Saturday, September 11, 2010

Time To Get Mental

As the triathlon season winds down and I move closer to my first half-marathon, my weekend long runs are actually getting long. I had my first 10-mile run two weekends ago and my first 11-mile run was last weekend. I am starting to get a small glimpse of the world of long-distance running (half-marathons and longer) and, at my level, how it differs than the usual 10k and 5k runs.

I have decided that I have to do these long runs non-stop. Not for physical reasons. Frankly, if I did break these runs into smaller chunks with short walks in-between, I might even do them faster. No, the reason I need to not stop is because it's becoming clear to me that running for over two hours is quite a mental challenge.

I'm doing these runs nice and slow, in the 12 min/mile neighborhood. When I'm running my lungs aren't on fire and I could easily hold a conversation with someone (not that I actually run with anyone, heaven forbid ;-). My legs, while they're taking quite a pounding, are holding out quite well at these distances (I'm told it's a whole new ballgame at 18-miles, though). So, physically I am holding up well (where "well" is defined as "being a zombie the rest of the day"). My biggest challenge seems to be the voices in my head telling me to stop:

"Do you really need to keep running?"

"Ooh, look. A shady patch under that tree."

"Wouldn't breaking this up into intervals be more effective?"

"Walking sure would feel great about now, don't you think?"

"I think you should stop and stretch your quads."

"You started your run at 9 instead of 7. Nobody would blame you for walking in this heat."

You get the picture. I'm starting to think that all that "talk" on the run is like inclement weather on the bike. See, my belief is that big earthquakes, fires, and floods are about the only reason to not ride your bike in Southern California. Rain? Bah! Put on a rain jacket and learn how to ride in the rain. Cold? Bah! The worst it will get is the upper thirties so throw on some layers and a pair of full-fingered gloves and learn how to suck it up in the cold. It's not just a macho thing, either. Someday there will be a race where it's going to be a bit chilly and, while your competition is putting on arm warmers in T1, you're already a mile ahead of them on the bike (this actually happens). Or you've plunked down good money for a 70.3, only to find out that the weather forecast is for rain but you already know how to handle that.

It's the same thing for running. By pushing myself through the training runs and not walking, I am preparing myself to face much worse out on a race course. Or so I'd like to think. I won't be hitting 18 miles for several more months so we'll see how it goes then.

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