The Warrior Mentality

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Pace and Racing
Tags: , , ,

I have not run since wrapping up my final leg of the Ragnar del Sol team 200-mile relay race on Saturday morning at 7:09 a.m.

As I was pushing hard over what would be my final 3.58 miles my left knee was barking louder and louder at me.  What started as a slight nagging tenderness over my first leg of the race on Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. heading uphill out of Wickenburg, had now become more than that.

A sometimes sharp “bite” that I knew would need a little rest and time off when the race was over.

7:15, 7:01, 6:26, 6:06 were my final splits of the race.

Upon returning to Austin I’ve just been taking it easy, complete rest, no running, no strength training just a little time off to rest physically – but also to rest mentally.

I had been fixated on training and racing since September.

Starting with the IBM Uptown Classic – chasing a sub 40:oo minute 10K time for placement at next month’s Cooper River Bridge Run.

The following day Austin Marathon Training began which would include the Run for the Water 10-Miler, the Decker Challenge Half Marathon, the 3M Half Marathon.  I even threw in a couple of 5K Races on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day “just because”.

February 2oth meant the Austin Marathon and then 5 days later Ragnar del Sol – another 19 miles of racing through the Arizona mountains on the heels of my best –ever marathon.

It has been a real treat this week to kick back a bit and take it easy.  My first real time off in I don’t know how long.  I’m hoping that this knee inflammation goes away and this coming Tuesday I can resume preparations for the Cap10K here in Austin at the end of the month, then sharpen the sword even more for the Cooper River Bridge Run a week later in Charleston, SC.

There is one thing hanging out there however that is weighing on my mind a bit.

I wonder what kind of marathon I was truly capable of if the weather had not conspired against me at Austin.

High Winds, high temperatures and high humidity appears to have taken a bite out of the competitors by approximately 9-11 minutes on race day.

If that is the case, that puts us in the 3:04-3:06 range at Austin.  About where I thought I would run when being completely honest with myself as I took my first swing at a 3 hour marathon.

I read earlier this week about the “Warrior Mentality”

The piece I read spoke about warriors being survivors.  They are tireless, incapable of quitting.  Warriors are permitted to doubt, but not stop.  They always find a way.

All things that I think most of us would associate with the word Warrior.

But there was a small passage that really hit home for me.  It was tucked away almost as an afterthought.  It said that being a warrior means pursuing a goal that scares the hell out of you.

As I read those words I could only think of two words.

Three Hours.

I had thought about waiting until November for the NYC Marathon – to step into the ring once again and trade punches with lady marathon.  After another summer of speed work and training, perhaps I would be ready.

But the warrior inside of me is telling me that is simply an avoidance mechanism.  Just push that off into the future and worry about it then.

I realized this week that simply isn’t good enough.  It’s not good enough for me, and certainly would not be good enough if I was having this conversation with Dom.  I have a pretty good idea that he’d be telling me to go for it now.  Why wait?  You never know what the future holds.  Get back out there and take your shot.

There is a small marathon in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania in May.  Last year it only attracted 675 runners.  It is run on a very beautiful and fast course. 

Early on race morning at the Stroudsburg High School, runners are going to pile on to a group of school busses and be transported to the starting line 26.2 miles away.  The runners will check their gear bags and stretch their legs.  They will stand in line for the porta-potties, have their last sips of water and warm up.

They will gather on a small town street and listen to a rendition of the star spangled banner.

One runner with initials on his shoes will crouch down out of sight from all of the runners and remember his friend.

He will stand tall, wipe a tear from his eye and at the horn he is going to run the race of his life.  Nobody there will know his name, there will be no one along the course cheering for him or shouting encouragement.

About three hours later that runner will cross the finish line back in Stroudsburg, PA.  A five digit time will flash overhead and it will be over. 

The first number will either be a 2 or a 3.  The other numbers won’t matter.

That runner will walk to his rental car and call his wife.  She will tell him that she is proud of him and loves him no matter what.

He will then head to the airport for a flight back to Austin.

Whether it is a 2 or a 3 on the clock May 15th, it will be the best that I can do. 

No regrets.

  1. Joe, first, you are wise to rest now. You have been pushing hard for months on end and while I know you do a lot of the “right things” like strength training and cross-training to minimize injury risks, we can only ever minimize and not eliminate. I’d even question whether you should ramp up for the 10K at the end of the month – not to say you shouldn’t race it, but you will do well at it without much in the way of training the next few weeks.
    And, I don’t blame you for not wanting to wait until November for several reasons – first, NYC weather in Nov. is unpredictable in a different way than Austin was. Second, it is a tough course. And third, it is a long time away – tough to be patient, a lot can happen between now and then, and I still think you were more capable of a 3:00 at Austin (given the right conditions) than you give yourself credit for. Good luck!

  2. David H. says:

    One thing to think about with the Poconos is the elevation change. It looks to be about 1,000-foot different above sea level there from where you are now. As someone who lives 800-900 feet above sea level right now with mountains nearby, that type of elevation change is very hard to adjust to. You certainly have many more miles and solid training than I do at this point, but it’s definitely something I think you should think about with the goal. (Forgive me if you know all this … I’m just looking out for you!)

  3. Tom M says:

    Stroudsburg elevation is 509 feet, Austin elevation is 489 feet above sea level. It’s a wash, and you’ll have been training in 20-degrees warmer. But yeah, it starts at 1500 feet and then after mile 5 drops 1000 feet! Holy moley! Do this thing, Joe. Love to see you work in some track intervals for this one!

  4. luau says:

    Get it! Go and get it!

  5. Jodi Higgins says:

    Go get ’em Joe…well just as soon as that knee heals!!

  6. I would expect no different Joe. This is your race, I can feel it. Sounds like it was made for you – a small field with space to run with your thoughts and Dom.

  7. Jene says:

    I found your blog through Sean (from your Ragnar team, he’s my buddy on DailyMile) and I just wanted to comment and tell you what a phenomenal storyteller you are. I initially stopped by to read about the Ragnar race but then found myself completely captivated by your entire story. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Wymberley says:

    I did the Cooper River Bridge Run in 1994. I loved the run but the downhill is killer on the knees. Have a blast!

  9. Hey Joe-

    Great post. I’ll be rooting for you. 2:59 or bust!

  10. Jim in Maine says:

    Still catching up Joe … great post … hope that knee gets better. Don’t be surprised if someone there knows ya’ …

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