Focus

Wow. I mean…WOW, it’s been a WHILE. Hi guys. I missed you all.

In the past month (er…almost two?), I’d go out for a run or be in the grocery store or at my workouts class and writing posts in my head. Then I’d get home, get busy, get distracted, and not write anything down. Lazy? I prefer to say I’ve been focused.

So true. (Image courtesy of michaelczinkota.com)

So true.
(Image courtesy of michaelczinkota.com)

Toward the end of last semester, I had to really put my blinders on and focus on the most important things in my life. Thus, I had my limits.

Finals (ugh), health, family, work, and celebrating the holidays and winter break were my highest priorities for the past month. As much as I love writing, it sits solidly on the back burner of my life when things go bananas. It’s not my job. It’s relevant to what I do and certainly a part of what I want to continue doing. But still, not my job.

I want a box like this on my desk.

I want a box like this on my desk.

And neither is running. So, when life happens, sometimes running takes a back seat. At various points in my life, I have had to sit it out from running for stretches of weeks and months.

Getting sick and having two major abdominal surgeries taught me to appreciate everything my body can do.

It's tough to run when attached to IVs and such.

It’s tough to run when attached to IVs and such.

I no longer care so much if I PR in every race. If I “only” get a 4 mile run in, it’s still worth going out and doing. If I have to drop down from a full to a half because my body is working double duty, so be it.

There are millions of reasons why someone may need to (or should be ok with) cutting back or taking a break from running. The important thing is to be able to recognize that:

  1. Running is not your job.
  2. Running is not who you are.
  3. Running is not the only way to get sweaty.

It’s ok to put it down and pick it up as your life changes. Taking a break does not mean you’ve failed or are weak or that you aren’t a runner anymore.

It's ok to take a moment for yourself.

It’s ok to take a moment for yourself.

Don’t feel guilty about taking a step back from something like running. It can be a great thing to do for yourself, especially if you plan on coming back to it at some point.

I’m down to 15-20 miles/week from 65 miles/week back in September. Do I miss it? Yeah. Is it gonna kill me to taper back in order to focus on other things? Definitely not. Gotta get through this semester with my sanity intact and stay healthy.

So, you may hear from me less. I may be running less. But I’ll be back.

Just like Arni. (Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures)

Just like Arni.
(Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures)

Now go out and run.

What have you been up to this winter? Anyone running a race coming up in the spring? I feel for you all who ran through the Polar Vortex. It was brutal out there! Stay warm, friends!

Tangents

Welcome back from the long weekend, friends!

From the looks of Twitter, a lot of you commenced Fall marathon training this weekend. Congratulations and welcome back to long running!

Back to sweating so much that people ask you if it's raining when they see you.

Back to sweating so much that people ask you if it’s raining and strangers suggesting sunscreen because your face is as red as a tomato. For the record, I am Irish and this is normal.

There’s a lot of thought that goes into training for a race. No matter what the distance is, putting in the miles and hours is what gets you to the start line, no question about it. But what gets you to the finish line is more nuanced.

The mental game of completing a race can be daunting for a lot of runners, seasoned and novice. What’s important is to lay out your game plan in advance and know what to focus on during your race.

True story: when I wear my shades, I feel more focused.

True story: when I wear my shades, I feel more focused.

One of the things you should stay focused on is running your tangents.

(Image courtesy of CartoonStock.com)

(Image courtesy of CartoonStock.com)

Most races are measured by the shortest distance possible between the start and finish line. This is all well and good for the front runners who have an open road and few competitors to either side of them. The rest of us, however, are relegated to negotiating elbow room for the entirety of our race.

Many, many runners find that their Garmin tells them they ran well over the race distance and thus, their time suffers significantly. Some courses are just twisty-turny or have a wide breadth and leave a lot of room for runners to wind their way to the finish line.

Others are so crowded that you end up bobbing and weaving so much throughout that you run almost a full half mile extra.

Trying to run the tangents at the Marine Corps Marathon...and looking lost.

Trying to run the tangents at the Marine Corps Marathon…and looking lost.

So how does one avoid running more than the race distance? Focus and pre-planning.

  1. Look for the curves in the road and run as straight a line between them as possible.
  2. Look up and plan your route.
  3. Carry a water bottle with you so you can avoid weaving through water stations.
  4. Don’t space out when you’re running.
  5. Don’t hug either side of the road except when making turns. The middle of the road is often the shortest path.
Twisty and turny!

Twisty and turny!

The course in Chicago was full of little turns and loops. When I stuck to my guns and ran straight ahead, looking out for the shortest point between the turns, I was incredibly successful. I only ran 13.12 miles = .02 miles more than the race distance. Not bad.

I know you want to high-five every kid along the way and that hugging the side of the road seems like a good strategy. But doing that will add distance and time to your run. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be out there any longer than I have to, especially if my time is going to suffer as a result.

What do you think about when you run? Have you mastered the art of running the tangents? I have nightmares of my past Trigonometry classes when I say the word “tangents” too much…*shudder*

Now go out and run!