Maximum effort

Resist the urge to time the run.

Those were the instructions from my coach for Thursday’s workout.

No time. No pace.

This was all about effort. And so for the first time ever I showed up to run with a bare wrist. I even presented it to Sue, who graciously agreed to do the workout with me.

So here was the plan:

2 miles warmup

4 miles maximum effort

8×100 meter striders

2 mile cool down

I know I’ve grown as a person, an athlete and a runner when the thought of this workout didn’t intimidate me. I wasn’t scared of it (though, for the record, I was scared of my track workout earlier this week) mostly because there was no way for me to judge it.

Yes, I’ve been espousing the joys of turning off the gadgets during my easy runs lately, but this took the process to an entirely different level. I wasn’t even recording the run. I couldn’t plug in my trusty Garmin to my trusty laptop and download information and then sit and say, “See, I did exactly what I was supposed to do!” or “Oh my goodness that sucked!”

The only thing I could judge was my effort. And that was completely in my control. The watch is not in my control (as much as I wish I could control and contort the world of numbers if only to make them more understandable to my verbal-centric brain) and so there was no artificial pressure. No external measuring stick. I either ran a maximum effort or I didn’t. And only I knew that.

It was a hard workout to be sure, but seemed much less terrifying than those times in which to run 600s on the track.

Sue had plotted out our routes for both the warmup and the four mile effort. After two miles, we stopped for a sip of water and a shot block. I took off first. The plan was for Sue to give me a four-minute head start and she would hunt me down and pass me. I full expected that by the first mile.

Only I kept running. Kept going hard. Kept giving it my best effort. And kept looking for Sue.

There are energy flows during a run and I tried to work with them instead of against them. Feeling a dip? That’s ok. Slow down for a few steps, relax the arms and breathe. Then pick it back up. Feeling good? Go with it but always staying in control.

At Mile 3, Sue passed me.

She was hurting in the last mile. I was too. But I was also flying. So close to the finish, it was time to make it hurt, to just end it.

How fast did I run? No idea. And that wasn’t the point. The point was to run hard, as hard as I could, for four miles. Mission accomplished.

Of course the four-mile fast run was followed by the torture festival of 100 meter striders. Also known as “pickups” the strategy is to run quickly for 100 meters, then jog, then repeat. There were eight of them on the morning program. And by the time they were done my legs were no longer on speaking terms with the rest of my body.

By the end of the day, we made up.

I successfully resisted the urge to catalogue my workout. And something tells me that helped me tap into power I didn’t realize I had.

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