Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Testing? Testing!

The time has come. The time has arrived. The time is here.

I need to find my fast.

I haven't needed my fast since Clearwater or Timberlake.

If anyone knows where it has gone, I would appreciate the help. You see, my coach is evil. He's got a quirky sense of humor, and seems to think that by giving me "testing" this week, I'll go fast. And at a certain point, he's right. I will go fast, but it just might not be for as long or as as far as he (or I) would have hoped.

But that's also one of the great things about beginning-of-the-season testing: no pressure! (Those of you rolling your eyes, hear me out. Believe it or not, I only half believe this myself... but by writing it, I think that I might, just might, be able to convince myself). What was I saying? Oh yeah, no pressure. Sure. That’s what we all say. Ha ha. Somewhere humpty-dumpty just fell off a wall, laughing.

Cracked, into thousands of little pieces! No one could put him back together again. Cracked under pressure. Just like the bikers in Le Tour, sliding backwards off the peleton up the mountain. They've cracked. We all do at some point.
But I think that's the point, though - the idea of "no pressure". It's just that, an idea.

No matter what we do in terms of racing or testing, we're always going to feel pressure. Why? Because we want to do our best. We set a goal, see an opportunity, and want to seize the moment. It doesn't matter if we're going for a new personal best, a new all time best split, or just aiming to finish strong: we still set our own bar, our own goals. Because that's simply the nature of what we do.

And by definition, it's nearly impossible to separate the meeting of our goals from the idea of "no pressure". We may tell ourselves that there's "no pressure", but who are we really kidding? Deep down, in the dark crevices of the back of our mind, where we rarely venture for fear of what we may find, we know that we want to achieve our goals, we want to go fast. There’s no dialogue, no polemic, no argument, no discussion. We go fast, we feel pressure to go fast, because it’s simply the nature of what we do.

We may feel less pressure at the beginning of our season, or the start of base training, but the pressure to excel is still there.

If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be who we are.

So at the start of this week, I was nervous. Memo had sent me my testing schedule last week, so I knew what I had in store. (Which brings about a different point all together: which is better – the fear of the known or the fear of the unknown? Different blog!). Last weekend during the funeral and trip home, I would occasionally flash forward to this week, knowing full well what was in store. Did it help? Maybe a little – I probably would have eaten a few more pieces of carrot cake had I not had any testing (after all, who wants to run full stop around the track for 5k lugging an extra 5 pounds of carrot cake?). I got in all of my workouts (not that big of a deal, I am after all, still in my first week of base training!) – and mentally prepared for this week.

And that’s also what testing week is all about: the mental side.

Ah. Yes, the lovely mental aspect of sport. The power of our mind.

The side we visit frequently, yet rarely realize it. Or maybe we do, but don’t like what we find. Every time we run, bike, swim, lift - the little things we think, the thoughts that run through our mind, the whispers that flash through our head without previous thought – we carry these feelings and ideas with us. And they affect our performance just as much as our physical preparation.

And that’s also why testing is scary. Not only do I want to do well, achieve the goals I set, but I know that I’ll inevitably face my mental demons. Yes, I’ve got plenty. And the more I talk with friends and read about other athletes, the more I realize that we all have our own set of hellions dancing around our heads, conjuring up whispers of fears and doubts.

Mine come up at the most inopportune of moments: times where I’m pushing my hardest, but feeling my weakest. I’ve been visited by these fiends before: during Timberman last August. They reared their ugly heads, blew holes into my race strategy, made me believe in my own weakness, and left me stripped, broken, and bare after biking. It would have been so easy to give in, to believe their lies. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I couldn’t let them win, and I refused. So with reckless abandon, I let go of my fears, freed myself from all constraints, and threw total abandonment into the wind. And what did I do? I set a new half marathon pr. Amazing what the mind can do, when it’s ready and willing. Simply incredible.

That race was a breakthrough: I experienced a plethora of emotions, a roller coaster ride of sorts for my head. And I’m grateful: because now I know.

I am grateful for Timberman, because I know what it’s like.

I know what it’s like to go from one spectrum to the other. To feel like you can’t do anything, that you won’t be able to finish, that you aren’t any good and don’t deserve to be there. But I also know what it feels like to overcome those thoughts, push through those feelings, and emerge reborn and stronger on the other side.

It wasn’t easy, and I’m still scarred from the battle. But I remember. I know what it’s like, and I know what it feels like.

And I’m stronger for it.

And that’s also why testing is scary.

Mental demons. Like I said before, they come up at the most inopportune of moments – times when I’m trying my hardest, pushing my limits, setting new heights. They want to sneak their way in, to slow me down. They try to tell me that it’s okay to slow down, you don’t have to go that fast, no one will ever know…

But they’re wrong.

I’ll know.

I know.

And I don’t want to ever regret not doing something. I already went through that after my bike ride at Timberman, thanks. Never again.

And I don’t want that feeling of regret. I don’t want to feel as though I haven’t given it my all, put my best effort on the line, given all that I could.

And testing, for me, is all about pushing those limits. And setting new ones, if possible.

So is it scary? Undoubtedly so.

But a few weeks ago I wrote a blog about “Challenge vs Opportunity.” This testing week is not about a challenge, it’s about The Opportunity to overcome my mental barriers as well as about setting new physical standards.

When I line up on the line, what will I think?

As of yet, I haven’t quite got that figured out. I know that I’ll have imagined myself succeeding, pushing the pace, feeling the breath escape my body, feeling my heart beating and pumping blood to my muscles as I go, faster and faster. I’ll use cue words to remind myself of my amazing physical power and incredible mental strength.

And the pressure that I place on myself will only help me go faster. Because I do this sport for fun, because I love it. And while I want to succeed, to blast past my old barriers, I also try to keep things in perspective. This is fun, and I love it.

I guess that’s why I’ll go fast, do my best. Because I love this.

And testing is just another reminder of how much I love this sport, how hard I’m willing to push, how mentally tough I am. Even if I don’t set a new pr (although I’ll try my damnedest!), I know that just by lining up on the line, I’m already further ahead than if I had never attempted this feat in the first place. I won’t crack under the pressure, no, I’ll thrive.

That’s what this is about. Tomorrow, I’m going to find my fast. Again.

Because I already did today.


Anonymous said...

Hey Marit!
How did the testing go today? Good luck with all of that!!! :) They are TOUGH...but a necessary evil. Hee hee. Jen H.

Ashley said...

ok... sorry, I just have to clear this up: the 8 yr. old girl didn't run the race, she ran the last 100 yrds with her dad. Ah, sorry - can't have you thinking I was taken down by a kiddie. Hope your test ROCKED!