Ya’ll, trying to get this endurance turtle to become a speedy hare is hard work. Right about now, I’m am cussing myself out for letting what snippets of speediness I had go by the wayside as I trained long, and then longer still over the past two years.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve dabbled in the “delights” of shorter course racing with one sprint triathlon (Egg Harbor Sprint Tri) and one olympic-equivalent 7-stage triathlon (Survival of the Mills). These were fun, local races and I was able to race well.
Survival of the Mills, in particular, was an incredibly fun race that mixed trail runs with biking and swiming. It was a total of 26 miles, spread across 7 stages: run-bike-run-swim-run-bike-run. It was fast-paced, and is a race I would do again and again.
Now, I’m training for the Philadelphia Marathon, and while I have the traditional “long” run on the weekends, I’m mostly emphasizing quality over quantity in my workout sessions. Given how stressed I’ve been in the past, I also have to be cognizant of how I’m feeling every day and privilege my recovery above all else.
I have to admit, this type of training is different for me, and I continue to fight the urges to pump up the volume in my training schedule. The differences include everything from getting used to the weekly total training averages of 9 or 10 hours – instead of 17 or 18 hours, to convincing myself that a 45-60 minute workout focused on intensity is “enough” when I plot out my schedule.
Of course, after I do said intense session, I feel pretty toasted.
The urge to go long is strong within me. But, little by little, I’m breaking myself of old habits, and teaching this turtle some new tricks. (Okay, yes, I’m mixing metaphors, but it’s my blog. I’ll mix metaphors if I want to.)
And with these tricks, there are some treats as well as some reminders of my strengths and my limiters.
Among these reminders, I have confirmed as fact that I would rather run 50 miles at my little diesel pace than to bleed from my eyeballs running at threshold for 5k.
In this past year, I have done both distances. I would gladly take 50 miles of hard fought terrain in the middle of the woods (hello, Infinitus 88k) over pushing at and above the redline for 3.1 miles. The latter business feels like 300 miles when you are in the middle of it.
Seriously: How is it possible for ~20 minutes to feel so long and so terrible?!
Both types of racing have their challenges, but the 50 mile race speaks to my strengths, while the 5k race speaks to my weaknesses. Specifically, my muscles love oxygen much too much. Maybe you feel similarly – or maybe you feel the opposite. The takeaway here is to do things that push you outside of your comfort zone. There’s growth to be had.
Despite this limiter of #oxygenlove, I’ve come to accept, with perhaps some mild sadistic enjoyment, the sensations that come from starving my muscles of oxygen during intense workouts. It’s not so much how I feel during the workouts, but rather the feeling that I’ve been shot in the ass with a concoction of adrenaline, endorphins and general feel-goodery after an intense workout.
While a steady long run can produce some of these same feelings, an intense workout makes me feel like jumping on my roof and howling at the moon: “YASSOOOOOOOOOOOOO 800s!!!!!”
A key benefit of all of this quality-focused work is that I have gained a new sense of the present moment. If you want to feel every moment in vivid detail, do threshold repeats.
Want to make those moments feel like they could last forever? Make those threshold repeats on hills.
I didn’t realize just how long 30 seconds could be until I was at the tail end of a series of 2 minute threshold hill repeats. Those 30 seconds stretched on like a monotone professor in a 3 hour seminar.
In these moments of presence, I have returned to working my mental game in a way that I haven’t felt in a few years. My mantras have taken on a new sense of urgency, and at times are just jumbles of letters in my brain, each letter propping me up, and urging me to push on. Don’t. Stop. Believing. Don’t. Give. In.
Gasp. I. Can. Can. C.A.N.
The races I’ve done have been a great way to engage my body and mind in the overall process, and keep the training fun. As my body comes back to me, and my spirit of competition is renewed, I enjoy feeling like a predator again. “Predator” may seem an overly aggressive word, but stick with me.
I almost always race from behind in the final miles (diesel is as diesel does) and use the run to do my dirty work for me. So, mentally, I like the imagery of being on the hunt to pass the next person.
As the metaphor goes: we are chasing those rabbits.
Sometimes, I feel a little embarrassed about how competitive I can get. It doesn’t seem gracious or friendly. But I’m a racer. I like to compete. I also like to be friends before and after the race. The takeaway? Competition doesn’t mean you have to be an unfriendly douche.
However, being a “predator” means more than just competing with other racers. I’m on the hunt to find something inside of me, something different about what this body can do.
As I mentioned in my previous post: I want to astound myself. Progressively (and safely) pushing the outer edges of my comfort zone–as painful as that gets at times–will make that happen by the time IMLP 17 rolls around.
I’ve been in this new training block for about 10 weeks now. And, some days are harder mentally than others. Mostly, I have a hard time coming to terms with accepting where I am NOW, versus the ease of speed and power I had in the 2013 or 2014 seasons.
However, I have some flashing moments of brilliance that allow me to feel what will be possible if I keep at it: keep dreaming big, and keep doing the hard work that will lead to the realization of those dreams.
The primary target for this coming year is Ironman Lake Placid, and I believe that the turtle has the hare in her sights.