It’s official; I’m registered for the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon on December 6. I’m so excited, and a lot of it is because I actually get to go somewhere!! Registering for a race is a sure-fire way of taking a trip, even if the trip is for an extended weekend. Bill and I are going there BY OURSELVES, sans kids, and I’m going to run a race in a place I’ve never been before. I can’t think of a better mini-vacation, honestly.
Because the race is (now) less than three weeks out, I’m focusing on tempo runs and speed work. I’m not worried about the distance; I can do 13.1 miles any day. A few days ago, Kathy chose Bobolink Trail in east Boulder county for our Saturday run because of the forecasted snow; if we got a lot, Bobolink is relatively flat and a few miles from the Foothills, where snow means breaking trail and running on icy hills. Bobolink is a better bet when you don’t know if there will be snow.
And, there wasn’t. The snow held off until Saturday afternoon, giving us an overcast, cool morning. I wore running tights and a pullover, as well as my SmartWool glove liners (I’ve mentioned my love affair with these beauties in pervious posts) and a new Nike skullcap that has a pony tail hole in the back. Heidi, our “weather barometer”, arrived in shorts and a long sleeve tech shirt with her Nike skullcap (in a different color) and gloves. If Heidi is in shorts, that means the temp is 40 degrees or above.
Heidi and I took off at the front of the group and stayed there. She’s feeling mostly recovered from the Kona Ironman race in October and is finally ready for a little more speed work. We chatted easily through the miles, and she was game for extending at the back end. Bobolink is an out-and-back, so we went to the end of the trail (3.36 miles) and back to the parking lot (3.36 miles) and then headed out again, stopping at the underpass of South Boulder Road (1.25 miles) and turning around (1.25 miles).
On the third leg of our journey we started talking about iPods and music. I asked if she listens to an iPod when she runs (answer: sometimes, and with only one earbud) and what she listens to (answer: Coldplay, Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs). I told her what my latest faves are (Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There”, Tab Benoit (Louisiana Cajun/Blues), Barenaked Ladies “If I Had a Million Dollars“, Cake, Cracker). Glancing at my Garmin, I noticed we had mysteriously picked up pace while we were talking about music, and were now at a 7:30 pace instead of the 8:00/miles we had been holding for the first hour. Heidi mentioned the marathon runner who was DQ’d at the Lakefront Marathon in October because she used an iPod between miles 19-21, some of the hardest miles in a marathon. It’s illegal for elites to use iPods because of the “energy boost” you get when with music, so she was stripped of her winning title after some pictures of her with the iPod surfaced on the Internet.
Conversation ensued about the idea of finding your own mental reserves, and how racing pushes people to get away from the crutch of outside stimulation (an iPod, a training partner) and find personal inner strength. Heidi has a lot to say on this topic, as she just went through ten months of training; first for Oceanside, where she qualified for Kona, and then training for Kona. Sometimes she trained with people, going on runs or riding with someone. Sometimes she trained solo. Having a training partner broke up the monotony of seven hour rides, but it didn’t train her for being on the race course without a buddy. So, she made an effort to fit in training runs and rides where she went out solo, thus preparing herself to get through the hard patches by dipping into her inner strength.
Mark Allen and Brant Secunda discuss this concept in their book “Fit Soul, Fit Body”. Athletes (elite, average, and everyone in between) must train their brains and souls for the work that is required over the long haul. This training spills into everyday life, where a person will inevitably come upon a situation where inner fortitude is the only thing there is to rely upon. Us average folk look at elite athletes like Josh Cox or Lance Armstrong and sometimes wonder where they get their perseverance, tenacity, and drive, while also being flexible in the face of unforeseen circumstances that are out of their control. Those qualities are attainable by every person, should they choose to give up the crutches that keep them stuck in second gear.
Athletes train hard, season after season. Workouts are logged, miles are covered, sweat is shed. The mind needs to be exercised and trained at the same time. When one is comfortable with their own mind and solitude, the deepest reserves of inner strength are available to draw from during any time of need.
During the two weeks of ramped up tempo runs and speed work as I get ready for the Las Vegas Half Marathon, I’m going to spend equal time training my mind to plumb the depths of my inner strength and working on my physical capabilities. This “inner training” will last eons after my muscles recover from any speed workout I do.
How about YOU?? How do you train your mind and soul for hard workouts, races, and the curves that life throws at you? Does your athleticism distract you from digging deeper, or complement your efforts?