This was my third Brooklyn Half and sixth half marathon in total. Last year, I began training too early and had lost a lot of my momentum by the month of the race. That was the first year I attempted actually training. I had a goal time and everything. I didn’t meet it. And I didn’t have a good race. I ran almost-PR’s for all my splits then completely gave up at Mile 10. I had nothing left. And walked most of the last three miles. I was miserable. It wasn’t even my worst time. But it was my worst experience.
For this year, I decided to go back to my training plan of Fuck It. This entails no consistent running schedule whatsoever. Some haphazard “long runs.” Zero pressure. It’s worked in the past so I actually had high hopes. Well, I was three-minutes slower this year than last year. But my overall experience was far better.
Last year, I did not run to the best of my ability. I gave in to my mental weaknesses. This year, I know I could not have ran that race any better. Unless I actually trained, of course. Going in with what I had, I never stopped when I didn’t need to. I never let myself get discouraged. And I really dug deep while struggling and continued when I didn’t want to. That felt good.
So my preparation for the 2015 BK Half included 17 total runs between January & May, the longest being 5-miles. I am not encouraging this. Especially if you are new new to running.
Training for the Mental Race
This year wasn’t about physical training. I already know how to deal with cramps, blisters, pacing, hydration, and dry-wicking material. Last year I let negative thoughts get the best of me and I did not want that to happen this year.
This year, I trained my brain to not sabotage me during the run. I actually wish I had done this in previous races because it helped more than anything else I’ve ever tried. It took a strategy. I came up with a plan of attack for when my doubts and worries come up in the late part of the race. I chose three ideas that could occupy my time and took some thinking.
The first idea I prepared was a current artsy project I’ve started working on for fun. It consists of multiple pages. So I broke down each page in my head. I thought about font, colors, layout, spacing, etc. The minute details were time-consuming to think about and a great distraction. The second idea was working through one of my NaNoWriMo stories. I thought about character development, plot points, sense, and the fictional world. This was another successful distraction because I really could get lost in the story world.
When I began to think Why am I doing this? I don’t even like running, I quickly told my brain “Stop!” Then paused for a second to bring back up what I was last thinking about in the project or story. “Okay, but what about the main character’s sister? Where does she fall in place.” By asking myself questions, it kept up a good distraction from negative thoughts. Or just thoughts about the physical pain I was in.
BK Half Recap
It was a cloudy Saturday. There were fears it was going to rain. It did, later on. Before the race even started, I had to stand in a 25-minute security line. Not a baggage check security line. Just a metal detector security line. … Even at this part I practiced my distraction exercises. I get so upset at ostentatious security. I often exert a lot of energy getting mad at people before a race starts. I didn’t want to make myself so upset this time. So while standing in this mandatory line for the most absurd reasons, I thought about my story to keep myself calm.
The rain held off until the race started (Wave 2). Within the first mile we could start to feel rain drops. Then it really started down pouring. We weren’t even in the park yet and it was raining hard. I’ve ran in the rain before but never during a half. I was prepared with a hat and dry-wicking everything. But it was pretty miserable. My hair was sticking to me. My clothes felt gross. My socks were now wet. There was mud and road gunk everywhere. Just kind of gross.
On the plus-side, the clouds remained the whole time. The run down Ocean Parkway is so boring. It’s flat. There aren’t too many spectators. There’s not much scenery. Since you’re on a highway, there is no shade, so this part is the worst when the sun is out. I was very grateful that it remained cloudy for the entire race.
I stretched a few times, for the first time during a half. I planned it out at certain mile markers and I really think it helped. Although my pace is slow, I only stopped to drink water and stretch. I was running the rest of the time. After the race, I felt fairly good and just had a normal Saturday.
To be honest here, the Great Saunter felt like more of a challenge and struggle than any Half Marthon I’ve ran. Two and a half hours is a joke compared to a 12-hour activity that actually takes up your entire day.