Last night, I had a dream that must have lasted for at least two hours. I remember it pretty clearly. I was dreaming about running the Chicago Marathon in October, and it was hot, and I was watching myself in the third-person as I ran and attempted to make adjustments to deal with the heat and humidity. Watching myself was kinda strange, but I could hear myself 'think' as I processed the situation around me and came up with coping strategies. It was fascinating.
Unfortunately, I woke up at Mile 20-something thanks to my iPhone Alarm, telling me it was time to get ready for my Long Run today. So I never found out if I finished the race. But one thing was clear, I needed to have a good coping strategy for the heat and I needed to have a sound pacing strategy as well. I guess these are the things worrying me at the moment, so my mind wanted to do a 'test race' to see how to deal with them.
Wow! My subconscious mind is already thinking about the race! Is that good, or am I just obsessed?
Another friend (and runner) posted on my DailyMile that running in these hot conditions is "mental toughness" training. Yes, we have to train our bodies for the physical demands of the sport so it can perform efficiently during an endurance race. And yes, we need to develop the strategies (fueling, pacing, gear, breathing, hydration, etc) that will carry us across that Finish Line.
But maybe even more important, is that we have to develop the mental toughness, an attitude that says we are strong, we are capable, we are courageous, we are committed, and we are confident, and we won't stop until our goal has been reached. When we feel those aches and pains along the course; when our minds start telling us "we need to stop", "we can't do it", "it's too hot/cold/wet/windy"; or when our fears of failure try to assert themselves, that is when we need "mental toughness".
Not to say that as athletes, we should ignore our body's signals. We need to know what our bodies are capable of, and when it is safe to 'push it' and when it is best to ease off. So our training gives us the opportunity to learn about ourselves, and to use that knowledge during the race to be able to discern what is a real problem, and what is just "negative talk".
We need to develop that mental toughness that allows us to push past discomfort and fear in order to achieve the goal we have set for ourselves. That strength that says "I will not give up just because it is hot. I will adjust and do what is necessary to press onward to success."
I will never be an elite athlete. That is just not a realistic goal. But I want to be the best athlete I can be, regardless of what that means in terms of pacing or distance or standings. And right now, I need to develop the mental toughness to work through the challenges that heat and humidity present, so that I can effectively overcome them in a safe, healthy fashion. I will defeat the "negative talk" and reach for my goal.
I have a very aggressive race schedule this year. 70% of my schedule was set in late 2011 as I decided upon what my goals for 2012 were going to be. Since then, I have added a few races to the schedule. Now my schedule shows 17 races for 2012, of which 11 have already been completed. I have to admit, 17 was too many. But I have made it thus far, and with eight more to go, I think it is doable without injury if I follow my training plan and stay smart.
Since the beginning of the year, I have added 2 5Ks, a 10K, a Half Marathon, and a 20-Miler. So five additional races. I have already completed the 10K and the Half Marathon successfully. And the 20-Miler is really part of my marathon training schedule so that is not 'really' an additional run. But each of the eight remaining races have a purpose, and will help me to achieve my big goal -- a successful Chicago Marathon -- and improve my mental toughness!
It is never too early to do goal setting. In fact, I am already thinking about 2013. And you will be happy to know that I only have 9 races scheduled for 2013. What are my major goals for 2013? Well, I have two major ones (and several secondary ones):
Number 1: Complete the "Dopey" at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (that's running the 5K, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon on consecutive days). It is really the Goofy Challenge combined with the Family 5K race. I am confident I can do this, having done the AVON Walk of 39.3 miles a month ago.
Number 2: Qualify for membership in the Marathon Maniacs running club. This is a running community of people who love to run marathons, and run LOTS of them every year. A friend of mine reached "Titanium" Level last year, when he ran 52 marathons in 365 days (NO, I am not ever going to attempt such a thing!). But if I run three marathons within a 90-day period, I would qualify. So I plan on running the Disney Full (January in Florida), the Little Rock Full (March in Arkansas), and the Martian Full (April in Michigan). If I do that, I will achieve that goal!
Yeah, that is going to be a challenge. But I believe it is achievable if I put together the right training plan, stay healthy, and maintain a level of Mental Toughness to keep me focused and motivated. 2013 is about the 'quality' of my races, not the quantity. I hope you stick with me to encourage me and share in the journey.