I have been doing all my shorter (less than 20 min) speed intervals at the track for really the past year now. I always thought I hated doing these at the track, but figured it was the best way to guage distance, speed, etc. I had convinced myself that the track was "harder" than roads because you have to force yourself around a boring old track. I would pat myself on the back after finishing my speed intervals...I was always able to keep in the designated speed zone and still feel like I could've run just a little faster. Well, I noticed on my training schedule today that the comment was to do my speed intervals on "road". Ha! I of course picked the flattest route possible and thought, well this will be a nice change....it should be easier, time will go by faster with the change of scenery. Holy cow the difference! What I didn't realize was that on the track all you have to focus on is the speed... No distractions, no tiny inclines, nothing...just speed until the timer goes off. Today was brain work. Instead of thinking just about speed I was thinking, "$&$@! how much farther?", "I don't remember this being a hill", "that car is gonna hit me"....and find the ability to focus on speed, breathing, relaxing.... I learned much more today than ever on the track. Learning to juggle and sort thoughts and maintain the speed was far harder than I anticipated! Also learning not to fight those thoughts out..to let them flow in and out like breathing....and maintain speed.
Seems like we're learning similar lessons these days. After my last trail 50k in May I discussed I learned I was a 'rhythm' runner (my term) and was now in search of trail running zen (being able to manage the technical running of a trail without getting frustrated or pissed off). Put me on the open road at a given pace and I'll go in the zone. I'll maintain cadence, pace, etc without issue. Put me on the trail with stumps, roots, rocks and other obstacles, and I get squirrelly.
Living in the burbs outside DC does not help practice running with obstacles, but I'm coming up with some interesting things. Some weeks I do everything I can to break up my rhythm.
Now when I run the Mall in DC I'll run the steps of the various museums and monuments. This definitely breaks up my rhythm and makes me think about getting back to easy / smooth running.
Last weekend I ran 16 miles to Annapolis. The first 10 miles of the course was rolling country road, beautiful and relaxing. The last 6 was along strip mall hell. I don't know how many curbs I jumped, but there were many and my brain was definitely working. I was beginning to enter frustrated land, but fought it off the best I could.
So, I'm going to keep doing things to stress my brain during my training runs and believe that will translate to increased mental strength during my trail races.
I'll share as I learn...
Thanks Dente! Lots of brain training right now! Frustrating at times, but I like the challenge!