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!

  11. Still working on my marathon goal, but the thing I have learned in training for two half marathons is that the more I run the better I run and the easier it gets. So even when I have a difficult run – like the 16 miler I did where every bit felt like misery – I know that in the big picture my strength and endurance is improving. After my first half (which was my longest run to that point), when I was still going on to train for a full, I couldn’t imagine doing 15, but I did and then 16 didn’t seem like such a big step. So I think moving forward I understand that there will be points where I have to just trust that I’ll be able to do it, one way or the other, no matter how many walk breaks I might need. And ultimately I’ll either do it or I won’t, so I’m not going to waste energy worrying about whether I *might*, or all of the ‘what-ifs’. I have already been so surprised by my body, running longer, stronger, and faster at 42 than at 22, that I believe I have untapped reserves, and that I am capable of more than I know.

  12. I’m currently training for my first half marathon, the princess marathon at disney world. Sometimes I feel so disappointed with myself and discouraged because I can’t get through the 30 minutes during the week days without stopping.
    One of the things that drew me in to the rundisney was the magazine ad that says “You can run. You can run. You can run.”
    There are days when I think of giving up and then days when I run and I get so pumped up that I completed the run I feel great!
    It’s so good to be reminded one step at a time. Keep going. You are gonna make it.
    I also like to envision myself crossing the finish line. Helps me keep pushing.

  13. When I did my first (um, only, who am I kidding) marathon, I didn’t commit to it until 2 months before. My husband did, and since we always ran together, I said I’d train with him as long as I could.

    During the 16 mile run, the longest up till then, I had enough. I told him to take off and finished slowly on my own. Convinced that distance running wasn’t my thing. I didn’t think about it for awhile- just kept doing the shorter runs with him.

    The next scheduled long run was in my hometown. 18 miles. Out and back, a cold November day. And I had been throwing up too. I’m not sure what got me out the door, but I did.

    Out we went, and before I knew it, we were back. I still remember laying on the floor under the Christmas tree! After that, I committed. If I can get through that, I can get through anything.

    So how did I believe in my capability? There was no way that I was going to let “the smart” sibling, or “the pretty, social” one have the satisfaction of seeing “the competitive one” give up. Not. Going. To. Happen.

    Nothing like 30-year old sibling rivalry to get you through a run!

  14. I totally agree with Lena in “Believe in your training.” I did my first half marathon in 2011 that I did not train properly for, and it sucked so bad. The next year I signed up for the full, so I knew I would have to put in the work, and I did, and it made all the difference. You’re doing the work, so you just have to believe that it will pay off. And I totally agree with Sarah when she said “sometimes I’m scared to go for a long run, literally I have to talk myself into it.” When I first started marathon training, I would get to the end of a 7 mile run and think “I’m completely give out. How am I going to run 26?” and I’ld dread the next long run. The next week I’ld run 8 and think “I’ve got nothing left. How am I going to run 26?” and that went on every week, even after running 20 miles I didn’t know if I could do 6 more. That fear lasted until I accidently went 24 because I misjudged my route, and I finally knew I would be able to finish. I am full of admiration for you, because you’re going to do something that I would never even try.

  15. Dimity – as a fellow lover of author Anne Lamott, I always remember her use of the phrase “Bird by Bird”. A story she tells in the book “Hard Laughter” (about her father’s brain tumor). I think the story goes that her brother was working on a bird report and becoming frustrated with all the information and her father gently tells him “just take it bird by bird, buddy”. I love that – and have had it on my desk at work for over 10 years. Bird by bird, that is the way to progress.

  16. This was an awesome post! Taking things one step at a time is so important but so hard to do! Your analogy was excellent and I will remember it!

  17. Dimity, your post came at the perfect time for me! For the past week, I’ve been waffling about doing my half-ironman in September mostly due to confidence issues. Your post put everything in perspective for me, and made me realize that I am not the only one experiencing these feelings. I have come a long way in the past 2 years (since I first met you at the Denver KickStart) and I am not going to give up now. So, here I come Harvest Moon!

    I too have learned to take it day by day (or workout by workout). And even though I may have a sucky workout, I can figure out what went wrong and how I can improve on that for next time. Also, starting to train with Master’s Swimming and joining a cycling club will definitely help with building my confidence in this endeavor!
    Good luck to you in your training and your race. I hope to hear more about your training through the AMR blog in the upcoming months!

  18. Dimity, I hear you. I have my first ultramarathon coming up and a 17 mile run tomorrow in sub-20 degree weather with 20+ mph winds that will push wind chill way below zero. I DO NOT WANT TO DO IT!

    But I will.

    I have been reading a lot of women bloggers in the ultra community and I remember one woman decribing how she got violently ill at mile 70 of a 100 miler. She ate some Pringles and 7-UP and walked about 15 miles and then ran the last 15 feeling much better. Her mantra the whole time was just keep going, no matter how slow. Put one foot (or arm if you’re swimming in a tri) in front of the next and eventually you will reach sweet nirvana known as the finish line.

    I’ll be thinking of you as frozen snot spreads across my cheeks tomorrow at mile 14.

  19. What a great post! One thing I disagree with you on though is that being AMAZING is not overly ambitious, especially for you. It’s obvious you do something AMAZING every single day. You wrote this blog post right?

    So I lay bricks by not focusing on the whole run or bike ride, but just a few miles at a time. I can’t think of the whole thing or else I FREAK OUT! I try to focus on how good I’ll feel after rather than the pain during. Not always easy!

  20. You don’t know how badly I needed this today!!!! My training wheels (heehee) fell off weeks ago for my 26.2 on my 45th Bday on Sunday in Houston. I’m going. I’m running. I’m finishing. There is a 70 percent chance of rain, one of big bright spots for me. I’m weird, I know…anywho, Mother Nature decided to visit me NOW, as in today, so, yeah, that’ll be an interesting run. We ARE all in the same spot, when you put it that way, trying to get our bodies to do something amazing, really. When time permits (LOL), I must catch up on my reading here – I so miss y’all’s stuff!!!!!

  21. I think I need to print this! I overwhelm myself when I tackle new distances.
    My original goal was do to Ironman-Wisconsin in 2013. To prepare, I did a half iron in 2012. I had a miserable time getting thru the mental game of the half iron and decided a full was not for me (yet).

    If I can think about like you’ve got it here, I ‘might’ be able to do this some day!

    Thanks for the encouragement…and good luck with CDA!!

  22. Keep telling yourself that you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to. Once you set your mind up your body will follow. So much of all this is mental. Enjoy the journey as much as the finish.

  23. Just what I needed this morning. My first full marathon is Sunday and the nerves are just now starting to kick in. I know I can do it, I will do it, and I will be awesome! Thanks for your daily dose of laughter, advice and encouragement. Your email is the first one I read every morning! Thanks!!!

  24. I just keep reminding myself of my mantra “Forward is a Pace”. While my run/workout may suck I am still doing things others can’t/won’t do. I can eat good food and drink good wine without guilt. I can have the satisfaction of knowing that I pushed my body and it responded (not always in ways I like or enjoy!) but there is a response that lets me know I am alive. Each day is a new challenge and the crappy runs/workouts help us to really appreciate the good ones! Forward is a Pace!

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