Friday, February 4, 2011

Go to your Happy Place

What do you use for inspiration at the end of a marathon or a long hard run? Do you have a special place that you "go to"? During my last marathon, the last 8 miles were torture. I had already thrown up, was having calf cramps and felt like I couldn't go another step. It was not my finest physical or mental moment. My sweet running partner, Heather, was trying to help me by telling me to "go to my happy place". In my depleted mental state I could not think of one single happy place that would help me forget the agony that I felt I was wading through. What a sad commentary on my brain. I have had lots of happy moments in my life, but in that exact moment in time, not one of them would surface. Since that day I have been tucking away in my mind moments and places in time that I can go to. When they happen, I pause and take deep breaths and try to freeze that moment and everything about it, from the way the air smells to what temperature the air is and how it feels on my skin, who I am with, and what physically is making me have those happy feelings. Then I try to take a mental picture and hold it there for as long as I can. I plan on forcing my brain to take over my body this next marathon. And the only way I can think of to do it is to practice. Just like my body needs to train to finish strong, I need to train my brain to be able to finish just as well.
Here's a few of my most recent happy places that I plan to go to when I need a little inspiration.

In October we took a four wheeling trip to the top of a mountain as a date night with Heather and her husband Rob. It was the end of the fall season and the leaves were beautiful. Everything about that night was beautiful.

If I concentrate I can remember the chill of the air, the smell of dirt and pine, and hear the four wheelers humming along. I can remember holding on tight as we sped up the mountain and then me taking the controls and having my husband wrap his arms around my waist as we ascended to the crest of the mountain top.

I can see the views from the top all around us. It was magnificent. I can see the single track trail that went from the top along the ridge to the next mountain range and promising myself that I'd be back someday to run it.

We watched the sun set and then headed down to a campground that we had spotted on the way up to have a campfire hobo dinner.

The thing I will never forget was the night sky. The stars were brilliant. You could clearly see the Milky Way. Heather and I squatted on the side of the mountain before we headed down to take a potty break and overlooked the city lights below and the stars above. It was the prettiest place I've ever squatted before. The ride down was just as great. That will be a happy moment for me as long as I live.

The next happy place happened during September when we took a trip to California. After being in the car for 13 hours, pulling up to the beach and stretching our legs and putting our feet on the sand was heaven.

As we walked towards our dinner (Ruby's diner on Huntington Beach) I hung back for a few paces and watched my family head into the sunset walking barefoot on the beach. It was almost magical. Especially for a Utahn like me. I love the ocean. I love the beach. It speaks to my soul and makes me happy. Being with the people I love the most only enhanced the feeling. I drank it in deeply.

One of my favorite parts was watching the girls chase the waves. It was such freedom compared to the car ride there. I have a 50 second video that I watch over and over to hear their squeals of delight and I can hear the waves. I can feel the sun on me and taste the salty air. That whole trip was a happy place.
I plan on posting more of my happy places and moments to help me solidify those feelings so that in the moments when I need them the most, they'll be there, ready to go. I'm already starting to implement them into my training. During my speed work on Monday, I focussed on the four wheeling trip and it brought a smile to my face even during that last mile.

What do you do in those moments of weakness?
Do you go to a happy place or stay present in the moment?
Do you think visualization is a good running tool?
Do you use a mantra? What do you find works the best for you?
The mantra that seems to work the best for me is "soft, relaxed, smooth, fast, strong." I repeat it over and over and miles seem to pass without me knowing it.


Wendy said...

I love this post!!
Those look like great times to remember.

Julia said...

LOVE this post...I am totally going to have to try this out and start thinking of my own happy places. I usually just try to catch myself as soon as I start to slip into a negative mindset and come up with a quick and short positive statement I can say over and over again until I snap back into feeling good in the run again :) have a good weekend!

Kate said...

beautiful pictures of the family. I'll be right there this Sunday. :)

I like this strategy. During the marathon I may try to escape to one of my happy places when it gets really tough.

Emz said...

YAY for happy places. you have a lot to draw from. awesome.

I go to.

I chose to do this to be here. I'm making it count. lame but works for me. ;)

Rachelle Wardle said...

Love this post. It is truly mind over matter when running. Thanks for sharing and I love your detailed account of what makes it a "happy place" for you.

Teamarcia said...

those are awesome happy places! I think visualization is very effective with running. I do it all the time.
When things get tough I lie to myself and tell myself how awesome I I have it in the bag. And I think of all the hard training I did to get me to that point.

Blaine said...

My last marathon I crashed and burned by mile was focus on the next mile, focus on the next mile and then it was focus on the JCW's burger, fries and Dr. Pepper as my post-race congratulations for finishing meal.

Audrey said...

it's all SO true - running a marathon is strength of mind just as much as it is body.

I don't really have a "Happy Place" but I focus on staying positive. The moment I start thinking negative thoughts, I'm toast.

My husband often tells me to find my inner "bad-ass-self" For some reason that really seems to help.

I also think "strong legs, strong legs." I struggle with IT band, but it's amazing how thinking that improves my stride and lessens the pain.

The Hungry Runner Girl said...

Girl, this post gave me the BIGGEST GOOSEBUMPS!!! I totally know that feeling you were talking about at the last 8 miles of your marathon and yet we keep on signing up for more, ha we are crazy but most of all you are awesome for pushing through it!! I LOVED hearing about your happy places. 4 wheeling is the best and especially in beautiful Utah. That picture of you and your husband made me smile so big, stunning!! California....definitely my happy place. I have never thought of using this technique during a hard run but know I will.
During my moments of weakness (while running) I think that my Grandpa (that passed away and was a HUGE athlete and track star) is watching me and so proud and to keep going to make him happy.
I think visualization is an amazing running tool. The mantra I used on Friday was, "pain is weakness leaving the body." For some reason it filled me with confidence and left me thinking that I was getting stronger with every step! LOVE YA girl and I had your spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight and it was the best I have ever had, seriously. I need to start buying it from you!! Sorry about the novel ha but this was such an amazing post!

Doran & Jody said...

You marathoners are cRazY! I mean AWESOME!

When I go on my short runs I have to send my mind elsewhere. I usually go camping or anywhere that Doran and I have just visited.
Then I go back to camping.

Amanda@runninghood said...

This is great! So glad I finally am reading your blog. Thanks Janae! Beautiful pictures. Beautiful family! HOpe to read more!