>> Thursday, October 22, 2009
When I started getting into triathlons, my wife Pharmie was in her 6th year of running marathons. She would talk about little “mental games” she would play with herself on longer runs: always do “out-and-backs” with a longer “out” first; tell herself “just get to the turn-around” and then worry about the rest; etc.
Frankly, I thought SHE was a little “mental.” I didn’t get it.
I was doing my 4-6 mile runs while training for my first sprint and olympic triathlons. “Mental games?.... My wife’s weird!” is what I thought. I wouldn’t need any “mental games” to get through my runs, and I thought Pharmie was a little strange for running like that.
Now that I’m consistently running slightly longer distances (trained for 2 half marathons, 2 10 milers, and a half Ironman this year - nothing SUPER long), I see her point. One thing I do all the time is to see how many homes I can run past before the next car passes me. I’ve also learned that there’s a huge mental aspect in the way I approach my runs. And I think I’ve proved her point over my last 4 long runs. Let me explain.
About a month ago (before the TC 10 Mile), I ran an OK 9 mile training run. Then I ran a rough 9.5 mile run, and a horrible 10 mile training run. But over the last 10 days, I ran a great 11 mile run, and a great 10 mile run.
What made those last 2 runs better/faster/stronger? It was all mentality. It had to do with what was running through my head as I started those runs.
Below are the maps for the rough 9.5 mile and the rough 10 miler. (They are just the “out” of the run - I hit the end of the route and turned around to come back the way I came to finish the run.) What do these 2 routes have in common?
Below are the maps for my recent great runs: an 11 miler and a 10 miler. (They are mapped the same as the others: they just show the “out,” and then I turned around to finish the run the same way I came.) See how these are different from the routes above?
Those runs don’t go as far away from home as the “bad” runs. I’ve found that REALLY makes a difference for me. On that 11 miler, I hit mile 8 and was running on a route that usually means I’m close to home. So I was running hard. But instead of turning towards home, I turned away from home and tacked on a few more miles before finishing. The same was true regarding mile 6 of my 10 miler.
So I’ve found the route I run on my long runs really affects my mental approach to the run. If I feel like I’m running to a completely different time zone before turning around, I’ll start off slower. Way too slow. But if I’m running near home in the middle of the run, I’ll be picking up the pace throughout, and then I’ll be HOLDING onto that pace until the run is complete. That’s my new secret for a faster long run.
So what mental games do you play? Or is this all foreign and crazy to you?
FYI: if you need to see the numbers on those 4 runs, here they are:
- Bad 9.5 miler: 59:32 (6:16 pace). Not a bad time, but that time does NOT include the 2 walk breaks I had to take (that’s the only time I’ve had to walk in a training run this year!).
- Bad 10 miler: 1:06:50 (6:41 pace). Slowest pace I’ve ran in a while.
- Good 11 miler: 1:08:54 (6:16 pace). Felt strong.
- Good 10 miler: 1:02:29 (6:15 pace). Strong throughout. Felt “right.” And I did that run while I had this current head cold! Nice.