Today was my last long run before the Napa Valley Marathon next weekend. I had 10 miles scheduled, I could have jumped for joy seeing a training run for less than an hour and a half! When was the last time that happened? Probably 15 weeks ago ha!
I rolled out of bed at 6:45, cranked up my Spotify and headed out the door. During that hour plus workout I thought a lot about next weekend and my past marathons. My first two marathons were a real mental struggle without a GPS watch, because every mile felt like it took years and I had no idea what pace I was running or what my projected finish was. That perfectly explains the last time I raced Napa, aka my first marathon!
I remember the weather was perfect, the morning was a it cold but once the sun was up it was 60-70 but not too hot. It was an early start of 7 am which I loved. It is also a small race of around 1,000 runners so you feel spoiled because the volunteers can pay attention to you! Anyway, I remember going out hard, too hard, making it to around 16 before I texted my mom saying I was dying. I remember her response because it truly helped me finish the race. She said, just relax and enjoy the scenery.
She was right, this was my first marathon and a new place. I should at least be taking in my surroundings. I tried to focus on that instead and eventually when I made it to the last 5k, I found my family on bikes. My sister biked to the finish with me, while I complained that my legs were no longer there. She assured me they were. I crossed the line in 3:42 and was so happy. I did it, but most importantly I survived one of the hardest mental battles I have ever had.
Reflecting on this during my morning run, I realized I have learned a lot since then. I have read a lot of books, listened to a lot of podcasts and talked to a lot of running friends. There are so many things that you can do to help yourself make it to the finish line and distract yourself from the pain. Here are a few that I plan on using:
- Break up the course and think of it by sections or by water stations. This one really helps me mentally. Sometimes thinking in terms of miles will overwhelm you. I mean when I am two miles in, telling myself I only have 24.2 miles to go DOES NOT HELP. Instead, know where the water and fuel stations are and think in terms of those. If there is an aid station at mile three, then two miles in you only have one more mile to go! Then once you are there you pick the next one and focus on that. Or do this in terms of surroundings, pick a building or in my case a winery in the distance, focus on getting there then pick the next destination. Mental tricks are key, because with a race as long as the marathon, your mental game can bring you down if you let it. So don’t let it!
- Music and pump up playlists. I don’t always listen to music but when I do its because I need a distraction. I need to just fall into the music and stop thinking and just go. For racing I usually don’t listen to music, I want to try but am afraid to break the barrier. Napa is a no headhones race, so this marathon won’t be the time, but potentially in the future! I would caution you to be wise in your music choices, some songs really pick me up and get me going, but others can really slow me down. It’s all about the beat for me, If I were to race with music, I think I would focus on the first 16 miles without music, so that I don’t go out too fast and then I would plug in my music and get ready to power through the final 10 miles!
- Mantras & motivational jewelry. These last two are the most important for me. I have a momentum jewelry bracelet that I wear during my races it says, she believed she could so she did. This is my mantra for everyday life not just racing, but when I start to doubt myself, it brings me back and makes me refocus. It helps me push those thoughts of doubt away. Another one I love for racing, is run the mile you are in. Don’t focus too far ahead, just focus on the now. Some others that I plan on using next Sunday are this is what you trained for, breathe it in & run it out, and what if you can…
- Dedicate sections of the race to people – run for them. I listened to a podcast with Tina Muir and she mentioned how she does this and I thought it was an amazing idea. I ran my last marathon for my boyfriend’s mother who passed away from Lewy Body Dementia, so the whole race I thought about him and his family and how I had to do this for them. However, I never thought of breaking the race up and having sections for certain people! There are 12 water stops on my Napa course so I am going to dedicate each section to someone who helped me immensely during this training cycle
- My dogs – Lyla, Ruger & Izzie of course
- Girls on the Run
- Sophie & Walker
- My Coach Victoria
- Myself – let’s be serious I am my biggest advocate, and during those last two miles I am going to focus on this goal and everything I have done to get here
Napa 2017… to be determined!