I struggled to breath about halfway up the first 1/4-mile climb of my hill workout. I am (hopefully) on the tail-end of a nasty cold. The light sprinkle had advanced to dumping rain. Negative thoughts invaded my mind until I forced them out.
“STOP,” I admonished myself, trying to follow the steps laid out in Mark Divine’s “Unbeatable Mind” book. Next I reminded myself, “You are here now. You are not dying of cancer.” And, finally, I reinforced my focus with a mantra.
This year has been off to a rocky start. The onslaught of snow and storms, in combination with a calf strain, my usual auto-immune challenges, and finally this cold, broke me this week. When I got The Beast (our vehicle) stuck in the driveway for a second time in as many days, I simply gave up. I am over this winter.
This might surprise anyone who knows how much I love snow and nordic skate skiing. Unfortunately, massive quantities of fresh powder alternating with torrential rains do not make for consistently good skate ski conditions. And they do make it difficult to move about town.
I like to take some time off “training” in the winter… to allow myself to simply follow the weather and conditions and play in the mountains as I see fit. But lately I have been feeling the pull to train for the coming trail running season… to move my legs and body faster in that rhythmic way that fulfills me so.
I asked Coach Peter to start up with training again, and he gave me a helluva “welcome back” workout. Hill repeats up the pavement from Donner Lake – getting progressively longer until the finale mile-climb up the 6% grade road.
Now, I’m pretty motivated. I almost always want to go for a run. I will work hard up a big hill or do what it takes to complete a tempo run.
But there are certain workouts that I would just never subject myself to if Coach didn’t prescribe them. They are always about 30% longer and 50% harder than I would do on my own. This was one of those workouts. And I do it because I know that Coach is watching and that it will make race day better.
Luckily, I had happened upon the perfect mantra to steady my focus, as suggested on Facebook by another ultra running coach, my friend Sarah Lavender Smith, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
I reminded myself that the work of completing a trail ultra marathon happens in training. I thought about how good it would feel to complete this ambitious workout in these conditions. I focused on a tree at the finish point ahead, and remembered the Chi Running concept of Yi-Chi, allowing the visual focus to pull me forward. And simply repeated in my head, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
With each additional repeat, 1/2-mile, 3/4-mile, and finally that full mile, the rainfall increased. My mind never went back to that really negative place, with the help of some gentle reminders, “No chasing squirrels,” and the constant mantra, “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
As I jogged down the hill to the parked car, I wasn’t sure if there was another 1/4-mile climb in the workout (I had programmed it all on my Garmin Fenix). I was soaked to the bone and getting cold, despite the uphill effort, but part of me wished for one more repeat. One more chance to be persistent.
When I hit the lap button the final time, the watch instructed my to do a cool down. No additional repeat. I’ll take it and be happy. More than happy. To quote our 10-year-old son, “I feel so accomplished.”