Custom Search

Friday, January 27, 2012

How I train: the mental part

The last part of How I Train is kind of a catch-all of things I didn't put elsewhere, but it concludes with one of the most important parts: the mental aspect! If I could credit one thing with taking me from a 4:15 to a 3:09 marathon, it's thinking I could do it.
But first some bits and pieces I forgot...
The mental aspect comes into play when one realizes one has run 27.2 miles instead of 26.2. Yes, I actually did that. 

Injuries: At first (marathon #1), I was a big ball of injury - I was not in the shape to attempt a marathon and training hurt. This is why I'm not a proponent of the "You, too, can run a marathon" kind of plan. Sure, anyone can run a marathon. But first you need to build up a decent base, or the mileage increase will injure you!
My biggest injury was excruciating runner's knee that plagued me for months and lead to other, responsive injuries. I fixed that in 2 weeks by throwing out my motion control shoes and going neutral. Bam, just like that, no more pain. My only injury after that was a mild fracture sustained from a hard landing on a rough surface...playing chicken with a train. I know. Sorry. I do dumb stuff sometimes. It serves me right. It healed in a month and has been 100% pain free since then.
Edited in 2013: Since the time I wrote this, I developed a chronic condition (osteitis pubis) and then lost over 7 months to a stress fracture: what was initially diagnosed as a hamstring tear turned out to be a femoral stress fracture. I'm not sure how it happened to begin with, but running on it for 5 months certainly made it worse. I'll re-edit later if I find out more info on what could have prevented this injury!
Gear: I'm not really into fancy running stuff. I got a Garmin for Christmas a year ago, but I only wear it for speed workouts, long runs when I don't know my route distance, and races. I wear an ipod for long runs and races, too, but not for everyday running.
I buy my socks and jog bras from Walmart. They are cheap cotton. I buy shorts off Ebay or Nike clearance. I got tights at Target last year for $1.99. I have only purchased a running top ONCE, since I wear mostly race T's. I snap up clearance shoes and try to spend less than $39.99 per pair.
To me, the appeal of running is that anyone can do it with very, very little stuff. I don't want to lose that feeling of fun and freedom, so I keep things low tech.
Right now, I wear Saucony Kinvaras - men's, since I have wide feet - and I love them. I wear them for long runs, track, races, and every day. I also have a pair of Karhu Fulcrum Fast, which I rotate in about once a week. I love my Karhu's, too, but lately I've been having trouble with fit. I think I'm between sizes in a women's shoe - men's shoes just fit better.
The best thing I ever did for my running was to switch to a neutral shoe. I'm a believer in letting your body, not an external device, correct for any imbalance or anomaly. If you think about it, you've been alive and kicking with that darned pronation or funny gait for 20+ years and it never hurt you before. When you do natural activities like walking, lifting, or sitting, you didn't need special shoes to prevent a catastrophe. So why do you need them for running, which should also be a natural activity? I'm not saying go totally minimalist, which didn't work for me (I tried it, I felt too much impact); I'm just saying, let your body do its thing. If you aren't having problems, don't let some running shoe store sell you a stability shoe to "fix' something.

Fuel: Before I run I have half a cup of coffee - full cup for a race - but I generally do not eat. I eat lightly before a marathon but no other distance. While running, I eat gels or oatmeal or white rice. Yeah, I bring teeny bags of cooked and salted rice and oatmeal with me. It's cheaper than gels.
For long runs, I only fuel for 18 miles and over. I bring two servings of fuel (2 gels, 2 bags of rince, etc).
For races, I usually bring a gel or two for a half marathon, although I rarely will take more than one.
When I race a marathon, I need fuel. I drink Gatorade at about every other water stop, and I bring about 4 gels.
I take my gels in halves since it's easier to get enough liquid down with them that way. I try to stay on a schedule of miles 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22 - half a Gu at each. Obviously I will adjust this based on location of water stations.
For the rest of the time, my normal diet is just ok. I drink lots of coffee and have red wine at least 5 times a week. Hey, it keeps my cholesterol in check! I am lucky that I generally like healthy foods, especially fruits, veggies, and legumes, but I eat plenty of treats, too. That's why I'm medium-weight instead of pro-runner skinny. I like eating and food makes me happy.

