"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

*Special Post* Inside The Mind -- Post-Marathon

Note: There's a 24-hour rule in my house: anything I say (or think) about running within 24 hours after finishing a marathon is not to be taken seriously. It's no secret that the marathon is hard on body. It's just as hard on the mind. However many hours you're out there chipping away at 26.2 miles, the body as a whole is under immense stress and pressure. What happens upon completion? I'm not a medical professional, but for a time the chemical makeup of the body is out of balance. The imbalance affects mood, cognitive ability and even physical processes. Hence, my 24-hour rule. 

What follows is a stream of consciousness from Saturday night, about 10 hours after completing the Red Rock Marathon. I knew I wasn't feeling or thinking correctly, but I felt like I had thoughts and feelings to get out anyway. I finished writing, saved the post and went to bed, intent on letting it sit for a few days before deciding whether to post it or not. 

I've had two really good runs so far this week, each of them 8 miles, one of them with my wife, and I've felt great. Good times. I've gone back and forth whether to post Saturday night's writings or not but have decided to do so for this reason: after all of the excitement over preparing for and completing a marathon, I thought it would provide a good insight into life after the race, when the finish line adrenaline has worn off, when family and friends have gone back to their normal lives, and when you're left alone to reflect on what you've accomplished and what might be next. 

The following is as it was written on Saturday night and has not been altered in any way...


June will mark two years since I started to run consistently. It's easy for me to look back and see how far I've come. On that day, my brother and I ran four laps around the high school track -- and were gasping for air (and water) at the conclusion. On Saturday I ran a marathon that consisted of 3000 feet in total elevation gain. Maybe it's a case of being sore and experiencing some post-marathon blues, but I find myself wondering if I've made any significant progress in the last year, since I ran my first marathon.
What have I improved? My marathon finishing time? Nope. Last year I ran a 4:34 in Newport and a 4:07 in Seattle before finishing Pocatello at 4:35. I clocked in Saturday at 4:26. I was quite pleased with my time this week, given the difficulty of the course. It was certainly the most difficult course I've run, there's no doubt about that, but what does that really mean? How does a 4:26 at Red Rock compare to a 4:07 in Seattle, which had a few hills (though at the time I thought it had TONS)? Is it 20 minutes more difficult? 30 minutes? Is it equal?
Has my speed improved? I moved to the Garmin 205 at the beginning of the year and I haven't done many speed runs since, so its tough to tell. The Nike+ technology that I was using prior to 2011 was so inaccurate that it's tough to extract any quality information out of it. As a result, I only have shorter races, which I don't run a lot of, and known routes that I run to compare. Has my speed significantly improved? Not really. (That said, I have seen significant improvement in my speed and endurance on inclines, which I feel good about.)
How about endurance? Not really. Maybe it's too soon after a grueling race, but I think back on all four marathons and get frustrated by the fact that I've struggled so much with the mile 17-22 section of the courses. I generally recover and finish the final four or miles strong, but by that time the damage has been done and my time has been blown up. In every case, I've finished the first half in under two hours and in three of the four races (including Saturday), at 1:55 or better. I wouldn't say I "bonk" or "hit a wall," as I feel like these terms imply not being able to continue or walking more than running just to finish. There's just something about these few miles that I haven't yet been able to get through. Do I train hard enough? Do I put in enough miles? Enough long runs? Enough rest? Healthy diet? Plenty of sleep? I believe I can honestly answer yes to each of those questions. What then, on race day?
Has my health improved? This may be the one area I can definitively answer yes. With an additional year of consistent running under my belt, I feel stronger. I've avoided any of the injuries I struggled with towards the end of 2009 and into 2010, namely severe shin splints, some hip issues and extremely sore ankles and knees after long runs. I've struggled the last few months with an on again/off again strained abdominal muscle, but in terms of bone structure and strength, I've improved.
So that's where I am right now. I feel like I've plateaued. I have plenty of time to revamp things before Newport 2011 the first weekend in June. I don't know what else to do though. More speed work? More cross training? Longer runs? This week I'll do a couple of recovery runs and next week is up in the air, but after that, it's back to business for 11 weeks leading up to Newport. What am I missing here? What's it going to take to get to where I want to be? And why haven't I been able to get there yet? Is it even worth it...?

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