The Mental Fatigue of Marathon Training

Two weeks from today, I board a plane with my dad and brother and fly to Seattle where I will run my tenth full marathon in my fifth state. Four of my best friends will be there to run with me. This sounds AMAZING – yet the thought of getting out of bed this morning was agonizing! I didn’t want to run, I didn’t want to write, and I didn’t feel like adulting. Wait… What???

One of the voices in my head is yelling at me, “You get to travel across the country and visit a city you’ve never been to, spend time with your family, and do something you love with your friends…What the Hell is wrong with you?”

At the same time another voice in my head is saying, “Shut Up! You are not in the shape you should be, you’ve been slacking on your mileage, you’ve been eating junk… just go back to sleep because you SUCK!”

I got up. I sloshed through about seven miles. I was sweating, I was not in the right headspace, I was miserable… I really did feel like I sucked.

This is where my husband usually asks, “Why are you doing this if it’s making you so upset?”

Thus, is my mental struggle with running… I love it. I hate it. I crave it. I dread it…

You see I am not a natural runner. I don’t just need a pair of shoes and the open road to go out and run 10 miles. No music, no food, no water…

No, I need a plan. I need my iPod, my phone for a podcast in case I get bored with my music, food, a hydration belt…And I often complain the whole time I’m out on a run – especially if I’m trying to run alone. Most of the time I hate to run…which is really difficult to explain to non-runners. Why do you spend so much time doing something you don’t enjoy?

The easiest answer, and something I’ve often talked about, is the runner’s high. I’m constantly chasing that good run, that perfect race.

And while I usually CHERISH my running community – especially on Instagram – I’ve recently become a little bitter. Because it’s difficult to read about Boston Qualifiers, Hanson Method Users, Perfect Eaters…when I’m slacking off on training runs and nutrition. And I KNOW, I KNOW, not everything is as perfect as it appears on Social Media; but the deeper issue is that I KNOW I’M NOT DOING MY BEST! And that, my friends, is a hard pill to swallow!!!

I’ve gained weight, I’ve lost muscle and I’ve slowed down (literally and figuratively.) And this is the point where it becomes really easy to just throw in the towel; because when we get to this place we know how difficult it’s going to be to get back to where we were.

But Not Today! Today is NOT the day that I give up! Today is the day that I go out and suck at the run (praying tomorrow is a little easier.) Today is the day I eat the veggies and not the fries (praying tomorrow I’ll crave a little less.) Today is the day I drink the water (praying it fills me up and flushes out the crap.) Today is the day I forgive myself for staying up late, skipping runs, eating the fries…Today is the day I invest in myself, knowing that means investing in the bad parts of myself along with the good.

Because it’s a journey, not the destination…And while my destination at the Finish Line in Seattle might not be in the time I want – I’ll make damn sure I have a great time getting there (and hopefully a creek beer waiting for after:)

The Perfect Running Playlist

"You might be a RUNNER if the only time you update your playlist is right before a BIG race."

A girlfriend of mine is training for her first 5k!!!! This is SO exciting, because it means another person might catch the running bug...or she might decide she's NEVER running again...(she'll probably do both, in a matter of moments after crossing the Finish Line:)

But she asked me a question I get asked a lot... What songs should I put on my running playlist? While this is a loaded question, as the number ONE requirement for a song is that it be a song you like, there are some general rules of thumb I like to follow. 

1. Keep Your Ears & Eyes Open - If you're anything like me, you spend an obscene amount of time in your car. When a song comes on the radio that makes you want to do an embarrassing car-dance, grab your phone (without taking your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel...just like you do when you have to hand your kiddos a snack in the backseat) and take a picture / or screenshot if you're on Spotify or Pandora or whatever new music APP I'm behind the times to discover. After you have the name, you can search for it later in iTunes (preferably while not driving.)

I'm always finding pics like this in my Camera Roll - like little hidden gems of songs I forgot about...usually right before a marathon which is the only time I update my playlist.

I'm always finding pics like this in my Camera Roll - like little hidden gems of songs I forgot about...usually right before a marathon which is the only time I update my playlist.

