Monday, October 1, 2012

Nervous inspirations

During the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup championship run, there was a big spotlight on my favorite Hawks player, Antti Niemi.

I love his story.  In short, Niemi was a rookie goalie from Finland who wasn't able to secure a spot in the Finnish Elite League.  He drove the Zamboni before and after practice to help make ends meet.  The Blackhawks eventually picked him up as an undrafted free agent.  He had to battle against many, many obstacles to prove himself.  Then, a few months later, he became their starting goaltender and he helped lead the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. 

Antti Niemi lifting the Stanley Cup.

What a difference a year made for Antti Niemi.

At the time, there was ample news commentary on the enormous pressure Niemi was facing as a rookie goaltender going into the Stanley Cup Finals.  Niemi admitted he was very nervous.  And when asked about his plan to combat the nervousness, Niemi joked, "I think I'm going to be able to sleep.  I've got some pills that will help."

I understand.  Antti Niemi and I think exactly the same way.  It's like we are interchangeable people!  Oh wait...

Me in Antti Niemi's body
(at the 2010 Blackhawks Fan Convention)

Another great story from the Hawks championship run was when Duncan Keith got seven (SEVEN) teeth knocked out during a playoff game.  What did he do?  He got some shots to numb his mouth, and then was right back out there on the ice.  Unbelievable.  That is about as tough as it gets.

When I'm out there at, say, mile 22 and feeling like death, I'll try to remind myself that at least I still have all of my teeth.  (I hope.)

"Does anyone know the number to a good dentist?"

I am starting to think about these great and humorous stories as we close in on less than a week before the Chicago Marathon.  I think about the mental toughness of the greatest championship athletes out there so I can try to be inspired when it matters the most.

Put another way, I am really nervous.  Scared.  Petrified.  And I'm trying to prepare myself as best as I can to handle anything that might get thrown at me.

I did my final "long" training run yesterday, an 8-miler.  After taking the entire prior week off of running, I was dismayed to feel groin pain almost at the outset.  However, when I paused at about mile 4.5 to take a GU, I took a minute to stretch - and I noticed that I felt a little better afterwards.  I came home and literally spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening stretching.  And it seemed to help.

I spent a good chunk of my Sunday watching TV while holding this pose
(but I faced forward since I don't have a TV on the ceiling).

My PT has been telling me for weeks to stretch, stretch, stretch, stretch, stretch.  And I thought that doing yoga was enough to fit the bill for "lots of stretching."  But I now think that I need to really specifically focus on stretching my problematic groin area as much as possible.  Time is running out for me to test this theory, but I am optimistic that focused and intense stretching will only help.

In the meantime - here are my fears for this Sunday:
  1. Getting injured on the course and not being able to finish.
  2. Having to deal with excruciating pain which will necessitate the question of whether or not to try to finish.
  3. Not being able to finish in the course time limits.
  4. Hitting the wall.
  5. The unknown.
(There's an overriding theme to these fears, yes?)

I've heard many stories about the last 6.2 miles being a death march.  Many have said it goes beyond anyone's comprehension until you've actually done it.  (Yay!!!)

I've certainly gone through my share of torturous training runs.  So it scares me to think that it could possibly get much worse.  However, I have heard some say that the training runs are even tougher than the actual marathon.  So I am hoping and praying that my experience is more along those lines!

Six days and counting!


  1. My advice (which you shouldn't take, because i only have a 50% marathon success rate, which is totally in the failing range) The "wall" is something thats mental. Most of us consume enough calories during the event that we don't risk our bodies shutting down.

    But that mental wall? It's tough. Know that its going to happen, and have something ready to battle it. Think of your Blackhawks, have an emergency motivation song on your ipod, station someone you love to be there after mile 20! And this "wall" will only last a few minutes, and once you over come it, you will feel INVINCIBLE!

  2. I agree with Ginger Foxxx - having a mental plan (like thinking of these stories) will totally help with the wall! And really, it is going to be so much more festive and exciting than any training run... you won't feel the burn until way toward the end, you'll be having so much fun. Stretch and relax this week! :)

  3. In in are only as good as your goaltender !!!

  4. Those tortuous training runs will pay dividends during the marathon. Too many people approach the marathon as "just another race" and they don't prepare their legs for the pounding that happens. Sounds like you have. Your list of fears are very common. If #2 happens I am prepared to drop out and look for a "revenge marathon" a few weeks later. :-)

  5. Shhh don't think about all those bad things that can occur! You're just getting yourself worked up over things that haven't even happened yet (and hopefully never will!). So take a deep breath, relax, sleep, eat well, stretch, ice, foam roll, and enjoy the last few days before you become a marathoner!!! Whatever happens, happens (and I believe that everything happens for I reason) :)


  6. Great inspirational stories! I'm so pumped for you to run Chicago this week. The fears you have sound so much like the fears I had before both of my marathons. (Will I finish in time? Can I really do it? Will my body give out on me? Will I get injured? What if I hit the wall?) Just stay positive, like you always do, and you'll be set.*

  7. Love all the inspirational stories.

    Don't doubt yourself, not even for a second. Negativity has no place in this race for you. Don't dwell on the what ifs, focus your energy on the achievements you've had and how prepared you are. It's normal to feel nervous and underprepared and scared of the unknown, but I can tell you after 6 marathons I've never felt 100% ready, but all were fun and challenging in their own way (from 100% unprepared to 100% best training ever)

    I hope you're going to the blogger lunch on Saturday- ill be there!! Also, if you want to meet up pre race and hang out let me know. I could tell you te story of my first marathon where I was totally unprepared and all the mistakes I made which will hopefully make you feel less nervous. (I wasn't nervous for that one- ignorance is truly bliss!!)

  8. Everyone has made such good comments that I don't have much else to add.

    But just know, if for some reason October 7th isn't your day, there will be other marathons. But for now keep stretching and think about seeing Adam on the course (he'd better be out there!) and the tour of the city you're about to undertake!