Pushing past the pain

22 01 2011



Break on through to the other side…………………..The Psychological game of Running

I have often heard, and scoffed at, that ultra running is 20% physical and 80% mental.   Although I still don’t agree with this in its entirety, after my Hill Repeats training run on wed evening in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, I can see there is a lot of validity to this statement.  Watching the elite Ultra Trail Runners like Jurek, Tony Krupicka, Zahab, Ulrich, Ferg, Diane van Duren and the list goes on, you can understand there is a lot more going on then just fast strong legs pumping efficiently.  They look like they are “in the zone”.  A peaceful trance like state where the pain can’t get its full grip.

Well I finally experienced a bit of this.  I mean I have had some good hard races where I had a taste of this, but on wed I had the whole deal.  Closest I have had prior to this was when I was looking for a sub 320 marathon in Philadelphia ( ended up bonking at 36 km and finished with a 3:28) but I was hurting from 28 km and just ignored the discomfort.

So back to Wed…………..

First of all the Hill is a monster ( in Eastern Canadian standards!!!) of 680 meters climb at a grade of 12-15  percent. 

As I did my warm up I was already cheating mentally by saying.  “This hill is much bigger then old mill so I don’t need to do all 10” etc.  At any rate after 2 repeats  I was already struggling.   I had worked two back to back 15 hour days in the kitchen.  My legs were tight and tired!

At the top of number 4 I actually threw up from the exertion. My HR was up to 174 at the top of 3 and 4.

At number 5 a young runner ( 22-25 years old in cotton track pants and a hoodie with no water bottles) passed me mid way up the climb……I held on to him as he past and at the top when he was ahead of me he stopped and doubled over to hug his knees!  I turned and ran back down for another…………

At 6 I was definitely done mentally but all the sudden I was thinking of all those elite runners and how they manage after they have nothing left but pain…and thought to myself that ” I’m not actually in any danger of injury, it’s just really tough”. 

Somehow I was able to tell my brain to “shut up”.   I started to think about how strong my legs are now, and how I used to struggle to run one of these without walking, and that the more I struggle now the less I have to on the Death Race!

 I actually increased my pace and focused on my breathing so I was able to actually reduce my HR to 168.  I don’t remember the last 4 hills but I ran them easily without walk breaks and finished for a total of 17 .2 km for 10 hills. 3300 feet of elevation change ( marquis du Sade is 2000 feet). It took 100 minutes or an average pace of 5:48/km !!   Exceptional run!

My pre run meal was a baked sweet potato with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of organic honey!  mmmmmmm.  

It was one of the best runs of my life and I discovered the mental possibility to push way past the “pain” and the sub conscious trying to stop me.

So now I have had a glimpse of how to push past the dis-comfort.  I mean I have had small tastes of this before but this was a completely new level.

I finished the last km run from the hill to my brother’s house at 4:45/km.  I felt amazing.  I just sat down on my brothers steps when I arrived…..i was happily tired and contemplative.  I realized afterwards I sat there for 30 minutes!  Haha…I was day dreaming.

This was like that hole in one golf shot that brings you back thinking you are a good golfer or that there is a possibility you might be!

Looking forward to testing this “new” method on my next run




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