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Thursday, October 25, 2012

I am ready, I am fine

  The frustration had started to end about an hour ago, when after several weeks of numbers that just weren't quite there, a body that didn't feel quite right, a mind that had started to race and question and doubt-I'm not in Placid shape.  I haven't biked as much.  My power numbers are lower, my run paces aren't any better, my swimming has been hit or miss-and yesterday was a big 'miss'-I finally had a ride that went right, that felt right, that just was...right.  And a relief.  But that was only the first test of the day.  The next one, which really represented my last pre-Florida test, was occurring right then and there, on the West Irondequoit track, in the form of my third and final bout of 3xmile repeats-not too terrible on paper, but at max effort on short rest, tough nonetheless.  Two weeks ago, I'd struggled mightily.  Last week had been better, but I'd still been slower as a whole than I'd been in my build into Placid, plus, I'd hit the track fresh, no biking beforehand.  This week, this workout, came with a little bit of a vengeance, my last chance to shut the voices in my head up.

  So here I was, underneath the overcast skies.  The morning was both damp and cool, a paradox that led to a sweat-soaked shirt but arms that felt heavy with cold.  Usually, high school gym classes populated the adjacent field, but the wet morning had kept them indoors.  To my right, I could see into the elementary school library (always makes me miss my younger years) but outdoors, I was alone with the track-even the seagulls were absent.  400m into my first repeat, I'd already felt better than I had in the previous weeks.  800m into the second, I realized I still felt...ok (a feeling that ended shortly afterwards).  I hit them both in the same solid time, better than what I'd been seeing, right on par with before Placid.  Soon enough, I was staring down the face of #3, challenging myself to what I hadn't been able to do in previous attempts at the workout-make #3 the fastest of them all.  In the scheme of my fitness, in implications for Florida, that second or two wouldn't make or break me-far from it.  But in the realm of my mind, it just...did.  1:30 rest was up before my breathing had even slowed, and I was pressing the button on my watch, setting off to defeat the demons.

  Four easy laps.  I thought back to an indoor track workout in college; we were down to our final 1000m repeat.  Five easy laps, Vicki had told us.  I knew that easy didn't really mean easy; it meant a thousand different other things-strong, relaxed, light, fast, smooth, conquerable.  And the mantra had stuck, even though I knew those outdoor laps were twice as long as those indoor laps-but maybe I could fool myself.  200m in.  A check of the watch assures me that I'm still on.  Already it's getting hard.  I make it to 400.  86 seconds.  Right on again.  It occurs to me that I've now had 3/4 of a good workout.  Well, that's not a bad day, even if I were to stop now.  No-don't think that.  This last 1/4 is what seals the deal.  3 easy laps.  I get to 600m.  1000m to go.  10x100-time to count down.  Make it around the turn.  Nine.  Working down the straightaway, I'm approaching the halfway point.  I think back to another college story.  I had 1000m to go in my workout, and I was saying how I really didn't want to do it, Vicki had told us.  My brother (I think-it was a few years ago) just looked at me and said, '1000?  That's like, 3min, Vick.  What's 3min of running?  Well, for my non-15min 5k running self, those 3min of running are more like that last 800.  Still, what's 3 minutes of running?  My spin instructor's voice plays into my head-you can do anything for 3 minutes.  I hit 800m.  2:52.  Still on.

  I continue to press.  Seven.  Working down the backstretch, I hit the low point of every repeat-starting to tighten and tie up, but still so far to go.  I think back to the library, and wonder if anyone would see me if I just collapsed.  Six.  Just one more time past all of this.  Five.  Halfway through that 10x100 countdown.  I push the straightaway into the final lap.  4:17...4:18.  That fastest last mile, it's in my reach, but it's going to hurt, it's going to burn, I've got to dig.  I'm counting down by 50s now.  300 to go-just over a minute of running.  250.  200-sh--, am I going to make this?  150.  30 seconds.  100 to go.  I'm gasping for air, my legs are burning, I'm in absolute misery.  I take myself ahead in time ten days.  The finisher's arch is there, I'm running down a straightaway not yet seen, this time I'm not going to let anything run away from me or past me.  The pain blinders are on, my vision is reduced to a tunnel, I can see my water bottle in the distance, thrown by the line that I know represents stopping.  There has to be less than 10 seconds left now, right?  Count down, and you'll be there.  I count down.  Four...three...two...one...  My thumb fumbles onto the stop button on my watch, I stagger a couple steps, and look down.  5:42.  By one second, I did it.  Maybe my body's known it all along, but it took that one lousy second to convince my mind that I'm there.  I bend over, hands on knees, not caring what I must look like to the kids in the library, before gathering myself, slowly walking off the track, and heading out to cool down.

  For that workout, mission accomplished-because it's not just about what happens on November 3rd.  It's about every small victory along the way.  It's about every repeat that's nailed, it's about every effort that's completed, even on the days when the body isn't there.  I'll have times in Florida where it'll feel smooth and easy, and I'll have times when I'm in misery, but I've dealt with them all in training, and I've taught myself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable; we all have.  So for now, I'll put those miles in my mental bank, and begin to taper the effort and trust in my training, in all forms.

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