Monday, May 26, 2014

Ninety percent mental

Last year, as I listened to yet another athlete friend give a race report involving puking or near-puking, I finally had to admit that I don't push myself anywhere near as hard as my peers do (never mind the people in the many tiers of competition and athletic ability above mine). They are willing to endure all kinds of pain and misery in their training and racing that I'm just not. I'm not even talking about injury-pain, I'm only talking about really hard work.

Truth is, I hate discomfort and I get pretty peevish about it, especially if I'm already feeling out of my element, as I am whenever I'm running, for example. If I'm out of my comfort zone (in athletics or anywhere else), one of my go-to responses is to try and control everything I think I can. I get all fussy, and all my little things have to be just-so: no tags rubbing the wrong way, no water bottle in my hand, my headphone wires tucked away, my shoelaces in double knots, and so on. If a thing rubs wrong, I stop and try to fix it. If you saw me running, you'd never believe I was so particular—I still look like Pigpen, with shit flying off of me in every direction.

Last summer when I was training for the Timberman 70.3 race, I started to experiment with pushing deeper into the discomfort. Where's the line between discomfort and injury, and how do I stay on this side of it? What do I do to take care of myself while also getting faster, stronger, and tougher? How uncomfortable can I get and have it still be worth it? If there's a likelihood of a podium and medal on the other end, for example, the "worth it" factor increases to support more discomfort.

I'm still a big weenie compared to most of my friends, I know I am. But each week I see that I'm toughening up just a bit, digging a little bit deeper, pushing a teeny bit harder. The real training is not in my legs or arms or heart or lungs, it's in my brain. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it's 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.

This video was making its way around last week.


Can you believe her? While I feel confident that I would eventually get up and run, I sure as hell wouldn't even try to win the race. And I would have to spend some time pounding my fist into the track before getting up, not spring reflexively to my feet and fly. I can't in a million years imagine summoning so much grit and determination. It inspires me, in an I-would-never-do-that way, but still.


What I did: rest day: Slept in till 6. Never got out of the house or even my PJs. Cleaned out every closet.
What I ate: oatmeal with almond milk, agave nectar, banana. Salad with mixed greens, carrot, beets, nutritional yeast, tahini dressing. Snacks of crackers with almond butter and fruit spread, like all day long. Dinner bowl of yukon gold potatoes with onion, kale, tamari, balsamic. Bowl of granola with coconut kefir.

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