Confidence and Doubt in the Desert

I am writing this from a cruising altitude of 34,000ft aboard a westward bound Delta jet. I am excited to leave Cincinnati just as the temperatures start dipping into the high teens and grey skies start filling with a dizzying maze of snow flurries. I am trading the bite of the first blast of winter for the inviting mild and sunny “winter conditions” of Phoenix, AZ, albeit for only a few days.  Not to add insult to injury to my friends and family in the Midwest, but had to check and confirm the weather looks to be as perfect as predicted.

I am excited to see relatives and friends in Phoenix, climbing Camelback on Sat am and running the Arizona Rock and Roll Marathon on Sunday am. I’m excited to execute Heather Lueke’s “Five Mile Marathon Method” for the second time. It worked PERFECTLY in St. Louis in October. I am excited to run for ten amazing people, My Heroes.

I’m confident. But I am also nervous. Perhaps more nervous than any other marathon…including the back to back Death Valley and Las Vegas races on Dec 3rd and 4th. Am I really ready to race?

On one hand, I am confident, especially in my long run and my taper.

In training for marathons, effective long runs and smart tapering can translate into a successful race. Generally the longest run of the training (typically 16 weeks) is done about four weeks prior to the race. And that run is never the full 26.2 race mileage; it’s typically only 20-22 miles. From that point, you taper until race day – the runs get shorter, cross training is encouraged, you try to stay relaxed, eat smart and sleep well. You basically need for your body to fully recover before putting it through the 26.2 miles on race day.  I have yet to “master the taper”…I usually spend the 3-4 weeks prior to the race second guessing myself.  Did I really train hard enough? Am I taking in too many carbs or not enough? Am I stretching enough? Will those extra pieces of Dewey’s pepperoni pizza come back to haunt me?

I am confident with a “long run” of 52.4+ miles within 24 hours for Parker in early December. I have had six weeks of tapering.  I have been swimming, spinning (including this morning at 5:45am with “my crew” of Jill Dann, Alicia Baron, Tisha Way and Todd Lang) and practicing hot yoga. I have been on few runs, but not many.  I have eaten ok and slept well. So I feel confident.

However, that confidence is matched by an under-lying sense of doubt. I have really only run a few times and took almost two full weeks completely off over the holidays. How will my body and legs react? How will they feel at mile 12; at mile 20?  I sleep well but did I really get enough sleep?  Have I hydrated enough for for the hot, dry weather? And remember what happened in Nashville?? You cannot hide shortcuts and any weaknesses get exposed quickly in a marathon. So I feel nervous.

I have come to understand the confidence and nervousness will always be there – coexisting together for every race from a 5k or Marathon.

But I have learned an invaluable lesson through running for Parker.

My Confidence and My Nervousness – while there in the healthy form of “butterflies” – can be pushed into the background.  For when I run for others, two overriding emotions move to the forefront: Their Inspiration and Their Strength.

I suppose that is why I enjoy running and racing. It’s managing and harnessing the emotion as much and the physical demands. And knowing, despite the best planning, things will change physically and mentally come race day. It’s about making adjustments, It’s about being smart. It’s about listening to your body.

And it’s about being inspired by others. Its a subtle shift from my emotions being the focus to drawing on the emotion of others. It’s calming strength. On Sunday morning I will run for 10 of My Heroes. (I know you know one of them – certainly the smallest and if you saw yesterday’s Facebook photos, one who really likes bubbles on his head and the “Mini-Me” Flat version of himself).  Who are the rest? Check back in tomorrow. Some people you have gotten to know; others you will meet for the first time. But they will all inspire and provide strength.

I think I am ready to race.