Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tough Enough

I think a lot about whether I'm tough enough for the goals and races I want to achieve.

Last week I had a run test on the schedule. I had already rocked my swim test and done well on my bike test back in November. To me, though, the run test is the most important. I've seen a lot of improvement on my run in the last month and I wanted it to shine through during my test. However, it's been a long time since I've done a run test and I've not done one without a race or not in warm weather. Thusfar, this has not been a kind winter so I decided to move my test to the treadmill. My goal for some time has to be able to run a race of any kind (except a one mile race) at a sub-7:00 pace. I thought the run test would be a perfect opportunity to give it a try. When I started the test, however, the treadmill seemed to be flying at a 7:30 pace and just six minutes into the test, I began to panic. How in the world was I going to be able to hold this pace or faster for 20 minutes? And just like that, I hit the stop button and data was lost. Crap! I restarted my watch and tried again. This time I made it a whopping two minutes. At this point there were tears and the day was done.

Two days later, the weather was still not kind, but I decided to give the run test a-go outside. It was bitterly cold with a wind chill around 11 degrees and wind at 15-20 mph. I started my warm up and I immediately knew it was going to be a challenging day. I don't know if it was the days of travel for Christmas, or sitting around a lot during the holiday, or just all the extra clothes, but I just felt like my legs wouldn't "fire". Every step seemed to be work. I chose the flattest part of the neighborhood to do the test, but in all honesty, it wasn't that flat and the wind made it seem like I was constantly running uphill. The first 5+ minutes of the test went okay and my pace was hovering around 7:05 and my heart rate was high. But soon I started to panic again. The pace was dropping, my legs weren't cooperating, and I just didn't feel good. As I came by the house I actually thought about stopping. I finished the test, but I didn't find it successful. The results, to me, were disgusting.

Coach agreed that this wasn't a good test and now I've got to try again. And this time she mandated it be on a treadmill. Although I know this is a heart rate test and pace isn't that important, I still feel I should be doing better than the last two attempts have been. All of this lead to a discussion with Dave. Am I tough enough?

Since August 29th, when my attempt at Ironman ended with a trip to the medical center, all I have thought about is "did I sabotage my Ironman?" Did I give up? Did I really work as hard as I could have to finish the race? My parents, my friends, my teammates, Dave, and Coach have all stated it was the circumstances of the day and the weather, but I trained all summer in that heat, and I honestly believe I was well hydrated coming off that bike--7 bottles of sports drink and 5 bottles of water.

Dave asked me when I was struggling on the treadmill last week, when was the last time I had to work for a race? I really had to think about that. The last time I remember really working for a race? Probably the Columbus Marathon 2003 when I was trying to qualify for Boston for the first time, I fell behind the pace leaders, threw myself a pity party, and then finally pulled my shit together and caught back up with that pace team to qualify. It's been a long time since I've had to be in that position. Don't get me wrong. I work really hard in practice. But my races have been easy. Boston 2009 when I ran a 3:29 might have been the easiest marathon I've ever run. But when things haven't been easy, I've given up. The Nike Women's Marathon in 2009 is a prime example. I'm just not sure I know how to be tough anymore.

I've set my sights very high in 2011. It's an important year for me. I've got big goals and big dreams and I have to achieve them. Physically I know it's possible. Mentally, I might need a little work....

9 comments:

SSB said...

mental toughness has been my biggest problem in the last year. I find a couple workouts I do telling myself it's like a race and then during races I can remember I survived those workouts.

Colleen said...

You definitely have your goals in you... it's a matter of realizing that yourself! I wish you could see what others saw... but I know that's easier said than done!

And I've gone down the same road about IMLOU - there is nothing that could have changed the outcome. It wasn't you...

Be strong - 2011 is going to be a huge year for you! We believe in you... start believing in yourself! :)

Kelly said...

Have you thought about some sort of visual reminder on your mirror or in your car or office to remind you every day of what you are working towards?? Maybe a mantra or saying or even a word. I find that helps my mental toughness a lot...you must believe first.

Kate said...

I think mental toughness is a struggle at times for any endurance athlete. Good luck and all the best for your 2011 goals.

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot said...

Lots of peaks and valleys in this little sport of ours huh? Just think of the conversation you had about being tough enough ever time it starts to hurt and you'll get your answer (-:

Kiersten said...

I am struggling with this. I had legit injury during my two 70.3s, but still feel like maybe if I had been tougher about training I wouldn't have gotten injured. Am I tough enough for 70.3 in 2011? Here's hoping!

Laura Wheatley said...

I feel ya Meredith - it is no secret that I love endurance training, but when it REALLY HURTS, I back out. I have a big PR goal for IMAZ this year, and in order to achieve that, I'm going to have to HURT through a lot of training and racing this year. Like you, i feel that I HAVE TO achieve this goal in order to move forward and tackle other life adventures :)

Anthony said...

Stop worrying about racing tough enough. You ran until the med staff PULLED YOU OFF THE COURSE! You're plenty tough. Probably too tough.

Racing (and training) SMART enough is much more difficult and takes more discipline.

Know the difference between 'hurt' and 'injured' and keep your wits about you (nutrition & hydration) and you'll be great.

Andrea said...

I agree with Anthony.

You said that all your races, with the exception of a few, have seemed easy. It seems to me, that if they have all been easy and now the work is starting to feel hard ... that maybe you are setting yourself up for a breakthrough year.

I didn't set any PRs during my run test either. Now I know running isn't my strong suit, but it was NOVEMBER! I had taken three months off! I shouldn't be setting any PRs now. However, I was *ever so* slightly better than my test last April.

Hang in there and LET GO! Get out of your own way and again, Mer ... do what makes YOU HAPPY. :)