“Colleen! Shut up! Marathons aren’t won on reality…marathons are won on daydreams and excessive delusion!”
Yesterday I had my strategy session with Coach Matt. We talked a lot about race strategy, race preparation and his perspective on my ability to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials….our ultimate goal. Before we met he mentioned discussing a “Plan B” in case the effort needed to make the trials starts to go South to the point that I can’t mount a recovery. I joked that “Plan A is to make the trials….There is no Plan B” or that “…Plan B is to MAKE THE TRIALS!” So when we started the conversation he pointed out that he saw my post that mentioned this statement on facebook, and was glad to see we were on the same page as far as a necessary race mentality. Then he went on.
And on. And on. And on. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience, so was able to offer me all kinds of first-hand information about what to expect in a pack the size of which I’ll be attempting to run with. He warned me about the initial pacing, how some runners will react in the pack when things get too slow or if things get too fast. He advised me on how often to fuel, options to consider if things get bad, on not panicking through slow miles or fast miles. He commended me on going for the Trials. We both agreed there was really no reason not to make the attempt. It was what we’ve been training for and I’m close enough that to make the attempt is a legitimate endeavor.
Then he said some other things, that after the fact, I realized said a lot more once they all sunk in. He mentioned that I’m probably going to need not only an A day to make the trials, but probably an A+ day. He mentioned some of the other guys on the team have yet to show any results in training that prove they should be able to qualify for the trials. And he mentioned the importance of a Plan B, where if the Trials fall away, I still salvage the opportunity to cross the line quicker than last year, therefore cutting down the number of minutes I need to gain in order to make the trials and mentally set myself up for the next effort. There was a sufficient amount of talk about future attempts, despite the recognition that I had a shot at THIS attempt. We both agreed it would take a lot of pressure off the both of us if I made it this time around.
A lot was said and I walked out of the session with a lot of great knowledge that will help tremendously in the race Sunday. I also walked out with an even greater fortification of will, of readiness to really, really fight against my body when things start to get bad. I expect to feel beaten down early, but I think I’m ready to keep that in perspective, to hold onto the hope that I can turn that around. I think, after last years experience, I’m ready to feel the pain that comes with this distance and keep turning it on, knowing I’m not going to crumple into a pile of exhausted flesh. The magnitude of this fight sat both heavy and determined inside me.
I walked away from the session with another dose of intensity for the effort, but the longer I thought about our conversation I really started to understand what Matt was trying to tell me. He was struggling with the duality of this attempt as much as I have been and his advice was tempered with this reality. On one hand he wanted to give in to the impossible success of the marathon, where anything can happen (for better or worse) and gave me the encouragement to really go for it. I think he also understands my mental determination and knows how powerful that can be at this distance. I think he wanted to encourage me to believe in the impossible and go all out, no matter what, no matter how I feel, holding to the hope that I can fight through the fatigue and make a comeback if things get bad….or just hope they never get bad at all.
On the other hand, it’s his job as a coach to prepare me for the highly likely inevitable. It’s his job to temper my hope with a dose of reality and this attempt I’m about to engage in is absolutely smothered in reality. He knows he has to prepare me for a physical crash during the race and give me a way out if it comes to that, not to throw in the towel, but to instead look toward the future, to come out of this race without an overwhelming sense of defeat and demoralization, but instead a tempered sense of accomplishment that will add to my longer-term marathoning arsenal. Another step closer to the Trials podium. It’s not a romantic perspective…not at all, but it’s incredibly important.
I heard him loud and clear.
At one point during our discussion I assured him that I DO have a Plan B, but to give voice to it so early is too dangerous, it gives me too much of an out before I even get to the point that it becomes a necessity. I can’t afford have a fall back plan. I told him I’m even resisting thinking about any of my plans AFTER the race, but making sure I’m continuously concentrating on what happens race day, going through the number of potential scenarios and how I’m going to overcome them. But I didn’t want him to think a Plan B was completely out of the picture. No, it’s there….but I’ll address that IF I have no other choice….but no sooner.
I hear him though. I know the reality of what I’m about to attempt. I know the forces stacked against me. I know the very physical reality of what this distance will try to do to my hopeful goals. But I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Because I still have to believe in my day dreams. I still have to believe in my excessive delusions. The power of those can take a person so much farther than you or I can ever truly understand. I romanticize the attempt to myself, I know this, but this impossible distance demands nothing less.
Coach Matt doesn’t want me to come out of this broken, dejected, demoralized, and so he gave me a healthy dose of reality, of doubt. And I appreciate that, but he also knows I can fight, and part of that fight demands believing in the impossible, holding onto daydreams and delusions of grandeur.
I don’t know what’s going to come of this attempt. This has such a great potential to turn out bad…real bad. But there will be at least one victory, of the attempt. I’m going for the Trials and I’m believing in the success until the potential reality of the effort comes crashing in. Until that happens though, this race is won in my head.
Let’s do something amazing.