There comes a point during a run, more specifically a half-marathon or any challenging event, when your mental strength has to overcome your physical strength. What should a person focus on to overcome the physical pain they endure during a race? For me I focus on several things.
1) I think about beating my personal goal. I hope that all the training that Jason and I have done will benefit me and my time. I hope that my pace is correct and that I'm on track to achieve my goal. 2) I think about my training partner, my best friend, my coach. How is he doing? How is he feeling? Will he achieve his goal? I also think.... Man he will be so proud of me if I do achieve my goal. :) This type of mental focus keeps my mind off the physical pain that my body goes through and helps me to keep going.
I have to say that we were more physically and mentally prepared for this race then we have been for the prior races. However I believe you can never be totally prepared. The two weeks before the race Jason and I did many different forms of training. (please make it known that Jason trains almost everyday, usually twice a day) Our week of training starts on Sundays after church. The Sunday prior to the race we went with our running friend Jami, to our special running place. Our goal was to get a long run in. Us girls would get in 6 miles and Jason would do 8 miles. Many of you may or may not know that I have issues with my hips, Jami was having pain in her legs, possibly shin splints, and Jason was having well lets just say he was having stomach problems. :) His 8 mile run was cut short to 5 when he had to leave the running area to find a bathroom. Jami and I struggled to get in 4 miles. This day of long runs had quickly turned into short runs for all of us. On Monday, Presidents Day, Jason was off and was able to get in a 23 mile bike ride by doing the triangle from our house to Coldspring and back home. Once home he jumped off his bike and continued with a 5 mile run. I was home by this time and joined him for 2 miles. On Tuesday Jason left the house around 4am in order to get in a workout before work. He did a 3.5 mile run on the treadmill and a 15 min leg workout. That evening he returned to the gym to get in a 750 meter swim. Wednesday morning Jason got in a chest and back workout before heading to work. We started taking spin classes on Thursday evenings. We initially started this to improve our cycling but we later found it also helped with our cardio and leg strength. The spin class instructor was intense! We were sweating like pigs and our muscles were crying out in agony but we knew deep down this would benefit us greatly. We decided that after our hour intense spin class we would hit the pool in order to get in a good swim. This 1000 meter swim for Jason and my 300 meter swim would help our muscles recover much more quickly and it would also allow us both to train for our triathlons coming up soon. And this was just Thursday evening! We took Friday off to pack and Saturday we traveled to Fort Worth. This week of training, focusing on our cardio and leg strength, definitely helped with our run in Fort Worth where we were faced with heat, humidity, and the cruel, cruel hills that plague the Cowtown Marathon.
Fort Worth was definitely a test for the mentally strong. It was full of ups and downs and many obstacles were overcome during that race. As we awoke at 5:15am on Sunday morning Jason and Jami felt extremely groggy and the dreaded stomach problems were back! As for me, I felt ok. No stomach problems and I actually felt good. We loaded the shuttle that would carry us from our hotel to the starting line of the race. We found very quickly that the organizers of this race had not planned well. Yes, we were starting from a new location but being herded like cattle to the starting line and then finding that there was not enough room for us to spread out into our corrals became VERY frustrating! As the race began Jason left Jami and I in pursuit of a new PR. (personal record) Jami and I had planned to just finish below a 2:40. Has we ran the temperature started to heat up and the humidity felt very heavy. This caused problems for many runners and Jami was one of them. It became hard for her to breath and she couldn't get a good breathing pattern down. My main focus had turned away from us achieving our goal and toward helping Jami. Let me tell you, Jami is one tough cookie!! And I truly believe the good Lord was running with us that day. We knew before hand that with the change of course came a MONSTER of a hill at mile 9 that was 100ft in elevation! But we never really understood how much of a monster it was until we were staring it down. Jami had succeeded in controlling her breathing for the most part but she was quickly becoming concerned as we got closer to the monster. I'm not sure what brought it on but as we started tackling this hill Jami's throat begin to constrict and her asthma began to flare. As I topped the hill I turned back to look for Jami. I met her eyes and knew there was something wrong. She was having an asthma attack right there at mile 9, on monster hill, without an inhaler. My coaching skills had been kicking in ever since we had begun the race but I had to dig deep, think quick and be calm in order to help Jami. We slowed down and walked, all the while I'm encouraging her to calm down, take deep breaths, and try to relax. One of the biggest successes we achieved that day was Jami overcoming that attack and being able to continue the race. She continued to struggle breathing throughout the race but every time she hit a "wall" there would be a sign. Maybe it was a child encouraging us on the corner, or a poster someone held up that quoted a scripture regarding strength, or another poster reminding us to "Just Keep Swimming." We both believed this was God's way of "Keeping Us Going." I have to say that mile 9 was tough but the last 5K was a struggle as well. It seemed the finish line was never going to appear in our sights. I had to keep looking over my shoulder and encouraging Jami that we didn't have much further. To just keep running. I can't explain the relief that flooded her and myself when we reached that finish line and at a time of 2:38 beating our goal! As I looked up that emotional feeling came over me and I had to fight the tears back as I looked into the smiling face of my husband, my best friend, my coach who was waiting there at the finish line to pick me up and swing me around, so proud of Jami and I at achieving our goal. But little did I know he had achieved a huge goal himself, a time of 2:02!! Wow his fastest time before that had been a 2:12. He knocked 10 min of his time. Tell me that training doesn't make a difference!! One good thing I can say about Fort Worth, It has never let us down. It's a huge challenge but every time we run it we get our best times and the most wonderful feeling of accomplishment ever!