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The Zen of Waiting

On my list of things to do today is go to iTunes and download Tom Petty's song "The Waiting." You know the refrain which has become cliche: "The waiting is the hardest part."

Yes, I know it's a bit cliche, but the song is stuck in my head and often the only way for me to unstick it is to listen to it a few times and satisfy my brain's craving for this particular jangly lament.

In part, waiting for the half marathon to begin at 6:15 Sunday morning seems years and years away.

On the other hand, my posse and I leave tomorrow morning and packing, well, I think I know where last I left my carry-on bag.

While pondering exactly what gear to pack and how many packages of Clif Shot Blocks I should shove into my suitcase, I was flipping through the book "In Pursuit of Excellence." It's a sports psychology book by Terry Orlick which I have never read from cover to cover but instead use it as a guide to life and athletics when I feel I need a kickstart in my performance or approach.

As if the book binding already knew where I wanted to go, it flipped open to the chapter on Zen experiences.

This is perfect for the Miami half marathon.

Zen is about connecting to what you are doing at the moment. It's based in the "doing" not in outcomes. In Zen, you win by not thinking about winning. The key phrases include things like "focus by feeling, not by forcing" and "let your intuition lead you." The other key point for me is to "stop judging along the way. Focus on the doing."

I've read some great accounts of great runners and the more they try to stick to a regimented race plan, the more they struggle. It's not that they throw the race plan out the window, it's that they listen to their bodies and are in tune with the moment. For me, the minute I start doing math in my head and calculating if I'm running fast enough to finish in my goal time, I'm done. At that point, I've become consumed with the finish and have lost sight of the moment, lost connection with what I'm doing and feeling and what I know works for me. Getting caught up in a fast pace at the beginning of the race, for example, is not beneficial for me. (And actually it is not part of my race plan, either.)

My coach told me once that last year, my first year of endurance sport, training and competition, was about experience. We'd throw me into anything, just so I could get the feel of racing and learn from mistakes. This year, she told me, is about performance.

That thought scared me.

Performance? Granted, I wanted to do better than "just finish" but focuse on performance?

This week I realized I was collapsing the ideas of performance and results. We all do that, collapse ideas and theroies and feelings into one gigantic theme. Having a great performance will often yeild good results but it's about focusing on the "doing" on the performance, on the actual running that's important. The race, the the split times and the final placings, those will all take care of themselves. That's not my job.

My job is to run the best race I can on Sunday morning.

And if I do the little things with care (see this posting on the power of the gradual on ZenHabits) it will add up to a fantastic finish. 

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