The Mental Sport

I actually didn’t think that I was going to get to do my 8-mile run this weekend because the weather was predicted to continue the insanity it started yesterday. I grew up in a desert so when it rained, that meant it sprinkled. While SoCal is still a desert I guess, rain here is entirely different. Yesterday as I was driving to the gym, it was like a freakin’ tropical storm – wind gusts, quite a few inches of water already on the ground and plenty more coming down at a frantic speed. (That’s my idea of a tropical storm and I plan to never move somewhere where I might realize how wrong I am.)

Todays’s weather looked like this:

That’s the current weather but the rain predicted for later is what was predicted for this morning when I was contemplating whether or not to attempt the run. I suited up anyways, slowly ate some PB&J oatmeal and finally decided to just do it.

I had a lovely before picture but my computer corrupted half my pictures when I went to import. As I’ll get to in a moment, though, today has been a lesson in mental fortitude so I’m trying to apply that here and not let the little things get me down.

It was actually really nice when I first stepped out, although quite windy. I had originally thought it was going to be pretty cold so I dressed in multiple layers. At first I was really worried that I had over dressed because the first mile was really warm and I was too hot in my jacket. This is my favorite Lululemon running jacket – not something I would ever think to ditch by the side of the road. So I trucked forward, despite feeling over heated. It was go on to fluctuate between way too cold and way too hot depending on what direction I was going relative to the evil wind so, ultimately, I ended up needing the jacket like I thought.

The first mile was hard for other reasons, too. The wind was brutal, my legs felt like bricks and my lungs just weren’t ready to handle the cold air and the intensity I was asking from them. This was my first run since last weekend because of this week’s sickness and my lungs weren’t quite ready to get back into it.

But something in me knew that I wasn’t at my breaking point and that I couldn’t throw in the towel, turn around and walk home. I know my body pretty well and I know when it can’t do what I’m asking and today was not one of those days. I knew I had the physical strength to cover eight miles. Today’s mission was going to be to find the mental strength.

During one of my breaks from running a few years ago, I was telling a friend that I didn’t like running any more because it was too painful on my body. His mom was a distance runner and he repeated to me something she had passed on to him: when you run, something always hurts. I didn’t take much stock in this at the time, but on days like today, where the run is painful and the only goal is to get it over with, I think about this. And it’s so true. Running is asking a lot of our bodies and even when you’re doing it right, something. always. hurts. You go on anyways.

I can’t say this was a miserable run, because I’ve had worse, but it was definitely a run where my mind had to trump itself and push through. I gave myself two reasons I had to run all eight miles:

1. I named this post around mile two and knew I wouldn’t be able to write it if I didn’t finish what I set out to do.

2. Food. This was the first run in my life that I had brought a little something to fuel me. Since I didn’t think I needed to be sucking down 200 calories of goo on an 8-miler, I surveyed the kitchen cabinets and found some dried apricots. Perfect rush of carbs to get me through the last few miles.

I took three with me and ate two. One at mile five and one around mile seven. I don’t know if I actually needed them but they didn’t upset my stomach like I had been worried they might. Actually the second one hurt my teeth because of how sweet it was. I might have to find something else for the future.

Right now I’m not sure my runs need food. I make a point of stopping at water fountains every two miles or so and that has make a big difference compared to when I didn’t back in the day. But having food to motivate me on this run was a bonus.

The last mile really asked for every last bit of strength in my legs. The wind was at its worst but I’d already come this far. You’ve done seven, what’s one more?

I let myself walk the last quarter mile and that turned out to be a wonderful idea because it helped my legs go from feeling like they couldn’t move one more inch to feeling a little more normal. My left knee and upper thigh tend to be problem spots and they were both screaming when I stopped. The .25 mile walk actually fixed all the pain and by the time I hit my front step, all I really felt was how tired my feet were.

Eight miles behind me!

I’m not actually hungry after longer runs but I know I need to eat. I treated myself to a fabulous lunch from Mother’s Market. Of course my computer corrupted the picture of my spread from the hot bar but I found an old picture Will took back when he was into checking in on Foursquare everywhere.

It kind of applies because I was considering some food from the pre-made bar or the veggie tahini wrap, which is one of my favs.

I’m a little on the tired side right now but I’m proud of myself for finding the mental strength to push through to a new personal best! It may have been slow but right now I’m only focused on the distance. I think I have to add another reason on to last week’s post on what running means to me: knowing I can push through distance running gives me the confidence to tackle other hurdles every day. Because life’s a mental sport, too.

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3 thoughts on “The Mental Sport

  1. Great work and great post! Those first few long runs are not just a physical exercise; they are mental as well. I have an eight miler ahead of me tonight as well. Every time I go out I need to mentally prepare myself. Keep on running!

  2. Pingback: Sunday Runday « Creature of Habit

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