Mental vs. physical training

This was a lousy training week. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Coming off a good test run at the Bronx 10-miler, this was wicked frustrating.

Why so bad? Some of it was not running-related at all. Working in a newsroom has its crazy moments at the best of times, and the last two weeks were something of a non-stop rollercoaster of news. It was exhausting, and things were breaking so fast, it was hard to unplug for any length of time. That’s probably one reason I didn’t sleep particularly well all week, which certainly didn’t help.

I’m also getting ready to start peak week for training, and the cumulative fatigue has definitely set in. My speed workout this week fizzled into an easy run because I just couldn’t get my legs to gear up. I also missed two (!!) workouts, including one of my weekend ones, which I haven’t done all training cycle. I’ve missed one before in a week, but not two, and never my long run.

Still, I needed to go into the city Saturday to get my Staten Island race bib, so I planned a run that started right about mile 21 on the NYC course, just before exiting the Bronx, and went through the finish line. I’ve run most of it before, and the Central Park portion of the course I’ve run multiple times. However, I do my best mental training and preparations when I’ve run the course before, so I figured repetition could only help. With four weeks to go, the hay is pretty much in the barn on the physical side of things. Upping my mental game to deal with the final miles is something I can work on up until the gun goes off for my wave that morning.

My biggest takeaway was that the turn from the Madison Avenue Bridge onto Fifth Avenue feels powerful. Even having to deal with traffic lights and crosswalks, I could imagine coming off the bridge on race day to enter the final borough and the final stretch of the race. It reminded me of the clip of Shalane rounding the corner in the three-runner lead pack in this amazing video NYRR put out this week.

But even beyond that turn, I was surprised at how much shorter the chunks of the course felt this last time running them before the race. I’m sure they’ll feel longer on race day, but as I ran, my brain put things in perspective. This section is like the tired legs run at the end of a long week I’ve been doing all training cycle, both in terms of duration/distance and mental state. It hurts, but it’s the hurt that you know means it’s almost over. You just have to keep the legs moving until then.

I wouldn’t have planned to do this run after a lousy training week, but even as I ran it, it felt like coming to it in such horrible headspace was valuable because that’s probably where I’ll be on race day. On the way into the city, I listened to a podcast episode of Marcus and Magness On Coaching where they dug into the process of mentally rebooting in the middle of something going horribly wrong and how that works. I didn’t realize they would talk about that, and I wasn’t intending to try that out on my run, but it happened. And it worked.

Four weeks is both an eternity and no time at until this quest I’ve worked toward for almost two years ends. One month. I’m not ready yet, but come race day, I will be.