I am struggling a bit

 with speedwork. I have developed a little “track anxiety”. Speedwork is fun when it’s easy and you hit the times you want. That hasn’t happened for me lately, I have struggled a bit on the track and now I have some sheer anxiety at the thought of speedwork. I finally broke down and reached out to coach. He encouraged me to visualize my track workout for the next day. I couldn’t do it. I got still, I saw myself warming up, doing the speedups and getting ready to do the first 800meter speed interval. I tried to visualize the pace range on my watch and staying in that pace zone...then I would see myself falling under pace by the end of the first lap (as I have done before), feel the anxiety, tensing up, getting slower, chest getting tight, heart racing, pushing harder, feeling like I’m dying…..and then lose the visual and start thinking about other things. I couldn’t get through the full 800 in my head. I could only visualize what I had experienced, trying to change it, making the past experience different.


Further instruction from coach, “focus on running by TIME, not pace. This is very Important”. I had never done this. I had always just looked at pace, making sure I was staying in a certain pace range, ie 6:10-6:20 for 800m.  The anxiety went higher...I thought, “Shit, I’ve never done that before, I don’t think I can. I don’t know how to judge 800 meters in time...how do I make sure I hit 800m at 3:09? How do I know if I’m going too fast or not fast enough?” I didn’t trust that I could do it. I was now fairly terrified. And fairly mad that I was scared to run 800m..”of all the things to be afraid of...how stupid is that?!”. Then, coach says, “Flip your watch so you only see time..a stopwatch”.  We talked more about how to visualize this. Coach also said, “AND, where we need to go with this and for the races and future is to help you realize: To be your best, you must be willing to fail…”

Oh and then the damn dam broke! I got mad.  Out of nowhere I blurted out in the mirror in front of me “If I am harder on myself than anyone else then no one else can hurt me or blind side me. How do I let go of that?!”

I shocked even myself, Wha? Huh? Where the hell did that come from?! “ok Lori, you’ve done lost your mind”. My head swirling and coach still sending me emails..”ok I want you to see the 400 meter split time I gave you for the 800s, use the stop watch function and use this split to help you FEEL this effort…..’ He might as well have been speaking Japanese at this point...I was gone.


It became clear, I don’t want to do the speedwork, I don’t want to try to guage distance/time, I might fail. I want to be safe. But it wasn’t about speedwork, it was about life. If I am keeping myself safe, then I won’t get hurt. I am locking myself in this cage I’ve created so no one can hurt me...except me. It translates in my running…”If I am harder on myself than anyone else on the track, in my workouts…in life”  A wise friend told me, “The more you are willing to hurt, the more free you become!  Run free...live free!”.  To get what you really want...to reach for your cool impossible, you have to be willing to fail.


So back to visualization.  I tried again a few more times that evening to visualize the track workout. I could see the warmup as I had done many many times, I could see starting the first 800m and myself and how I felt and then I  could feel it getting difficult and I tried to change the outcome that I knew in my head was coming. I couldn’t CHANGE what I had experienced previously (missing the target time/pace) into what I WANTED to see.  Then I woke up trying to figure out why I couldn’t CHANGE my visualization...and it hit. Lori, you CANT change the past. Quit trying to take your past experience on the track, visualizing it,  trying to change it. Let go and CREATE what you want to see. And blammo! I did it!  I could visualize it! The whole damn thing! The times on my watch, the effort I wanted, all of it! When I let go of the past I could create what I wanted.  And it clicked...in life...let go of the past to create what you want.  Simple. You can’t change the past, converting it into something you want. Not possible, so quit trying Lori. Now, if that’s what it was all about….but nope… there’s more.


