Monday, October 7, 2019

Clarence DeMar, 9/29/19, The Battle between Goal Orientations (Ego vs Task) and How to Negative Split a Marathon.

As Kim and I walked to the starting line, I am having a mini-mental crisis because with 8 minutes to go I FINALLY decide to think about my actual game plan.

All week I have been jokingly texting Kim about how I am going to win the race and sending her photos of my Garmin’s predictions for me: “You are peaking!” it told me. “Estimated marathon time 3:15” it proclaimed.  Now that’s funny.

I mutter “Ego vs Task… Ego vs Task”  Kim askes me what the heck am I mumbling. 

“I am in a crisis!” I tell her and I don’t know what to do. If only I knew a Coach who could help me!”

This is my last race before my next surgery (4th surgery now for my GI issues) and I have no idea what will happen once I go under. I am afraid of a setback. I have been feeling good lately but I am not healed. I want to walk away from this race feeling good about my run. This could be the last marathon I run for a while and I want to be happy to be here. 

I explain, “Part of me wants to go out and run 7:50 pace from the gun. I feel like I can run 7:50 pace but I don’t know for how long. Maybe I just need to see how far I go before I blow up? Maybe I hold on?  Maybe I want a chance to shine before I need to stop racing again for however long that is?”

I go on…“The other part of me knows that just ran Sandia Crest Marathon with an 8:45 pace. I have no business going out at 7:50 pace, regardless of what my heart wants. And DeMar is not a goal race. Why do I think I can go out hold sub-8 the whole way? What have I done lately to support that plan? Nothing at all! So I know the plan should be to start about 8:40 pace (just a little faster than my last marathon pace) and try to negative split this thing and finish feeling strong. I should be aiming for an 8:30 per mile average pace. That is what I should be doing!  I should be working on the TASK of pace management and Negative Split Execution right now not dreaming about racing fast, winning anything, getting a BQ, or trying to run like I have actually trained to run a fast marathon.”

Ok, it is settled, seconds before the gun goes Kim an I agree it would be fun to run together again until we decide we need to do our own thing. I remind her that there is a hill around the 14M mark and once I get over that hill if I can pick up the pace that is where I want to start to make a move to negative split. 

I knew the first half would not go smoothly because I still needed to use a bathroom and I just couldn’t get my body to cooperate pre-race.  This better not become a thing.  I never had this issue before.  I can’t stop in the middle of a goal race.  Fortunately, this is not a goal race.

I read my race report last night from the last time I ran Clarence De Mar. It was a glorious experience for me and I have been wanting to get back here ever since.  

Kim and I take off, there is a nice downhill start and we are moving well, faster than 8:40 pace but it is fine, we use the descent and then settle into goal pace as the miles unfold and the terrain rolls. 

The course is net descent but there are hills throughout.

M1 8:24
M2 8:53
M3 8:39
M4 8:41

By Mile 4 I realize I need a bathroom and there are none around. By Mile 7 we start asking people where the next bathrooms would be and are told 1.5M by everyone, for at least 3 miles. ;)  

M5 8:54
M6 8:48
M7 8:49
M8 8:48
M9 8:42

Finally, at Mile 10 we found two. We pick up our pace to get there, knowing we will wait for others to get out. We are as quick as possible but loose about 2 minutes. I feel good enough to finally take my second gel.

M10 8:22
M11 10:45

Over the dam, we go. There is wind. It adds work. It is noticiable. I was hoping for some beautiful fall foliage but the weather has been warm and the trees just barely started to turn. It was still a lovely view.

M12 9:01
M13 9:16

After fighting the wind, Kim says that she wants to slow a little to get her legs back. She is smart. Trying to run even just a few seconds per mile too fast to stick with a friend can destroy the experience. Slowing down, taking a gel, regrouping and getting into the right pace is best. This is TASK-oriented work.  Ego-oriented thinking would have had Kim trying to stick with me even when she knew she wanted to slow down just a little.

The best work we do happens when we are Task-Mastery Focused (i.e. know your specific and personalized job and do only that job regardless of what anyone else around is doing) AND Ego-Focused (having a desire to beat the norm… BUT at the right time). 

I repeat, there is nothing wrong with Ego-Focused work, but it has to be well-timed. We are racing.  Racing is primarily an Ego-Focused activity. This is ok. 

But if we become Ego-Focused too early in a race, we will fail to master our task and that is a recipe for a bad experience.  I believe that Task-Focus pacing should dominate the first 2/3 - 3/4 of a race. The Task-Goal should be set based upon what you have done lately so that the goal is realistic and achievable. Set a task that is too hard and it is really just an Ego-goal in disguise. Set a realistic Task-Goal and this should allow you to shift to Ego-Focused racing in the last chunk of the race and blowing up no longer becomes a threat. 

With the bathroom stop, by the time we got to 12 miles we were averaging about 8:56 pace.  I tell Kim that I can feel that gel I took kicking in and I want to try to push myself. The hill I thought was as 14-15 was really at 12-13 and I just want to power over it. The pace so far was perfect. I felt really strong and I knew I had another gear.  We stay goodbye and I pick it up. 

