Monthly Archives: March 2013

Gain an advantage in your race without adding another mile

The average person running a half marathon will train for 12 weeks. They will run  approximately 213.1 miles, rest 24 days and cross train for 11 days. The average person running a full marathon will train for 18 weeks. They will run 477 miles, rest 36 days and cross train for 17 days. I guarantee if you follow the average program, without illness or injury, your body WILL have the ability to finish your half marathon or your full marathon, no doubt. Will you run an like an Olympian? No, because you have not trained like an Olympian. Finishing a half marathon or a full marathon is an enormous accomplishment.

What’s the secret to gaining an advantage going into your next race without adding another mile? You can train your mind!! According to Dr. Tim Noakes in his book,  The Lore of Running, “most athletes are physically overeducated but emotionally undereducated.” He goes on to say, “focus exclusively on those variables over which you have complete control: goal setting, visualization and arousal control.” Dr. Noakes explains that thinking about a specific exercise task produces the same brain activity that occurs when the actual task is performed. I love this quote from Sport Psychology Today.

The problem with most people is that they program their subconscious mind with negative coordinates. The visualize images of failure, they replay mistakes, they think about negative scenarios that might happen, and picture the negative consequences that may arise. Unfortunately the subconscious mind doesn’t judge. It doesn’t say “those coordinates are negative so I’ll just ignore them”. In that way it’s very similar to the GPS system in your car. The GPS doesn’t judge, it simply takes you to the programmed destination. The theatre of your mind is the one place where you can ensure success. You can execute skills flawlessly, you can dominate your competition, and you can ensure victory. By visualizing success, you program your subconscious to move towards success. “The Power of Visualization” by Matt Neason

The keys to preparing your mind lie in the following: visualization, setting targets and positive reinforcement. Here are some examples of each key.


  • include as much detail as you can using all your senses
  • hear the crowd
  • smell the enviornment
  • feel the road
  • feel the wind
  • taste your drink/food

Setting targets:

  • in the beginning of the race your targets will cover more ground. In a half marathon, it might look like this, a certain pace for the first 10K, a certain pace from mile 6.1 to mile 8.9.
  • in last 25% of the race your targets will cover less ground, ie. certain pace for mile 9-10, mile 10-11, etc. Earlier goals are easier to achieve because you are fresh and pumped up. In the last 25% of any race you will be exceptionally tired. You keep your goals in small increments because they will feel tougher and uncomfortable at first. As you achieve success in these later targets, you will strive toward the next.

Positive reinforcement: (Here are some examples from Magical Running by Bobby McGee)

  • I am very strong
  • I am patient
  • Each step relaxes me more
  • I love hills
  • I am a champion experiencing the challenges of the journey to the top
  • I can handle anything
  • I am powerful
  • I am deserving
  • By holding my form & relaxing, I ensure an excellent finish
  • I love running
  • I can commit to an excellent level of running, no matter how I feel
  • I am prepared to run
  • I will see challenges as a normal phenomenon
  • I will choose to master the race

Magical Running taught me that we affirm ourselves all the time, both positively and negatively. You cannot simply “get rid” of the negative thoughts (affirmations).  You must fill your mind with the positive affirmations to the point that there is not room for the negative to remain. I used to work endlessly with the negative thoughts, ie. I am slow. I am weak. I am fat. I wasted my time on the lies that these are and tried to refute each one. Now, I believe it does not have to be that complicated. If I can spend time each day to positively affirm who I am and what I am capable of doing,  I start to believe “I am strong”, “I am beautiful”, “I am loved”, “I love hills”. . . . The negative affirmations have no weight.



I think for the first time that I can remember, I went into this trail marathon feeling very relaxed and totally prepared. I was going to run with abandon. I was not going to be conservative. I was going to race harder than I trained. I was not going to let myself slowdown or give in (little did I know what that was going to mean). I had a few songs on my iPod that I played on the way there, “God of Angel Armies” by Chris Rice and “Strangely Dim” by Francesca Battistelli, both songs reminding me Who is in control and where I will need to keep my eyes/heart as I run this race.

