Friday, April 1, 2011

The power of pretending

Friday: Yoga, swim 3,100 yards

My aunt recently emailed me this little story in a book she was reading, about how a woman calmed her pre-marathon nerves:
…I started thinking of something I'd do only if I had already successfully run the marathon, and what I decided was to write a letter to my grandmother in New York, as if the marathon had already come and gone and I had happily completed it. I wrote her a couple of pages, excitedly telling her how easy it had been and even making fun of myself for having worried so much the week before the race. I kept this letter with me all week, because, of course, I didn't really write it with the intention of mailing it. I wrote it for myself, and I read it to myself from time to time throughout the week whenever I felt nervous or overwhelmed. And come race day, I ran 8.5-minute miles the whole way—no wall, no cramps, no problem whatsoever, just like I'd written to my grandmother."
I thought this was a cute idea and filed it away, but then it hit me while I was swimming today that if I wrote a pretend version of a race report—a lovely, perfect, but realistic race report where I do everything right and the ending is triumphant—well, that would be seriously helpful. It would be not only a tool to inspire me, but also one to force me to think through what a perfect race would actually look like. And not only that, it but it might help my brain memorize what a perfect race looks like so that I can consciously or subconsciously act it out.

So I'm going to take a stab at writing that. You can find it over on its own page (to the right, under "Home" and "Boring page of stats"). I'm going to update and add details as I think of them. It's mostly for me, of course, but you can read it if you promise not to mock me.


  1. I love this idea!

    Do you really think it's worth bothering with a gel on the swim? I guess if one is getting out of the water to cross a timing mat then it might make sense...

    I did a half-ironman with a very cold swim last year, and was surprised how much it affected me physically - almost hyperventilating (fortunately I am a very calm and happy, though slow, swimmer, but I can well imagine how people might panic!), took me a while to figure out what was going on, had a lot of wheezing later in the day. Just test it with some cold-water swimming in weeks or months beforehand....

  2. I like it. Sounds like a good race, so far. :)

  3. That's such a great idea for calming yourself. And I completely agree with you, writing about your "perfect, but realistic" race will let you actually figure out what that is. And when you're on the course, you'll know better what to do and what to expect.

    I like the fact that you're taking the first portion of both the bike and run to ease into a pace. Tons of people kill themselves early on because they think they have crazy amounts of energy (they all get passed later on).

    Keep up the race day visualization and you'll be there in no time!!

  4. Thanks, everyone.

    Jenny, I read somewhere about taking a gel during the swim, and it sounded logical. Might as well have as many calories as possible while you can still stomach them, right? We have a little lake in town that should be about the right temp soon for me to try out my wetsuit + neoprene cap and see how I do. I might try it this week, actually, since the pool will be closed. *shivers*

  5. Ooooh, I've only done 1 wet suit dive. After the initial shock of the cold it became quite nice.