2. Measure Your Cadence - Cadence is a word that actually ties music and running together. In music, cadence is a melodic or harmonic configuration of notes that creates a sense of resolution...In running, cadence is the total number of 'revolutions per minute' (RPM), or number of full cycles taken within a minute, by the pair of feet, and is used as a measure of athletic performance. There are a TON of really cool running APPS out there to help determine  and increase your cadence...But the LONG story short is, YOU WANT YOUR MUSIC TO HAVE A FAST BEAT THAT YOU CAN TRY TO MATCH WITH YOUR CADENCE. The best tool to use for this is a Metronome, which measures the Beat Per Minute of a song.

Search the word metronome in Google and the free metronome will pop up...Find your favorite song on iTunes and listen to the free sample as you hit play on the metronome. Move the scale up or down until you find the Beats Per Minute that will get your feet moving.

Search the word metronome in Google and the free metronome will pop up...Find your favorite song on iTunes and listen to the free sample as you hit play on the metronome. Move the scale up or down until you find the Beats Per Minute that will get your feet moving.

3. THROW MY PLAYLIST OUT THE WINDOW IF IT'S NOT YOUR JAM (If it's your jam, then jam away) - I have an eclectic mix of running friends, which is why I love them! We all have different tastes and that is most evident in our playlists. I'll never forget finding my friend Carey around Mile 12 of The Flying Pig Marathon and she told me how excited she was because her favorite musical had just come on her playlist....WHAT?!???? You're listening to ShowTunes during the marathon? Now, don't get me wrong - I love Wicked & Rent just like a normal person (and I'd probably have to make an amendment to this now that Hamilton is out...I COULD run to Hamilton...) But my point is, what I like isn't necessarily going to be what you like. You have to download a few songs and see how they make you feel. You'll have songs you can listen to for five years, and you'll have songs that you know after five seconds that you need to remove them from your playlist IMMEDIATELY!

I had fun going through my Flying Pig Marathon Playlist that has evolved a lot over the last four years. I went through and picked my fav songs in a few categories. I hope you enjoy & download a few...

SONGS WITH A GOOD BEATH (150+ BPM)

  1. 15 Step - Radiohead
  2. Green Light - John Legend (John Legend, you ask? YES! John Legend!!!)
  3. Bring it Back - Shy Carter
  4. Handclap - Fitz & The Tantrums
  5. Whistle - Katy Tiz

SONGS WITH SOME IRONY (If we can't laugh at ourselves during the marathon, we're in BIG trouble!!!)

  1. 500 Miles - The Proclaimers
  2. Feels Good - Tony! Toni! Tone!
  3. How Far We've Come - Matchbox 20
  4. Go Big Or Go Home - America Authors
  5. Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane

SONGS THAT MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I'M IN A SUBARU COMMERCIAL (or a National Park) (or Robert Redford is narrating my marathon)

  1. Hold Back the River - James Bay
  2. I Lived - One Republic
  3. Gone Gone Gone - Phillip Phillips
  4. Brand New - Ben Rector
  5. Geronimo - Sheppard

Five Tips: Mentally Recovering from a BAD Training Run {Marathon Training}

Ughhhh…the dreaded ‘Bad’ Run.

Odds are, if you’ve trained for  a marathon you know the shear grimace that comes with the thought of these words.

If you go out and run several times a week for several weeks that turn into months, not every run is going to be perfect, pretty and tied-up with a little PR goal. No, there will be bad runs! And they will hurt – a lot more mentally than they do physically.

So… How do we recover – mentally – from the BAD runs?

Read More

Runner's High

My Friday To-Do List started with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up followed by a short run. I’d be home by 6:00 a.m. to stretch, shower and eat breakfast before waking the kids up for school at 7:00 o’clock.

            My husband had given me a hard time the night before when he saw the yellow, memo pad resting on the bathroom counter where I’d see it first thing in the morning. “You’re getting-up at 5:30 in the morning to go run? What, running a half marathon on Saturday isn’t enough for you?”

