As most of my clients know already I am a fan of pushing the limits. What this means is that I like to test the limitations of the human body and mind through any sort of activity. I have learned through the years that the most, and usually best changes occur on that very last extra lap, the last mile or the extra umph to the end. The other great thing that happens during these strenuous moments is that you are faced with nothing but yourself, what you thought was the very peak of your abilities become challenged right then and there.
My limits were tested last Sunday; and I crashed and burned. I had my fourth marathon planned up in Albany, NY. A runners run. this race was flat as any race out there and just circled around the University of Albany campus and State Buildings about 5 times...how boring. But because of this I figured it would be perfect to work on splits (explained in a second) and push a little further than 26.2 and get 31 in, a 50k, in preparation for my 50 miler in April. The weather was chilly but fine, especially since the sun was shining bright without a cloud in the sky. The small group of a little less than 100 people made our way to the start line at about 10 until 10am. It seemed like everyone knew each other. It was a mixture of students and old runners, most of which seemed to have run well over 50 marathons in their time and also, it seemed to me, really considered this one a fun, short little weekend run...and people say I'm crazy.
My plan was to run 30 minutes straight before breaking down into 8 minute runs, 2 minutes walk splits through hour 2. After that, I would try a different split, working 4 minutes running and 1 minute walking. On top of that, I would be running a slower pace than normal with the intentions of saving my strength so I could push through an added 5 miles at the end. I figured, even if I walked most of those last five miles, I still would push beyond my farthest of a marathon. So off I ran.
Things seemed to be going fine as I entered into my last loop, about mile 20 (they didn't really have mile markers, so I just guessed); but as I hit the turn around I was witness to about 5 other runners crossing the finish line not 20 yards from me. That hurt. I didn't really realize at the time, but that really got to me. Then, pushing on the halfway mark of the loop I remember clear as day, in fact, I think I even said it out laud, "I can't do this". Now, for those of you who know me, those words have probably been spoken by me maybe 5 times in my life, and the second I said them, I was defeated. My body was breaking down and through this, my normally very strong mind was breaking down too. When I crossed the finish at 4:06, I was done; no chance in hell I was running any more.
It was an interesting experience for me to watch myself break down mentally like that. I think negative thoughts all the time just as most people, but usually they act as motivation for me to push harder. This time, I just could not bring myself to do it. I was happy with 26.2, I did it in my second best time, but I've done it before. I went in with the goal of doing more, driving further, pushing my past limits and I could not beat something I had done in the past. Now, of course their all many other factors that are in play here, I assume now that I could have had a much faster time if I was actually going for time. I make this assumption because I was intentionally trying to run slowly, and finished with my second best marathon time out of four. I clrearly wasn't able to stick to the game plan of around a ten minute mile, but I did learn, with the splits, I could push a nine minute mile and probably stick to it for 4 hours straight. Which is a cool thing to learn.
Ultimately, looking back, I did push my limits, I just didn't get beyond something I had done before. It is clear to me now that pushing your limits does not have to mean you set a PR every time you try something. It could be just waking up when you are VERY tired for some people, or making sure you get to the gym 4 times a week no matter what. If it is something you feel you truly will struggle with at the time, and you do it anyway, you push your limits and grow.
When all is said and done, I am happy with the last race, and am still confidant I will finish the 50 miler in April. I will keep pushing every day, and I will keep helping my clients push every day because I know, when you challenge yourself you change, and when you change you learn, and when you learn you progress. It's the never ending process of the mind body and the world, and it is a great thing weather it is understood or not.
Never Stop, GET FIT