Tomorrow will be the 31st running of the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon. It’s the largest half-marathon in the U.S.
And, tomorrow, I will be runnin.. er … walking in it! 😉
I’m so excited right now I’m having a lot of trouble sitting still!
On May 5, 2006, I had my first chemo. Exactly one year later, I’m doing this event. There is no need for you to tell me that I am amazing! I’m amazed at myself!
Training has been a ton of hard work. If I had understood how difficult it was going to be, I’m sure I wouldn’t have done it! I knew it was going to be hard, but somehow, when I signed up in November, it seemed like a good “exercise goal.”
Six months later, I realize marathoning – even half-marathoning – isn’t about the exercise. It’s about the mental game.
To be sure, the exercise has been very good for me. In mid-August of last year, two weeks after my last chemo, my daughter started kindergarten. We live in the middle of a neighborhood where the school buses don’t drive, so the kids are dropped off at the entrance – about 2/10 of a mile from my front door (I measured). When Colleen started kindergarten, I couldn’t walk it. For the first week, I drove to pick her up. Every now and then for a few weeks after, I would have to drive because I just couldn’t walk that distance.
Two-tenths of a mile.
Three weeks ago, I walked a 15K (9.3 miles).
Tomorrow, I plan to walk a half-marathon (13.1 miles).
So, yeah, the exercise has been important for me!
But what I didn’t really understand at the time I started walking was that once you can do a few miles, you can do a lot more. I was surprised to learn that you never train to do the whole distance of the race you have entered. The training only took me to 9.3 miles!
That’s because after a few miles, it’s not about your body. It’s about your mind.
You start to discourage yourself. The voice in your head starts playing a tape that says, “Only six miles? Goodness, I’ll never make it. Is it really six? Maybe I misunderstood. What if it was only five. My time is horrible. My legs are killing me. I’m never going to finish.”
For me, when this little negative Nellie shows up, my heart rate shoots up as the anxiety creeps in and, then, my body almost immediately reacts by slowing down. If I try to push harder, I can’t move faster – not until I calm my mind. Mind-body connection. Ever heard of it? 😉
Yesterday, when I went for the packet pick-up for the Mini, Jenny Hadfield, the official trainer of the Mini, was giving a seminar. She was talking about what to eat as I was walking by, so I stopped and listened. (She says, don’t change your diet right before the race, other than to gradually build up carbs. And don’t OD on water the day before, but always stay hydrated!) Soon, she was talking about motivation. She said the last three miles are the hardest for most people. (DUH! I’ll bet the last two are harder than the last three!) So, she recommends visualizing a three mile route that you take. Since three miles is probably the route I’ve walked the most often, I had a picture in mind as soon as she mentioned it. When you pass the 6 mile marker, Jenny says to start visualizing your known route.
I could see it as she was talking. At one mile, I’m at the cell phone tower. At 1.5, I’m in the middle of a particular intersection of two country roads, where I turn around. By 2.25, I’m passing the house with the big dogs. By 2.75, I’m entering the shade of my neighborhood. Easy peasy.
I felt like such an athlete!
I’ve learned, particularly in the last half of training, how many tricks I need to keep myself motivated. I learned that walking with a partner greatly increases my speed. I learned that walking with a group of people chattering and asking me questions makes my speed the fastest ever! I learned that my speed nose dives when the temperature is between 75 and 80 degrees and my stamina practically melts. I learned that when you start on a long walk, the tiniest little thing rubbing anywhere on your body will leave you needing skin grafts by the end of the walk. (That helped me learn that Glide is a marvelous product.)
It has been amazing to me how much my cancer therapy has improved my walking game! I see a therapist about every other week now through IU Cancer Center. She has helped me stop trash talking myself and start appreciating what I can do. I can do a lot!
My friend Christine, who has done a couple of triathelons, was also integral in making me understand how important the mental part of the event is. It was with her prompting that I examined how badly I was talking myself out of my best possible speed and told my therapist I had to fix this, pronto!
Earlier this week, when I had an attack of anxiety about the Mini, I started in with my typical talk. “I didn’t train enough. I’m too slow. What if it is hot? It will slow me down and they will force me to get on the van. What if it thunderstorms and I can’t finish? I will cry. I was crazy for thinking I could do this. It was way too early.”
But then my therapy training kicked in. I started asking myself, “What’s the evidence?” (That’s what therapist Shelly makes me do all of the time.)
Well, the evidence is I’ve learned a lot about what to eat and drink; how to walk; who to walk with; what to wear; and much more. I have everything in place to maximize my abilities. Everything.
My abilities may be hampered by a lot of things out of my control: chemo, my numb toes, the weather. But it’s not being hampered by my training. I followed the training plan about 85-90% of the time. That’s damn good. I also completed 9.3 miles within the necessary amount of time and my personal trainer (and other training material I’ve read) says that’s all you need to do. Lori (my trainer) said adrenaline carries you the last three miles. And, in fact, on that day, at the finish line, I said, “I could totally keep on going right now.”
So, the evidence is that I’ve done the necessary training. That I have the ability to do this Mini.
And if something happens and I can’t finish? You know what? It IS crazy that I wanted to do this. It WAS too early for my poor chemo’d body. I’ve learned that now. So, if I can’t finish? I will hop on that little van, high-five the driver, and say “take me to the beer garden!” Hell, I deserve a cold one just for finishing the 15K and for showing up tomorrow!
In one of my “oh, no! What have I done?” moments earlier this week, I asked my husband to tell me something to make me feel better about the Mini. He said, “you’ve already won. You’ve worked your fanny off (sort of literally) for months and you have improved your health and speed dramatically. The actual walking of the Mini is almost irrelevant now.”
I can’t say it any better. Walking tomorrow is icing on the cake. The cake is that I’m pretty darn healthy, particularly when you take into account what all I have had done to me in this last year.
Take me to the beer garden, baby!