Important mental breakthroughs vs Smart training

breakthroughOh yes, this one is going to be a bit of a doozy.

How do you make a distinction between running smart and realizing you’re having an important breakthrough with a mental issue related to running?

Do you prioritize the all sacred LSD? Or do you throw caution to the wind and embrace the change happening to be a better runner moving forward?

Do you throw the importance of training slow away for a day to find your inner speed demon? Do you find a stride that feels sustainable over the long haul — something you’ve never ever ever had before despite 31 half marathons and 1 full marathon? Or do you trudge along at an infuriating slow pace? This was my conundrum yesterday when training and breaking through mental barriers met each other head on.

42 days until the Los Angeles Marathon. Yesterday was one of our LSD (long slow days). We are training by time, not mileage. Yesterday was a 3:20 min run.

And it was MAGICAL for me.

It was one of those days when everything clicks and you feel strong and nothing hurts and in fact you feel so damn good you start to question why you feel so damn good. These days are very rare for me lately.  I was flying and happy. I knew I was going too fast for a LSD, but here’s the thing—

My mental issue with running is this comfort zone I have with being, well, comfortable. I don’t push forward, I back off to remain comfortable. Yesterday I wanted to push forward. How much farther could I go without a walk break? How much faster could I go? Etc. I knew if I backed off, I’d lose this important discovery I was making about myself as a runner.  (What I did discover was I am faster than I realize, I can run faster and remain comfortable, and I don’t need walk breaks when I am hitting a stride that is right for me.)

And then it came to a screeching halt for an aid station pep talk. And my legs started to freeze up. And Coach told me to run a 14:03 mile. I intellectually understand where he is coming from. He’s a smart dude who is pushing us to P.R. and I do trust him.

HOWEVER, I have very very long legs. 14:03 is a brisk walk. Trying to run that slow is so physically uncomfortable it sends my brain into a bad bad dark ugly negative place.

I didn’t come here to walk the marathon and if I train at a walk, I know myself, I will end up walking.

This scares the shit out of me, knowing that I traditionally back off instead of push forward as a runner.

And this is where it is tricky, not just for my training cycle, but for our coach. He has 110 athletes with different goals, speeds, and issues to coach. On any given day one of us could be going through something like I was yesterday. The complexity of what he has to deal with as a coach is mind-blowing to me.

I do get the importance of a LSD and I’m coming to understand aerobic zones and fat vs. glycogen better. BUT I’ve been battling this comfort zone thing for as long as I’ve been running and yesterday was a massive breakthrough about my own strength and ability.

So Coach if you’re reading this, I did slow down after our talk, I took your knowledge to heart– at least until the final two miles, then I kicked it back up and flew into a glorious run, and it felt great. That I had that energy left after more than three hours of running and that I’ve become a stronger runner is all due to your coaching. So I’m at least getting PART of your lesson down. I’m struggling with the rest of it, but trying very very very hard.


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