What I don't do: I do not ice, I do not wear compression, I do not race without drinking water, I do not drink chocolate milk, I do not have mantras, I do not run barefoot, I do not diet, I do not take supplements, I do not bandit,  I do not cross train, I do not stretch, I do not carb-load, I do not buy expensive accessories, I do not raise money for charity, I do not negative-split, I do not mid-foot strike, I do not do Yasso 800's, I do not run on treadmills, I do not run ultras, I do not use sunscreen. I do what I can, want, like, and other words, I keep running a hobby, not a lifestyle. Only you know just the mix of dos and don'ts that work for you! Some things I should do to improve but I'm not willing to sacrifice for them. Some things would be fun to do, but would cut into time and money I should spend on other things. You just have to pick and choose what works for you. 

When the going gets hairy: So here's the thing. I don't like quitting or copping out. I don't usually make excuses for myself. I'm not silly enough to not allow myself a pass if I'm sick or injured, but I don't like going easy on myself. I'm not a perfectionist, just pushy.
I'm not built to be a runner. I'm a stocky, muscular build that doesn't promise long smooth strides. I'm heavier than most runners running my same speed. I have terribly damaged feet from wearing too-small shoes growing up, and I heel strike. But I do not give up and I don't make excuses. I think that's helped me more than any natural ability or training plan.

What's helped YOU more than anything else?


  1. I love your statement of 'I do what I can, want, like and afford'...very well said!

    1. Love your list of "do nots." So important not to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. We're all an experiment of one. For me, when my training has been solid, I am confident. Take that into a race and I'm good to go.

  2. Impressive. it's nice to see someone keep it so simple and cheap, and still persevere in the sport of running. I completely agree that once you get into the mentality that you need the "expensive gear and the best in line shoes" it just makes you a little bit snobbish..... but anyway, thanks for sharing. I'm always happy to read your stuff.

  3. Remembering that life is a marathon, not a series of sprints. With ups, downs, bumps and glories. Its all part of the mosaic.

  4. you know Grete Waitz was also a heel striker? I think too much emphasis is placed on that stuff at this point. I am not a very fast runner. And I do DO many of the things you don't do!!

    1. I do occasionally raise money for Charity- for a charity I want to raise money for, not one that promises me "training" or forces me to raise money.

    2. I wear compression gear. I started after my hip surgery. It helps me. Not sure if its for everyone, but it really helped my groin.

    3.I cross train and stretch because I love Xtraining and stretching feels sooo goood.

    4. I do use sunscreen!!! OMG! But I live in the sunshine state and am a white white gal. I love having skin that does not peel!!!

    5. I buy well fitting sports bras, but at 34 D, I think I am entitled!

    Now: I buy all my shoes on sale as well, sometimes buying 2-3 pairs of the old model to last a season. I do the same for any gear. I do have some gear, but I'm not a person that feels that the GEAR is what makes the runner, quite the opposite...I use the gear that helps me. For example, i am totally sold on my fuel belt. For years I spent lots of time pre-planting water bottles. the belt saves me a lot of time and hassle and I find it totally useful...but does eveyone need one? Do I really need one? Nope...It is just easier. None of my gear has really made me any faster, but some of it has made my running either more comfortable or convienient.

    I follow plans but I am in total agreement with you. I hate the "everyone can run a Marathon plan" Sure why not, but should you? Better to enjoy a race you are prepared for no matter the distance, than to totally suffer all the way through!

    I love the idea of the salted White rice. Sounds hard to eat, but really really good. Gels are sooo sticky.

  5. It is SO refreshing to read someone who 'just runs'. All too often running can become overwhelming, because YOU make it overwhelming, you know?

  6. This was wonderful to read Gracie. I like you. ha ha...that sounds funny but in my book. ;) Not that you care but I'm thankful for posts like this that just keep it simple...You just run! Because you love it and you are good at it! I've forgotten some of this over the years. Just keep it simple! When I do this, it seems to all come together and fall into place. Somewhere along the road of blogging and blog reading I got a little sucked up into the "stuff" of running...the "trends" and I forgot what it is to just run and race just for the pure enjoyment of it all. :) Like running in my Target cotton shorts and using my Timex watch and not even knowing what a Garmin was. But I do have to say that it has been fun to learn so much about running and training and see how tweaking a few things and being more conscious about my form, training, diet, etc. will help improve my times. It is fun to just run but also fun to make more conscious decisions to apply to my training. Just another season in my running life....Rambling here and I'm sure none of it makes sense since I'm typing through a sibling fight in the other other room....must go break it up before something gets broken.

