Thursday, November 6, 2008

The START Button

Have you ever found yourself nervous before a workout? No, not a race. Not even a pace test or time trail. Just the workout. So... have you?

After today, I can safely and assuredly say that I have.

And lest you think that because we're moving (To San Diego - hooray!) in three days my workouts are lighter or easier, you would be wrong. In her defense, Jen did ask about the move logistics - but I assured her that I wanted things to remain as they would if we weren't moving at all.

So up until Sunday, my day off, workouts have been and will be "normal".

Meaning that for today's swim, my main set was hard, fast, and will-I-get-enough-air-to-keep-from-passing-out-in-the-pool tough. It included 6 X 100 at T-pace with a :10 rest interval, followed (and this is the kicker) by a 500 time trial.

Who the heck does a time trial in the water? Oh yeah, my uber-enthusiastic I-LOVE-swimming coach.

Remember my last time trial? On the bike back in July? No worries, if you don't. I've got an easy summary: it was the most painful 70 minutes of my life. My max heart rate was only four beats higher than my average. Yeah. Ouch.

Major ouch.

And in THIS case, I was supposed to follow up six veryfast 100s with a 500 time trial?

I swear - my lats and arms began protesting even before I hopped into the water.

But it seemed like an interesting challenge; an opportunity for me to push the t-pace and get some high intensity into my system. If anything, I knew the guard and aqua aerobics people would be amazed by the caboose-like gasps coming from my lane.

Long, easy warm-up was completed and I felt strong in the process. My hands were gripping well, the hips were rotating, heels towards the surface, and I felt smooth in the water. The effort was minimal, and I was happy to not be fighting the water.

And then it hit me.

I was about to start my main set. The hard stuff. The stuff that I had been building towards for my entire, 1,000 yard warm-up.

The hard part? The realization that I would have to be the one who started my watch, who pressed the Little Red START button. Not a coach, not a race starter, not a cannon. It would be all on me.

The thought was terrifying.

Because I knew what I was in for. I knew the sets would hurt, that my arms would scream in pain, the lats would protest, and my lungs would feel like they were about to burst. I was the one with the power: when to press START.

At least in a race, you know what you're in for. You know it'll hurt. But someone else is telling you when to go. Nope, certainly not easy. And not always fun. But the work of actually MAKING yourself press the start button is taken away. You go when the gun goes off, or you're left behind.

Swimming solo, sans master's team or friends, it's just you and the knowledge that the journey you are about to embark on will be painful. And it begins when YOU say so. Not a moment before.

It's like with surgery. Would you prefer to operate on yourself? Control when to start, where to incise, what to fix? Nope - didn't think so. Give me a reputable doctor, the meds and knock me out.

And that's when I realized: in order to get the end results we desire, sometimes we have to do a lot of hard stuff in between. The easy way isn't always the right way. Yes it will hurt, but in that hurt, in that box-of-pain (to quote the great ELF and Jen), we find ourselves and we discover what we're made of.

Those thoughts, those ideas helped a lot during the set. No, it didn't make pushing the Little Red START button on my watch any easier - but I knew I was on the right track. Going down the hard road to a better end-result.

So yes, I was soon in the hurt box, and yes, my breath sounded like a chugging caboose going through a mountain pass. At 10,000 feet. And my arms did hurt, my shoulders did protest, and I felt like I was about to hit "the wall" within a matter of seconds.

But I did it. I pressed my START button and made myself go; knowing full well the difficulty that lay ahead. And in the process I discovered I could push through to another level, ignore the pain and even laugh in its face. I knew it wouldn't be easy, knew that it would probably hurt more before my time was done. But I embraced that knowledge, I embraced that fact, and made myself work harder in the process.

If not now, when? When would I have another chance at this workout? When else would I be able to swim my T-pace for 6 X 100 and then come back and set a new 500 pr?

I didn't want regrets, I refused to look back and wonder, "what if." What if I had pushed a little harder? What if I had tried a little more to break through the old boundary and establish a new one?

I figured that even if I didn't succeed, I was stronger for trying. And I would much rather go down fighting, go down absolutely exhausted with The Wizard on my back, than coast in and speculate on going faster.

So I did.

And I sounded like a caboose.

My legs hurt with every turn. So I pushed harder.

My shoulders and arms screamed with every stroke. So I pulled harder.

And my lungs begged for more air after the turns. So I took two strokes before I grabbed a quick breath.

And still I pressed on.

In the end, I was almost on mark for my 100s. I was a second off for two of them, but overall really happy with the result. It was my 500 that really got me going. I had a number in my head that I wanted to hit; a time that I haven't yet swum. I knew it would be more challenging after my 100s, but again I figured "why not?"

So I did.

When it comes to doing the hard stuff, it isn't always easy. We don't run towards pain, we don't wish things would get harder. But we can't always get what we want. And if we want to improve, to grow, to get better, faster, and stronger, simply stated, we need the hard stuff.

Next time I go to the pool and see something that difficult on my schedule, I'll smile, think of my coach, and yell, "Bring It On!" And you can too!


Jennifer Harrison said...

See Marit, that is what IS SOO great about you - as an athlete - and what others can learn from you. YOU take each workout and maximize it - you get the MOST out of each workout. Instead of 'just getting thru things..' you press on and set the bar high. Excellent! :) Jen H.

Pedergraham said...

We had a 500 TT at practice this morning too...the worst part was the huge hairball at one end of the pool. I was completely distracted from the arm pain with the thought of getting that darn thing in my mouth!

GoBigGreen said...

Marit, YES! Every TT i do is actually easier than the type of workout you are talking about, bc you have to blow the whistle and you have to push the GO button.No official is there to time you and you dont have peeps chasing you down,
Only you know if you dont leave on the interval..and you know, the best thing is that as Jen said, you just WENT there. Into the Pain Locker, and did it..actually blew it out of the water!
WAy to go. You should be really proud of yourself:)

Train-This said...

MARIT ROCKS! That's all I need to say!

Maijaleena said...

I get nervous before all sorts of workouts, I think it's normal..., I hope..., well at least your not alone. Great workout!

Bruce Stewart (施樸樂) (ブルース・スチュワート) said...

Hope you find more training partners. I'm so used to trying to beat my PR on my own, but it is really much more fun to have someone to swim with.

Beth said...

I know exactly how you feel. I can't tell you how many times I've stood at the end of the pool or on the start line on the track and thought (with my finger on the start button)..." we go!" :) Great workout Marit!! Happy packing!

Dave said...

Nice job! I agree, starting a hard swim is the most difficult type. There's always one more shoulder to stretch, or goggles to adjust...

Anonymous said...

she's baaaack! So glad I'm outta your age group! Happy to read about this kick ass athlete being kick ass again! Enjoy the drive, sounds fun, and to Tri-Central no less!
Safe Travels,
Erin from WI (the one near waukesha)

ps - that was indeed motivating, the pool and me aren't good friends right now.

Laura said...

Wow, I never thought about the START button quite like that before! After the first one I usually let the 'in whatever' interval take over, but that first one - you're starting your own 'torture' session! LOL.

Great workout Marit. I really admire you!