So 2016 began with a few fun long weekends in Florida and Anaheim, where my friends and I completed something referred to as the “Coast to Coast Challenge”. This consists of runners completing a half marathon in Walt Disney World and then another half marathon in Disneyland. So the first weekend in January, we flew to Orlando and ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. It’s a well-organized and very unique event, and the atmosphere is completely non-judgmental, making it a perfect first half or full marathon destination for rookies. The half marathon takes runners through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and provides solid entertainment throughout the course. The following weekend found us in Anaheim, California, running the Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland. The first 5-6 miles of the course sent the athletes through Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure…and the remaining 7-8 miles of the course wound its way through the streets of the city. The level of entertainment was not as strong throughout the course at is was in Walt Disney World; however, Disneyland is much smaller and requires the use of public roads to host part of the event – so some leeway needs to be given, in my humble opinion. That being said – the highlight of the course was the 501st Legion’s station close to mile 9 – storm troopers, Boba Fetts, Han Solos in abundance. Even the cars were designed as X-Wing fighters, including R2-D2’s. THAT was cool.
Once the bling was earned and awarded, we parted ways and I headed home. It was an excellent kickoff to my athletic year…but the result of the back-to-back events along with the travel involved resulted in something that I call the The Runner’s Blah.
The Runner’s Blah is that feeling you get after the event(s) that you trained for are in the books. Other people have other terms for this sensation – this one is mine. I felt the blah as soon as I sat down in the plane to LaGuardia…and it stayed with me for days. I was supposed to run a half marathon in Central Park yesterday (The Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon), but 24 inches of snow caused the New York Road Runners to cancel the event for safety’s sake. As a result, I spent the long weekend planning how to wake myself up, shake off the blah and get back to work. Here’s how I did it:
- I got on the computer and began to plan out my training for the coming weeks, using http://www.trainingpeaks.com. This site allows users to link their activities saved on their GPS watches to planned exercises, estimate calorie burns, and budget your time to get the work in.
- Then I went on to http://www.myfitnesspal.com and began logging my food intake. This part sucks, because the only way it works is if you are honest with yourself and log every single thing you take in. The good thing is that Training Peaks and My Fitness Pal talk to each other – so calorie intake is summarized on your workouts, breaking out carbohydrates, fats, and protein as percentages of your overall fuel intake for the day. This allows you, the athlete, to weigh ans measure your performance versus the types of food you eat. By using Training Peaks as your daily workout log, you can write down notes on your performance – which will help the analysis and assist you with improvement.
- After I got the tech side of things squared away, I knew that I needed several carrots to hang in front of me, so that I would not lose focus. So I signed up for a bunch of smaller races here in New York City, added them to my Training Peaks account, and set time goals for each race. Now I have specific speed targets to aim for as the year progresses. The biggest carrots for me for 201 are Ironman on July 30th, the Chicago Marathon on October 9th, the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th, the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6th and the NYRR 60k on November 19th. The strategy here is to maximize the importance of daily training early in the year so that I can perform well in the fall without much of a dip in energy level between races.
- After covering these three steps, it was on to step #4: longer-term goals. I needed to prioritize what I wanted to achieve in the coming years. So I created my Pie-In-The-Sky list. On this list I added KONA (that’s my unicorn), qualifying for the Boston Marathon, Marathon des Sables, and competing in the Western States. Hard short-term goals make me prioritize training in the here and now (helping me get rid of the BLAH), and harder longer-term goals make me keep my foot on the gas. The combination should make me feel that daily sense of urgency to get to the gym when it opens up in the morning.
- Knowing how weak I am from the neck up, my next step was locating a group to share my dread with. People who were as focused on beating themselves up in order to prepare for challenge athletic events. I chose to join a triathlon team – The Terrier Tris. They are well – organized and seem like a dedicated bunch of like-minded alphas. I cannot achieve goals that I have had in the back of my mind for years while purely running a solo mission. Instead, I need help staying the course. By joining a team, I’ll train with people that are stronger than I am – and that will push me to get better.
- So steps one through five addressed the physical requirements for the goals I have set for myself. But like I just mentioned, I am not the brightest bulb on Broadway. So, I needed to set up a plan to keep my head dialed in daily. I went on to Youtube and created a playlist / watchlist / whateverthehellelseit’scalled, and I added a bunch of motivational videos. Speeches by famous coaches. Speeches by Les Brown. Eric Thomas. Lou Holtz. Lombardi. Valvano (Jimmy V rules – just needed to say that). I’ll need them ready to go when the fire gets a little dim. And it will. Guaranteed.
- Last but not least, I needed to address logistics. Every evening, before I hit the sack, I’ll review my plan for the morning. Go through it a bit. Try to picture how I want the workout to go. Positive visualization should help me get up each morning looking forward to the grind. I’ll also leave my workout clothes on the floor right next to my bed.
Motivation is quite important to me. Wrapping this up, I’ll share with you one of my favorite pieces, written by Tecumseh. Tecumseh was the leader of the Shawnee, who fought against the occupation of native american lands during the War of 1812. HE was killed in battle in 1813 – but he is remembered for basically being a hard-nosed combatant and incredible role model. According to numerous accounts, he was an incredible speaker, and could motivate his warriors to perform above what they thought were their limits. He put pen to paper a number of times – and this is my favorite passage…