What’s The Plan, Stan?

I’m training for Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon on 1 October and I’d like to do well. Of course, well is relative. My last half marathon was in January—it was 14 degrees outside and I finished in a respectable 1:57:02. This time, I’d like to push myself harder and cross the finish line in 1:49:00.

I’ve learned that when you set a goal (in running and in life) it helps to have a solid plan to get there. Figuring out that plan can be a challenge. Do you ask Google for one? Get it from a magazine? Hire a coach? I’ve tried all of those routes and they’ve all gotten the job done… when I’ve stuck with them.  That’s the key: A training program can’t tie your shoes for you—it only works if you’re dedicated to seeing it through.

Today my plan had me knock out three easy miles. But for some reason getting started was tough. I didn’t feel like getting out of my pajamas. I didn’t feel like going to the park. And I questioned whether a slow, low mileage run was really worth my time. (Clearly I woke up on the wrong side of the bed!) So I thought about my goal and I visualized what it would be like to look up at the finish line clock and see those numbers. Suddenly, snoozing for an extra 30 minutes just didn’t seem worth it.

What keeps you dedicated to your plan? What motivates you to run?

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

I missed by bedtime last night because I was gabbing on the phone with a friend of mine who had spent the day giving birth (Baby Ashley, I’m so happy you’re finally here!). Not a bad reason to put off a date with Mr. Sandman. But when I did manage get under the covers, I had a really hard time falling asleep. The shut-eye came eventually and so did some very weird brain activity: I dreamt that my legs didn’t work.

In the dream, I was standing in a race corral wearing baby pink sneakers and a garbage bag, wondering if it was going to rain. I heard a gunshot and the people around me took off running. But I just stood there. I couldn’t move. I tried to lift my right foot, but it was unbelievably heavy. In a panic, I reached down and tried to tug it out in front of me. Then I tried the left, but it wouldn’t budge either. I looked up again and could see the other runners fading into the distance ahead.

I woke up in a pool of sweat.

Anxiety dreams during taper week are totally common—at least that’s what NYC running coach and former Olympian John Henwood once told me. He says his clients have all kinds of fears in the days leading up to a marathon: What if I forget how to run? What if I break my leg going down the subway stairs? I sneezed this morning; do I have pneumonia? As funny as they sound, they can really mess with your head.

When I stepped out of my apartment to run this morning, a touch of apprehension slipped in and I was concerned that my legs might feel like lead. What if the dream (nightmare!) had an ounce of reality? A few strides later I was breathing easy and laughing at myself. I really need to relax.

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: 6 days!

Have you ever had the dream where your legs don’t work? What do you do to ease anxiety?  

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.

It’s Time To Be A Goal Setter

This morning I had coffee with Neil Cook, a running and triathlon coach at Asphalt Green in NYC. I wanted to pick his brain about Boston—he’s run it in the past and has coached several athletes to victory there. I also wanted him to tell me that I could finish in my original goal of 3:45. Instead, I came away with a caffeine buzz, a Starbuck’s napkin full of notes, and a head swimming with numbers. It’s time for me to smell the vanilla latte and be a lot more realistic.

I’ve had a few setbacks during training this season—the flu, shin splints, crazy winter storms—but I’m not going to make excuses. I haven’t put in the mileage or the effort to hope for such a speedy finishing time. Coach Neil wants me to create three new goals for myself: 1. The one I can hit only if the marathon gods are smiling upon me (perfect weather, my legs feel incredible, complete mental focus); 2. The time my current level of fitness and training predicts; and, 3. An at-all-costs number that I’m guaranteed to reach. Which means I’m looking at: 3:55, 4:06, and just plain finishing.

If I were the type of person who set the bar low, I could be happily surprised by how well things turn out when the outcome is better than anticipated. But I’m not; my expectations have always been too high—for racing and everything else in life. It’s going to be tough to accept something as practical as 4 hours. Still, it’s what I need to do.

Countdown To The Boston Marathon: 19 Days!

Do you set realistic goals for yourself? Or do you aim too high or low?

Originally posted in Running With It on Shape.com.