Epiphany? Or a big steaming pile of obvious?

Today I was thinking about the cross-training session I did yesterday. It was two hours in the pool at a steady effort equal to a general aerobic run (75-82%), but with a very tough 20 minutes of short intervals/short recoveries toward the end. At the 45 minute mark I seriously flagged in energy and attitude. I thought, “I don’t know if I can keep up this effort for another 1:15.”

Around that time Coach Sandra appeared, quite unexpectedly, and, as she often does, cheerfully suggested that I make things harder. In this case, by throwing in 20 minutes of very hard running. I couldn’t say no without looking like a slouch. So I did the intervals when she said to do them, even though she was on her way out when it was time to start. Still, I did them as if she was there. Meaning I did them as hard as I could. Somewhere, I found the physical energy to do them. But, perhaps more surprisingly, I found the mental will to do them too.

Therein lies the epiphany that took me about 30 hours to have. The cross-training sessions are hard. I tend to come away with them focused on how hard they are physically. Yesterday, even as I rested on a bench afterwards — patiently waiting for my heart to stop going “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!” — I felt the mental effort. Not just the mental effort required for that particular session. No, it’s the cumulative nature of cross-training that hit me. Unlike running outside, there is no sensual pleasure in cross-training in the gym. I bear with it by telling myself this is an investment that will pay off. But it’s like throwing money in the bank rather than frittering it away on fun stuff from day to day. It’s hard to do. But it adds up over time and you’ve got something you can use. You skipped the new shoes and now…now you can go to Switzerland for two weeks.

This is a sloppy post. Here’s my point: all this cross-training isn’t really physical training. It is. But that’s incidental. This is, at its core, mental training. It’s the best mental training I’ve done. I have had to find my own gratification in this work, to have faith and to maintain my optimism; otherwise it’s all just suffering. But, mostly, the fact that I can do this day after day, indefinitely, is proving to me that I care a whole lot about becoming a better runner.

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