Wednesday, October 23, 2019

42km/26.2miles - again?! why? (marathon musings)

I realized that I never did follow up on my post about marathon training last year . Together with my earlier musings this year in regards to Lessons learned post I put up, I feel that it might be a good idea to do follow up....

So, in short I ran the marathon after 6 months of training. Like a lot of people will say, the race didn't go according to plan. I woke up to thunderstorms, delayed start, pouring rain like you wouldn't believe and then more delayed start. When the start happened the sun was up and the course was pretty much without shade, it was 96% humidity and unusually hot for being in December (80F/26C) in the shade. I had a sneaky feeling at 10 miles when I wanted to use the restroom to pee that I was in trouble since there was no way I really needed that. Especially since I know that one of the signs to flash "you're in dehydration" mode, is the feeling that I need to pee. Strange, yet there it is.

I still felt pretty ok about it all when I saw a runner getting taken off the course at mile 12 (medics pulled them off). And then the runner who almost ran into a tree. And then runner who was all gray in their face, walking slowly and then threw up next to me. At that point I started to think "what is the most important thing for me?". And it wasn't about finishing on a good time, it was finishing strong. So, I started walking a little and took it slow and steady.

I picked up the pace again closer to the finish line, once I hit 22 miles I felt safe to run "as fast as I could to get in goal" and did my last mile as the fastest mile of the whole race. Happiness for me! I crossed the finish line, got my participation medal, snapped a few photos with it and went to the hydration and food stance. Called my parents and talked about the race, still feeling pretty good about it all. And then the strangest thing happened when I met with my partner (in hindsight I should've seen it coming but I am good at ignoring certain things) - I started crying and mumbling that I hadn't done a good race. There were so many emotions all at once. Not only tired, but "not as tired as I thought I would be" (since I hadn't pushed myself as much since I was scared of the dehydration and belly cramps). Not as fast as I had hoped, which I had told myself all alone was never going to be the goal - "first race is to finish, not for time".

It all felt a bit better after the cry, the hugs and "you're being silly sweetie, you did great", and of course the glorious shower once I got home. And hydration fluids and a little bit of food. And more rest.

All in all, looking at the scale and the weighing before carbo loading, before the race and after the race - I lost over 6 pounds in water weight that day. I was seriously nervous about how little fluids I had left in my body (pee colour I've never seen before...) but I kept up with hydration two more days and then I had my annual physical. (Wouldn't recommend it but there is was.) My labs were excellent by the way, go me and hydration!

So, why do I bring this up now? Well, because I have gone and signed up for another marathon to do soon. And this time around my anxiety (competitiveness) is ramping up and I have to face a few uncomfortable truths.

I've always detested "the second time". I had to do my driver's license test twice and I was way more nervous the second time than the first. The first was "you just go and try", the second was "if you fail now you really aren't good". In short, stakes were/are higher the repeat time than the first. In theory, I should be faster this second time than my first race. But that's in theory, not a given. And it is a chance I will fail at that.

I got a good eye opener the other week when talking to a colleague about the training and how the running is going when they asked; "who are you running for? It doesn't sound like you look forward to this". And I thought to myself, "hm, that's an interesting thing.. I am way more nervous about this time around. I want to make a better time than last year, and I would like to feel better afterwards. But if I don't make a better time, how will I feel?". I answered them that this is one of the reasons I wanted to do it a second time, to prove to myself that I can do it "when I know what I am getting myself into and see if I can repeat what I did".

Funny enough (?), until I was on the course last year I never would've thought that I couldn't finish. All my training was still while never having doubt. I did my training program, kept at it and chafing and all, I still kept slogging along. It was while I was on the course, during the race, that I realized that it could go pear shaped at any time. That my training had been good, but at that point there were a lot of choices that I could make that would make things very difficult and that it wasn't at all clear that I would finish just because I had started (after all, more than 500 people of the 3000 who started didn't finish). And that knowledge - the doubt and the knowledge on how fickle the weather and life can be - is more prevalent this time around.

It's one of the things I have realized more and more the older I get, a trait (skill?) I have that isn't in everyone - the ability of shutting down and just keep going. Sometimes it's a good trait, sometimes it would've been better to stop and leave - accept that the situation is horrid and there's nothing you can do and you need to get out. I'm not saying it's all great to "persevere", sometimes it's plain dumb and I have certainly a few experiences that I would do differently if they came about today.

However, there are times - like when you are pushing yourself to jog 26.2 miles in a go - that the ability of not questioning "why am I doing this" but focusing on "one more mile, then I'll take a sip of water" is a good trait to have. The other benefit for me doing this is that I have to get over myself mentally - especially when I do my long runs. I have to get my brain in gear and think "I can do this". Somewhere during the run my brain will start spewing negative thoughts, not only doubt but "you're too slow", "you're too fat to do this", "why do you keep trying", "start walking and turn around to go home" etc. I've mentioned before, and it's probably all too obvious in my previous posts, that I am a champion in having these less than supportive self esteem thoughts. The good thing though is that it's really hard for my brain to do those thoughts after a long run when the body and brain is drenched in dopamine and my muscles have used up adrenalin and I lay panting on the floor hurting everywhere.

And I'm smart enough to remember that feeling when my brain comes knocking saying "hey, you're on mile 4, let's go home instead of doing another 12 miles". That's when the stubbornness kicks in and states "keep going, it'll be over soon enough and you will feel great afterwards".

All in all, what I wanted to say with this post is:
If you wanted to do a marathon - go ahead and train! Give yourself at least 6 months. I had done 6 half marathons before, and would recommend at least one half marathon before a full so you know how you feel after 2hours of jogging/running.
It's a lot of mental training to keep training and to keep running. And it gives you a different perspective on a lot of things. And if you can do it without music (which I recommend), it's an amazing time to be alone with your thoughts and really tap into feeling your body, breathing and everything.
And I really hope that my second marathon race will feel at least as good as the first. Fingers crossed!

TLDR: I hope I feel happy after my second marathon than my first. It was a lot of emotions and expectations in one day. And I want to prove to myself I can repeat this training and race a second time since now I know what I can expect from the race - and it's going to be tough. Mainly overcoming my own expectations and shortcomings.