the brain does not like fear

Since I am getting closer to ironman time, it means some workouts with the words "test" or "TT" are showing up on my schedule.  Now, I love training.  I really do, I'd almost rather just train and train than race, races are scary gahhhhh, but training, I love it.  It drips happy juice into my life.  But testing or time trialing or whatever you want to call it, it brings up a feeling in me that I only recently began to pinpoint as dread.  Dread and fear.
Now, why, when I love to train so much, why do I dread these sessions?  Send me out for a long run and tell me to run 60 minutes at MAF and I'm happy as a clam, but send me to the track for a six mile MAF test and I'll do my warm-up and then dither and dally and scuff my feet and poke around and retie my shoes and look around for someone who is going to kick me off for being on the track during school hours until I finally have to say out loud, Just go already, sheesh and then it STILL takes me another minute to start running.  (Probably Sonja, you shouldn't be reading this one).  Then I spend the first mile dreading what the lap button will say, and promising myself that I won't look when I hit it (of course I'm going to look when I hit it) and alternately hoping the custodians or school security will kick me out so I can go finish it on the road or hoping that my leg will twist up and fall off so oh darn, no more MAF test for me.
The same thing happens with swimming, and I love swimming oh so very much, but the longer the time trial, the more time I spend at the wall adjusting my goggles and my cap and my suit and my ear plugs and poking around with maybe I should warm-up another 100 yards and maybe I can do it with paddles and just not mention that part (I've never done this, for the record) and maybe I need another drink and then I finally convince myself to push off and go and the first half of whatever the TT is, I spend talking myself out of quitting and starting over or just trying another day because I feel tired or my bathing suit is too tight or I went out too fast for a mile or whatever. 
Whew.  That's a big heavy suitcase to be dragging around with my brain, which has no fingers to carry such things.

So I've learned that this is what my brain wants to do.  And I've discovered that the less I dick around before pushing the start button on my watch, the less I carry around trying to talk myself out of giving the session my all (this should be obvious but I am obviously a huge work-in-progress).  But why am I so afraid of the test? Why am I so afraid of race day?  
It's fear, definitely, fear of what the clock will tell me, and fear of what I will do with the information the clock gives my brain.  And even that doesn't end so well, because generally I take the information and process it with oof, thought I could run a bit quicker here or wow, based on my last 200 TT my mile should be a lot faster or whatever kind of judgement I come up with that I wish I could just exhale and let go.

I did a MAF test last week, I only ran four miles at MAF but it was my personal world record for pace at MAF.  And it still wasn't good enough, I beat myself up and second-guessed decisions I made on the day.  I did another MAF test yesterday and now I'm more rested and springy which means I am running slower not faster at MAF so of course that launched a whole new ship of self-destructive thoughts about the marathon that's coming up next weekend.  
The same happened in the pool, my swim is in great shape right now, quite possibly the best shape of my life, how did that happen?  And I had a mile time trial to do, and I dicked around and added to my warm-up and then went outside to the pool because masters had just left and then I needed to warm-up some more since walking 15 feet obviously made me cold and then I still stood there, in the water, and watched the clock hit the top twice through before I finally pushed off the wall and went.  And when I saw my first 100 split my thought wasn't great job! it was well, that was way too fast, you're fucked now.  I had a lot weighing on my mind getting into the water, it was hard to hold my focus onto my swim and I felt pretty meh the whole time and as soon as I hit the stop button on my watch, the judgmental thoughts came crashing in.  And when I came home and looked up my mile PR in the pool and realized that this was roughly a :40 second best to that, the thoughts didn't stop, that didn't hold them off, it just let new judgemental thoughts in.

This post doesn't have a fairy-tale ending where I figure my shit out and prance around with no baggage whatsoever, light as a feather.  I know that the answer to this is to just stop.  Stop with the judgement, stop allowing the negativity to leak in, and I'm working on that, I've been working on it all year not to mention all the years I've been in sport.  But I'm hoping that writing it down and typing it out will help me release it into the universe.  To breathe out and blow those thoughts far away.  Because the other lesson that I've learned this year is that all the work I can do is all of the work I can do.  And if I do all the work that I can do, and I recover and eat right and sleep and do all those things, then physically I am maxed out.  There is no replacement for consistent hard work, that is true.  And I think it is generally safe to say that I work hard.  But if I've done all the physical work I can do, that means that any improvement above and beyond that needs to come from my brain, not from my muscles.  How's THAT for fear.  


  1. I fear the clock in a very similar way. MAF tests make me uncomfortable even when I don't have to report the results to anyone! It makes it tough for me to race to my best potential, too. I'm working on it, but it's tough!

  2. I don't know if you're one for inspiration from reading but, check out "The War of Art" by Steve Pressfield. My swim coach recommended it this morning after seeing me constantly stop when he knew I could go farther (I'm learning how to swim). The book is about the mental roadblocks we put in front of ourselves (procrastination for one) when we're close to achieving our goals. Good luck!

  3. It sounds like most of this came directly from my brain. Esp the dreading the lap part. No matter what it is, it will never satisfy, and then the self-flagellating begins.

    You're going to kick such major ass! GET IT!

  4. Katie ~ Thanks for having the courage to put down and out there what so many of us think. Safe journey down to Cozumel. It's been hot and humid! Hopefully I'll run into you and Tom at some point. Staying down here till the Friday after. Happy Tday!


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