Posted by: pursuingsub17 | May 9, 2012

The power of the mind rocks when racing


I thought I better write this while it’s still fresh in my memory – unlike last year’s Sylvan Lake Half Iron report!

So my half marathon wasn’t a personal best but it was when you consider my best half marathon time was based on a flat and fast course. My post race activities were a great improvement. I drank plenty of fluids, ate early and went to bed early. I had just over 7 hours of restful sleep. In the morning, I made sure I had more calories than I thought I needed (because I never take on enough). I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and some OJ. I forgot the coffee but I did mix Gatorade and Carbo-pro in a water bottle to sip at and had some left over for my small Fuel Belt bottle that I carry during the race (in my back pocket). That gave me an extra 200 calories or more.

I wound up getting to the race an hour early but I’m starting to realize that isn’t such a bad thing. I’m not like Marc or other individuals who are keyed up like greyhounds, waiting for the gun to go off for what seems an eternity. No, I rather enjoyed the hour. I found a decent parking spot. I relaxed to my “pre-race inspiration music” in my vehicle for about 15 minutes. I texted some friends and posted my last minute thoughts on Facebook. Then I packed up, went to the bathroom, checked my gear bag, bathroom break again, and went outside to warm up.

I loosened up, swinging my legs from the hip forward and sideways. Did the same with the arms and shoulders. Stretched out the neck, hips and quads. Stretched out the hamstrings and calves. Then I found my place near the 2:15 pace bunny.

This year the runners were promised less hills. Well, it was still pretty hilly. It just didn’t have the one last brutal climb 4km before the finish like last year. It wasn’t as windy but it was cold at the beginning. I wore my hot pink CEP compression socks, my black and pink Under Armour runners (which I’ll probably wear at my big tri race) and I decided at the last minute to put on arm warmers instead of an extra shirt over my Craft running shirt. All excellent choices.

I stuck to what worked last year – easy on the hills, don’t get too excited when people pass me in the first half, drink water but not too much, take a gel every 30 minutes. After 8km, I was still with the pace bunny – actually right next to her and had to make sure I wasn’t getting overzealous and running past her – not yet. She kept the perfect pace. On a side note, I have to get in touch with the race organizers and see if they can send out a thank you to her.

At 10km, still following my 10 min run  and 1 min walk break, I noticed that our group had thinned out. Eating my second gel, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen anyone taking on calories unless they had something in their water bottles. Hmm – perhaps I’m onto something! Also at that point, there was Marc, his son, Trevor, and my cousin, Jaylene. They were cheering me on and my cousin was jumping up and down, ringing cowbells in both hands.

Folks – this is where the mental battle kicks in and as the story unfolds, you’ll see how important these little moments are.

Seeing a cheering squad – particularly family but even strangers shouting out “good job!” sure helps. It gave me a boost even though I wasn’t fading yet. They passed by me in the truck, honking and waving and I saw them again at the 12km mark before we headed back onto the trails for the home stretch. At this point, there were 4 of us and the pace bunny with the occasional runner sticking with us and then dropping off.

At 15k, I was starting to lag. I had the desire to walk but remembering my lack of will power in last year’s half iron triathlon, I told myself to just run until my walk break. Example two of mind over matter.

By 18K, we had to pass the finish area on the trails to complete the next 3.1 km. That was a heartbreaker. You can hear the crowd and the music and you think you’re done but you’re not. You have to actually loop around, listening to the cheering fade as you head further away. This is where the ol’ negativity set in. I shouted “Only 3km and a little bit!” to the girl I had been running along side. She had encouraged me a few times from 15k to keep it up. But I’m thinking the fading cheers got to her. I suddenly realized I was by myself, staring at the pink shirt and orange hat of the 2:15 pace bunny who kept looking at her watch, picking up the pace and getting further and further ahead.

We hit the final water station – up a short, steep hill of gravel (of all things). I grabbed water to cool off my face (oh yeah, arm warmers came off at 12k). swooshed water in my mouth and kept moving. We it the paved road that lead back to the finish. I could see runners and the pace bunny ahead of me. I could hear a “tick…tick” noise from under my right heel. Stupid rock from the gravel was stuck to my shoe. It was driving me nuts. I could see the long line of pylons ahead and tried to determine if it was curving to the left toward the finish or continuing on. If it was, it HAD to be for the marathoners – not us – please not for us.

In my mind I thought – well, just like last year I’m losing the pace bunny. So, maybe it’s okay to finish at 2:20. That’s my typical time. I’m tired.

Then I remembered an article I read. Couldn’t remember where or who said the quote. I’m sure it was a female pro triathlete. But I remember saying you have to get rid of the negative self talk. Was I being negative? Not really – I was just accepting defeat.

Example 2 – I was accepting it like I did in the half Iron last year. Last year, when I was approaching the last loop, right in the middle of the crowd next to the finisher’s lane, I just felt I couldn’t run it. The crowd was watching, including Marc, but I couldn’t run. That’s when “We’re here for a good time, not a long time” by Trooper started playing over the loud speaker. What got into me, I have no idea but people were doing the obligatory clapping, knowing this poor sunburned triathlete still had another lap to go, and I started wiggling my tush and did a little dance. Well, that got a roar from the crowd and a series of cheers and loud clapping. That got me running again.

So back to the half marathon. I said…outloud…”Hammerstad! That’s enough of that talk. You are going to catch up to that pace bunny and you are going to pass her. Quit whining!!”

Example 3 – I’ll be damned. It worked. I don’t know how but I focused my eyes on that pink shirt and orange cap and I pushed out any feelings of being tired. I didn’t think I was running faster – but suddenly I was on her heels. Ahead I saw the curve to the left and people jumping up and down. I turned to the pace bunny and said “I think this is the home stretch!” She said “sure is!”

I gave her a thumbs up and bolted. My time was 2:14:34. I was 2 minutes slower than my pr and 4 minutes off my goal time – on a very hilly course. I was happy.

So there it is my friends – proof that this sport is 50% mental endurance and that the power of the mind can conquer the body.

Next up – Olympic distance triathlon in Lake Summerside. And damn it, I AM going to do that Sylvan Lake Half Iron this year and I’m gonna get a pr!! ROOOOAAAAR!!!!

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