Sunday, July 20, 2014

Training My Brain

This morning I realized through heavy eyelids that my upcoming marathon training cycle will be much more about training my brain than training my body. As my obnoxious alarm beckoned me out of bed after a mere 4 1/2 hours sleep, the only thing I wanted to do was turn it off and roll back over. 

I hit snooze and allowed for the internal debate. 

I had already run 7 miles last night.

I haven't even started my official training program yet.

I'm so tired and this is my last chance to rest before my "real" marathon training starts.

But would I feel at 9:00am rolling out of bed not having run?

There's a whole running club to meet up with at 8:00am.

It's been a really long, emotional, full week and 7 miles was good, but adding on another 6 would be divine.

Training to BQ is going to be so much harder than getting out of bed for a 6 mile run after a night out. If I can't do it now, how will I ever hope to do it for the next 18 weeks?

This was only Day 1 of many when I will not FEEL like getting it done, but I must train my brain to do it anyway. And so I rolled out of bed, threw on some running clothes, and got out the door in record time. I made it just in time for the quick club meeting at 8am and to tag along with two club members I've never met before on a 6 mile loop around the Rutgers campus. We had a great time together.

On Thursday, I will officially start my training program for the Philadelphia Marathon. I'm using the Hansons Marathon Method which will mean six days a week of running and an aggressive schedule of speed work, tempo runs, and strength training. There will undoubtedly be many days when I would rather curl up in a ball than run. Those are the days when I will dig deep and train my brain. I already know that the finish line demands it and come November 23rd I want to know that I gave everything I had to my training. No excuses and no regrets - 18 weeks of forward motion.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Past Two Months

Plugging along the final stretch
It's been just about 2 months since I ran the NJ Marathon and made my first attempt to achieve a qualifying time for Boston. Even though I knocked 12 minutes off my time from the NYC Marathon in November, I still didn't hit the sweet spot of sub 3:40. I did go sub-4 which is sort of a big deal and I knew when I crossed the finish line that I could do better next time out. A 3:55:16 was great, but it wasn't great enough for Boston.
Beach finish line!
It was no more than 15 minutes after finishing the race when I started talking with one of my fellow running club members about our next BQ attempt. That night we were texting back and forth about training plans and strategy. This running thing has definitely bored its way into my soul.
The morning after the NJ marathon I received a Facebook message from my training coach from the NYC Marathon. He had been at the NJ Marathon and cheered me forward at a critical moment as I was leaving Asbury Park and headed into the wind for the last 6 miles. Cliff's message was matter of fact - that I will get to Boston through Philly and a reminder that with the Philly Marathon I will have the good running months to prepare. It was exactly what I needed to hear in the midst of my mixed emotions about my finish in the NJ Marathon.
I rested for the week and then ran a 10k on Saturday morning, achieving a 5 minute PR completing the race in 48:39. I went for the trifecta of PRs in one week and ran a 5k that same evening, but couldn't quite pull it off. I missed a 5k PR (going back to a race in September 2013) by 23 seconds, but did manage to place first in my age group.
A lot has happened in the two months since those races - personally and professionally - and I am now on the verge of beginning my training for the Philadelphia Marathon. It will be my 2nd attempt at a BQ and the honest truth is that I'm just this side of mortified. The doubts are creeping in. I'm realizing just how much time 16 minutes is to knock off one's marathon time.

But there have been some wonderful things going on in my life which only promise to get better and I find hope in them. I am happily back to dating again after my heartbreak of earlier this year. There have been 3 amazing Afghan Whigs shows with some of the coolest people I know, with more shows to come this fall. Two weeks ago I was able to once again travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil as a part of a campaign I am assigned to for work and it was inspiring on so many levels. My sister Karen and her husband are about to have their second child and my other sister Naomi will be visiting from Idaho twice this summer.

It hasn't been all roses though. Work has had its challenges. Fighting on the side of working people when corporations have so much power and influence isn't always encouraging. In May, we had a final vote count for an organizing effort I had spent long hours working on over the past year and we lost by 2 votes. The month of June has been spent fighting back against attacks on public workers in NJ. But, for two days in June we brought together all of the organizers working in our CWA District for a retreat and I found deep hope in all of the incredible work being done.

And then, on Thursday, June 19 there were two beautiful moments of the arc of justice bending which gave me hope in the midst of a lot of discouraging developments. I was sitting in a training class when we got the news that the union election for US Air and American Airlines agents would be moving forward this summer. US Air agents are currently CWA members and American Airlines agents have been actively organizing to join our Union for more than 20 years. With the recent merger of the two companies all agents will now vote on the question of Union representation. With this announcement came flashbacks to our most recent organizing effort during which workers came so close to winning and to the mountain AA workers faced as they fought for their Union. I cried when we lost that election in January 2013 and teared up again when word came on June 19 that the election would be moving forward. Support is overwhelming this time around and, with continued hard work, in just a few months AA agents will finally have their Union.

I was still in that same training class when my social networking feeds started exploding with news of the vote on same sex marriage in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church, USA.
Indeed, I witnessed the arc of justice bending just a bit that day and it was beautiful. I thought of all of those who can now know our church to be as welcoming as Jesus himself. I thought especially of our youth and how important it is for them to know they are loved and welcome. I pray that we can live it in a true and meaningful way. This one was deep for me and I am so thankful.

There is something about how all of these pieces are playing together in my life right now that reminds me of the delicate balance between hope and despair, between determination for change and the temptation to just give up. I will carry all of these life pieces into my training and as I prepare for my next BQ attempt I will get ready to go full throttle towards the finish line. No fear to attempt here. In every part of my life I choose hope over despair and the determination for change over the temptation to just give up. I find that it's a decision I must make daily. And so I will.