Returning to "I Can"

Years ago when I was maneuvering my way through a dark part of my life, I had a wonderful confidant who spent many hours counseling me through that season of life.  One evening after I’d sat on her couch weeping and working through an issue, she quietly asked me: “what do you know to be true?”  Through my tears, I looked at her, confused by what she was asking me.  She repeated “WHAT do you know to be TRUE?”  My chin slowly dropped to my chest as in my mind, I stripped away the layers of my emotional pain.  And without lifting my head, I told her the one and only thing I knew to be true.  She, in the same gentle dulcet voice responded, “Make a home in that truth, sit there and base your decisions on how you are going to react from there.  Your reactions right now are coming from fear of things that may or may not be true.  But THIS you know to be true.. From here forward, when this comes up, find that truth, and react from that place of truth and nothing else.

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Earlier this week, my coach put the usual midweek running speed work on my calendar.  I was to warmup and then do 12 x 400 at my 5K pace with a 30-second walking recovery between each repeat.  I wasn’t excited about it, I was pretty sure it’d hurt, but I was interested to see if I could pull it off as written.  All the speed work I’d been doing over the last few weeks had been at 10K pace.  Because I didn’t know if I could maintain my usual 9:45 pace after being away from training those six weeks this fall, I’d been pulling back to 10:00 and successfully hitting it at each workout without a lot of effort.  Going into this workout, I thought maybe I was sandbagging and maybe I was stronger than I was giving myself credit for.  Thus 12 repeats at my sub-thirty-minute 5K pace it would be.

First repeat, I realized I’d set the speed higher than what I was supposed to be running at and quickly adjusted.  Second repeat, I felt good.  Third repeat, I began to wonder if I could truly maintain this pace for the duration of the workout.  During the fourth repeat, my legs were protesting and unable to keep up the rapid turnover required to maintain speed.  In an effort to keep going and execute at the speed written, I took out the 1% incline my coach had instructed I maintain. 

Repeat number five, I was certain I could no longer maintain my pace.  I was frustrated and fighting against myself.  I took the treadmill down to a walking pace and tried to reset my mind for a couple of minutes.  This was hard, because mentally, once one thing goes wrong, then the “I can’ts” storm the psyche.  If I can’t do this at my 5K pace from last year, how do I expect to be better than I was last season?  If I can’t do this then there’s no way, I’ll drop those final 8 pounds from the time off during surgery, I might as well go grab Whataburger on the way home.  If I can’t run strong for an hour, there’s no way I’m going to run strong at the Cowtown ½ Marathon this weekend, NO WAY at all, I’m gonna suck!  If I can’t do this, then forget bettering Muskoka, let alone posting a strong showing in Ireland.  If I can’t do this, how can I hope to be an inspiration to others to try multisport, my failures show them how much this sucks.  I can’t do this.  I CAN’T…

The voice of my friend, from long ago: “what do you know to be true?” 

I know I can hold a 10-minute mile pace comfortably. 

Then start from there and move forward.

Taking a deep breath, I increased my speed to a 10-minute mile easing up the speed throughout the 400.  I didn’t make it back to my 5K pace, and every repeat after that started lower and lower with the lowest repeat starting at 10:21 increasing to a 9:41 mile by the end of the repeat. It was discouraging to lower my speed.  I thought of it as giving in, no matter what my “truth” was.

I’m writing this a couple days after that run.  When I’d entered my feedback and biometrics into training peaks for my coach, I was still angry, still fighting with “I should’ve pushed harder.”  However, now, two days later, I know I made the right decisions.  Even though the workout was to build strength and speed, it’s one thing to walk away and quit in the middle, it’s another to “take to the oars” when the wind doesn’t serve.  I “took to the oars” by finding the truth, going to the speed I knew I could handle and working to speed up from there.  I returned to “I can," stubbornly pushing back against “I can’t.”

This post is scheduled to go live a little more than ten hours after I will have crossed the finish line at The Cowtown half marathon.  I don’t know how I’ll do.  I don’t know how my body and legs will hold up, it’s a bit of a wild card race.  However, what I do know, is when it gets difficult (and it will), I will choose to find my truth, return to “I can” and make my decisions on how to respond from there.