Monday, December 10, 2012

Practice the positive to outrun negative thoughts

Running is many things to me: my stress relief, my emotional check-valve, my church. Not being a religious person, being out on the trails provides me a spiritual reset when the game gets to be too much. If you and I run together, you’ll see. There’s no small talk: I want to get to the heart of the matter and make some decisions so I can get back to being my happy, supportive, reset self.

A recent family conflict that somehow became all about my mother reminded me, as a daughter and a runner, how negative emotions can sneak into our heads and take hold. Daily runs are good medicine against the dark clouds in our lives.

Racing, however, has a way of bringing up hidden things we try to ignore. It is often said that racing is 50-80% mental and I agree wholeheartedly.

Practicing our race performance (like it is a gymnastics routine or any other competitive sports event) is extremely important for success on race day. It doesn’t matter if “compete” means to finish a new distance, to achieve a new personal record on your favorite distance or winning a race.

For your best race-day performance, here are several things to practice:

1.     the distance
2.     race pace
3.     conditions (running at the same time of day as the race, wearing the same gear, eating the same food)
4.     a positive mental state

This last item deserves to be expanded on. A positive mental state may be a very personal and unique experience, but these tips work for me and will probably work for you:

Before the race
Know the course and what spots will be easy mentally and which to be prepared with your positive mental thoughts. On a course I haven’t run before I often review a map of the elevation profile. I plan which places I will push hard and which places I will run more conservatively and be prepared to fight against negative thoughts. During the race I carry this map with me and refer to it often to remember my strategy and what’s coming up next.

Be sure to have a memory of a great running day cued and ready. Know in your heart that if you did it once, you can do it again!

At the start
Pre-race focusing.
Do not talk to or listen to other people at the start because you will invariably be standing next to someone in a negative state of mind, and they will talk to you to try to lessen their nerves. Bring a music player and listen to your own music. Smile to yourself and think of your good running memory.

Listen to calming music. Do not get sucked into the pumped up, rock and roll music the race director has chosen: it might make you sprint out of the gate. It is normal to feel nervous and jittery and on tapered legs you will be itching to GO. Relax, breathe and start much more slowly than what feels right. On the start line, slow is really your normal pace; it just doesn’t feel that way. Once the field has thinned out a bit, find the race pace you practiced. Use your breathing, your watch or your heart rate as indicators.

During the race
Visualize yourself as happy and effortless. When you see a friend or a photographer, beam a smile and wave. When a song you love comes on, let it lift you up. All of these moments will create a habit of positivity.

Pushing up the final hill.
Know that each race will bring some bad spots—everyone has them! You won’t feel good and this isn’t a sign of anything; it is normal, can be predicted and therefore can be prepared for.  You can drink enough to avoid dehydration and take in some calories to sustain you in longer events, but every so often a negative thought just sneaks in. Think to yourself that whatever the worry is, right now what you can do is “keep moving forward.” A personal mantra that I say is “I’m doing it! I just have to keep doing this!” Let those negative thoughts pass you by and remember, “I love to run!”

Janel Lanphere has been a member of Team Run Flagstaff (and the former Team Altius) approximately five years and in that time has reduced her half-marathon PR time by 14-plus minutes.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Be There, On the Square!

TRF Coach Jack Daniels at the 2011 Event

The 24 Hour Run on Heritage Square is this weekend—from 10 a.m. Saturday through 10 a.m. Sunday, we’ll be relying on 72 different runners to keep the treadmill moving, all in the name of supporting the mission of Team Run Flagstaff.

This event serves as our annual club fundraiser and we encourage all members and the greater Flagstaff community to get involved! All donations collected this weekend from the spare change thrown in jars, to raffle tickets you buy, to the donation each runner has made for their shifts on the treadmill, and the generous sponsorships local businesses donated will support our nonprofit organization, which is working to improve community health by providing opportunities in running for people of all ages and abilities. TRF strives to keep membership costs as low as possible while offering high-quality programs and coaching in a safe and welcoming environment, to benefit all participants regardless of personal fitness or performance goals.

Specifically, our fundraising supports the operations of TRF—from track access and lights, to insurance, coaching, and staff. The more we can raise in private donations, the less the costs of these necessities are reflected in our membership dues and other fees.

