It was raining and windy and cold as anything. For those that know me, it was a perfect day for napping. But instead I snuck my way on to the track and started warming up. Just thinking about this workout in the days leading up to it made me a little anxious. Not so much about hitting my paces but about how it would feel hitting the paces. I was going to have to embrace being uncomfortable.
The main set of the workout consisted of 400's followed by a mile. Then 800's followed by a mile. Then back to 400's. My goal was to run the 400's and 800's sub 7:00min/mi and to maintain the pace across all intervals. During the warm up I felt good and kept telling myself that one or two times hard around the track "is nothing!" I spent the entire warm up mentally preparing myself and psyching myself up. And it worked; during the first few 400's I felt awesome! I was nailing my paces with ease and having fun running in the crappy weather. Then came the 800's which were a little bit more difficult since I was starting to get tired. By the time I got to my last 800 and knew I still had 400's to do, the thoughts started to creep in...
"I could tell my coach I got kicked off the track"
"Sorry coach, my watch died, workout went great"
"Track was slippery and I didn't want to take any chances"
I literally thought every one of those things. But with every one of the negative thoughts, I came back with: "Shut up! Suffer now so you won't at Shamrock!"
These negative thoughts are so common among many of us. I mean, yesterday while I was swimming (and I was having a good swim) I thought it would be nice if the pool closed mid work out due to lightening and I was forced out of the pool. It's not that I don't like what I'm doing or that I can't handle it, it's that the mind wants to flee rather than fight. It's a natural instinct we all have...when things hurt, you want it to stop hurting. I tell my athletes all the time that they need to be prepared to be uncomfortable and know how to push through the hard times. This doesn't only apply to race day but in training as well. All the hard efforts we endure and fight through during training will pay dividends on race day. If we don't fight now, we'll suffer when it counts.
Another example: I suffered big time during the last 6 miles of my long run the other day. The last 6 miles were to be at my marathon race pace, 8:00min/mi. Well, when it came time to run those miles, my body wasn't too happy about it. My heart rate wasn't rising and my legs were working! The effort did not equate to the pace I was running and I felt like I was giving it my all and getting no where. Tell tale sign of fatigue but that's another post. I could have easily pulled back, said that it wasn't happening today and finished the run up easy. But instead I told myself "this is how the the final miles of Shamrock will feel. Suck it up, suffer and finish."
The point of all this is that it happens to all of us and we need to be prepared for it. If we don't teach ourselves how to handle being uncomfortable then we'll never reach out goals. You have to develop tools and tricks to get you through the tough times when all your mind is telling you to do is quit. Maybe it's a mantra or thinking of your favorite vacation spot. It can be anything that pushes the negative thoughts aside and helps you embrace being uncomfortable.