One more post about the Hamilton Marathon, then I promise to shut up about it. My reflections so far have all been about external factors -the crowd, the course, my new friend – so this last one is all about me.
The week before the race I was more nervous than I’d ever been before a race, probably because I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I had decided that I was finally due for the perfect race, and was deciding whether to commit to my super-secret whisper goal known only to me and a small handful of others. So early in the week I was actually losing sleep over it, playing my race plan over and over in my head, running the numbers repeatedly to decide if it was actually possible or if I was just setting myself up for bitter disappointment. Fortunately the nerves peaked around Tuesday and when I finally committed my mind to the goal, I moved into a state of calm that was kind of alien to me.
My biggest fear was mental toughness: all of my training predicted that I had selected a challenging but reasonable goal, but I was afraid that I wasn’t tough enough to handle the discomfort needed to achieve it. I feared that when it came right down to it, I would let up in the name of immediate gratification. I threw it out there on Running Mania, and fortunately my fellow Maniacs came through with some good tips; including what I used as my mantra: “this hurts now but I will love this memory.”
I am happy to say all the fretting was for nothing. It helped that I had stayed on pace to meet my goal for at least the first 34K – maybe all the way to 36, but my ability to do math was seriously depleted by then so I can’t say for sure – knowing it was still a possibility was probably a huge factor in my pain tolerance.
After that, I began to bleed time. I don’t blame myself really – I was still pushing with every ounce of my being, so what happened to my pace was somewhat outside of my control. What a strange sensation: my brain fired a neuron to my legs that said something like “Giddy up!” and my legs said “Captain, I’m givin’er all she’s got!” My effort level increased, my legs burned even more, and my breathing got ever harder – but my pace just didn’t budge. Then I knew I had executed my plan to use it all up out there without blowing up.
Even though I missed my super-secret whisper goal by 1 minute and 39 seconds, I have no regrets. I ponied up where it counted and proved to myself that I am tougher than I had thought.