Breaking Through

This morning I ran hill repeats on my favorite loop at Rancho San Antonio. It takes me about 22 minutes for each loop. The loop consists of a .3 mile steep section and then levels out slightly but still goes uphill for about another .5 miles. After that, it starts going down and back to the parking lot where I can begin the loop again.
Doing these loops today brought home one really important aspect of running long – the mental aspect.
I start these loops OK but feel slightly tired. I purposely went swimming for about an hour before just to take my energy level down a notch. It is important to train in depleted conditions and teach your body and mind to perform even at low energy states.
The first loop is a warmup; the second loop I feel stronger. The third is the kicker. I start up the hill and I feel the run up the hill in my legs and in my breath, which becomes labored faster. It is at this time I start thinking about quitting after this loop and just heading back to the car. The voices in my head tell me it’s just better to stop and rest; why fight the muscles burning to do another loop?
But it’s important I get to this 4th loop. Last run I did here, I did 3 loops and felt pretty good. But now everything in my mind is just telling me to quit. I need to continue building past the 3 loops and beyond. It’s the only way to deal with those damn bridges on the NYC Marathon course.
I ignore the voices and desire to quit. My focus becomes razor sharp as I pass the parking lot and head out on the 4th loop. As I hit the steeper early section, I focus only on moving my legs at the previous rate. I reach the less steeper part and then I accelerate. It burns in my lungs and my legs, but I ignore both and just concentrate on cycling my legs. I hit the top and then recover down the back side, reach the bottom and then sprint faster towards the parking lot. I reach the lot in 21 min, having gone a minute faster on the last loop, in which I am most tired.
Negative split training is so important in toughening up the body for endurance. It works the body, but also conditions the mind to force the body to perform in very fatigued states. Breaking through these periods and finishing strong is so important. Otherwise, you’ll just give in to the little voices in your head and your pains, and just quit.
This is not the mark of a champion.

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