So when I FINALLY hoisted myself out of bed at 7:15, frantic about getting the kids up for their showers and breakfast – Chuck looked at me and said, “You're about six lines behind on your To-Do List.”

            It’s not that I’d missed the alarm. No, I heard it loud and clear. I just chose to ignore it – rationalizing in my head that the week before the marathon we’re suppose to be getting as much sleep as possible (a miniature hibernation if you will.) So I’d convinced myself to sleep while I could. I was ready for the half marathon in Louisville I was running the next day, and I didn’t want to over-do it before the full marathon the following weekend.

Fast-forward to 2:00 p.m. I’m cranking along, crossing things off my To-Do List left and right. I’ve been to work, I’ve been to the radio station to record some PSAs for the Relay for Life, and I’ve been to the post office and grocery store. Now I’m home where my To-Do List is telling me it’s time to shower and get packed for Louisville.

I’m suppose to be pulling out of my driveway at 3:00 o’clock, and I’m sitting at my computer calculating whether or not I have time to squeeze in a quick run before showering and packing… all, supposedly, in an hour. ‘There’s just no way!,’ I’m telling myself while downloading the last few songs to my running play-list when my heart starts to race. It almost feels like I’m beginning to have a panic attack, so I try to breathe deeply while reminding myself that I am prepared for the half and full marathons. I don’t need to stress myself out over a twenty-minute ‘tune-up’ jog.

By this time, however, not only is my heart racing…but my lower back is beginning to ache and my legs are getting twitchy. ‘I can’t imagine having to sit in the car for an hour-and-a-half feeling like this,’ I’m thinking as I notice myself gnawing on the end of my pen.

‘Oh my Lord!’ I think. ‘I’m jonesing for a run!’ (I don’t really know what Jonesing means, and it’s not a word I would use in normal conversation, but it seemed to fit in this scenario. Not only do I not know what Jonesing means, I’ve never experienced it before since I’ve never tried drugs that would cause you to Jones.)

            Now, I have NO idea the agony that drug addicts go through (and I do consider it a real medical condition), so I’m not trying to make light of their struggles… But I was NOT getting in that car to drive to Louisville feeling the way I was feeling! I would have been miserable – tight, fidgety, anxious, uncomfortable… All words I’ve heard used when describing drug withdraw.

            So I decided to throw the schedule out the window, lace-up my running shoes and hit the pavement. And as soon as I took that first deep breath of fresh air that sent oxygen to my moving muscles, I began to calm down. And after I got home and stretched-out really good, I felt like a new person.

            I’ve often had people ask me about the ‘runner’s high’ associated with long distance running. Until now, I’ve always answered with, ‘I’ve never experienced a euphoric experience while running…I’m usually just thankful it’s over when I’m finished.’

            And I still might not get the rush while in the actual act of running, but I now know what it feels like to go through withdraws!

 

It’s been a few days since I began writing this blog, and I’m now only 2 days, 16 hours, 31 minutes and 12, 11, 10…seconds away from my first marathon (thanks flyingpigmarathon.com for adding that extra surge of anxiety); and the amount of adrenaline, endorphins and nervous energy flowing through my body feels unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

            So, it is my unprofessional opinion that the runner’s high – for me – is felt in the days leading up to the marathon. (I mean, I’ve been up since 3:50 a.m. cleaning house, doing laundry, cooking dinner, running, writing, taking care of my three little girls… like I have the energy and focus of five people.)

      If I could bottle this feeling and sell it I’d be a rich woman – or in prison because I’m pretty sure this is what being on cocaine would feel like.

Why I Run...

Ask almost any runner with children Why They Run and somewhere in their answer you will hear this:

I run so my children will see me run. I get up at 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings to show my children that NOTHING in this world worth having comes easy. I sacrifice free time, junk food and Girls’ Weekends to show my daughters that hard work and determination will ALWAYS garnish results. I run through three-feet of snow, torn back ligaments and blistered toes to show my sons that when you put your mind to something and work hard, ANYTHING is possible. I run for the thrill of seeing those five smiling faces cheering me on as I cross the Finish Line…

Saturday was a beautiful, warm & sunny day in Cincinnati. After completing a 15-mile training run in the morning, Chuck and I loaded our three, little girls in their car seats to drive the Flying Pig Marathon course that I will be running in three weeks.

