Monday, November 19, 2012

Running Mental Scale

On a few of my long runs, I've been thinking about my running limiters. When I first started running, it would clearly flip between cardio and leg strength as I built up my mileage. Somewhere during the course of training for two half Ironmans, my limiter clearly became leg strength since all the swimming, biking, and running I was doing built my cardio to the point that my legs always limited me. During all this training I also came to realize mental toughness is just as much of a limiter as cardio and leg strength. Lately my mental running state has been at an all time high and thinking about how all over the place it's been, I decided to create a running mental scale. I can usually tell where my mental state is at based on how often I look at my watch and what I think when I see how long I've been running.

State 0. This is the run funk state that keeps you from even getting out the door. Not a good place to be at all.

1. This the the worst state that involves actual running where you look at your watch within two minutes of starting and already start negotiating with yourself on how short you can cut the run and still get some exercise.

2. Slightly better than state 1, but you know it's going to take some effort not to quit early. In this state, I usually figure out how long I'm going to run, figure out about how many songs that is on my iPod and start counting down how many more songs I have to go.

3. Feeling good about running. Glancing at the watch every 10-15 minutes thinking about how much longer you will be running.

4. Feeling really good about running. You don't look at the watch until well into the run but still have the end in site.

5. The ultimate running state. You don't look at your watch for at least an hour into your run and when you do, you think "how long do I get to run before I have to be somewhere". It's a great feeling.


Last weekend I joined Patrick for part of his 12 hour run. Patrick ended up running 46 miles and his friend Cheri did 50 miles! I knew I couldn't run for twelve hours so I slept in and showed up about 9:30 and joined them. I felt great and immediately settled in to run state 5. My cardio was perfect as well. We did two mile loops in the woods and stopped by our cars for water and fuel every loop. We didn't stop long because it was chilly in the wind. After about three hours of running my left hamstring was getting tight and very tender to the touch so I knew my day wasn't going to last as long as I wanted. I ended up running 18 miles (my longest run by three miles) in four hours. It's too bad because I had all day open and wanted to keep going.

What are your limiters? Do you have a mental running scale?

Random pics from this weekend.

You can't tell the depth from the picture above but when I stopped to take this picture, the far hillside seemed to shrink as I stared at it, Matrix like. It was a really weird depth perception moment that I'm guessing my eyes/brain were reconciling as I was looking at it.
Looking back at the trail you can see in the previous pic.

Random pic.

If I don't post again before Thanksgiving, have a great one! It's my favorite holiday.



  1. I asked a client recently to give me his PE (perceived effort) on his runs and he came up with a scale of 1-10 that was funny as hell (1: dead; 10: I could run after that Lululemon skirt ahead of me all day.... :)). I've recently been working with someone (okay, let's just call him a coach, for lack of a better word - cuz that's what he is. Ha!) and he wants me to give him my feedback. I write crap like: "I didn't feel good but I didn't feel bad." "I felt okay but not great." "I had a good run but was a little fatigued." I'm sure he cringes every time opens an email from me. HA! I should give him a numbering system like yours...but I also have lots of runs that start off like crap and end up a 5. Or vise versa (those are ones I went out way too fast ;)). Anyway, it's a great system and I'm sure it works well for ya!

    That's fantastic you ran 18 miles..and in 4 hours is nothing to sneeze at. Congrats on a long run PR and how cool you got to do it with some fun friends. Gorgeous pictures...sometimes (not a lot though :), I miss the Midwest!

  2. I think I live in level2 of your scale. I have hit level 4 but never 5. I have hit 5 on the bike though.

    Mental is much more impactful to me than physical. Nice post.

  3. I think I have 3 levels:

    1. I'm not running today.
    2. I'm finishing my planned run because that's the plan.
    3. What a great day for a run.

  4. I definitely bounce around running levels during a run. I'd say 75% of the time I leave my house at a 0. Even if I'm excited about running, usually by the time it's time to run I'm dreading it.

    My biggest limiter is training. I'm pretty good at making myself slog through just about anything, but if I put more dedication into my running I could slog a lot faster/further. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. That's awesome...18 miles and you wanted to go longer!!!

    My running, or lack of, is all mental right now. I stop either because I am leg starts to numb...I lack stamina...or because I always stop there out of habit...I need to pick which one I am stopping for because I DON't ALWAYS sad right?

    keep it are rockin it! And btw...any thanksgiving recipes coming out this week from you??

  6. Thanks for coming out Mike! 18miles is great. Next time we do it at night!

  7. 18 miles is great! I haven''t run that far in quite some time. I always finish a run I plan to do but it isn't always pretty. My worst runs are on the treadmill after a long day of work but often once I get going I am fine. I don't think I ever get into state 5. That is unless I am on the bike! That is a different story.
    You put the swim workouts in a comment but don't look for them. That would be tedious.

  8. How about that. After your last comment, I went and checked and your are back on my blog roll too. Must be a Thanksgiving miracle!

    Loved this post - I dream of every being in the upper end of your scale. I fear that I will always live in zone 1/2 (with fair bit of time in 0). Great job on the 18 trail miles. That is tough!! You are awesome!!

  9. I'd say that's a pretty fair way to put things into a scale. A run feeling scale for me would be similar.

    The photos are very interesting! it looks like a tough running area.

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving :)

  10. Great job on your 18 mile run! I've been hanging around level 2 too much lately - need to cut that out! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!!

  11. So many of my runs start out way low on the scale. Thankfully I'm 'tough' enough...or shall I say I've been doing this long enough to know it'll get better if I just keep going.
    I need some Thanksgiving grill pictures!

  12. HAAA, I had a comment, but Jill's comment trumphs them all, I want to run like her client's version of a 10