training the brain

so today was the new bedford half marathon. a race I love. i have done this race twice before and loved each time for different reasons. it’s a great start to the running season, it has great crowds and the race is set up well. the course isn’t overly challenging but has some hills, some wind and some temperature variations every year. today was supposed to be perfect. today was another test. a way to gauge my progress. i had a serious goal time of 2 hours flat. i had never come close to that before but i have been focused on speed during my training thus far. i had asked coach k for a pace sheet and the times for the miles were intense. starting at 10:30 and then the final 5k was to be done at an 8:30 pace (just like the first day 5k). i was overwhelmed by those times and had joked with jas on wednesday that i just wanted to run, maybe even without a watch and see how things worked. this morning i was psyched to run – the weather was perfect for running, slightly overcast and not too chilly. we arrived at the race and i felt great – mentally and physically.

here are my excuses to start before i go any further:

– the wind and hills were very different than training completely on a treadmill

– i was using a fuel source i hadn’t used on the road yet

– it was an 11:00 start time

here’s the reality:

i started great. i ran the first 3 miles right on target. i hit mile 4 which is basically a set of hills – walked the hills to conserve energy and hit the downhills without using more energy but used gravity to increase the pace. after the 4th mile, my time was a few minutes off target and my brain began. “if you’re a few minutes off now, you’ll never catch up.” “if you can’t catch up and reach that goal time you’ll never be able to finish imlp” “if you can’t hit these numbers how do you expect to hit the numbers needed to complete imlp” i tried hard to quiet the noise. i focused on my breath and tried to repeat my mantra “i am sun, i am radiant” but then my pace would quicken and i was worried that i wouldn’t be able to continue at that speed. my brain was fighting with itself. so by mile 5 i had put the pace sheet away and abandoned the strictness of it. i wanted to enjoy the race i loved so much. but my brain wouldn’t stop. “why do you think you can complete a race of that distance?” “you’re too slow to be able to do it” “you haven’t put the work in to achieve this” “the extra weight isn’t helping you at all” ugh ugh ugh.

finally between mile 7-9 i got into a groove and began to feel a bit better but i continued to look at my watch. i was trying to stay below a 10 minute mile and above 9:15 without expending a ton of energy. i felt great physically. the fueling was fabulous. no stomach issues (so that excuse is out the window) and i felt strong. my hope was to hit mile 10 and be able to crank it up a notch. then i hit mile 10 and the wind picked up and i couldn’t get my legs to “crank it up” without expending so much more energy. my heart rate was through the roof so i had to walk to calm everything down. and my brain turned on again. i wanted to cry but i knew crying wouldn’t help. i tried hard to find walter’s voice. i looked for folks in the crowds that looked like other people i knew. i tried to find gratitude in the ability to even run as far as i had run. i knew that things weren’t half as bad as i was making them in my head and yet, i felt like i was a failure and the race wasn’t even done. those last 3 miles were slow and hard. i definitely didn’t crank it up and most likely had the slowest miles of the entire race. i had decided to cover up my watch since it wasn’t helping me at all. i finished and was done. it wasn’t the slowest half i had ever done at 2:20 but it wasn’t the goal that was set.

i felt like i was going to disappoint coach k. that she would say that i should just give up this dream of finishing imlp. so instead of addressing the issue head on, i hid. i tried to push down all the shit that i was feeling. but as soon as i saw jas it all came out. and of course he said all the right things to calm me down. “let it go” “lessons are learned here” “this is better than having a bad day in july” “now we know what we have to do” it was exactly what i needed to hear. and still i couldn’t get the gumption to text coach k. so she texted me. and she said the same thing. “this isn’t the wedding, it’s the bridal shower”

so now. here’s what i need. i need to learn how to shut off that horrible part of my brain. it rarely comes around these days. it used to be around all the time. but how can push that stuff out. or be aware of it, see it, observe it, honor those thoughts and watch them fly away? how do i do that? i have been observing my meditation practice and have recently tried a new app called headspace and it’s great and definitely helping. but i need to work on training my brain. i need to visualize positivity surrounding me everywhere. “what i put out into the world i will receive” i need a higher vibration. i need to dismiss the negativity and embrace the positivity. but how? how do i start? where do i begin?

and let’s be honest here. it could all lead back to the food. maybe an 11:00 start time is silly and led me into a false sense of security – i didn’t eat anything extra but was awake longer. these are things that are important to notice but not obsess over.

so how do i train my brain into embracing the positive?

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