September 05, 2007

Speed and Power of the Mind

I wrote this one a few months ago but never posted it because I never finished it. I'm posting it now... maybe you can finish it for me.

Right now Catherine and I are in the middle of the speed portion of our training program. However, what with my calf injury and not being able to run, my running speed pretty much is relegated to indoor training. The alarm clock has become my starting gun, and the distance between the bed and the bathroom my track.

The extent of my speed work begins when that starting alarm goes off. I hop out of bed and shuffle off to the bathroom in what I can only hope is a faster split than Catherine's. Of course, even though her legs are tired from her grueling bike rides and runs, she still manages to inch me out at the finish line. I can't even medal in the bathroom dash.

Truth be told, I wish I was able to do the real speed workouts on the track. It's been so long since I've been able to do a full period of speed training, I forget if the pain and nausea is a good or bad feeling.

But since I can't participate in the fun run sessions, my coach suggested that I do an extra speed workout on the bike each week. I can't say that I love the grueling bike speed sessions as much as I love the running speed work, but I suppose limpers can't be choosers.

Tuesday's bike work was a tough one. Picture this: four 6-minute repeats at maximum speed, followed by four 1-minute repeats at miximum-er speed, followed by throwing up in my mouth.

I decided to do that speed session on my trainer because apparently I'm a glutton for punishment. (Alright alright... the real reason is that I had TiVo'd an extra episode of The Wire that I desperately needed to watch.)

Per the suggestion of my coach, I decided to toss on a second speed session this week. I did that one this morning, which is probably why I feel sick right now.

Unable to stomach the thought of another painful set of four 6-minute repeats like I had done two days earlier, I decided to do a whole crapload of one minute repeats instead. All uphill. One minute hard, thirty seconds rest. One minute hard, thirty seconds rest. And I continued these shenanigans until I ran out of mountain to climb.

It took thirteen of these one-minute all-out pushes to get me to the top of the hill. My legs were screaming for mercy like a million little daggers were placed in each pore. My breathing was hectic. Like a lizard in a flea farm, my tongue was lashing out for any extra molecule of oxygen to satiate my burning body. It hurt. But here's the funny thing - my heart rate never really got above 168 the entire time.

Hmmm. Interesting.

I coasted back down the hill to recover a bit until I ran into Catherine. She was just finishing her workout and needed to do a few more 1-minute repeats. What the hell, I thought, I'll do them with you.

So I turned around and started pounding up the hill with Catherine. One minute all-out, thirty seconds rest. One minute hard, thirty seconds easy.

We were moving pretty rapidly but the odd thing was that my legs felt relaxed. Even though I was keeping track of the time, wasting extra oxygen to call out the 15 second intervals, it wasn't as tough as my previous repeats.

And just as I was convincing myself that I was a stronger rider than Catherine, I noticed my heart rate was leveled at 168.

168?! I just rode up the hill at 168 and nearly puked out a lung. Now here I am at 168 feeling like I'm strolling through the park. How can this be? Tell me it isn't true.

I started tapping my watch and holding it to my ear like they do in movies to make sure it's working correctly. Never mind that it's a digital watch. I held it closer to my heart to make sure it was recording all the beats. I looked down at it again: 168.

And all I could think of was the amazing power of the mind. The power to make my life harder than it needs to be when apparently that suits me - and the power to walk through the park of pain without worry.

I've thought about this ride quite a bit since then and have philosophized ad infinitum about the minds ability to control the body - to create suffering and stimulate release. As I'm struggling through a grueling race, inches away from crumbling to pieces, I step back with my mindseye and ask myself who is controlling me, the body or the brain. And the answer is inevitably the same. We are products of our own mind. We have created our own world in our own image. We live in our own matrix. And I think I'm ready to try the blue pill.


No Wetsuit Girl... overseas! said...

The pessimist's ending: "... And then I realized that my heart hadn't fully recovered from the last session where I'd worked even harder, and that I wasn't actually stronger, just tired."

The optimist's ending: "... And then I realized how much love can pull you to the top of any obstacle, and, although you didn't think you had the strength, bring you there with more ease than you ever could alone."

The machista ending: "... And I drew my strength from the fact that men are stronger, smarter, and better than women. HOOWAH!"

The Christian fundamentalist ending: "God was trying to tell me something... I don't know what, but, I know His plan will bring me to strength and love in the end. Amen."

I personally like the optimist.

Take your pick or write your own, these are only possibilities.

kellie said...

Maynard James Kenan (Tool) says it best..

"This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality.
Embrace this moment.
Remember; we are eternal,
all this pain is an illusion."

This quote is taken from the song Parabola. This has been my "tri strength" song for a couple of years now.