What do you do when you have a bad training day?
I never have a bad training day. Because there is always cake.
So went the email exchange a few years ago between me and Colleen Cannon. Colleen owns and runs Women’s Quest, putting on outdoor adventures for women of all athletic backgrounds. She is a former professional triathlete and one of the key people who inspired me to follow my inclination into endurance sports. During one of the trials of training, I fired off an email, asking what she does to get herself through a lousy workout. Her response stuck with me. In part because it’s humorous. In part because, well, I love cake, too. And in part because there are depths of wisdom in that off-the-cuff funny remark.
I thought of that statement this morning after my foray into 1200 meter repeats didn’t go quite as planned. Yes, I realize yesterday I was all excited because I was making peace with my watch. But today, despite my best efforts, I hit my time only once, falling short in the three other intervals. My real work, it turned out, would not be the running today but my mental training.
While not hitting my time was frustrating, the worst part of the workout was second-guessing myself. Am I really working hard? Could I have pushed harder? Did I dig deep enough?
I gave voice to those concerns to my running buddies Sue and Maureen, who reminded me that I was working hard. That I was out there doing the workout. That it was only a failure if I gave up. That I was being too hard on myself. I knew everything they were saying was true. I was grateful for their reassurance but even more grateful for the safe space of their friendship — I needed to purge those doubts so I could move forward, so that I could find the good in the work. Had I left them unsaid, they would have germinated in my brain until I actually believed that I didn’t work hard and that the workout was a bust.
The workout is never a bust. Not when there is cake. Not when there are other things in the day which give me joy — whether it’s a hot cup of good coffee, wrapping myself up in a blanket on the couch, watching the Giro d’Italia or getting absorbed in a great book.
But back to the cake. I never met a kind of cake I didn’t like. Back when I was in elementary school, it was customary for kids to bring in treats for the entire class to celebrate their birthday. My mom always made cupcake cones — cake mix baked into plain ice cream cones and then frosted. This is my birthday week and while an entire batch of cupcake cones would be overkill, even for me, there’s something about cake which brings a smile to my face. No. we can not be sad today. There will be cake.
And all is right with the world.