Yesterday was one of the best running experiences I've had in a long time. And truly miserable. Miserable. And MAGIC.
You'd think that someone who likes 24 hour races wouldn't be the kind of person who backs away from discomfort. 24 hour races are full of discomfort, but it's the kind of discomfort I seem to be built for--so in a roundabout way I'm actually sort of comfortable there. Those are small "m" misery experiences. But short/spicy, turn-yourself-inside-out, I-hate-my-life efforts (as my coach calls them) with sustained high heart rate? Capital "M" Misery for me.
As it turns out I've been slowly backing away from going all in on those short/spicy efforts, and backing away so subtly that it went on for almost two years before I realized I'm kind of just going through the motions--doing just enough to not sound too many alarms. I was starting to feel washed up and I told my coach my fitness was sliding backwards. I began to buy the easy line I'm getting older. Well I am getting older, that's true. And I'm also not working hard on my hard effort days. So my fitness was kind of sliding backwards, and it was all in my control.
My coach suggested we take the Tuesday hard effort day off my plate and put it on Wednesday when I'm with him. I can strength train on my own for awhile, but I'll be under his scrutiny for the run intervals. Yikes and yes was my answer.
I woke up Wednesday morning like it was race day--5K race day, not ultra race day. I was terrified of the workout and my first thought was this is going to hurt. And it did hurt! But it hurt my mind way more than it hurt my body. In fact, my body held up pretty good, like it was saying FINALLY and MORE, MORE--I CAN DO MORE!
I finished the workout and even before I saw the data I knew that something had happened. I knew I kept the throttle down. I could tell that I had moved the needle. I dialed in as much as I could during that workout, but dialing in is also a muscle you have to exercise so there is more capacity to access there, too. My coach pointed out later that my average heart rate was 150, which included all the rests between intervals. My max heart rate was 177! I don't know when I last saw numbers like that for this kind of effort.
When I drove away from the gym after my workout I was stoked. I had that peace that you feel when do your absolute best; when you know you just emptied your pockets and put everything on the table that you possibly had to give. And therein lies the magic. Showing up when I'm scared, being willing to get uncomfortable, and not caving to easy excuses like I'm getting older are the doorways I open for magic to come in. I do that through running and I do want to see how good I can get in that realm. But maybe more importantly what I get through running spills out to my whole life.
I got all of this from just a 54 minute commitment, and that 54 minutes includes rest times! I may still approach Wednesdays with some dread, but maybe with time dread can turn to trepidation. And maybe trepidation could become a more neutral anticipation. Then maybe, just maybe, anticipation could even tip over to excitement? Regardless of the emotion, it would be a shame to back off from the things running wants to teach me.
And a bigger shame to deny the magic just because I have to endure a little capital "M" Misery : )