Tell Me Friday: How To Lay Confidence-Building Bricks


And thar she blows: a great goal for me.

So this Ironman thing? Tough.

There isn’t a workout where somewhere in the middle of it, I go into math mode: I’m 45 minutes into a bike workout, and think to myself, “If I were in the race, I'm still swimming right now. And then I have 112 miles to bike. And then just 26.2 miles to run.”

Some days, I get super excited by that thought--bring it, Coeur d'Alene!--and other days, not so much (bring your booty over to that couch and watch Nashville on demand!)

Be amazing: a little ambitious, but I appreciate the sentiment.
Be amazing: a little ambitious, but I appreciate the sentiment.

I still get nervous before most races of any distance or sport, but I'm 99% sure, barring flat bike tires, runners trots and other natural disasters, I'll see the finish line. That said, this 140.6-mile adventure in late June? That certainty isn't so solid. Two decades of endurance sports have given me a deep roots, but I'm planting a sapling in Coeur d'Alene and my gardening tools are rusty. (Yes, really bad metaphor there, but you know what I'm saying.)

Thing is, my Ironman could be your 10K or your marathon or your first sprint tri. We are all essentially in the same place: Your body is at point A, and you want to get to point B, which can feel ridiculously far away. Can you get to point B?

No matter what your goal is, you have to lay down bricks, one by one, day by day. Bricks of endurance. Bricks of strength. Bricks of confidence. Bricks of mental toughness. Most importantly, bricks of belief that what you're doing isn't crazy or impossible, but is quite the opposite: very possible and, not coincidentally, very possibly the key to staying quite sane.

Here’s how I've been laying some bricks lately:

**I don’t look more than a day or ahead in my workouts. My coach fills them out weekly online for me, but I try just to look at today's--and maybe tomorrow's. Here's why: If I’m having a tough time with my 6-mile run on Tuesday, Dimity easily morphs into Dramity: “If I can’t even do this, how in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks can I do the much harder/longer/crazier workout I have on Saturday?" And then I spend way too much energy and time fretting about Saturday's workout for roughly four days. Needless to say, I am not the type who studies and compares training plans months before a race; more power to you if you are.

**I find one part of every workout that I really want to nail. I don’t have to thrive during the whole workout, but I do want finish that sucker feeling an ounce a victory. My focus could be something simple, like not flying through my first mile, usually a slight downhill, like I normally do and paying the consequences. (“Oh, look, a 9:00 for my first mile; today is going to be great!” I think to myself. And then I get to mile 3, where I rack up a 9:50 and I wonder what I’ve done wrong.) It could also be something much harder, like staying strong as I run up and crest a hill. (Keep your intensity for 40 steps after you go up a hill: it's harder than it sounds.)

**I’m trying to be more effusive about my workouts, something that doesn't come naturally to me. I texted my coach on Saturday after what was definitely my best workout in weeks (a 50-minute bike with some strength training thrown in, followed by 10 x 1 minute at 5K pace, 1 minute recover). I’ve never texted her before; I just fill in the online log, but it’s usually at least 24 hours--and more like 72 hours--late and by then, I’ve lost some of the endorphinated enthusiasm from the workout. But Saturday, I felt great and wanted her to know right there and then.

Can you see the fireworks going off?
Can you see the fireworks going off?

**I tell myself I chose to do this race. Not only that, but I get to do this. How lucky am I? (I actually yelled that during a run about two weeks ago to remind myself that I am, indeed, very lucky.) Again, an adjustment to my typical glass-half-empty perspective, but I can't help but be more grateful when I mentally fill up my cup instead of constantly draining it.

I also threw out a question—how do you not mentally defeat yourself during training?—to a FB group of endurance athletes in Colorado, and loved some of their responses on how they lay bricks:

**From Lena; My mantra is "Yes You Can" You have to believe that. Even if your brain gets doubts, your body has it under control. Believe in your training. You can't look at the whole race, just take it one step at a time, one mile at a time, one aid station at a time. My first full IM was in November at age 63. It took me 2:37 to finish the swim. Well of course they pulled my chip, but even when I heard the 2:20 whistle, I kept going because I knew I had trained and I could at least finish the swim. I have signed up to do the same IM next year because Yes I Can.

I would've preferred badass instead of the word that rhymes with witch, but beggars on Pintrest can't be choosers.
I would've preferred badass instead of the word that rhymes with witch, but beggars on Pinterest can't be choosers.

**And from Sarah:  I never think of the race distance during training (well, I *try* not to). Because they aren't the same. Race day is RACE DAY. Training is the hard, slogging work getting prepared, mentally and physically. I think success in a race, any distance, is staying mentally with it, not thinking too far ahead and not psyching yourself out. Sometimes I am scared to go for a long run or workout - literally, I have to talk myself into it. I'm not sure what that's about, but getting out the door and through the workout mentally is just as important as is putting in the time physically. (Note: I too get freaked out by long runs/workouts, hence the don't think; just go motto that works pretty well for me.)

**And finally, from Meredith: The training is the harder part; the race is the icing on the cake. Adrenaline and the fun of the day make the hours go by so fast. I promise it will go by very quickly and then you'll be sad when it's done.

