Friday, October 31, 2008

Mind over Gray-Matter

One of the mysteries of the human body that is only evident to people who have been under extreme physical duress over an extended period of time, is that of the complaining of the "first voice". By that, I mean the voice that is within our brain that wants us to quit, give up, or at the very least, acknowledge that there is the need to exhibit "pain". And as the miles begin to pile up, the ability to block the brain's primitive wiring that signals pain to the associated area, becomes more and more of a challenge.

The tricky part is not only to know how to block these signals, but in the case of self-preservation, know the difference between whether those signals are warranted or not. Even if I was a master in controlling my mind over matter, would I want to prevent my brain from sending a signal to a bone that's broken to signal pain, for example? Of course not.

According to Tim Noakes, MD, author of "Lore of Running" he states:

In a marathon, the race really begins from 32km (20miles) onward, during the last 10km. From here to the finish, the marathoner's brain speaks of logic and therefore appeals to the first voice, which will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. The marathoner's only recourse is to call on the spirit, which fortunately functions independantly of logic. It accepts that marathon running goes beyond logic - the humans were not designed to race marathons any more than they were designed to scale Everest. And the human spirit soon learns that the marathon is one way for ordinary people to define irrevocably their own physical, mental and spiritual limits. By the 32-km marker, the marathoner must be ready to define these personal limits.

My advice is to ignore all logive and to take solace in the realization that every other runner feels just as bad as you do. You should view your own efforts as being every bit as important as anything else you have done previously up to now.

The other thing that Noakes goes on to point out is the fact that runners of all caliber get slower. He even showed the charts to prove it.

The other items are adrenaline. Mental factors can trigger adrenaline release but they are not always warranted. Like coming off the Queensboro Bridge and seeing scores of people screaming at you and cheering you on. The brain wants to say "Hell Yes!" but I think the body has only so much adrenaline available at any given moment. Unless I really need it then (and let's hope I don't) then I need to just turn up the volume on the iPod.

Other factors that may make me lose control of my adrenaline, is my girlfriend, who I love, and love her support. That alone, makes me want to sprint. So, sorry to say girlfriend, but I can't be thinking of you, until I really need to, and that might not be until the very end.

Same thing goes for my kids, though I think I can start thinking of them once I am back in Central Park.

To all my enemies out there, I can't be thinking of you at all. Anger does not suit me well, as it completely drains me of adrenaline. I would only think to use anger with like 200 yards left to go, but my girlfriend will be in my head at that point.
That and.....

the big kahuna. the dream of the sub 4.

Hell, if I am already over 4 hours, then I won't need to worry about it, but if I am (and I intend on being) close to the 4 hour mark, I will do all I can to cross the finish line. I just read a Runner's World article that says that sprinting at the end of a marathon can be actually lethal in rare cases. So, it will be important to listen to all my environmentals.

Now that we've tackled the mind game, let's move on to the muscle.

I have muscle. It will be used. And used again. I need concentrate on not overstriding, especially increasing footstrikes on uphills to go in concert of shortening my strides on the uphills. I also must rememnber not taking the down hills too fast.

It will be almost cold. 40-48 degrees. My guess is that it will be around 43 with a wind chill of about 39.


Anonymous said...

I've already expressed my feelings on the marathon to you so I won't lay them out here for the entire blogosphere to read. Those are private and only for us.

Just remember that I love you regardless of your time and I will be cheering you on (albeit long distance) until I'm hoarse for days. Go get 'em, sweetheart. :)

James Greenwood said...

The best pieces of advice that I can give you for running under 4 hours are:

1: Have a plan for what you are aiming to run 10km, 20km, , 30km and 40km in (be realistie - you are running with 39 000 others so your first 10km will be slower than you expect)
2: Aim to run negative splits through the race.
3: Do not spend a lot of time running around athletes and dodging around them - it wastes energy and will fatigue you hip stabilizers super fast.
4: Stick with your plan - even if you are feel incredible at 25km!
5: ENJOY EVERY SECOND OF THE EXPERIENCE - it will take your mind off the fatigue, keep you relaxed, and help you conserve energy.

I ran NY 2 years ago, and it the most amazing experience - good luck!

DGA said...

Good advice by Greenwood.
I don't think you have to worry about thinking too much. Just kidding! Anyway, this is for you imaginary girlfriend:

Hey Ann Onymous, you don't exist! I can bet anything on that!