M14 8:30

I hit the half marathon mark on the course at 1:58:xx.  I realize this is close to a 4:00 hour marathon if I don’t fade but I was hoping for something sub-3:49 (to beat my last marathon time from two weeks ago).  I actually did want to try to go sub-3:40 but with a 2 hour first half, I would have to run a 1:39-1:40 to get that. That was not realistic. I wasn’t even sure I could run a 1:40 half right on its own now outright.  

At this point, I start to run by feel and push myself just hard enough to find something that felt sustainable but strong. I felt like I just ran a 13-mile warm-up and now I was about to race!

My legs feel fresh. I look at my watch and my pace is 7:48!  This felt like 8:30 if I had to guess. It felt sustainable. I think back to the start of the race when I said “I think I can run 7:50s… I just don’t think I can do it the whole way”  Now here I am at mile 15 running 7:48 pace and I tell myself “Well, you don’t need to run 7:50s the whole way, but can you do it for the second half?.”… I am sure as hell gonna try” I reply to myself.

It has been a long time since I felt this good in a race. I was clicking off 7:40-8:00s like I did this all the time. Honestly, I did not run one non-stop run during training over the last 12 weeks and I did a lot of run/walking during the second half of the Sandia Crest marathon after I blew through the first half there in a 1:45:xx.

But here at Clarence DeMar, I felt alive! I felt strong, I felt competent. I felt like I was flying! When you are running 7:50s around people running 9:00s, 10:00s, 11:00s, it makes you feel like you are sprinting.

M15 7:48
M16 7:43
M17 8:04
M18 7:39

At about 19 miles in, I see a sight that says “I love running… I Love Running… I LOVE RUNNING!” I think “I actually DO Love running. God, how I missed this!” I remind myself to smile. This is awesome.

M19 8:08
M20 7:58
M21 7:53
M22 7:47

Mile 23-24, in part, roll though the cemetery. They are hard miles. The hills are steep late in the race. My form breaks for the first time. This bothers me. I don’t want to unravel. HOLD IT TOGETHER!  But still, I am passing ladies who look fit but they are power walking. I am shifting to EGO-Focused now. I am starting to look at my competition and aiming to beat them. From here on I am now working on reeling in my competition. I refuse to stop running when the hill keeps going up. I dig in my with my arms to try to create some momentum. It helps.  

Once back downhill, I can breathe. I regain my confidence. I smile again. I make jokes with these nearby. I am having fun!  I needed this.

M23 8:11
M24 8:07

I know my BQ as a 40-44-year-old woman is 3:40. I can’t believe it but I am going to be close to that, much closer than I expected after a 1:58:xx first half.  If I could really push hard and stay sub-8:00, I might get a sub-3:40 and BQ! What a great second half! 

But then I see that my watch is reading almost .2M long so my marathon will be 26.4 by the time I am done and that will make it impossible to go sub-3:40. 

I remember my mental break down at the start. Ego vs Task. I need to stop focusing on the BQ, which is not what I came here to do and it is not realistic. 

What is my job? What is my task? My job today was to run strong, to run a negative split, to not fade, to finish strong, and to walk off this course feeling like marathon runner again before I have my next surgery which may prevent me from doing this again for a long time.

The last few miles start to feel like work, as they should.  They are not overwhelming me. I am still passing runners. Runners are getting slower. I overtake them. I feel faster than I should because of it. I use that energy to keep me moving.

M25 7:52

The last turn brings us to 26M and it is there I start to feel like I can’t hold the sub-8 much longer… but we have only tenths left.  I push for whatever I have left coming through the finish line. 

M26 7:54
Last .2 (.38 on my watch) at 8:15 pace (finally starting to hit the wall ;) ) 

I hear my name announced. I can’t believe I am done!  3:42:40. (8:30 pace!) I missed my BQ by just over 2 minutes. Damn bathroom break! ;) Oh well, that was not the goal. My goal was to negative split and that is what I did. A 14+ minutes negative split!  I ran my second half more than 1 minute per mile faster than the first half. I felt amazing both inside and out. 

As I walked to get my drop bag I realized “OMG, I am not trying to BQ for 2020. I am trying to BQ for 2021 and I will be 45 on race day in 2021…. my BQ now is 3:50!  So technically I BQ'ed at Sandia Crest for 2021 by seconds only…  But here at Clarence De Mar, I managed 7+ minute BQ which secures my spot! I also qualified for Chicago too. Maybe 2021 should be a year of World Majors ;) 

I wonder how Kim is doing. I get my answer soon as I watch Kim fly in through the finish pushing herself to a solid 4:09 marathon as a long run! She looks so happy. She had her own ups and downs out there but she held it together. She overcame obstacles. She did NOT unravel. She faded a little but not really by much and she finished strong. 

What a great day. I missed the marathon so much.  It is a battle of physical and mental challenges. Nutrition and Hydration Challenges. Pace strategy challenges. Ego vs Task.

For me: Next up on Oct 4th is another ACell procedure. But this time I am going into this surgery in the best shape I have been in since this started.  I am ready for a recovery PR and I want to get back to running marathons as soon as possible. 

8:30 average pace. I did my JOB. :)