The pack started out at a fast 10:50 pace. I settled into last place, happily. I settled into my pace, contently. I was moving along well behind the other 65 runners, down the Stone Door. After moving down this steep rock stairs, the trail moved to a very rocky path.

Then, at mile 3, it happened. I do not remember exactly how I twisted my ankle. I just remember this terrible popping sound and intense pain in my ankle. I stopped in my tracks. I needed to decide what to do. I almost stopped there, but no one was around. I would have to move to get to a Park Ranger. So, I pressed on. My goal now, until I reached the first aid station at mile 6.7, was to make sure that my left food landed flat and landed well. I reached the first aid station, and I had the ranger tape up my ankle. It was tight, but it felt good and stable. I pressed on. At this point, I just wanted to know how far I could go. I was eating and drinking well. I felt good. BUT the rocks were relentless! The problem with the rocks was that I could not get a secure step for my left ankle. The weather was perfect. The hills were not bad. In fact, the hills were a huge relief from the rocks. This place was amazing, the waterfalls, the swinging bridges. I was trying to distract myself with the beauty and not be controlled by the pain. I was reminding myself to relax. I was talking myself out of the pain, until mile 15.

I was becoming a bit overwhelmed. I was crying here and there. The tears were in part due to the fact that I knew I had to stop,  and partly because I knew running was not my ultimate treasure, Jesus was. I NEVER disappoint Him. I NEVER have to prove myself to Him. I am His and He is mine. He loves me no matter the outcome of this race.  I reached a Park Ranger at mile 15. He was close to a creek crossing with a rope provided to avoid going in the water, completely. I began doubting myself. I asked the ranger what he thought. I had 40 minutes to reach the race cutoff at mile 17.5. He convinced me to take my ibuprofen and press on to the cutoff. The worst part was that it was two miles downhill on more rocks, excruciating to my sprained left ankle. Drum roll, please. . . . I made it! I arrived at the race cutoff with 15 minutes to spare. I absolutely HATED to drop out at this point because my eating was good. I was hydrated. I had plenty of food left. I had planned well. There were only 8.5 miles to go. I had to stop. If my ankle had stayed well, I would have finished. . . no question. This year, I had to stop.

I cried pretty much the entire 1 hour and 45 minutes home. I put my iPod on and listened to the songs I started with on the way to the race. I was reminded and comforted and at peace with my DNF. I would not have changed a thing. I raced exactly how I would have raced ankle sprain or not. That is a good feeling. I was reminded gently that I am loved, unconditionally. That is a good feeling.

I had an x-ray on Monday, nothing was broken. I had an MRI on Wednesday. I got the results Friday, no torn tendons. I spent this week, resting. I went to the gym a few days. I ran a mile or two with my kids. Saturday, I decided to do a shortish hill workout. Then, I got outside. The weather was perfect. I decided to turn this workout into a longish hill workout. I took the route I made and doubled up all the hills. I did not finish (DNF) the race, but It’s Gonna Be Okay (IGBOK).

Seasoned with Testosterone

I’m an average 41 year old woman. Here’s my stats: 5’10”, 153lbs on a good day and 159lbs on a bad day. This is not to invoke compliments or pity. This is me saying I am completely happy to be 41, a woman, and 159 lbs. I would not change a thing, and I will not listen to the voices anymore or look at the magazines anymore that tell me there is something wrong with my body. My question is how does the average woman train above average? Read on!

I keep a journal of my running. I track my days, my miles, my pace, my gym days, my rest days. You get the picture. I have tried a few different things to prepare myself for this trail marathon. I think my biggest change was variety. I had gym days, 2-a-days, track workouts, trail runs, road runs and hill runs. I sat down yesterday and looked it over. This training cycle, I logged two 66 mile weeks. That is the most that I have done to date. (Knock on wood!) I have been healthier this go around and uninjured.

