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Mental toughness

I did a workout today that made me reflect on why I like training vs just doing exercise. Training has a purpose, a goal, something you're working towards and usually means that you have to go to a place in your mind where you're going to test yourself, push your limits, do things you haven't done before, and probably fail along the way.

Over lunch today I had planned to go out and run, I hadn't gotten another run in since the short brick workout I did last Saturday so it had been almost a whole week since my last run. I was nudged to make it a workout - mile repeats like I had done the week before, but add another, so ~1.5 miles down to the park loop, then 4 x 1 mile around with ~2 min rest in between, then ~1.5 miles back up to get home again.

I've haven't done 4 mile repeats in a long time, and last week working on 3 felt really darn hard. But I'm not one to turn down a reasonable challenge so I drank a glass of water and then headed out the door down to the park. Set out for the first mile and felt good, and turned out to be my fastest mile on that path yet! Knocked out the second and third ones and then it was time for the 4th. I was hot, it's humid, the suns out, it's already 75 degrees, what was I thinking doing 4. I took off and got so much in my head I actually stopped after a min, well 1:07 actually.

This is where the mental toughness comes in, I paused, said ok bag it, you don't want to blow the last mile so lets just reset the watch and jog home. I started walking to the top of the hill to head back and then changed my mind, yeah I was hurting a bit - good threshold training should feel that way - but could I do another mile. Yes, I could. Let's change it up to get out of my head, I'll run the loop backwards. And that's what I did. It wasn't my fastest mile, in fact it was the slowest, but not so slow that I blew up and I didn't give up. And now, I know that when I attempt this workout again (next Friday perhaps) I can do it, and I will do it better now that I've crossed that "can I do this" mental block.

Not exactly what I had hoped to do (negative splits) but I went too fast on the first one, one of my goals was to get all 3 under 7 mins, and I hit that this time! and the last one, wasn't as far off as I thought I'd be.

On my slow run home I was thinking about all of the things I've overcome through training, pushing distances, speeds, new sports, difficult conditions. I remembered that years ago, in 2006 when I was training for my first half marathon with Tim we used to share a Garmin watch. We were doing our long run, one of the longest in the training plan prior to the actual race - it was supposed to be 10 miles. Tim had the Garmin watch, I think I may have had my $40 Timex that I could use as a stop watch. We were running, everything was fine, I remember it being a nice day, but I also remember feeling slow and like these 10 miles are taking forever, how am I ever going to run 13.1, what was I thinking signing up for a half marathon, who wants to run 13 miles? I had done Broad Street before, and run 10 miles, but adding that extra 3 felt like it wouldn't be a big deal until you actually try it. We got back to our starting point and I was like, whew that was long I'm so glad that's over. Then I remember Tim smiling and saying, great job - guess what you just did, you ran 12 miles! He knew that was exactly what I needed, to do it and know that I could to get me through the rest of the training and the race. Sometimes you have to push the limit a bit to see what you can do, and hopefully you can have someone in your life that gives you that nudge, challenge, or perhaps even deceives you a bit to show you that you CAN do it.

What about you - do you find times in your training where you're challenged? Do you struggle with the can I do this question regularly? If not, maybe you should :)

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