Going mental

Yesterday’s run was some weird hybrid of a speed session and a tempo run: 10 miles general aerobic including 2 x 2400m in 10:00 (that’s 1.5 miles at 6:42 pace) with a three minute jog inbetween. Since we’re still buried under snow, I did this one on the treadmill.

Heading into the run, I was already doing battle with myself. I’d gotten a lousy night’s sleep, my resting heart rate was high to begin with, and my ever-present groin issue was again bothering me. My plan was to run roughly 3 miles as a warmup (with the first 1.5 very easy, recovery pace). Then do the two intervals, and then finish the run at whatever pace yielded a HR in the low 80%s.

Oh, one other requirement: Don’t stop during the fast interval sections no matter what.

That last requirement is one that I’ve introduced very recently. I’ve had a couple of experiences lately in which the voices in my head successfully cajoled me into stopping, after which I felt terrible about the run and myself. In thinking about those times when I’ve quit (even for 30 seconds to “catch my breath”), it’s become more and more apparent that the danger in stopping isn’t that I’ll compromise my physical development as a runner (although that’s certainly one side effect).

The real danger is in the mental realm. After all, you can’t stop during a race to catch your breath. Those voices are bad enough when you’re training. In a race, when someone’s on your heels for several miles, or that headwind is worse than you’d expected, or you put your sock on slightly wrong and now have a blister, your mind is the thing that either breaks your spirit or pulls you through. Every time you let your mind be your adversary, you get that much farther away from making your mind your ally.

With each speed or tempo session, I realize that these assignments are there to build physical and mental strength in equal measure. So I’m committed to doing them properly from here on out.

As it turns out, my mind and I got along very well yesterday. In fact, due to my mind’s inability to do remedial math I ended up running the first repeat a quarter mile long (1.75 miles). Such are the dangers of leaving “autolap” on during a run when you’re manually recording laps too. During the last minute or two of the repeat I was thinking, “Jesus Christ, this really hard. But I’m not going to stop.” Had I only known I could and should have stopped already. Or maybe it’s better that I didn’t know, as it was a discovery that made me laugh (and had me more than a little tickled) after I downloaded the run data and noticed my mistake.

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