By the time I jogged over to the track, my shirt was already dripping wet. The air was stuffy and thick. My skin felt sticky. At 6 a.m. it was already shaping up to be a hot, humid summer day. And I was facing a workout of 800 meter repeats.
Less than two weeks out from my foray into DoubleMussel — a sprint triathlon on Saturday followed by a Half Ironman on Sunday — the track workout was a good, hard, interval session. Ultimately, track workouts are how you get faster, but more often than not, the track workout is my mental training session. And in this heat and humidity, it was all about my own mind game.
I should have known I was in a good place when arriving at the track I decided to take of my shirt and run in my sports bra. See, I don’t do that. I’m not a run-in-my-sports-bra-top kinda girl. It’s my self-consciousness which keeps me in my t-shirts, afraid of what people will think when they see me. On this particular morning, I stopped the gremlin train early. Screw it! Off came my shirt allowing my skin to breathe easier. Perhaps the blessing of the that and humidity was that I just didn’t care.
My coach gave me a workout that was challenging but doable considering the weather conditions. I knew that the humidity would impact my run and even though I had adjusted pace times for the 800 meter repeats, I was pretty sure this was going to be slow and perhaps a bit painful. I decided to take the day as it came. I would work hard and let the time take care of itself.
The first 800 — two laps around the track — my focus was on control. Nice and steady. I had to complete seven of these intervals. If I burned out on the first one, I would never make it through. And passing out at the high school track didn’t seem like a good way to start the day. I hit my watch at the end of the interval. Two seconds slower than the prescribed pace.
Wait. Just two seconds? OK. I can do this.
Next interval. Bam! One second faster than the prescribed pace. Next interval. Bam! Two seconds faster than the prescribed pace.
A huge smile crossed my face. Really? Really? The intervals weren’t coming easy, but neither did I feel like I was going to keel over. I found the right groove. And more important than the actual times I ran was how I felt about the times I ran. I was strong, steady, focused, confident. I was pleased and happy and congratulating myself while thinking about the pleasures of a glass of chocolate milk while taking an ice bath.
The secret to my success?
Adjusting my pace. My coach originally did this for me, but I had to make peace with the fact that I may be slower. Weather conditions will always affect your pace. Unless you are Sonya Richards or Lolo Jones, there is no need to fight the conditions. Adjust your expectations. It will make you stronger in the end.
Hydration. I carried a small bottle of water with me to the track and took a small sip during each rest interval. But it wasn’t just drinking water during the workout which was important. Staying hydrated in general is key, not just to a good workout but to keeping sharp and focused for every day life. Not enough water in my system and I have trouble focusing on washing dishes let alone working, training or being of general use to myself and the world.
Find a focus. It is hot and humid. My body is dripping water and my sunglasses are fogging up. If I think about these things my run will be miserable which will quickly spiral into a round of mentally beating myself up. As soon as I notice those things, I start to chant “focus.” Which reminds of hurdler Lolo Jones in an Olympics-inspired commercial where she says “Focus, Lolo. Focus.” And Lolo for some reason reminds me of “Lola” and I begin singing in my head “Whatever Lola wants. Lola gets.” And as silly as that all sounds, I have forgotten that my legs feel like jello and realized I just nailed the workout.