This year my overall athletic goal has been to embrace Oiselle‘s moto and to go fast and take chances. While it might still be early October to me it feels like the Harvest Half was the culmination of my 2015 season. This feels like the perfect time to wrap up what I have learned from trying to push myself past my comfort zone.
After Saturday’s half marathon PR I wanted to get my thoughts and feelings down about the race as quickly as possible. I was worried that if I waited too long that time would dull the details. When I think back on the race there were very few points in time where I actually felt comfortable. If I would have allowed myself to think about it no doubt I would have wondered how I could keep running, feeling that way, for a little more than two hours. Without Tara to follow, what would have been the likelihood that I would have backed off?
It has taken me a long time to build the confidence to go into the pain cave. Pushing your body when it feels uncomfortable is an unnatural thing to do. Who likes feeling uncomfortable? Wouldn’t we all rather be cozied up in sweats with a warm beverage?
There is also so much vulnerability in pushing yourself to that place. What if I blow up? What if I can’t hold on? The thing that I’ve learned this year is if you don’t try and push yourself to that limit you won’t know if you could have held on. If something matters to you, you have to be willing to go out on a limb for it, but you also can’t be afraid of failing if you don’t make it. Failing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That failure might be the drive that you need to push a bit harder and to keep working to finally get you to your goal.
In order to push through you have to really want it. Your goal has to be real and personal to you. Without that connection how do you will your legs to keep moving, to turn over just a little bit faster? I’d recommend giving yourself an opportunity to reflect on your goals. Write it down and include the reasons for why this is important for you. Don’t be afraid to remind yourself of it all the time. And without a doubt, don’t be afraid to own it. Believe that you are doing everything you can to achieve it and that you are capable. If you truly don’t believe that you can do this, you never will. If your goal is big, huge and scary, be open to the idea that you may need some time to get there and it might not happen on your first try.
I also recommend having an arsenal of mental tricks in your toolbox. Practice them all in training to see what resonates with you. Prior to the race I e-mailed my coach the mantras I hoped to call on when the going got tough:
- If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you
- When it starts to hurt…remember, this is why you are doing this!
- Focus on form, think of a locomotive
I had a lot of options but continuously telling myself to relax in the final two miles was what worked best for me. I also knew in my heart that I wanted to do my best so very badly that thinking “follow your heart and your legs will follow” helped a lot. Tara was also ready to give me a push if I needed it. Somewhere in the second half of the race she asked me if I would want tough love or gentle encouragement near the end of the race. As it turned out I didn’t really need either. Apart from her pointing out someone ahead that I could try to catch she didn’t have to say very much. I was able to pull on something inside of myself to keep propelling myself towards the finish.
It has been an interesting year and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Going fast doesn’t mean not following a pacing plan. Your brain matters as much as fitness does, so train it accordingly. Dream big. Dig deep. Now here is to building to 2016.