Too many things were distracting me. The heat, the humidity, my legs, my life...my mind kept wandering. I've been struggling with insomnia for the past week, and I was tired. I couldn't stop focusing on how badly I felt. Just listen to all that whining I was doing. Can't you just hear it?
I just couldn't get my head in the game. And even though I was aware of all that negativity in my head, I couldn't make it go away.
I tried. I even thought about doing punishment burpees, like Becky makes me do. But I was beat, physically and mentally, and if I would have gone down to the ground to do a burpee, chances are, I wouldn't have gotten back up.
I finally gave up. Brain 1, Wendy 0. I've pushed through really tough runs before. Why couldn't I push through this one? Physically, I felt pretty bad, but this time, I let my brain get the best of me.
I walked towards home and mentally beat myself up a bit. I wasn't mad at myself because I didn't finish the run. I was mad because I couldn't stay focused on the run. I know that running 8 miles instead of 12 isn't going to kill my marathon dream. But what is going to do me in during the marathon is the inability to control that mental monkey inside my brain. Looks like it's time for me to start on my mental toughness training again.
What can I do to prevent this from happening again? How does a runner stay focused during a tough run? Seems like it could be pretty simple:
Last year, about this time, I wrote a post called Getting Out of My Head. I went back to read it, and you know what? I had some pretty good advice for myself. I talked about being present and staying focused on the moment you are in. For a runner, that means staying tuned in to what's happening on the road.
Breathing: check in with the breath. Is your breath smooth? Is it raggedy? Sometimes consciously breathing rhythmically helps me a lot. I do a 1-2-3-4 pattern, exhaling on the 4. Usually that exhale is on my left side, because I'm prone to side stitches on the right. Taking time to concentrate on the breath helps me a lot.
Pace: on a day with hot, humid weather conditions, pacing is tricky. I knew that I needed to slow down, and for the most part, I did. I wanted about a 9:30-9:45 min/mile pace, and when I stopped my run, my average pace was 9:38. But my splits were all over the place. Had I done a better job with pacing, I may have been able to complete my run.
Stride: long strides mean more effort. So focusing on shortening your stride can be really helpful on a tough run. I use my music as a metronome, and that helps me with stride length, believe it or not! But stride length and pacing is a delicate balance.
Mentally: what's going on inside your head? If you're feeling good and having a nicely paced, easy run, it's easy to stay positive. But what if you feel like crap? And all you want to do is get it done? How do you stay positive and focused when everything else is going wrong? 99% of the time, I can chase the bad thoughts away. I might think about a good run that I've had or a great race where I pushed hard and finished strong. I pull out my mantras. I think about Becky telling me that I have to do burpees for every negative thought I have. I think about my goal and what I'm training for.
Sometimes, none of this works. Sometimes you just have a bad run. But I believe that there's a purpose for those bad runs, because they force us to look at what went wrong and to refocus ourselves.
There's always something good in a bad run. If they were all good, we'd never get any better. It's the challenge of pushing past adversity that makes us stronger runners.
Heck, any run is better than no run, right?
How do you stay focused during a tough run?
I'm linking this post up with DebRuns, who hosts WednesdayWord. Today's word is focus. She always seems to know the right word for me. Ha! Check out what the other bloggers are saying this week.