the training should begin around 16-18 weeks from the marathon date so for me that will mean in June.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not already focusing on keeping a steady and consistent running schedule to keep my legs strong and endurance at its strongest level.   He suggests keeping a diary or a blog throughout your training.  Check! Already on it. 

This Saturday I’m running a lovely 10k NYRR race in Central Park.  My strategy is to run it for speedwork.  I’ve been trying to improve my pace this past year into the 9:30 – 10:00min pace range for runs over 5 miles. 

On Jan 21 I’m looking forward to running the Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park.  For that one I just want to have a steady 10:30 pace which will be the same pace I had for the Staten Island Half, Grete’s Gallop and Queens Halfs in 2011.  Grete’s Gallop was also a half marathon in Central Park and it was, by far, the hardest course I have ever run.  The rolling hills were just that, rolling… and endless. Even the last 5 miles, up and down, up and down.  So my attitude is to just take it easy and focus on having fun and finishing.

Funny how I mentally go into races generally thinking I’ll take it easy and just push when I can, and cruise when I want, don’t overdo anything, just focus on finishing and having fun.  But then once I cross the Start Line the ‘Take It Easy’ strategy flies off with the breeze of a pack of runners and I’m suddenly pushing myself to pass one more ass.  The ‘Pass One More Ass’ strategy has really helped me go faster. 

My sister (also a runner on a similar journey as myself in planning to run her first marathon at the ING NYC Marathon) made the suggestion to me once when she joined me halfway into Grete’s Gallop to help push me along.  She said, ‘Find an ass and pass it!’.  It works.  There’s always some ass in front of me that if I zone in on it and take a deep breath I’ll gradually manage to squeeze past.   Now whenever I run a race, I inevitably take the Pass One More Ass strategy. 

 

 

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