Race day is approaching, FAST! I run 26.2 trail miles in Savage Gulf on Saturday. The weather will be a low of 50 and a high of 67? I bit warm, but I will take it. 🙂 What am I wearing? Glad you asked! I do have an outfit chosen. For trail running/racing, I prefer my basic Nike shorts. I do not like the Nikes for a road race or run, but they are the best for trails. They are black with pink highlights. I’ll be wearing my new bold green lululemon tank, ‘natch! (pronounced like hatch, short for naturally.) I’ll have on my swiftwick compression socks. They are black with two pink stripes. I’ll have on my Montrails. Finally, I will be sporting my brand new  AK Ultimate Direction Hydration Vest.

Here’s what is on the menu. I will bring 2 kind bars, 4 gels, 2 packets of Perpetuem, fig bars and endurolytes. There will also be food at every aid station. They serve m & m’s, chips, gummy bears, coca-cola and cooked potatoes, dipped in salt. This race has an aid station approximately  every 6.5 miles. My new hydration vest will fit all this stuff. I will also bring extra socks, a visor, extra shirt and cell phone. Let the adventure begin.

My hormones are at it again. This time, I am taking advantage of the surge of testosterone. I tell you what, I know this is my taper week, but I have had some great runs. I ran a hilly run on Tuesday, and it seemed effortless. Today was my last trail run, no walking on the trail. I think it is that my body is seasoned with Testosterone right now. Things don’t seem so hard, and there is this fire inside. I am not restless on this taper. I am enjoying the rest. I just have this surge of ‘power’.

I plan on sitting down in the next day or so and write out my ideal race plan. From start to finish, what I dream to be the optimal race. I will write out each part of the race, beginning, middle and end. I will write down how I feel at each moment. Then, I will sit down and write out how I will respond to situations that arise that I have no control over, like the weather or trail conditions. Last, I will practice my positive affirmations. These phrases I will rehearse and then, recall on the trail.

Time to Taper

(Sigh). . . Tapering again. Shouldn’t I be good at this?! Last year, I tapered five times. I must admit that it is hard to believe that tapering is important or necessary. I mean, I go from running 50 miles a week to zero. BUT it feels more like you go from superhuman to unremarkable mortal.

I started to think about the idea of tapering. I’ve searched for good definitions of taper. I like the definition used by Blaine Moore in his article, What is a “taper”? He defines it as a decreasing in the time, the training intensity, or the training volume in which you are engaged in the days or weeks leading up to a performance event.

This started me thinking. We do not just taper in sports events. We taper in real life! Think about it, don’t you remember the intensity to which the build-up of your wedding was? I had about a week’s taper before my ceremony. Then, there was my high school graduation. I tapered for about a month before graduation, because my college was chosen, my tests were finished, my grades were pretty much secured. There was also my taper before my babies were born. Hmm. . . These were all events that I longed for and looked forward to. I was tapering and enjoying it and did not even know it.

Then, why is it so hard for the average athlete to taper and not sneak in a last minute long run or speed workout? Your race is chosen. Your workouts are finished. Your good running days and your bad running days are settled. Time to look forward to the graduation. I mean; you started out at one level when week one of twelve or sixteen or eighteen began and NOW look at you!! You have graduated to better times, longer distances, a fitter heart and body. Amazing!! Time to race and move on to the next great (running) thing.

Tim Noakes, MD in his book, The Lore of Running sums up tapering in the following quote:

“You will need certainly three weeks to put the finishing touches to your stamina and reserve energy. When you consider what a vast amount of work you have already gone through, you will admit that a fortnight or so longer is a relatively trifling matter. Endeavor to keep all your spare time fully occupied with reading, writing, anything that will keep you still, anything to divert your mind from harping on the forthcoming event.”