My Mental Training Carousel

Yesterday was the first day since, probably last fall, that I did any type of specific training. By specific I mean running a targeted pace and set distance according to the training progression I’m doing to build-up for my next running goal. Getting back into any specificity in training is always kinda like ripping off a bandaid. Especially, when it comes to what I consider any quality type training runs such as tempo runs or any other speed work for that matter. There’s a certain element of discomfort that goes along with this type of training as, I”m sure many of you runners can relate, and hundreds of thoughts that spin thru my mind when I’m in the midst of these types of runs. Maybe you can relate to the vulnerability I feel with the psychology of what tries to edge it’s way into my brain when I’m running. And the constant internal and mental coaching I’m doing with myself while the struggle between physical and mental try to strong arm each other during my runs. My Mental Training Carousel is in all honesty not always graceful, poetic, or even very explainable. It just is what it is!

Raw Candidacy

Monday was the first day back at a 12 week training cycle for me. I wrote a blog post, “My Spring Half Marathon Training Plan”, that lays out a little bit of what the training I do looks like. Assuming it’s not all that different than what many of you have or are currently doing for yourself.

The reality of being back in training hit me yesterday though and it was like deja vu. I write my own training plans and have always just trained myself. Certainly, this has pros and cons but part of what this looks like in reality is that I am educated enough to understand the science behind training specific energy systems. However, understanding why I need to do something and wanting to execute it or even be capable of executing it are two different things.

I have a complete understanding and support the reasonings behind doing tempo runs for example. I know that by doing them, I’m pushing my lactate threshold and hopefully enabling myself to ultimately sustain a faster pace during my goal race for a longer period of time. It is a seriously useful workout for me to be able to go after my specific time goals this spring. Point blank, it means learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable both physically and mentally!

Candid Thoughts Carousel

Since I am choosing to use this blog as an open forum for catharsis as well as relatability for others runners to commune by, here are some of the candid thoughts that swirled thru my brain during yesterday’s tempo run. They’re honest and candid. Judge or not judge, that’s up to you.

Brain during warm-up mile

Brain during warm-up mile – “Get in tune with your breathing and don’t get ahead of yourself! The real bread and butter of the workout is yet to come. Stay relaxed and in control thru the run just like you are now during this easy pace.”

Brain during the 1st mile of a 3 mile tempo run

Brain during the 1st mile of a 3 mile tempo run at 7:23 target pace – “How far in am I already? Shoot ok only .6 tenths of a mile. Is my turn over already slowing down? Is my form getting muddy already? Ok,…relax! Focus on my breathing…in two steps (inhale), out three steps (exhale). Loosen up my arm swing and shoulders. Segment the tempo miles. Let’s do one mile at a time. NO! That’s too even and round and easy. Do 1.5 mile mental segments and then check back in and reground myself.

Brain entering the 2nd mile

Brain during the 2nd mile – “Okay, don’t be teased by the mental segment of backing off on focusing a mile at a time. Gotta get to 1.5! I need to be present and tune out my brain trying to be anxious for what’s yet to come. I’ll start counting my steps. Didn’t Simon Marshall call this internal narrow mindset? I’ll just count my left foot plants,…1, 2, 3, 4, 5,…How high should I count? I’ll count to 60 this first time. Then I’ll count to 70, then 80, 90 and 100. Get to 100!”

Brain at 1.5 miles in

Brain at 1.5 mile – “Okay halfway! That wasnt’ so bad and actually went faster than I felt like it started out as. My inner right knee is feeling a little something. What muscles attach there? Oh yeah, sartorious, gracilis, semimembranosus…I must have a gait weakness on that side or those muscles are weaker. Lunge matrix should help. Ugh, what if this ends up turning into an injury. I’ve never had an injury bad enough during training to derail me. STOP! Just focus on right now!! Halfway there! Breathe…count!!!”

Brain during the 3rd tempo mile

Brain during the 3rd mile – “Okay, acknowledge something positive. Give yourself confidence. Two miles down and still feeling decently strong and capable of nailing this last one. I gotta prove to myself I can finish on a high note. Can I increase the pace? Let me try 7:13/mi…ok yeah, that doesn’t feel that bad actually. This pace will put me at 1:34 and some change for the half I think. Can I hold this for the rest of this mile. I have to!! I want to prove to myself I can!!! Keep counting. Stay relaxed and in control. That’ll be my mantra for the next .8 tenths of this mile. I can do this! I do hard things!! Right?…Yes,…1,2,3,4,5,6,….”

Brain at the end of the 3 tempo miles

Brain after completing 3 mile tempo run and entering one more mile to cool down – “I did it! That wasn’t so bad!! This is just the beginning and I’m gonna have to embrace the many more tempo miles yet to come. I can’t back down or be intimidated by it. I have to just try! What am I gonna continue to remind myself to get thru the upcoming weeks and miles? This is my last hard attempt at trying to qualify with a 1/2 time for NYC. This has been my goal for the last three years. I”m 40 now, I’m not going to get any faster than this…STOP! Not healthy!! I can do whatever I put my mind to! I’ve got to put my mind in a positive state for this training and not a results repercussive state. Focus and acknowledge the effort and the small conquers. Today I conquered! Don’t forget this arsenal! I’ve done this before, I can do it again!!!”

Documenting the Journey

Last time I blogged about my training journey, I wrote about the type of runs I did, how many miles I logged, or periodically posted something on social media like a picture of the run location that day. That was superficial and surface level at best. I want to be more transparent this time.

It has been somewhat intimidating for me to declare my goals out loud to the world, and be open about not achieving them the first two times. But as I age, I’m realizing I am so, so fortunate to be able to even travel the journey. To be able to have goals and the ability to go after them is something I want to always remember to be grateful for. I want to stay humble so that I don’t forget to keep working hard.

What I realized after the second attempt last spring, was that what I love most about putting a goal out there, is that I ultimately just love the pursuit. I love the structure of training and feeling like I”m striving for something with purpose. I love feeling the pain and discomfort during mile repeats, because it makes me feel alive. I love having the choice to do things in life that let me get the most out of my passion and of my time.

Even if I don’t attain this goal, although I 100% believe it’s a realistic goal for myself, I don’t for a second believe it’s the end game. I can continue to redefine, re-challenge myself, re-invent what running means to me and my relationship with it. But I’m sure as hell gonna try and give everything I’ve got for right here and now. And for tomorrow’s right here and now. And for the next eleven and a half weeks here and nows!! I have to!!!

Maybe that should be my 2019 mantra?

“Forever here and now!”

– Corrie Enyart

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