     On one of our long runs, I’d spotted a great playground that I thought would be a perfect place for my husband, parents and children to cheer me on as I passed mile 16 of my first full marathon!

      I was so excited – pointing landmarks out to Chuck. “And then we turn and run up this hill to Eden Park,” I said as we approached the notorious ‘mountain’ on the Pig course.

      My husband was really amazed, surprised and somewhat curious about my mental well-being as he got to see – for the first time – what the last four months of literal blood, sweat and tears have been preparing me to do.

      As we approached mile 26, I pointed to the walkway over the Finish Line. “I think this would be a great place for you all to watch me, “ I said. “You’ll get a great bird’s-eye view.”

 

After our drive, Chuck and I took our girls out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day. I remember sitting at dinner, looking out at my family and getting a little emotional. Training for a marathon isn’t just a sacrifice for the runner – it’s also a sacrifice for everyone in his or her family (especially when kids are involved.)

     Every Saturday morning – since the beginning of the year – I’ve left my home before dawn, before any little eyes have opened… and my husband has been in charge of our house and all of our five kids. And as any fellow runners already know, when training for a marathon these Saturday runs aren’t just an hour. No, they stretch into the afternoon. Then when you get home, all you want to do is sink into a relaxing bathtub of ice, pop some pain medicine and go to bed. So, in all actuality, I haven’t spent a Saturday with my family in 2013.

 

The closer I get to my marathon, the more emotional I become. I can already tell I’m going to be a Finish Line Crier. (I think I’m also going to be a Starting Line Crier too.) I’ve NEVER worked this hard for something in my entire life – especially something I decided to do for Fun.

     I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m prepared.

     I’ve spent the last four months training not only my body, but also my mind, for what is about to happen. And being the type of person I am… I’ve thought of every possible scenario that could happen out on the course. What if I can’t sleep the night before and start the race with less than two hours of sleep? What if my back gives out at mile 15 like it did on my ‘BAD’ run? What if the blister between my toes bursts? What if it rains? What if it’s 95-degrees? What if… What if… What if…

     Never in my wildest, over-active, hypochondriac-induced thought did I wonder, What if a terrorist plants bombs at the Finish Line? What if my children – the very people I’m out there running to set a good example for – are harmed?

     What happened in Boston yesterday is completely unimaginable. There are no words to express how I will never understand why people – other living, breathing human beings – would want to hurt the innocent. My heart wept as I heard how 8-year-old Martin Richard was cheering for his father at the Finish Line just moments before the blast took his young, vibrant life.

 

WHY?

 

I don’t know. But what I do know is that whoever did this…obviously didn’t do their homework.

     All I’ve head on the news is how attacks like this are meant to instill fear and terror in their subjects…Well, this lunatic targeted the wrong group of people.

 

We are RUNNERS! We have always run & we will always run. We run through snowstorms, monsoons and heat waves. We run through stress fractures, torn ligaments and sprained ankles. We are not individuals out on the streets on race day. We are a unified front – conquering the course. And among us are some of the bravest, strongest people on the planet.

     We have Bob Wieland, a Vietnam veteran who was left with no legs after stepping on a mortar mine. This man has completed multiple marathons on his HANDS!

     We’ve got Regine Sediva, who was just a few miles from the finish line in Boston when the blasts shook, a legally blind marathon runner. She is literally running BLIND!

      We’ve got Rick and Dick Hoyt, the father and son team where Dick runs while pushing his son’s wheelchair. Whoever said you can’t run a marathon if you have CEREBRAL PALSY?

 

We are RUNNERS! We are determined, dedicated and slightly deranged! If someone thought they would scare us away, strike fear in our hearts, STOP US… Well they were WRONG!

We train for months to run…And RUN we WILL!