If you aren’t able to take a shift on the treadmill this weekend, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the fun. Please join us at any point during the 24 hours and bring your family. Enter the pie-baking contest at 1 p.m. or Hula Hoop at 2 p.m. Buy some raffle tickets or throw a bunch of change in the jar. Just come on out and say hello – we’ll be glad to see you!

Here’s a schedule of the event highlights. See you on the Square!

Team Run Flagstaff
24 Hour Run on Heritage Square
Event Highlights
Please Note: Must be present to win raffle drawings!

10 a.m.
Runner: Jerry Nabours, Mayor

1 p.m.
Pie-Baking Contest, sponsored by the Seasoned Kitchen

2 p.m.
Hula-Hoop Contests
Runner: Randy Wilson, editor of the Arizona Daily Sun
2:45 Raffle Drawing: Juice Box Gift Certificates

4 p.m.
Runner: Danny Mercado, Team USA Arizona

5 p.m.
Runner: Alicia Shay, 2012 Transrockies Run 3 Day Champ
5:45 Raffle: One-Hour Massage by Holly Stone/Agassiz Massage

6 p.m.
Runner: Rob Krar, 2012 Transrockies Run Champ, LaSportiva  Mountain Cup Champ, Canadian National Mountain Running Team
6:45 Raffle: Sports Massage by Dana Bosselman

7 p.m.
Treadmill Challenges & Prizes, Sponsored by Run Flagstaff
Runner: Vince Sherry, head coach of TRF, owner of Run Flagstaff
7:45 Raffle: $25 Gift Certificates from Pizzicletta

8 p.m.-Dawn
Spontaneous dancing and fun, featuring hits from the 80s
8:45 Raffle: Gift box of Dog Supplies by Karen London
9:45 Raffle: $45 Gift Certificates from Tirzah Salon
10:45 Raffle: Stress Press Self-Massage Tools

7 a.m.
Ian Torrence birthday run, sponsored by NATRA
Runner: Ian Torrence, Ultra-Runner extraordinaire
7:45 Raffle Drawing: $100 gift certificate to Pasto cucina Italiana

8 a.m.
Breakfast, sponsored by Mountain View Pediatrics

9 a.m.
Closing Power Hour, sponsored by Flagstaff Sports Massage
Runner: Diego Estrada, 2012 Olympian
Runner: Kellyn Johnson, Team USA Arizona
Runner: Jack Daniels, TRF Coach Emeritus and Runner’s World magazine’s “World’s Best Coach”
9:45 Raffle Drawing: Free Pair of Running Shoes from Run Flagstaff!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Tyranny of Results

Dieterle dukes it out at the Downtown Mile

At least once during every run, I consider the question of my limitations.

I’m all too aware of the most daunting one. While I hope to run for many years, I can’t ignore the fact that I didn’t start until 53. So I have no illusions. My capacity to achieve certain times and distances is far less than it would have been 20 years ago. And I will reach that capacity sooner.

But how soon?

As a beginner, I’m still in the stage of establishing times and then basking in the satisfaction of beating them. After far too much fretting, I ran the timed mile at a Tuesday night workout and finally had a number: 8:27. I knew right away that I could have gone faster. But I had a number.

It didn’t last for long. Only weeks later, at the Downtown Mile, I ran with a goal of getting under 8 and finished in 7:47. That felt good—for about half an hour. Then I heard the times of the leaders in my age category, and I was suddenly struck with a sobering thought.

I might never get there.

At some point—too soon, I’m afraid—the gains I’ve been making will level out. Instead of jumping ahead by minutes, as I’ve done with my run up to Buffalo Park, around the loop, and back (35 minutes to 33, then 32, then 30), I’ll have to strain just to claw back a few seconds.

I try to remind myself that this is about fitness and focusing on the enjoyment of just being out there, running. But it’s hard not to think about the times.

How or when this pursuit of improvement will end I can’t say, but I have a feeling that when I hit my physiological ceiling, I won’t like it. And there will be plenty of frustrations on my way there. (Dang it, just how serious is this pain in my calf?)

So for now, I just need to run. And when the times stop improving? Keep running, and be glad that I can. 

