So, if you have just crawled out from under a rock, I am in complete “Gizmode” for the Chicago Marathon…for those of you that are still with me, welcome back. This week I will be discussing FOCUS. No, it’s not an acronym for First Officer Cuz U Suck…it’s an actual word that is a noun, a verb and in my case, my life at the moment. Everything I eat, do, think, dream of, talk about is race related. Some may see that as obsessive, I call it focused. I have a goal…I would like to accomplish it in the most effective way possible and succeed in doing so. The thing I realized though is that focus goes through stages from conception of the goal to working towards the goal to finally accomplishing that goal. There are so many changes mentally that it’s like a barn burner in football!! (get it? because there are so many lead changes, neither defense showed up to play…look it up.) In any case, in this cluster of a process, adjusting focus is the only way to get through it.
In the beginning, when I toyed with the idea of even running the Chicago Marathon, I was all about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Yeah, before I even ran one training mile, I was already thinking about running an additional 26.2. That is called seeing diamonds in the sky. At that point, it was all mental, I banked on already being in good shape that the running part became secondary. I would do one mile sprints thinking that a 6:13 pace for one mile would get to me to the place where we dumped tea bags. I had a goal, sure…but what I overlooked was that there were about 100 smaller goals that needed to happen before I could even book a ticket to Logan International. It’s great to think big, and set goals that may even seem unattainable, but maintaining perspective is a whole other battle that I lost straight from the start. I didn’t care that I hadn’t run more than 3 miles without breathing like a smoker walking to their car. I was so focused on the end result that I started to create Boston t-shirts! Great focus, Gizmo! I didn’t understand the first thing about training for a race but it didn’t matter because for some reason I knew I was good. Whatever that means. My focus wasn’t my training, it was only about the accolades and daydreams. The problem is when you have to bridge the gap between what you want and what you can get and then how to even get there. What did I know about running more than 3 miles consistently?? What did I know about the stamina, discipline and drive it takes to get up at 5 am 4 days a week to run, then get in the gym to train to keep those muscles loose and strong. My focus wasn’t on me or my body, and I got hurt. I didn’t condition to run, I didn’t foam roll and stretch to recover and then all of a sudden, I had an empty goal with no road to redemption…now what?
I took a break, a break from all of it. No training, no running, no marathon, no Boston…nothing. My focus at this point was to walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without crying in pain, which is a monumental issue, for those of you that know me. For those that don’t, I have a pain tolerance that compares to the sound velocity that only dogs hear. I ignore pain to the point of debilitation and even then I fight through it. But what hurt more than my leg was my pride, my ego…my focus was gone, because my bubble burst, my ultimate goal was no longer an option. The only thing I thought about at that time was just to get back to the gym, not lose muscle tone and maybe run 2 miles in a few months. I worked hard through the summer, I swam to keep my legs loose and strong without high impact exercises. I boxed more to take out my aggression from my bruised ego. I took my head totally out of the running game, as a matter of fact, the thought of pounding the pavement scared the living daylights out of me. My leg would quiver at the thought of sprinting. I finally went on some short jogs and felt pain towards the end. I slowly started to learn that I could run longer distances running at a slower pace and not feel pain. The problem, I hated it. I hated not breaking my mile record and felt like I was on the B squad. For some reason, my success depended on my speed, going back to who I was a few months prior, anything less would be below me and a complete waste of time. I didn’t think that the ability to run longer distances that I was slowly acquiring could put me back on track to achieve my once said goals…until August.
