2012 was an interesting year, filled with ups and downs that resembed a ride on California Screamin’. I figured that I’d look back real quick at the year’s running events and try to share one take-away from each adventure.
January 2012: I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon. THAT was a VERY fun way to kick off my year-long adventure. WDW is never a fast race for me – I am too busy taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere. Visiting WDW allows me to remove myself from reality and immerse myself in levels of creativity that stimulate my own imagination. I leave WDW each time with a bunch of new ideas and very decompressed. LESSON LEARNED: January in Orlando can be cold. When traveling for a marathon, plan for the unexpected.
February 2012: I ran 26.2 With Donna in Jacksonville, Florida. It was 25 degrees and windy. This was the only marathon I have ever completed wearing full running pants and three layers…and still felt frozen at the end. LESSON LEARNED: Plan out your pre-race breakfast in the morning. Don’t wing it. Not a good idea. If you don’t eat well, your empty stomach makes any other obstacle (like 25 degree weather) that much more unbearable. I also learned, during this race, that I am a bit tougher than I thought.
March 2012: I ran the Ocean Drive Marathon in New Jersey. Lost a tooth at mile 8 by biting down on one of those chewy energy blocks. There must have been somehting hard in the center of it, because I snapped the back of a molar and also had a crown fall out. I put the crown in my pocket and kept going. LESSON LEARNED: Running in a cold headwind makes 26.2 miles feel like 30. I also was once more reminded of the importance of nutrition – this time, during the race itself. Have a plan for taking in fuel during the race. AND THEN STICK TO IT.
April 2012: I ran the Gettysburgh North-South Marathon. 16 miles of hills and very little shade. LESSON LEARNED: Several, in actuality:
1) Pennsylvania may look flat on an ordinary map. But….it’s not.
2) Focus on the hill in front of you – not the ones coming up in the future. Tackle one obstacle at a time, or else the marathon can become mentally overwhelming. FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND.
3) The sun is a real factor to consider on race day. The sun can drain your energy pretty quick, so use sunblock as part of your pre-race procedure.
May 2012: I ran the New Jersey Marathon. It was a very enjoyable race, but the amount of fans on the course were more scare than I originally anticipated. LESSON LEARNED: As Sun Tsu said – “every battle is won before it’s ever fought”. Prepare yourself mentally for the 26.2 miles. Use some positive visualization to picture yourself running certain sections of the course that you may find challenging. During the race – dial in to your effort. Focus inward. Don’t look for the fans to push you through the rough patches – do it yourself.
June 2012: I had planned to run the Lake Placid Marathon, but was unable to participate. Life simply got in the way. So I performed my first solo marathon around Manhattan. LESSON LEARNED: Once more I say – planning is the key. If you become really thirsty in the middle of the marathon, then you waiting too long to hydrate. Drink water the day before the race, and then plan out your water intake during the marathon in the same way you planned to ingest your fuel. I know – this sounds like planning overkill. But trust me – IT ISN’T.
July 2012: I ran the San Francisco Marathon. What a wonderful course. Great weather. Great organization. Cannot wait to run this one again. LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes the challenges you picture in your head based on the reputation of the course do not accurately portray the course you run. I figured that San Francisco would be the most brutal course I’d run all year. One of the race mottos even says that it’s “the race that marathoners fear”. The reputation got into my head and played with it. I got psyched out while toeing the line. My nervousness became a distraction and took away from my execution. So - HAVE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT.
August 2012: I ran the Self Trancendence Marathon in Rye, New York. 9 loops of a 3 mile course that circles a lake. VERY hot and humid. I did everything wrong. Everything. Plus – I was injured during the race. LESSON LEARNED: when you mail in a race (you don’t prepare, you don’t plan and you don’t think), bad things happen. I didn’t eat well the night before. I didn’t track how much water I took in. I didn’t eat breakfast. I took in fluids every 3 miles – not every 2. I became severely dehydrated, lost focused, and sprained my ankle. The result: 30 minutes in a medical tent spent taping up my dumb ankle so I could get back out there. There is no need to be a martyre. If you are going to run a marathon and you spent months in training – take a few hours to plan for race day in detail.
(getting the message yet: HAVE….A….PLAN!)
September 2012: I was scheduled to run the Air Force Marathon in Ohio. However, once more, like got in the way and I was unable to fly out for the race. As a result, I ran my second solo marathon around Manhattan. LESSON LEARNED: On marathon Sunday, leave the Ipod at home. Tune out the Eminem and RUSH, and tune into yourself. I have found that, when I listen to music while trying to really push myself, my mind is split between focusing on the task at hand and focusing on the tunes that are pumpin into my ears. If I want to be the best runner I can be, I’ll need to be 100% focused on one thing at a time.
October 2012: I ran the Chicago Marathon in Chicago, Illinois. Great course, great fans, and VERY fast. LESSON LEARNED: Go out slow. Let the Kenyans take off like bats out of hell. Start your marathon so slow that your pace actually feels TOO easy. If it does, then you are perfect. If you go out too fast, you burn too much fuel too early in the race, and you won’t have enough to propel you 26.2 miles. Pacing is key. Again – when it comes to your marathon pace: HAVE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT.
November 2012: I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fun fans, Really well organized. Great volunteer support. Cannot wait to run this one again. LESSON LEARNED: I run better in a huge crowd than in a small one. I like the feeling of being part of a big event – it’s easier for me to get fired up, and I perform much better.
December 2012: Since the ING New York City Marathon was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, I ran my third solo marathon of the year around Manhattan. LESSON LEARNED: As much as I love running in the big “events”, it’s not why I push myself. While running solo, it’s easy to quit. No one would look at you and shake their heads, saying “I cannot believe he’s giving up”. No one on the streets knew what I was attempting to accomplish, so it was just me versus my limitations. That makes the distance even more personal. Good marathoners have a mean streak in them somewhere. One that comes out when the going gets tough, saying “hey – there is NO WAY I am quitting. So push through this pain and get the damn job done”. The mind wants to quit before the body – so you have to get pissed off and tell your mind to shove any idea of quitting up…..well, you get the idea.
So there you have it – some take aways from each marathon this year. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Make new ones, and enjoy every step of the way.
One last comment before I switch gears and begin planning for 2013: whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you are probably right. Regardless of your pace per mile or the shape you are currently in, you can accomplish great things. All you need to do is believe in yourself, and fight. Here’s a quote from Rocky Balboa to wrap this entry up – I think it says what’s on my mind:
“Let me tell you something – the world isn’t all sunshine and roses. It’s a mean, cruel place and it will knock you down and keep you there if you let it. No one – not me, not you – no one punches as hard as life. But it’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done’. Whatever you plan to do in 2013, dive into it. Expect setbacks along the way. Take whatever hits are thrown at you…and keep pressing forward.
Here’s another quote I’ll share from a movie I just saw with Mini Me this morning: “I have found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love”. Gandolf the Gray said this to Galadriel, in response to the question of why he chose a hobbit – a very small form of human with absolutely no desire for adventure – to become a key member of a very important journey. I throw this quote out there for a reason: we’re all ordinary folk. And it is the everyday deed of choosing a goal and working hard to attain it which keeps the darkness of giving up at bay. You choose to get out there and run a mile…or 3…or 5 – whatever the day’s training plan calls for – and you don’t stop until you accomplish your goal. Accomplish your small goals each day, and you’ll definitely attain your larger goal on Marathon Sunday.
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