Eric Dieterle is a member of the Team Run Flagstaff communications committee and public affairs coordinator at Northern Arizona University

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Joy and Pain of the Mile

Karen London and family at the Downtown Mile
with local Olympian Janet Cherobon-Bawcom

At the beginning of this month, a grim mood gripped many of the runners in Flagstaff. We had all signed up to race the inaugural Downtown Mile on the Fourth of July, and had come to realize what that meant: We were going to have to run a mile in a race situation.

There are very few runners in Flagstaff who like racing this distance. Most prefer much longer distances like 26.2, 50, 100, or at the very least 10 miles. It’s easy to think that if someone can run many miles that surely they can run one, and that’s true, but the issue is racing one mile. It hurts to go fast for a mile and everybody, from the elite runners to those who are brand new to the sport, feel a lot of pressure to run well and have a good finishing time. With longer races, there’s some sort of accomplishment associated with just finishing the race, but the mile doesn’t have that going for it.

I talked to many apprehensive runners before the Downtown Mile, including some people who, like me, had regrets about signing up in the first place. That’s why it’s so cool that everyone had such a positive experience in this new event. After all the racers had crossed the finish line, I just drank in the happiness around me.

I watched whole families who ran and were ecstatic to have shared the experience together. I saw Sara Wagner finish with a new at-altitude PR, and she says that racing against Trina Painter (one of the country’s best Masters runners) pushed her to that great time in the Masters Women race. I saw Olympian Diego Estrada race against seven other men who ran the mile in 4-something at 7000 feet. Where else but Flagstaff does that happen in a hometown-parade-day kind of race?

I saw a 70-year woman tackle the mile race and win her age class. (Okay, it wasn’t a big group since she was the only one, but she beat everyone that age who didn’t run at all, and that’s cool.) I saw people place in their age class who have never done so before and were thrilled. Janel Lanphere was pleased to finish second in the Open Women race. As Janel said, “How often do you get to say you finished second to [world-class elite runner] Stephanie Rothstein?”

TRF Assistant Coach Steph Rothstein wins
the Open Women's mile.
It was extra fun to watch Rob Hall and Gunter Ziwey kick it in at the finish in yet another friendly competition between them. When they weren’t racing, they were cheering other runners, along with many other competitors and everyone who was already lining the streets for the parade. There were particularly big cheers for the runner who ran the whole race with a full size US flag.

Eric Dieterle beat his recent mile time at the track by a considerable margin. This is especially noteworthy because he offered to volunteer at the race but Team Run Flagstaff Coach Mike Smith told him he’d rather see him race instead, so he did.

Spectators commented that it was fun to watch the races and that it was cool to have Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom watching and cheering. (It was also cool that Abdi was asked to fire the starting pistol for one of the races.) The kids enjoyed the starting antics of Mike Smith, who told the kids to start when he said, “Go!” but proceeded to fake then out with calls like “Go-rilla in the trees!”
TRF Coach Mike sends off the free kids' race.
Among the best parts of the race was seeing the kids, who are all young enough that running is still purely joyful to them. They came flying across the finish line, happy and proud, as runners should be, many of them with obvious signs of real talent and impressive form. Most of them probably have no idea that they live in such a great running town, and probably consider the talent around them to be normal. That talent is not confined to adults, either. I saw a 9-year old run a 7:48 mile, and I cheered for him so loudly that the person next to me actually held her ears.

As for me, I had my own good experience. I’m not in great shape right now and because of injury have been unable to do any speed work for ages. The only pacing plan I had was based on a single outing in which I tried to run faster than I have in ages and guess about whether I could hold it for somewhere near a mile. It was not much to go on, but I based my race pace on it, didn’t go out too fast, and had some energy left for a kick at the end. I may not have run well because of my current fitness, but I raced well. By that I mean I did the best I could have done with what I had that day. I ran a time that was better than I had any right to hope for, and that is strangely invigorating.

Much of the pain of the mile is psychological and ends when the race starts. Then there’s some pain during the race, and a lot of joy after.

Team Run Flagstaff board member Karen London loves a Fourth of July race. She plans to run the Downtown Mile every year, but will probably always be anxious about it beforehand.