Tuesday, November 26, 2013

9:36 PM
You can tell by the look on my face that the going was tough.

In every single race photo, I am grimacing, two parallel lines etched into my forehead, jaw set, body obviously aching, no step feeling light or easy.  The vistas captured in the background are apparently doing little to ease the burden of 13.1 long miles.

Some races feel short and like the good sort of effort. Last Sunday's was the other kind - the one where you count every step, every mile, every minute. The kind where you rely on the mantras (note the heavy use of the third person) to take you where your body otherwise would not willingly go:

You run because you love it.

You are strong, you are powerful.

You can do, you can do it, you can really really do it.

 Just. Keep. Going.

So I did it - I finished. I didn't do great (~ 3 minutes slower than my PR) and I certainly didn't feel great. But I did not stop and I had enough left in me to enjoy a swim with my kids and a Friendsgiving Feast later that day. I'll call that one getting.it.done - lower case.

Done is Good
All the mantra-ing and forcing myself through tough patches of the race has special resonance to me at the moment. To achieve your running goals, powerful legs and big lungs aren't enough - you also need a strong head. The same goes for just about anything else in life - the strong head part, that is.  That is the esoteric skill I am trying to teach my 5YO daughter right now.  I see her as someone who has a tendency to give up a little too soon on the things that push her out of her comfort zone or that don't come easily to her. I worry that in choosing the path of least resistance she is not building that internal culture of "grit" which the experts seem to be saying is a strong predictor of achievement, specifically: 

The tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles. Perseverance, tenacity, doggedness.

So I have been trying to coach her on this - trying to teaching her the value of a strong mind. Imparting to her that if her mind says she can do something, then she WILL be able to do it, but that if her mind says she can't then she won't.  Without consciously doing it I have been giving her mantras to say when she needs to control her mind, and I have now heard her several times saying them to herself - as she reads, as she bikes, as she rock climbs.

You can do it A____.

Keep pedaling A____.

You like hard things A____.

The most direct application of this has been on the 4-mile ride/run we have been doing every Saturday morning for the last 5 or so weeks. Biking is not her favorite thing to do - perhaps it is the loss of control, perhaps it is the physical difficulty - whatever it is, I usually have to convince her to come with me and then sometimes the ride is a struggle, even if it always ends well. I have been working with her to be able to get out of the negative mental space she retreats to (i.e., her mind telling her that she can't bike) and trying to get her into a more positive mindset about the experience. Things have been trending in the right direction, but we definitely had a breakthrough last weekend. Brilliantly, as someone snapped our picture part way through the ride they said "Four miles with a lot of smiles".

Four Miles With A Lot of Smiles
 Best. Mantra. Ever.

After hearing that phrase, my daughter sang it to herself pretty much continuously for the rest of the ride, with not a single whine or complain or I can't. An effective mantra addresses what you want to feel, and by getting it into her head that she could bike those four miles happily, she was fully empowered to do just that. It was amazing to watch the transformation.

I thought of my daughter in those painful steps between miles 8 and 11. So many times I have asked her not to give up, to believe in herself, to not quit because things get hard.  There is no way I could ask that of her and then turn around and not live up to that standard myself.

I don't like that saying, do as I say, not as I do. Little eyes are always watching.

Please contact me at mommytasker@gmail.com, MommyTasker.com, or connect with me on Facebook.

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