In August, I was given an opportunity to reprise my goal of marathon running. This time, it was only one race, in Chicago, the original race that started all this. I started to think about just finishing the race, 5 hours, 6 hours…whatever…I had a bib with my name on it, why not try for it? I knew I was weeks behind those following CARA and any other marathon training regimens. I had a new plan in place, a new focus. I was going to FINISH the marathon. That became my life at that point, but just like April, it became an idea that I was in LOVE with and I began to make post plans…I still hadn’t run more than 3 miles. I will never forget my first “marathon training” run. It was supposed to be 8 miles, right out of the gate, I mean, hey I needed to play catch up, right? It was already 80 degrees at 9am, I meant to go at 6am…slept in. I got a mile in, needed a break. 2 miles in, I needed water. 3 miles in, I was delirious. I know that the heat and humidity played a part, but come on, this was a plain ol’ pain in the arse. There was no way I could do this. Why did I think this was easy to do? Because I painted pictures with invisible ink? Because I already had my post-race party planned out? AGAIN, I was focused solely on the result, and didn’t realize the present. I barely made it six miles that day and walked the 7th. It was pathetic, I was ashamed of myself and pretty much said screw it. You know the think about invisible ink? It’s actually not useless at all, turns out those dreams and goals aren’t fleeting, you just have to find the right light to read the words with, illuminate the path to succeeding, again, adjusting focus.
Six weeks out from October 9th. It was do or die. Why couldn’t I get this running “fever”? What was stopping me? I couldn’t figure it out…but when I did, it was magic. The pieces just made sense. I focused daily on something new, something to change, something to achieve. I adjusted daily to make sure I compensated for something I lacked the day before or just to prepare for the day after. Every day I set new goals to achieve that day. The more I achieved those goals daily, I focused on what I needed to do for the week, my 11 mile run. This was really a make or break moment for me, because if I couldn’t do this run with ease, I had made the realistic decision to not do the marathon, but this time, it would have been a valid thought out reason. I did it, I did those 11 miles the best I could have asked for. I finally had the right focus on this. Sure, I did walk some, but I was ok with that, it was all part of my plan. I knew I was going to FINISH this race in some fashion, there was no longer any doubt…but then I started to focus on RUNNING this race, not just finishing. I amped up my training in the gym, went on interval runs during the week, changed my diet, lost 5 lbs. of fat I had put back on, I finally ran a mile under 9 minutes for 3 miles! It was awesome. I did the 14 miles at the same pace, but this time I ran more and felt great! I had a new goal, a new focus, I was going to RUN this race and run it well. Then I got to the dreaded 16 mile run and I fell flat a bit. I hadn’t rested enough, I didn’t eat enough, my legs didn’t feel strong enough and my pace was higher. I walked more than I wanted to and my body hurt like no other. The thing is, I wasn’t deterred, instead I adjusted my focus even more to condition my body. I gave up family time, friend time, dedicated a whole week and weekend just to prepare for my 18 mile run, and yes I said RUN. I had never been so focused on something like this, I have never changed my life so much for one day. I stopped wearing flip flops to cushion my feet when I wasn’t running. I started using terms like paleo and taper, the very words I used to chuckle at others for using. My parents would end conversations as soon as I brought up the marathon, my friends would groan and tell me to give it a rest…I even think my dogs are fed up and I’m going to find my running shoe chewed up one of these days. I ran 20, not 18…and I RAN it at a pace lower than any of my other runs. My pieces were in place, my sacrifices justified and my focus, perfect.
Now, I am at the point where I know that my training has paid off, and I can switch my focus to race day and not just running. I am at that point where I know my goal, I know what I need to do to get there and I am finally close to accomplishing my goal. My focus now is big picture. I’m thinking more about raising money for my charity that helped me even conceive this goal. I’m vesting time and energy to raise money for The Chicago Diabetes Project because it’s a cause that is pertinent to my life and to many others that are in my inner circle. I am actually getting excited about pre-race stuff like meeting my other “cellmates”, dinner on Friday night and even the pre-race pics! I am planning my cheering squad out, helping them through the course route, getting signs and other swag made, I even coined Gizmode and yeah, it’s in full effect!! This time though, they aren’t diamonds in the sky…they are in my hands, every facet, all sparkly and shiny.
Gizmode and get on it! Anything and everything helps us find a cure!
See you guys on race day!