Running on Insight: Reflections (Week 16)

A weekly share on the practical and reflective elements in training for the Sugarloaf Marathon.  

I had the luxury of skipping out on old man winter for a few days with a trip to sunny California for a meditation retreat.  This time away provided a welcome pause in not only the weather, but the everyday demands of life.  I’ve come to realize that retreating is essential.  To break away from my environment and allow time for slowing down and quiet reflection provides a powerful charge to my batteries.  The time always leaves me renewed and armed with a fresh perspective, and this certainly applies to my training.

This 16 week mark is a critical time.  Since the NYC Marathon in November, my runs have been less about getting in a certain amount of miles, and more about spending time out of doors and fine-tuning.  In this phase, I have transitioned to zero drop shoes, worked on shortening my stride, and waking up my glutes.  While this continues to be a work in progress (i.e., I haven’t ditched my Mizunos), I’m moving forward with an emphasis on trying to pinpoint what breaks down in my form when the mileage gets higher.  This work has, and I know will continue to be a focal point as I get closer to race day.

I was of the assumption that my time in Cali would result in some quality mileage, while taking full advantage of the warmer temps and new scenery to explore.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the terrain . . . oh my, hills!  And by hills, I do not mean the sweet, lumbering, rolling kind, but the sharp, skyscraper, how-the-heck-does-anyone-actually-RUN-up-these hills.  Rather than this being a build week, I ended up using it as more technical work on on the trails with stride and pace, as well as a mental clearing and reset.  I paused a whole lot to take photos (and to catch my breath), appreciate the surroundings and soak in as much Vitamin D as possible.

My yoga and mobility practice was sprinkled throughout each day.  Yin poses, passive backbends, twists and some functional flow movements were exactly what I needed to balance the rigors of that hill work and the hours parked on a meditation cushion.  (sequences to be shared later this week)

My biggest takeaway from the week as it related to my prep for May’s marathon, was the value of slowing down to find clarity.  While I approach my running in a casual way, not putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform, but settling into lots of miles at a moderate pace, it’s all too easy to become too relaxed – stagnant, even.  I can still enjoy the long slow distance, but having those small, potent markers within the training period that focus on form and quality, parallels concentration practice in meditation.  By steadying the mind around one thing for a period of time, an acute sharpness can be developed, but it can also shift into an overall ease and effortless state.  Ultimately, it’s finding the balance of not becoming too relaxed, and not over-striding.  This, I trust, will be the ultimate test in the coming weeks.  I look forward to sharing my journey and hearing yours as well.

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