After my horrid performance in Rockland County, New York, I felt like I needed to bounce back in a rather quiet, determined way. My September marathon was scheduled for the middle of the month in Dayton, Ohio. I have heard nothing but amazing things about The Air Force Marathon, and I was really looking forward to it; however, life gets in the way at times – and responsibilities elsewhere required me to cancel my reservations. So just like June, when I missed the Lake Placid Marathon, I was faced with a dilemma. I needed to keep my promise of a marathon a month – but I was now left without a race to run.
I enjoyed a relaxing, long Labor Day Weekend visiting family in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I even got to play a really fun round of golf with my cousin Dennis, on the Michigan University course. I hacked away at the ball for a few hours, actually hit 4-5 ok shots (the rest of my swings were downright embarrassing – at one point a woodchuck literally rolled his eyes at me as i attempted (in vain) to escape the rough along the 8th fairway). As poorly as i played, i could have cared less because laughed the whole way through. good company has a way of making you forget some of the things that sat sour in your mind. Spending time with family was just the type of magic elixir I needed to shake off my lousy August performance.
Upon my return, I felt that spark come back. I had been feeling a bit down due to my inability to push through a rather tame injury during the Self Transcendence Marathon. I expected much more from myself than I actually delivered. Now that the spark was back, I decided to capitalize on my new-found positivity and crank out 26.2 in the same manner as my June run. Time to completely exorcise the demon.
The Saturday after Labor Day, I decided to leave my apartment really early and run at least 13 miles before the beginning of my Team for Kids weekly long training run. I would then join up with the team as a mentor, and run with them for my last 13-14 miles. I woke up that Saturday morning…well…in the words of John Geutfriend (former CEO of the old Solomon Brothers) “ready to bite the ass off a bear”. (I think that term is another way of saying “I’m all fired up”…but I’ve been dying to use that quote – so there you go).
I grabbed a water bottle – I chose not to use my hydration pack because there are water fountains all over Central Park – dosed myself with Body Glide, grabbed my studly sunglasses and off and headed to the park.
I paced myself as I made my way along the outer loop of the Park. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, Central Park is pretty hilly in spots, and I am VERY anti-incline. So pacing conservatively early on allowed me to save energy for the second loop. By the time I had completed my two loops, it was almost time to meet up with Team For Kids near the Columbus Circle entrance of the park. 13 miles down in 2 hours, 6 minutes. I shocked myself – that was a personal best for the half marathon distance.
The team broke up into three groups: those that run sub 9 minute miles (I wish!), those that run approximately 9-10 minute miles (I can do that for a 10k – but it’s tough for 20 full miles, and I had 13 down already), and those running 10:30 minute per mile or greater. I went with this last group, in order to maintain my momentum.
As our group made its way along the park’s Bridal Path, the energy generated by running as a team kept the spring in my legs long after the point where I expected to be fried. Early on I had one teammate that dealt with some nasty stomach issues (and boy do I have my MBA in THAT field!), so I slowed up and tried to coach her through it. I got her around one loop of the path, and then she made the decision to call it a day. A wise move. You can prepare as well as humanly possible for a long run…but you never know what your body has in store for you once you’re out there, doing your thing. Some days are fantastic, and some days aren’t. As a runner, you just have to be enjoy the good days, and learn from the bad ones. We parted ways, and I kept slowly chugging along.
As I watched her walk toward our team’s meeting area to pick up her bag, I thought back to my golf game in Ann Arbor. I hit a BUNCH of lousy shots. Ones that made the pigeons giggle and the squirrels nervous. But being with friendly people, on a perfect day, walking on a gorgeous course – my mistakes were forgotten almost instantly. My head simply stayed in the present. The 4-5 good shots that I did manage to slug – those are the only ones I can recall. In my years of studying the game of golf, I read a few books written by Dr. Bob Rotella. My favorite was “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”. Within it, Dr. Rotella talks about how the best players in the world develop a “shooter’s mentality” – the ability to forget the shots that went wayward, and focus on the successful ones. He also mentions that the best players work really hard at the game – they practice every type of shot, every day. They practice so much that, when it comes time to play a match, they trust their swing to do exactly what it normally does in practice. They “train it and trust it”. As I plodded along the path, attempting to catch the rest of my group, I decided that I needed to develop my own Shooter’s Mentality when it came to running. In order to do that, I need to train it and trust it – train my legs and trust that they can go the distance I tell them to.
As miles 21-22 were being reeled in, I decided to transfer from the Bridal Path to the outer loop of the park. I needed the last miles to be focused, and for that I needed to run solo. In my head, I reviewed prior performances this year. Some were good and others…not so much. But I finished each one that I began. There was my shooter’s mentality: I finish what I start. I’ve trained enough to trust my legs to get me at least 26.2 miles. Now all I need to do is improve. Mile 22 rolled into mile 23…..and suddenly I realized I was 24 miles into my run. I had begun to walk after talking water at each fountain along the loop, and it was becoming very hard to start running once I downshifted to walking. My shooter’s mentality came back again – you can do this. You can do this because you’ve done it many times before. That was the positive kick in the ass that I required.
The final 3 miles were spent at a VERY slow pace, with a big smile on my face. I looked at my watch as I neared the Boathouse on the east side of the park: 27.8 miles. Time to shut this thing down. I had never felt so good physically after a marathon. I think it’s because my head was in the right place.
Funny….one game of golf changed my mental chemistry.
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