The idea of 140.6 miles going by quickly feels absolutely inane right now. But I realize anything, brick by brick, is possible: Even me crossing an Ironman finish line.

Now you tell us: How do you build your bricks? Believe in your capability? Stretch your confidence and cross finish lines you never thought you'd see?


27 responses to “Tell Me Friday: How To Lay Confidence-Building Bricks

  1. I focus on one training run at a time or one repeat at a time (if I am doing speedwork, which I HATE). When it is really tough, I focus on one breath cycle at a time. It works better for me to focus on the moment rather than the finish line.

    I’ve lived in Spokane for the past 5 years, and I haven’t yet gone to watch the Ironman in Coeur d’Alene. Now I have a reason to go! I’ll be watching for you on the running route.

  2. Just wanted to say I loved today’s post. I needed a little inspiration today and, once again, AMR totally delivered. Keep pumping out the inspiration (running related and otherwise) to all of us hard working moms!!

  3. Thank you so much for the post. It was like a walk down memory lane. Last year I was training for CDA. Having never done a half IM or a full marathon and having none scheduled before CDA, I had many doubts. Got diagnosed with RA in February, but just kept on the training plan. Sometimes it was modified but never gave up. Crossing that finish line was the most amazing thing ever. I’m on the video: Ironman Coeur d’ Alene 2012 – Full Circle, crossing the finish line. I have gotten healthy training for triathlon. I have weighed over 250 pounds and now weigh about 150. Great work. You can do it and you will have a huge story to tell. I wrote 9 pages about that day. I will be back at CDA this summer watching my friend finish. Best of everything, Linda.

  4. I play lots of tricks on my brain. I like to do dimity math on the run, so I know what you mean. I always look forward to the halfway point of whatever I’m doing – because I’m HALFWAY DONE! Can’t even think of the tricks…

    But what I can tell you is that you should read this blog post: and apply it not just to life but to your workouts. When you read it, if the spiritual part doesn’t necessarily resonate at the beginning, don’t give up – it’s SO worth it. Now I’m counting all the “drops of awesome” in my workouts, and it is a great feeling.

    When I’m really battling the boo hoo demons, I think of my OLRBs (online running buddies) who always talk about cheering each other on with their pom poms – so I think of them, visualize them at the top of the hill, etc. lifting me up. I think about what I’m going to post to them about how awful the middle of the race was and how I pictured them at the turnaround and slingshotted (word?) my body around and felt their strength. The AMR Tribe has their virtual pom poms out for Dimity, every time. So just think of us.

  5. When I’m starting to drag and I feel myself lagging I tell myself “Ok, just get to the end of this street and you can take a break.” Then I get to the end of the street and I’m still moving so then I tell myself “Just get to the top of this hill and you can stop.” And it keeps going. If things are going really tough and I know it would be faster to just stop and walk, I try to pretend I’m in a race. The only time I’ve stopped in a race (besides for water) is to tie my shoe. It’s something I take pride in. Okay I might hang around the water station a little longer than I should, but hey, I finished!

    But the thing I love the most? When my mp3 player seems to be able to read my mind. I think the on the hardest (mentally) runs I’ve had my mp3 player knew exactly when I needed a pick-me-up song and when I could use a chill song.

  6. I remind myself that not ONCE, have I ever finished a work out or race and thought, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t done that”. There is always at least a small satisfaction in completing -whatever it is you’re completing. And the harder it is, the better I feel when I can say, “yeah, I did that!”

  7. When I was captain for our Team in Training group last summer, I told the newbies who were stressing about the race that the hard part is the training: getting up on Saturday mornings and logging the miles in the long runs. The race itself? It’s just a celebration of the training you’ve put into it, complete with bands, t-shirts and free bananas at the finish line. 🙂

    Now, that’s not to say that I always take my own advice, but I’m trying to remember it!

  8. I think about this all the time. Confidence is not my strength, and I have the impossible seeming goal of qualifying for Boston. The factor you mention of “not looking too far ahead” in the plan really helps me. This is something I discovered because my coach doesn’t give me more than a week in advance–I thought I’d dislike that, but it’s really been a boon. Not only am I forced not to intimidate myself with what’s ahead, I’m less disappointed if illness or something forces a rest day or scale-back week unexpectedly.

    I also try to look at how far I’ve come. I haven’t qualified for Boston, but in the process of trying, on the doorstep of my 40th birthday, I’ve set lifetime PRs in all distances but the 5K (and I plan to go after that one when the Boston monkey’s off my back!).

  9. Brilliant! One brick, one step, one whatever at a time. I am doing 2 races this weekend purely for the special medal that will say I did both!! 5K tomorrow and then 13.1 Sunday. Another 13.1 in 2 wks and another in March then a full in April! Crazy but, brick by brick I CAN DO IT!

  10. This was perfect for me to read today (truly a “God Whisper”). I signed up for my first half marathon this week. About 5 minutes later (literally) I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I freaked out. But I didn’t BAIL out. I’m still training. I’m still running. It’s called living, I guess. I always like to hear that women who are clearly better athletes than I am still struggle with the mental aspects. Thanks for sharing.

    PS Your “train” book came today! WOOT!

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