Psychological Warfare of the Middle Distance Runner

Posted: January 9, 2013 in Rebel Running, Training
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I finished with my work for the day and headed to the indoor track to get a workout in. It’s funny, it’s my favorite workout, but also a workout I haven’t done in over 10 years – Fake 8s (or feights), I actually forget what my high school coach used to call them. I’ll go into the details of the requirements of that workout at a later date, but for now what you need to know is that part of the workout entertained the idea of a 60 second quarter-mile.

I get to the indoor track only to find out that there will be a high school meet and there was not enough time to fit the workout in, so I was relinquished to the outdoor track, in the not-so-bitter cold and problematic wind. I toed the line for the first rep and said to myself, “this is gonna suck.” And naturally with that negative mindset came a poor workout. A wholly awful, s—-y workout. The was one of the few workouts I voluntarily cut short, partly due to frustration, but mostly because I just wasn’t ready for the workout — and if I’m not ready, I’m not ready. I need to get the appropriate work in.

I call this workout “This is what 60 seconds feels like, a—–e”

So I came home, fed the dogs, and headed out for a run. I was more than frustrated now, I was angry. I made sure I got a good enough warm-up in before the destruction began. I found a hill nearby and started to go. And the task? To know exactly when I hit 60 seconds while running uphill. Not 59 seconds, not 61 seconds, SIXTY SECONDS – and I had to be able to do it twice (after doing at least 8 reps). This works for me because I can’t necessarily tell exactly how much time has passed while running, even moreso at an especially fatiguing pace.

The workout started out just fine. First few reps I would flip my wrist and snap my head down. “Shoot! 56″…  “Damn.. 61” … “58?.. Really?” And then I of course started keying in on where I was finishing each rep, which I then used to “cheat” myself because I just used my surroundings to tell me my time, as opposed to feeling it. And on my 7th one, when I passed the same parked car that had been sitting there with its engine and lights on for the past 20 minutes for some odd reason while its driver smoked a cigar, I looked down to see 60 seconds had past from my hill start time. (I wasn’t timing these individually, just calculating the difference from a running total time.)

Around the 12th rep of this roughly 220 meter, 100+ft incline the fatigue started to set in. I decided to make an active effort of counting the seconds in my head as I ran, which allowed me to be much closer to my target time on average, but since I have the attention span of a young puppy I often lost track of where I was.  Like on my 15th repeat, when a third of the way up the hill my running on the street at first startled someone on the sidewalk, and then they proceeded to laugh hysterically at the safety vest I was wearing – you know since I was running in the dead of night and all. Seconds later, a driver of a pick-up truck decided he didn’t need to signal that he was making a left turn, which made me “flying” through an intersection very interesting as I had to dart out of the way. So that rep was a wash.

At this point the pace was starting to suffer. Not that I cared much, that wasn’t the point of this workout. (If you forgot the point of this workout you should scroll back up to the part in bold.) I wasn’t getting as far up the hill anymore. People, that for some reason would sit in their cars for 20 minutes at a time, were probably overhearing me curse the workout, curse the hill, curse my time… curse myself. Runner’s high was definitely setting in, and the fear of not being able to complete the workout started to rear its ugly head.

So on the next one I took note of what had been happening with my counting. Seconds were running long, so more often than not, what I thought was sixty seconds was more like 63 seconds. Climbing up the hill, I continued my count.. “Fifty-four, fifty-five, fifty-.. f–k it just look!” And sure enough, I looked down at precisely 60 seconds.

Because of the wishy-wash nature of hitting both 60-second intervals (both kind of being a fluke, and one being in the first 8) I decided that I had to keep going until I hit another one. And somewhere around rep twenty I started to think that if this hill claims my life, in the least it was a valiant effort. Runner’s high was full blown at this point. Gasping for air, bellowing loudly, finding myself in the distraught hands-on-knees runner’s pose. It was getting viscous. I lost count of seconds on multiple occasions as my head wandered off into La La Land. S–t was getting real, there was no end in sight. And then came the 24th rep.

I essentially crawled down the rest loop that I had created and made it back to the start of the hill, approaching it with so much fear… and hesitance… and disbelief. Climbing the hill was much like the others, and the time in my head seemed to sync up with previous efforts and I just prayed that this would be the one. Fortunately enough I stuck to the count, and when I looked down, exactly 60 seconds had passed.

Too tired to be happy, I just stopped, walked up the hill a little bit and started my cooldown. After my mind started to come back down to earth I remember one of my first thoughts being “You know this means you have to do 24 400s in a few days right?” I shuttered, immediately stopped pursuing any thoughts of how miserable that workout was going to be, and just trudged home.


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