Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Overcoming Doubt

As I've said often, I am my own worst enemy when it comes to sports psychology. I don't need Athlinks, or competitor lists, or really anything in order to get psyched out about a race or my speed/lack thereof. I can get into my head better than any competitor.

I think there are a couple of explanations for this. First, I've never thought of myself as anything other than the 'long slow distance' type. I was on soccer and crew teams, sure, but I was a goalie and coxswain. When I finally got into running, I did it for the physical benefit but also for the mind-clearing aspect of it as well, and I immediately pushed out any thoughts of competition/pressure/anything that would make running anything other than relaxation. I was also slow. The second possible explanation is that I have asthma, which I control with multiple medications, and this recent change to speedwork has left me unsure of how hard I can push without getting into trouble.


Every now and then the stars and planets align, the birds sing, the flowers bloom, and things fall into place. This past weekend was one of those times.

My swim on Friday was the best swim I've had in months; I felt strong and set a new PR for 200 yards.
On Saturday, Speedy and I went out for what we knew would be a tough brick, with intervals on the bike and a race-pace track run afterwards. We had a tailwind on the way out, and since the intervals didn't start until we turned around, we knew we'd have a tough ride back into the headwind. And it was tough, but we actually upped our average MPH during the way back, despite the headwind. Maybe we were just dogging it on the way out :) The run kicked my ass; I got through the first 5 of 8 laps without too many problems and then halfway through the 6th felt that familiar tightness in my chest. I told Speedy that I wasn't sure I'd be able to hold the pace. Instead of letting me stop, he all but tied a rope between us and towed me around the last 2 laps. He lived up to his nickname, pacing me around the second mile 10 seconds under race pace, and I didn't have an asthma attack. I can push the "how far I can push" line back just a little more now.
On Sunday, we went out to Wissahickon to run some trails, and I felt great. I led most of the way on the single-track trail. This was the first run ever that Speedy has told me that he almost had to tell me to slow down. (Note: he didn't tell me to slow down, but just the fact that he was willing to tell me he was considering it was pretty cool.)

Weekends like this help me to remember that I am not, in fact, turning to mush, and even though I no longer have Iron ambitions, I am making some great progress towards my new goal. These training sessions go straight into the bank, sure to be withdrawn during my next tri-related existential crisis.

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