  7. I love your list of "do nots". I think each runner is different and different things work for everyone. It doesn't hurt to get information and suggestions from other runners, but we need to make sure we are doing what is working for our body. I personally get nauseous when I eat Gu. I read about one girl who used gummy bears as fuel. I love my $45 fuel belt but am wearing the same $2 thrift store tech long sleeved shirt that I have been wearing for the last 4 years. We all figure out what works for us! I do like your idea of running being something that we started because it WAS cheap and easy and you could do it anywhere! Now there is so much expensive gear, it's crazy!

  8. Great post! I really like reading these kind of things. Especially the point about shoes - I mean a lot of the African runners don't even wear shoes, and if they do wear shoes they are very thin shoes. And back in the day no one had motion control shoes at all. Seems like the shoe companies invented motion control shoes to make more money.

    Yea, I thought of you during that 49ers-Saints game, that game was crazy. The Saints had a really good team, crazy that they still almost won even though they had 5 turnovers. That shows how loaded that Saints team was. If the game had been in the NO dome, you guys would have won I think.

    For your wine country vacation, I think the best time to go is right around Sept or Oct. The temp is still pretty much perfect out, not too hot or too cold. And the vines are still in full bloom with leaves. The leaves seem to stay on until early Dec it seems like.

    For where to stay, I'm not as familiar with that - I'd say maybe Napa right now. Sonoma is about a 20 minute drive from Napa, so that is another city to check out. The places where I like to wine taste are near Healdsburg, which is about an hour northwest from Napa. Though you could just wine taste right in Napa, I know they have some nice bike tours where you can bike to each winery - since in Napa they are all right along highway 29.

    For things to do, I'm not sure how much you are into wine - but I guess you could wine taste a different day in each city (1 day Napa, 1 day Sonoma, 1 day near Healdsburgh where I just went).

    Not sure if you also want to head into SF - checking out Muir Woods I think is awesome, massive redwood trees.

    You could also spend a day in SF checking out the city.

    Near Muir Woods is the city of Tiburon, it has an awesome outdoor bar/restaurant by the water (Sam's). It is a ton of fun just sitting outside drinking and enjoying the surroundings. You can also take the ferry from there into SF.

    As for other things to do in SF, my favorite thing by far to do is checking out Alcatraz prison.

    And for you running over the Golden Gate bridge would probably be a blast. You could park near the Marina Green area, then run up to the Golden Gate bridge and then back - the run would be like 7 miles or so I would guess.

    I guess it all depends on what you want to do, let me know if you have any questions!

  9. Love your list of do's and dont's! If running is your hobby and doing or not doing something helps you enjoy it more I say go for it! I think it's very easy to get caught up in the latest trend. Currently, I am hooked on compression socks and shorts. Maybe it's just a winter thing since it's cold outside...??

    I agree with Raina- so much of a runners perspective depends on the season of life they are in. To me, I enjoy the challenge of yasso 800's, the occasional ice bath and carb loading. Like you said, we do what makes us happy. I love how you confidently march to your own beat. With a 3:09 marathon I'd say that it's working!! : )

  10. Ok, I said Raina but meant Amanda!! Whoops!

  11. I am cracking up at your "don'ts." Other than the sunscreen one, seeing as how I live in the sunniest city in the WORLD (Guinness Book... no lie!) and had a precancerous freckle scraped off my lip last fall. GAH! So I have to do sunscreen for real.

    Great post. I LOVE how you keep it simple and continue to kick ass. So refreshing. I think that's how the coolest runners do it. My coach is like that. Not into Garmins 24/7 and GUs and whatnot.

  12. I wanna be just like you when I grow up.

    I LOVE your list of I do nots. Too many people have this, "You're not a real runner unless ____" mindset. And I love that you're faster than most of them! HA!

  13. The more I read your blog, the more I like you. opposites attract even in the blog world. I love your freedom, but for me, I LOVE a PLAN. I love the way I feel when I carry through with it and see results from doing it. I'm also kind of opposite on the spending side for running. I'm fiscally conservative in all other areas of my life (we have "poor man's tv" - no cable or satellite, etc), but my passion is running and the older I get, the more willing I am to pay for comfort or running toys. thanks so much for putting together all of this excellent info. super! I love to learn from others...

  14. I love these posts on your training. And hooray for no gus's, etc. I've gotten faster since only using the garmin once a week. And just running...