So now I get out on the track, still very very nervous, but in a much healthier sort of way. So here we go..20 min warm up...then a 400m at 1:34 to get pace and feel for what the 800 would be like. Then the first 800….I nailed it to the second! I hit the 400 mark right on cue and 800 mark. It was extremely difficult though and my legs were not spunky at all. I knew this is where the second part of the lesson may be coming in to play. On to 800m interval number 2. 200m in I am almost right on cue, but by 400 I was over 1:34. My legs were jello-y and my effort maxed. I could feel my pace fading and at 800 my time was over the goal by several seconds. I was ok though. I didn’t feel angry or frustrated. On to 800m number 3. Started out, by 400m I was over on time. My mantra, “focus” came in. I was focused on relaxed breathing, pushing my legs and my body as hard as I could without blowing up, focusing on making my form as efficient as possible, fast as possible. I was over again by several seconds. the 4th and 5th 800m intervals were similar.To get what you really want...you have to be willing to fail


The difference was that I was at peace throughout. Working to my best effort, best form, best mindset possible. I was willing to fail. After the second 800 interval I knew there was no way I was going to succeed at hitting the goal time, but the difference was, this time I was WILLING to fail. To reach as far and as hard as possible at that 3:09 800 meter target knowing I might...and likely would...fail. But if I didn’t reach like I was going to get it I would never know, So I reached with every 800 like I was going to get it.


Now I wish my thinking and my understanding of what is going on were all neat and in a nutshell and internal, but the reality is it’s not. I got a glimpse yesterday, and I write this to remind myself, so that it does becomes natural and internal. 

A friend sent this in an email the other day and I think it pretty well sums it up....

The late Dr. George Sheehan, one of our "running philosophers" shared some good stuff from a commencement speech he gave to a medical school. Dr. Sheehan was himself a cardiologist. Here are a few portions of it.
"I do plead guilty to being fit. But only because at fourty-four I became bored with medicine. When I applied for the faculty at Rutgers Medical School, citing that boredom was my only qualification, the application was rejected. I then turned to a higher ambition. To become a forty-four-year-old miler. And, in an absolute, unreasonable, single-minded dedication to that absurd project, discovered my body, my play, my vision and, eventually, a new life. I found my truth.
My experience has taught me that your must first and always seek the person you are. And this becoming unfolds through the intensity with which you use your body, through your absorption in play, and through the acceptance of the discipline needed to be an athlete. At all times, you must protect your Self. Maintain a childlike wonder. Acquire if you can the ability to be careless, to disregard appearances, and to relax and laugh at the world.
Rise to that challenge. Live your own life. Success is not something that can be measured or worn on a watch or hung on the wall. It is not the esteem of colleagues, or the admiration of the community, or the appreciation of patients. Success is the certain knowledge that you have become yourself, the person you were meant to be from all time.
That should be reward enough. But best of all is the fun while you are doing it. And, at the very least, you will heal yourself."
~Dr. George Sheehan



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Comment by Karen Blackert on April 28, 2014 at 8:11am

*Oops! I meant enjoying the journey

Comment by Karen Blackert on April 28, 2014 at 8:10am

Fantastic post, Lori! Thank you for being so open and putting your story out there. I struggle with a lot of the same problems. Failure scares the hell out of me. In anything I do: work, family, running, I'm always harder on myself than anyone else could be. I think I do what I do out of fear of losing control, which as I type it seems so silly! I'm working very hard on blending what you've posted with what you and Eric have said in past posts about enjoying the journal, more than the destination. That's something I've found is really hard for me to do. It's scary and freeing at the same time.

Comment by Robert Burpee on April 25, 2014 at 9:58pm

Lori, you use the word "fail" but your deeds and actions are anything but those of a "Failure". You are striving to be the very best you possibly can be which is honourable, wonderous and beautiful. Sometimes our expectations are not met or reached but these are not failures these are just the bumps in the road of our training or life, that make the journey interesting, teach us how to overcome and therefore grow. :-}

Comment by Rich Warne on April 25, 2014 at 1:09pm
run track by feel, dont look at your times til you get home and have the time to be objective about them
Comment by Lori Enlow on April 25, 2014 at 12:02pm
I've been wanting to read that one, need to download it..
Comment by Eric Welsh on April 25, 2014 at 11:15am

Good stuff as always. I have been listening to Running with the Kenyans on Audible and yesterday while I was running the track it was about their Fartlek workouts. Which I am sure you are familiar with, but the interesting part was that once the "intervals" were determined they set their watches to beep at those intervals. No thinking at all; when it beeps you speed up, when it beeps you slow down until it stops. After all Fartlek means "speed play"

For the record I despise speed work myself! 

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