Overcoming the mind games

Somewhere along the way this week I let my mind take over. It's a big fear I think most runners have -- losing mental toughness. On the way to the Lynchburg Half Marathon this morning, I realized (again) that I've been letting my mind take over and I didn't like it. I used that half hour or so to refocus on today's race.

I hit the start line -- after warming up in a steady run -- with these thoughts:

  • Don't let the hill win.
  • Finish stronger than I start it, carrying the theme of my main goal for 2011.
  • Don't look at my watch -- just run by feel.
  • Don't worry about my time goal.
  • Be able to honestly answer this question: can I double my effort?

Funny thing about my time goal is I couldn't remember what I wrote the other day. I had shifted my focus since that post that I really didn't care what my overall time was. If I did these things, I would have a solid training race, not a race race. And if I did these things I should be happy with my day no matter what.

After a steady rain for my warm-up, I almost put my Garmin away. The only reason I kept it on was to see the massive hill in my data, and I wanted to see how I handled it. While I was happy with last year's race, it was THE hill that stuck out in my mind.

So with a different mindset than just 12 hours earlier, I had my most solid long run ever that just happens to fall smack in the middle of all my half marathon times.

It may sound crazy, but I really didn't look at my watch until the 8th mile. I glanced at it a couple of times to do a mileage check, but in the first half of the race I didn't check my mile times or look at my pace. It was quite refreshing.

I finished today in 1:51:31, more than 4 minutes faster than a year ago. Had it not been so humid after some overnight rain and the shower before the race, I probably could have knocked a couple of minutes off this. I was very pleased to set a course record on the "new" course for this race, as well as setting out everything I really wanted to accomplish.

  • I beat the hill.  I did miles 4 and 5 in 9:07 and 9:15; those two miles had elevation gains of 153 and 160 feet. Not that there's anything wrong with walking hills, I remember last year feeling defeated when I had to. Today that thought never crossed my mind.

  • The second 6 full miles were more than 3:30 faster than the first 6 miles. I'm very happy with that negative split.
  • I actually didn't make up that much time when I came down the hill. The mile with the most elevation loss -- between 9 and 10 -- was 8:03, and wasn't my fastest mile. The next one was at 8:02. I lost something between mile 11 and 12 (8:26), but finished strong in the final full mile at 8:04. The last tenth or so (I say "or so" because my Garmin measure a tenth of a mile long) was in a 7:30 pace.
  • So ... can I double this effort? I know I have a lot of work left to do, but at the half way point of my training I am very confident that I can double this effort for the Baltimore Marathon.